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Feeley confirmed as the next US ambassador here

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Feeley
John D. Feeley, career diplomat, former Marine helicopter pilot, Latin Americanist, the man who controlled Colin Powell’s and Condoleeza Rice’s information inflows and who ran the Merida Initiative “War on Drugs” in Mexico. Photo by the US State Department.

John D. Feeley confirmed as American ambassador here

his presentation to the US Senate

Editor’s note: On December 9 the US Senate approved the nomination of John D. Feeley as the next American ambassador in Panama on a voice vote. The following is the transcript of his presentation to the senators.

From the oath I swore as an Eagle Scout, to the one I took upon commissioning as a Second Lieutenant of Marines, and the oath by which I have lived and worked for the last 25 years as a foreign service officer advancing American interests in the Western Hemisphere, my life and career have been marked by public service.

This is an enormous privilege. I thank the president and the secretary for the confidence they have shown in me by their nomination. And it is in that spirit of gratitude that I come before you today to seek your approval that I might continue to serve our great nation as ambassador in Panama.

I am joined today by my wife, a senior foreign service officer herself from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Cherie Feeley. My two sons and my grandson couldn’t be with us but I am sure the number of hits on C-Span has gone up as a result of them watching.

In my current position at the State Department, I oversee the daily operations of our 53 embassies and consulates, from Canada to the Caribbean, from Mexico to Argentina. I work on the operating budgets, the foreign assistance programs, and the personnel assignments that undergird American diplomacy throughout this hemisphere.

The food we eat, the energy we consume, and the goods and services we trade with our neighbors in the Americas have more of an impact, I would argue, on the daily lives of our country’s citizens than any other region of the world. So it is vitally important that we know and understand these neighbors and partners to ensure our own security and prosperity. This is the essence of the President’s Strategy for Engagement in Central America.

And Panama, whose destiny has been entwined with ours since its founding, is among the most critical of our partners in achieving the security, prosperity, and governance goals of the strategy.

Panama is a good news story in many aspects, and if confirmed, I will work with this committee to deepen and expand what is an already excellent bilateral relationship. Panama shares our commitment to protecting democratic freedoms and human rights. In 2014, they defied polls and, with the help of robust international election monitoring, elected an underdog candidate as president who has made education and anti-corruption pillars of his vision for Panama’s future.

You will recall that Panama served as the host of the Summit of the Americas earlier this year, where landmark encounters between civil society organizations and the region’s leaders occurred. Given its stability and relative prosperity, Panama — like the United States — is a destination, rather than a source, of immigration. As such, Panama understands the evils of human trafficking and was recently upgraded on our annual Trafficking in Persons Report. If confirmed, Mr. Chairman, I will continue the good work already begun with our Panamanian partners to eradicate this form of modern slavery.

Panama’s geographic location makes it a bridge in both the physical and metaphysical sense of the word. With a robust economy, Panama has leveraged its bridging function to become a logistical center for the region.

The Panama Canal is a vital commercial corridor for the United States: two out of every three ships transiting the canal will stop at a US port. And the global traffic across the bridge that is Panama will be accentuated by the Panama Canal expansion, due to be completed in 2016. This expansion will bring benefits to Panama and to the United States, potentially doubling imports on the US East and Gulf Coasts by 2029.

Put simply: The expansion will lower shipping costs between the United States and Asia, expand our markets, and create jobs for American workers. Another good news story: Panama is among our best partners working on education and innovation. The literacy rate for 15-year-olds is high for the region, around 94 percent. “Bilingual Panama” is the Panamanian government’s ambitious plan to bring thousands of Panamanian English teachers to study at US universities over the next five years, and we support that effort fully.

Now, Mister Chairman, Panama is not without challenges.

Its bridging location renders it vulnerable to organized crime, narcotics trafficking and money laundering — and the corruption that is attendant to those illicit activities — are also threats to Panama’s security and prosperity.

If confirmed, I will work with Panama to address those ills as well as the challenges, and in doing so, I will support US priorities such as:

  • our significant retiree and expatriate population that lives in Panama,
  • I will look to support greater foreign direct investment opportunities for American businesses,
  • and, most of all, I will seek to work with our Panamanian partners to shore up the integrity of our interconnected financial and banking systems.

I thank you for this opportunity and welcome any questions.

 

Editor’s postscript: For all of you weird conspiracy theorists out there, this is your big chance! Feeley’s official US State Department biographies don’t list a date or place of birth, so you can be creative with your forged birth certificates. (But Kenya is already taken.) From 1983 to 1990 John D. Feeley served in the US Marine Corps, including as a helicopter pilot, and went into civilian life as a diplomat having been a captain. Since 1990 he has been a foreign service officer with postings in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Colombia, Mexico and Foggy Bottom. He comes to Panama from his job as the State Department’s number two man for the Western Hemisphere. His wife, Cherie Feeley, is from Puerto Rico and is also a US foreign service officer. He is a graduate of the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and the US Navy War College. In 2011 he took over as chargé d’affaires of the American Embassy in Mexico City after Carlos Pascual left as ambassador in the wake of the Mexican government’s wrath over a cable revealed by WikiLeaks, which went into details of the dives the Mexican Army was taking in the “War on Drugs.”

 

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Human Rights Day, 67 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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Padre
Father Héctor Gallego, who was disappeared by Panama’s former dictatorship for preaching the universal worth of human beings and for starting a farmers’ cooperative in Santa Fe de Veraguas. He died, but the co-op and his message live on.

Human Rights Day 2015

Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.
Eleanor Roosevelt

 

On December 10, 1948 the United Nations General Assembly approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was in large part the world’s repudiation of the crimes committed during the Second World War and a vindication of the rights that had been trampled. The committee in charge of drafting the declaration was headed by US delegate Eleanor Roosevelt and the document’s principal author was Canadian delegate John Peters Humphrey. So often a broken promise in the years since then, its principles state the foundation for much of today’s international law and are considered viable and enforceable standards by the courts of many nations. But it only gets honored — or degraded — depending on what living people in all nations and all walks of life do.

 

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Editorials: Make Venezuela an offer; and The base GOP base

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Vene deputies
The composition of the next Venezuelan legislature. If the opposition MUD coalition (pale blue) maintains the support of the three autonomous indigenous representatives (gray) or splits off some of the Chavista PSUV deputies (red), they will have the two-thirds needed to override a presidential veto and to control many things — one of which is not the world price of oil. Graphic by Venezuela’s National Election Commission.

Make the Venes an offer they’re unlikely to refuse

The Venezuelan opposition may now have the votes in the legislature to in one way or another force President Nicolás Maduro to leave office before his term is up. The things they are talking about are almost all in the nature of overturning, repealing, forcing from office — all of which are to be expected — but there is hardly any talk of things that they want to do that will promote public services or enhance the Venezuelan standard of living. That’s because they lack the power — as did Maduro’s defeated leftist party — to legislate the world price of oil. As long as prices stay down Venezuelan politicians of every stripe are limited in the things that they can fight about, because oil exports account for almost all of Venezuela’s income.

One of the things that the incoming rightist coalition will certainly want to cut will be TeleSUR international satellite, cable and Internet channel. Venezuela owns 51 percent of that, Argentina (which has had a rightward shift in its presidency if not its legislature= owns 20 percent, Cuba has 19 percent and the rest is shared among minor stakeholders Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Uruguay. It has more or less been a Chavista channel rather than the hoped-for plural voice of Latin America. Meanwhile, collapsing US media corporations pay ever less attention to our region and the Qatari, Saudi, Iranian, Australian, British, Chinese and other players do not suffice for Latin America’s purposes. We really do need to put our own perspectives before the world, report the news that’s important for us, promote our culture among ourselves and to others and educated and entertain Latin Americans via our own programming. But it’s a safe bet that for the incoming legislature TeleSUR is a Chavista program to cut, and meanwhile among Venezuela’s debts are some substantial sums to Panama, mostly on the private side of the ledger.

Panama should buy a stake in TeleSUR and take an active role in turning it into the regional public TV channel that it should have been and never was. The bests of our filmmakers, playwrights, actors, scientists, educators, musicians, athletes, journalists and social commentators would gain an entry pass to the world stage if we did this. It’s not to say that there is no such thing as bad public TV or that there would be never be strained international office politics, but Panama does need an international television platform as a part of our cultural development. We should make Venezuela an offer and buy into TeleSUR.

 

grave

What Republicans would desecrate

Do we want to listen to arguments about public safety from terrorism from white supremacists when that segment of Americana has killed so many Americans in US terrorist incidents? Yeah, yeah. They will play semantic games to say that an end times Christian fanatic who opens fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic, a neo-Confederate who opens fire at a prayer service at a black church or a “sovereign citizen” who shoots nonviolent protesters aren’t really terrorists.

We should not be fooled. Americans are dealing with a neofascist element that is perhaps one-third of the Republican Party’s base. Freedom of religion is only the start of traditional American liberties that these people intend to abolish. At home and abroad, theirs is a program of beatings, imprisonment, torture and murder for racial, religious and ideological reasons.

But think about it like an imperialist. Donald Trump and his cheering crowd would deny entry to Afghans, Somalis, Iraqis, Syrians, Pakistanis, Kurds, Turks, Nigerians, Libyans and many others who worked for America and because of that are in harm’s way from retaliation by America’s enemies. So how many foreigners are going to want to work with the Americans after the sort of betrayal that Donald Trump proposes? His is not really a call to make America great again, it’s mad raving to entertain weird fanatics who believe that since the end of times is well nigh, it doesn’t matter if the country, the planet or humanity itself get destroyed.

Bear in mind…

Your son at five is your master, at ten your slave, at fifteen your double, and after that your friend or foe, depending on his upbringing.
Hasdai ibn Shaprut

 

And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.
Erica Jong

 

Do not consider it proof just because it is written in books, for a liar who will deceive with his tongue will not hesitate to do the same with his pen.
Maimonides

 

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Cantus benefit for Spay Panama, December 13 at the BioMuseo

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RAAAWK!Meowists...

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COHA, The real test begins for Maduro

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Vene CNE
To have a veto-proof National Assembly the opposition needs at least 112 seats. They say that they have won that many but it has not been officially confirmed. Photo by TeleSur.

The real test begins for Maduro

by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Sunday’s momentous legislative electoral events may have marked a turning point in the history of modern Venezuelan politics. The overwhelming victory of the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) over President Nicolas Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has arrived at the point of challenging the very essence of the Bolivarian Revolution’s political project at a critical juncture in its history. The country faces alarming murder rates, soaring inflation, and falling oil prices; the combination of the last two factors threatens an economic contraction for the upcoming year.

In the past few years, Venezuela has suffered from increased political polarization as the opposition has become more cohesive. This has led to the formation of two distinct political camps which has facilitated a rise in the size and number of protests and demonstrations against Maduro’s government.

Maduro and the PSUV have accepted electoral defeat despite concerns that Chavistas would attempt to stymie the country’s electoral process. Currently, the country’s institutions seem to be holding fast and not self-destructing under charges and countercharges, a promising signal of what may come.

In the days ahead, both the PSUV and MUD will be severely tested due to the polemic nature of Venezuelan politics. They will have to start from the ground up in order to reconstruct the country and develop a productive working relationship between the two sides, something that has proven all but impossible to achieve in the past. The country as a whole would display a greater sense of responsibility as a civil society that has proven to resist chaos and corruption on more than one occasion. For now, the international community should welcome Venezuela’s commitment to democratic stability while closely following future political developments in the country.

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Obama: The threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it.

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Presidential hopefuls react:

 

Wish Obama would say ISIS, like almost everyone else, rather than ISIL.
Donald Trump

 

If I am elected President, I will direct the Department of Defense to destroy ISIS.
Ted Cruz

 

Our goal must not be to deter or contain ISIS. Our goal must be to defeat ISIS.
Hillary Clinton

 

ISIS will be destroyed with an international coalition in which Muslim troops on the ground are supported by the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and other leading powers.
Bernie Sanders
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FEDAP, La escogencia de magistrados

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Magistrate routine
El ministro de la Presidencia Álvaro Alemán atendió a los representantes de las agrupaciones Agentes por la Paz Electoral, Centro de Incidencia Ambiental, Centro de Innovación y Acción Social, Consejo Nacional de Organización Comunitaria y el Movimiento Independiente por Panamá (MOVIN) quienes le hicieron llegar la documentación con sus evaluaciones. Foto por la Presidencia.

La escogencia de magistrados

por FEDAP

La Federacion de Asociaciones Profesionales de Panamá (FEDAP) hace de conocimiento de la ciudadanía que, deplora que el proceso de escogencia de los Magistrados para llenar las dos vacantes en la Corte Suprema de Justicia, no solo constituye una burla al querer ciudadano, sino un insulto a los profesionales del derecho que con valor ciudadano e indiscutible espíritu cívico presentaron sus postulaciones al Ejecutivo para someterse al escrutinio ciudadano como fue difundido.

El solo hecho de haber realizado de por sí y ante sí una preselección de diez (10) ciudadanos no explicada ni justificada ante los propios interesados y la ciudadanía, que fue realizada, por una comisión de desconocidas calificaciones profesionales y experiencia en el tema de la justicia y que, además, realizaban un ejercicio jurídicamente indelegable y privativo del Consejo de Gabinete, independientemente de los posibles méritos de los seleccionados, limitó en forma manipulada y perversa la oportunidad de conocer las propuestas de los restantes 154 aspirantes, todos con derecho a exponer sus ideas, méritos, capacidad y trayectoria profesional.

Ha quedado muy claro el engaño que ha sido objeto la sociedad civil organizada o no, porque no hubo un proceso general transparente, sino una decisión y selección anticipada e inconsulta y sin ningún proceso previo serio y responsable por parte del Ejecutivo.

Nuestra organización profesional que tiene como principio fundamental en su estatuto el de defender la dignidad de todos los profesionales panameños, avala la firme posición expresada por la Junta Directiva del Colegio Nacional de Abogados de Panamá y su Presidente, en el sentido de no participar en esta pantomima que, una vez más, defrauda y engaña a la sociedad.

De esta forma, nuevamente, el Colegio Nacional de Abogados, hace patente una posición respaldada en sólidos principios gremiales y de defensa al respeto al profesionalismo. Por otro lado, la FEDAP también lamenta que los voceros del Pacto de Estado por la Justicia que representan a los grupos de la sociedad civil hayan caído en la evidente engaño de aceptar estas manipulaciones perversas con el inaceptable criterio de que por que se permitió difundir las entrevistas y formular preguntas públicas a los “finalistas”, se lograba un avance, cuando en realidad, no hay tal avance y la situación al final es la misma.

El ejecutivo, termina desatendiendo los esenciales requisitos que la sociedad reclama porque siempre serán los que ellos preliminarmente seleccionaron, y luego, como acostumbra, se refugiará en el mandato constitucional de una carta fundamental que otorga las facultades que han permitido todo lo que la sociedad conoce y que avergüenza a nuestra reciente historia.

Se impone, hacer un llamado vehemente a todos los profesionales del país, para validar y rescatar de manera firme el respeto profesional que todos merecemos y para exigir que las autoridades que nosotros de alguna forma elegimos entiendan la importancia que una actitud seria y de reconocimiento a los méritos y trayectoria profesional y capacidad es lo que todos queremos en todos los cargos públicos.

De igual manera, reiteramos nuestra posición de hacer el llamado nacional a la Constituyente para de una vez eliminar todas aquellas justificaciones de nuestras autoridades que afrentan la democracia y el respeto ciudadano.

FEDAP, como organización nacional que aglutina a la gran mayoría de las asociaciones profesionales del país, desea expresar públicamente y, en la forma más respetuosa y comedida, a todos los profesionales del país nuestro desagravio por esta nueva afrenta e insulto de nuestras autoridades a la calidad y dignidad profesional, que parece ser el único modo de mantener la incompetencia y la incapacidad, que impiden el desarrollo de nuestro país el cual cuenta con un enorme potencial profesional capacitado y de valores ciudadanos indiscutibles.

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¿Wappin? Musical brain food for old buzzards

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DAM
Destroy All Monsters — when giant flying mutant lizards with radioactive breath attack Japan and a stray blast hits Detroit, this is what can happen.

¿Wappin? Musical brain food for old buzzards

The Drifters – This Magic Moment
https://youtu.be/Ul041CSNJto

The Tubes — Don’t Touch Me There
https://youtu.be/y8e0i_jwhK4

Frank Zappa – Cheap Thrills
https://youtu.be/U4D0vmVdrOg

The Shangri-Las – Leader Of The Pack
https://youtu.be/Q8UKf65NOzM

Alice Payten – Pizza Man
https://youtu.be/MP1uEmQHtiw

The Ronettes – Be My Baby
https://youtu.be/jrVbawRPO7I

The Beatles – Drive My Car
https://youtu.be/gzer6f1m_8Q

B-52s – Private Idaho
https://youtu.be/n7t7cGwN7_0

X – Los Angeles
https://youtu.be/Exs-mcKApxI

Cage9 – Hearts and Stars
https://youtu.be/2Fc3Xq376gw

Destroy All Monsters – You’re Gonna Die
https://youtu.be/IbJ0WcJ2oEE

Bob Seger – Persecution Smith
https://youtu.be/QVG7hWLj-cg

Iggy Pop – Some Weird Sin
https://youtu.be/L512AxIaSts

The Cellos – Rang Tang Ding Dong
https://youtu.be/jXC2NVfntzc

Booker T & The MG’s Live at Slims
https://youtu.be/4tdEvWUMDxs

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The Panama News blog links, December 5, 2015

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The Panama News blog links, December 5, 2015

gCaptain, Uncertainty about Panama Canal expansion delivery time

EFE, Canal de Panamá defiende transparencia ante solicitud sindical de auditoría

Port News, Jan De Nul to expand the PSA terminal in Panama

Dialogo Chino, ¿Quiénes están detrás de Wang Jing?

Port News, HKND Group starts archaeological work for the Nicaragua Canal

Boxing News, December 17 fight night at Gimnasio Roberto Duran

FC Dallas News, Blas Pérez bids farewell to FC Dallas

Sydney Morning Herald, Torres goes ballistic over substitution

Caribbean News Now!, United States indicts 16 more FIFA officials

Exclesior, Copa Airlines proyecta con mesura su 2016

E&N, Panamá se convierte en el eje de estrategia latinoamericana de Air France

E&N, Definen lugar de puente que unirá Costa Rica y Panamá

ICTSD, Panama wins WTO textiles case against Colombia

AFP, Panamá indignada por reacción de Colombia a fallo de la OMC

Uncover California, Rare tropical disease Zika enters Panama

TeleSur, Panama drought set to continue

STRI, Watch vampire bats on the Vampcam

Journal of Experimental Biology, Alcoholic pupfish kicks oxygen habit

Mongabay, Report: 17,000 marine species under-protected

Audubon, How to protect the birds that fly the farthest

BBC, Colombia says treasure-laden San Jose galleon found

Video: In Guns We Trust, mandatory gun ownership in Kennesaw Georgia

AP, Planned Parenthood shooting suspect reportedly targeted a clinic before

ABC, The woman who opened fire in San Bernardino

SPLC, “Sovereign Citizen” identified as shooter of BLM demonstrators

TVN, Gustavo Pérez apelará sentencia para armas sin régistros

EFE, Casi 200 cubanos llegan cada día a poblado del Caribe de Panamá

El País, Miles de cubanos quedan atrapados en su huida a Estados Unidos

The Independent, Argentine man snatched by dictatorship at birth meets mother

BBC, Dilma Rousseff impeachment process begins

TeleSur, Partido de Marina Silva rechaza juicio político contra Rousseff

Página 12, Condenan a la Dama Blanca de Berlusconi

Fang, Inside Saudi Arabia’s charm campaign

Fischer, The Syrian Knot

Ben-Ami, Blinded by ISIS

Susan The Bruce, The New Hampshire Jefferson-Jackson Dinner

Contrary Brin, Political sense and nonsense

Center for American Progress, Latinos are shaping the future of the United States

Theatre Guild of Ancon, Contemporary Dance on December 10 & 11

Audubon, Rosabel Miró recognized as a conservation hero

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Gandásegui, Hay que derogar la Ley 51

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Jované
La lucha continua. Foto por la Coordinadora Ciudadana.

Hay que derogar la Ley 51 de la CSS

por Marco A. Gandásegui, hijo

En febrero de 2015 señalé que la Ley 51 de 2005 fue concebida para transferir los fondos de la Caja de Seguro Social (CSS) a las diferentes agencias privadas financieras panameñas y extranjeras que especulan con los ahorros de los trabajadores panameños. Ya era público y notorio que el daño que la ley 51 le hacía al programa de Invalidez, vejez y muerte (IVM) de la CSS era catastrófico.

¿En qué consiste la lógica de la legislación introducida en la CSS en 2005? Por un lado, las cuotas que pagan los trabajadores a la CSS para el programa IVM se dividirían en dos fondos. Habría un programa para quienes pagan menos de B/800 que seguiría siendo solidario. También habría un programa para quienes pagan cuotas correspondientes a un salario de más de B/800, que sería individual. Es decir, el asegurado recibiría al llegar a su edad de jubilación la suma de lo acumulado durante toda su vida laboral.

Además, los que estaban en el programa solidario en 2005 y querían seguir siendo miembros podían hacerlo. Todos los que entraban al programa de la CSS con salarios superiores a B/800 después de 2005 estaban obligados a sumarse al plan de jubilación individual.

Por el otro, las cuotas que pagan los trabajadores benefician a los especuladores, sin beneficio alguno para los asegurados. Los trabajadores sólo reciben lo aportado durante largos años de trabajo. Los fondos adicionales que generan los ahorros son transferidos en su totalidad a los especuladores. Además, si los agentes privados hacen malas inversiones y/o quiebran, los asegurados pierden todos sus ahorros.

En el caso del sistema solidario los trabajadores del presente cubren las pensiones de los trabajadores del pasado. Se parte de un supuesto lógico en este sistema. Siempre habrán más trabajadores y, también, estarán ganando más que los que pertenecían al sistema en el pasado. Esta lógica se ha sostenido en todos los sistemas de seguro social solidario.

En el caso del sistema individual, el trabajador no cuenta con una red que lo proteja de cualquier percance –enfermedad o accidente– que podría dejarlo abandonado a su suerte. El valor que tiene el “seguro social” es precisamente que ofrece un sostén. Esta es la diferencia con el seguro individual o privado que no lo ofrece.

En el caso de Panamá, las cuotas de los que menos cotizan no podrán cubrir las necesidades de los que se están jubilando en los próximos 10 años. Los que más cotizan están fuera del programa solidario y tienen sus planes individuales (que benefician sólo a los especuladores que reciben sus cuotas).

Lo peor de la situación es que los administradores de la CSS a partir de 2005 no conocen la institución, su situación financiera, ni su potencial. Un empresario ligado a la Caja confesó que “la CSS debe emitir el estado de cuenta y entregárselo a las personas que están en el sistema, con detalles de lo ahorrado en su cuenta personal y los intereses devengados”. Eso no se hace.

Un exdirector de la CSS afirmó que “en este momento tenemos información imprecisa, porque los estados financieros ameritan ser depurados y auditados”.

Agregó que “el programa de IVM siempre ha tenido un futuro incierto”. Desde hace tres años no se conoce el estado financiero de la institución. Se hicieron inversiones en compras y edificaciones sin control por parte de la CSS. Sin embargo, los responsables llevaban una contabilidad minuciosa de las ganancias que arrojaban las operaciones.

Los responsables admiten de manera cándida que los directivos sólo han pensado en hacer negocios con los fondos de la CSS. Un miembro de la junta directiva admitió que “hay una serie de compromisos que se deben pagar y si todo está bien sustentado, nosotros como junta directiva damos el visto bueno”. Parece que no importa que eso signifique hundir a la institución y todos los asegurados.

Según el actual director de la entidad, se siente obligado a pagar 1,200 millones de dólares a varios acreedores en un plazo de cuatro años. Para evitar la catástrofe puede suspender las obras y los pagos. Si lo obligan a pagar, puede extender el plazo a 2050. Un expresidente de la Cámara de Comercio dijo que “el programa no es sostenible en el tiempo”. Sólo le faltó agregar que la única solución es derogar la Ley 51 de 2005 y regresar al sistema de seguro social solidario

 

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