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¿Wappin? Un sábado de voces en español

Lila Downs. Photo by Jhon Kohen.

¿Wappin? Un sábado de voces en español

Lila Downs & Juanes – La Patria Madrina

Prince Royce – Te Robaré

Rubén Blades – El Pasado No Perdona

Juan Formell y Los Van Van – Despues de Todo

Enrique Bunbury & León Larregui – La Chispa Adecuada

Olga Tañón – Vivo La Vida

Natalia Lafourcade – Hasta la Raíz

Juan Luis Guerra – Todo Tiene Su Hora

Shakira & Gustavo Cerati – No

Romeo Santos – Soberbio

Centavrvs & Denise Gutiérrez – Por Eso

Celia Cruz – Rie y Llora

Carlos Vives – Festival de Viña 2014

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Former Security Minister Mulino jailed


Although the purchase of radar installations that he allegedly knew would not work is what has him in jail, people in the Ngabe-Bugle Comarca will tell you that this was one of José Raúl Mulino’s lesser offenses. In 2012, Ricardo Martinelli had a scheme to illegally sell Cerro Colorado, the headwaters for most of that indigenous commonwealth’s drinking water, to a foreign government to be strip mined for copper. To further this plan Mulino oversaw an assault that included blocking telecommunications to a large part of Panama, police opening fire on unarmed protesters and this attack on the hospital in San Felix.

Mulino points at others, but it’s his signature on the radar contract

by Eric Jackson

After a three-day interrogation punctuated by complaints of illness and an examination by physicians from the Institute for Legal Medicine, former Security Minister José Raúl Mulino was ordered held without bail in preventive detention for his alleged role in the purchase of 19 radar installations from the Selex division of the Italian state-controlled aerospace and defense company Finmeccanica. The deal was a part of the business conducted during a 2010 visit to Panama by then Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (now under house arrest) and an entourage that included fixer Valter Lavitola (now in an italian prison) and a mysterious “woman in white,” cocaine smuggler Federica Gagliardi. The two biggest problems with the transaction were a 10 percent kickback to Agafia, a front company for Ricardo Martinelli, and the inability of the radar system to pick up smugglers’ small speedboats operating off of Panama’s coasts, which was the stated purpose for the equipment in the first place. Then there is the matter of Panama paying a higher price for the same equipment than other governments paid.

Lavitola’s trial for bribing a foreign official — Ricardo Martinelli — had been scheduled to be taking place in Rome right now, but Berlusconi’s former bag man has been on trial nearly continuously for several years and is serving multiple prison sentences. On this matter, arising from the same contract that has Mulino in trouble, the Italian judges granted Lavitola a delay until early next year.

Mulino’s defense — pointing to others and pleading that he was just the one who signed the papers on a deal that other people made — is most probably a stronger political argument than a legal excuse. He claims that President Varela, then foreign minister, negotiated the bilateral defense agreement with the Italian government, Martinelli and his cabinet approved the contract in question and after Mulino signed the papers the matter was turned over to then National Security Director Alejandro Garuz for implementation, with Garuz reporting back to Mulino about any problems. Garuz is in prison awaiting trial on a variety of charges, one of which cases arises from this radar contract. According to the testimony of Garuz and other evidence, both Mulino and Garuz knew at a very early stage that the radars would not pick up small speedboats.

Shortly after Varela took office, the government paid Finmeccanica for radar installations received, halted any further work on the transaction and sued to get the radar contract revoked. This past August Panama’s Supreme Court suspended the radar contract, a decision which Italy might theoretically appeal to an international panel if and when a final decision is rendered. Panama has paid more than $60 million of the $125 million radar purchase price and the allegation is that Mulino is a party to defrauding Panama of this amount.

The former security minister is also under investigation for the purchase of a large arsenal of riot control weapons and munitions ahead of the 2014 elections. The allegation there is not that this was in anticipation of troubles in the wake of a stolen election — although it probably was part of such a plan that was aborted — but that like so many other Martinelli administration contracts the order was overpriced, with kickbacks built into the purchase.

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Rector Magnifico won’t seek a sixth term

Gustavo García de Paredes will leave behind a student body that for the most part disdains him and "student leaders" of little relevance because they bought into his political patronage scheme. But most tenured professors and virtually all non-academic employees owe their jobs to him and that will affect the succession process. Archive photo by Eric Jackson.
Gustavo García de Paredes will leave behind a student body that for the most part disdains him and “student leaders” of little relevance because they bought into his political patronage scheme. Most tenured professors and virtually all non-academic employees owe their jobs to him and that will affect the succession process. Archive photo by Eric Jackson.

After a long run, the last of the dictatorship’s apparatchiki will go

by Eric Jackson

On the morning of October 29, as part of a brief “state of the university” presentation to University of Panama faculty and staff, Gustvo García de Paredes announced that he will desist from his plans to seek a sixth term as rector in next year’s elections. Laws could change and the course of events could accelerate, but at this point it looks like the next rector will be elected next June and take office on September 1, 2016.

The Lebanese-born machine politician has always thrived in rigged systems. Back in 1938 when he was born, that country was a French dependency, the State of Greater Lebanon, gerrymandered to create a Maronite Christian majority — which has proven to be ephemeral — in a part of the old Ottoman Empire that France and the United Kingdom had divided between themselves. But Gustavo García de Paredes was Panamanian as well as international and by the time he was ready for university studies he went to Francisco Franco’s Spain. There, the venerable old University of Madrid, established by royal decree in 1293 and now known as the Complutense, had been degraded by the generalisimo and was in part financed by the sale of advanced degrees to foreigners. García de Paredes studied philosophy there and got his licenciatura in 1962. He claims to have received a doctorate from the same university in 1963.

So, all the studies for a doctorate in one year? Actually, no. A purchased doctorate from the Franco-era university yielded a diploma that looked like a legitimate one, and would be noted the same as an earned doctorate by the registrar. But those who actually earned doctorates had to write and defend dissertation, and upon successfully doing this a copy of their dissertation would be bound and put into the university library stacks at the university’s expense, and listed in the library’s catalog. You won’t find a Gustavo García de Paredes dissertation or a catalog entry for such at the Complutense. The man’s doctorate is fake.

So, what’s a guy with a fake degree to do? Certainly not to embark on a career of publishing learned articles in peer-reviewed academic journals. That has never been where “Dr.” García de Paredes was at. But an academic opportunity began to unfold for him on October 11, 1968, when Guardia Nacional officers led by Boris Martínez and Omar Torrijos toppled the elected government of Dr. Arnulfo Arias that had taken office a week and a half earlier. The University of Panama, a hotbed of both that sort of radicalism that would turn into underground, exiled and imprisoned resistance all through the more than 21 years of military rule and that sort of radicalism that would give due consideration to whatever offer a non-radical government might make, was closed. When it reopened some of the faculty and part of the student body had been eliminated, and opportunity beckoned for Gustavo García de Paredes. In 1970 he was made dean of the philosophy department.

There were detours from the climb up the ladder of university office politics. Under the dictatorship García de Paredes variously served as head of the national lottery, director of the Colon Free Zone, minister of education and Panama’s ambassador to Brazil. After the US invasion that brought down the dictatorship, García de Paredes served on the board of directors of the old Interoceanic Regional Authority (ARI), which oversaw the mad scramble for the reverted real estate and other assets of the old Canal Zone.

In 1994 García de Paredes became rector of the University of Panama. Except for one interregnum in which he left the post in the hands of a protege proxy — against whom he then turned — he has run the university ever since. In the speech in which he said he won’t run again, the Rector Magnifico — an honorific he bestowed upon himself — complained that the courts had interfered with his ability to fire faculty dissidents. While that may be true, over a generation his control over who gets hired has transformed the faculty into a cog in a political patronage machine that despite some excellent professors has put the University of Panama off of all international lists of Latin America’s better institutions of higher learning. Because Panamanian law gives the University of Panama’s Faculty Council the power to charter and approve or reject that courses offered at all of the nation’s other universities, the Rector Magnifico’s influence has served to spread the contagion of academic fraud all through Panama’s higher education system. The situation is notorious and has continued thanks to successive legislatures that have been willing to act or refrain from acting as García de Paredes requests.

Can the University of Panama withstand outside scrutiny, and should it? Under the banner of “academic freedom” the rector has resisted the comptroller general’s attempts to audit the public university, and particularly to scrutinize the dealings of a private foundation into which many private grants, fees charged by the university, aid transfers from foreign governments and other sources of university revenue have been poured by García de Paredes. The Varela administration blocked the rector’s attempt to buy an unsuitable tract of land in Chepo to supposedly replace the agricultural school’s experimental farm in Tocumen and critics are demanding to see the books on a generation’s worth of secretive real estate transaction, many of them with land bequeathed to the university by alumni. If Comptroller General Federico Humbert does not publish the findings of his auditors, look for some litigation pursuant to Panama’s transparency laws about that.

The rector says that he won’t designate a successor, but if nothing else changes it’s hard to see how the votes of faculty and staff who have been loyal to him will not determine who comes next. The political patronage machine may unify behind a successor or break into rival factions before the official nominating process for the next rector begins in March of next year.

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The Panama News blog links, October 29, 2015


The Panama News blog links, October 29, 2015

Hellenic Shipping News, Northern routes and PanCanal to be major LNG lanes

CatholicPhilly, Church concerned about Nicaragua canal impact

AFP, Nicaragua: proyecto del canal es fuente de tensión social creciente

Sputnik, Russia ready to join Nicaragua canal construction

Democracy Now!, Thousands rally against Nicaragua canal

ESPN FC, Copa America soccer qualifiers here in January

BBC, Brazilian FIFA official to be extradited to the USA

Sporting News, New York indictments for Panama-based online gambling

Cuba News, Cuba and Panama want to expand economic ties

TeleSur, Panama’s teachers march

The Independent, UK paying millions in aid money to fund overseas tax havens

Street Report, Will Bancolombia slide continue?

MoneyMarketUK, BBVA fined for helping US tax cheats

Telemetro, Extienden periodo de plan de reorganización del Banco Universal

Business Standard, Finmeccanica bribery fugitive in Dubai

El Economista, Burbujas inmobiliarias amenazan al mundo

Slate, Vampire bats on a treadmill

Huffington Post, More bat species on endangered list

CBS Baltimore, Maryland zoo works to save Panama’s golden frogs

Fang, TV network lobbyists are working for Hillary Clinton

Truthdig, EU votes to offer Snowden protection

Video, Chomsky & Martin: Electing the president of an empire

Ryan, TI: Mideast and North African military corruption “critical”

BBC, Colombia offers FARC a bilateral truce

Gandásegui, Cuba le ganó a EEUU 191 a 2 en la ONU

Caribbean News Now!, UN votes 191-2 against the Cuba embargo

EFE: Venezuela, Ecuador y Panamá elegidos miembros del Consejo de DDHH

LaSusa, Giuliani in Rio

Paterson, Occupying the bridge between El Paso and Juarez

La Jornada, Sudamericanos en crisis

Mitchell, Prospects for Argentina’s runoff election

InSightCrime, Rising concerns over Panama’s new island prison

AP, Ally of Panama’s ex-president jailed



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Harrington, Patrioterismo

Flag Day, long ago
Las Fiestas Patrias son para pensar en qué Panamá queremos para nuestros nietos. Foto archivo por Eric Jackson.


por Kevin Harrington-Shelton
Ya se oyen los claros clarines, ¡Ya viene! ¡Ya viene!
La Marcha Triunfal (Rubén Darío)


Durante la primera semana de noviembre, demasiados medios de comunicación compiten para anegarnos con patrioterismo –en vez de forjar Patria.

Fuera de banalidades que contrastan las más abundantes decoraciones de Halloween con los preparativos patrios propiamente dichos (y luego rasgarán vestiduras con la clásica muletilla de criticar banderas mal colocadas, que compite con su tradicional relleno sobre el aumento de precios durante Semana Santa). Pocos cultivan el conocimiento de nuestra realidad, para que la juventud analice qué tenemos hoy y qué les esperará a ellos mañana –a la hora de pagar los platos rotos. Ese catalizador periodístico sería su contraprestación por una libertad de expresión que presupone de un debate informado –en un ambiente donde históricamente el tráfico de influencias es atávico.

En 1903 nuestro (olvidado) héroe-nacional Phillippe Bunau Varilla logró convencer a Washington que, apoyando la secesión de tan solo la franja canalera –la que había sido su intención– no se garantizaría la tranquilidad requerida para culminar su proyecto canalero. Porque era claramente previsible una revancha colombiana en el Interior. Resurgimos así como una democracia oligárquica (donde aún hay fueros, privilegios y justicia selectiva), con los mismos linderos concedidos en 1537 por Real Cédula española a Colombia.

Hoy esta posición geográfica sigue siendo codiciada, según el siguiente vistazo al estado de nuestro derecho que nuestros periodistas simplemente prefieren no ver.

Una vez revertida la Zona del Canal norteamericana (hoy multinacional), cedimos por pedacitos algunas otras soberanías. Ejemplo(s): Washington retiene el control-efectivo sobre “nuestras” instituciones: SENAN, SENAFRONT, Punta Coco, relaciones internacionales, aduanas, migración, Concejo de Seguridad y pinchazos telefónicos via la fibra óptica que toca nuestras riberas — además del espacio político de designar al Director-General de una Policía Nacional (que su Hydra de muchas cabezas considera “un ejército en todo salvo en nombre”  –vea también http://historicaltextarchive.com/sections.php?action=read&artid=234). Entre tales concesiones intangibles hay banqueros y comerciantes para todos los efectos impunes ante la ley: los culpables apelan las multas impuestas por no reportar sus transacciones PEP a la UAF y quien sea el agente local de la alemana SAP (confesa de sobornos a funcionarios panameños para vender sistemas de computación) siguen todos invisibilizados por la falta de seguimiento por medios distraídos en linchar a todo opositor del régimen de turno en base a información-privilegiada. También ampara a los dos grupos bancarios colombianos que actualmente ejercen control sobre casi la mitad de los activos del Centro Bancario y que echan kerosene al fuego de nuestras relaciones con Colombia. Así como a los tenedores extranjeros de derechos de autor que cabildearon draconianos castigos que empeoran el hacinamiento de nuestras cárceles con reincidentes en el pirateo de CDs –y que periódicamente financian la persecución local por ese “crimen”.

Pero la cesión física más visible –después del “estado dentro de otro estado”– es “Panamá-Pacífico”, antigua base aérea norteamericana hoy concesionada a uno de los hombres más ricos de Colombia (embozalado como “empresa británica”). La Zona Libre de Colón –una idea cuyo tiempo pasó– en su pataleo de ahogado pide ahora una equiparación tributaria con este complejo multi-modal en Howard — con quien materialmente no podría competir. Porque, contrario al panorama mundial cuando se ideó la ZLC (1946), el comercio entrepot ya no es marítimo, sino aéreo y cibernético. Howard se concibió en la revolución logística y robótica –no en términos de puestos de trabajo como en Colón– sino en ganancias generadas con más inversión y menos mano de obra. En los dividendos del conocimiento, más que en la posición geográfica en sí.

En su orden sigueuna red de puertos (pacíficos y atlánticos, con ferrocarril interpuesto) heredados de ún tío rico –y entregados a otros también extranjeros. Apuntalados todos por contratos virtualmente inexpugnables (tipo servicios públicos, electricidad, celulares, televisión, cable, Odebrecht) que les otorgan derechos “como si fueran soberanos” y que son justiciables internacionalmente (Van Dam, terminal de buses en Colón). Además hay 70-buff otras concesiones territoriales, so pretexto de áreas de transformación, centros de logística, recintos aduaneros y petroleros, y el resto del pasto de tráfico de influencias para abogados.

El aeropuerto internacional Tocúmen es una variante de este tráfico de influencias que aprovecha nuestro dividendo-geográfico, sin priorizar el bien común. Hasta un ciego ve como se invierten fondos públicos panameños para el beneficio a una línea aérea “nacional” y que hoy favorecen mayormente a accionistas extranjeros; en vez de haberse abierto la expansión de su base accionaria a inversionistas locales, COPA favoreció a la Bolsa de Nueva York para compartir su concesión tan privilegiada. Ello sin que se conozca de estudio de costo/beneficio alguno, que justifique sacrificar necesidades mucho más apremiantes, aquí en el istmo.

Ausente ante este panorama está aquel debate cívico, suficientemente informado, que es clave para predecir cuáles países pequeños serán exitosos, y cuáles no.

Porque, igual que su antecesor Ricardo Martinelli, el presidente Juan Carlos Varela teme decirnos (toda) la Verdad, por carecer ambos de la capacidad de convencer sin una propaganda masiva. Varela en particular opta por la política de avestruz, rehusando responder preguntas sobre los problemas nacionales. Tampoco toca los que le obliga la Ley, como la Ampliación. Y por demás ha sido consistente en su intolerancia a ideas contrarias a las suyas, problema que mejor manejaba Martinelli. Ejemplo(s): No tuvo para con las opiniones del intelectual Julio Yao en el Cementerio Amador (2 de noviembre 2009) el mismo respeto que ahora exige en casi todo encuentro con el pueblo llano. Y, apenas calentada la silla presidencial en 2014, se clausuró el programa del Dr. Miguel Antonio Bernal –quien sí ha sido consecuente con la Constitución– al que otorgó (al menos) con su silencio. Tampoco se escapó de esta táctica de retirar estratégicamente de la escena otro polifacético e influyente periodista independiente, don Julio Miller. Ambos caracterizados por críticas firmes, pero respetuosas y fácticas. Más recientemente llevó a la hoguera de su peculiar auto-da-fe a su copartidario HD Juan Moya, simplemente por intentar definir qué es el periodismo ético –llegando inclusive al pecado de intervenir él en otro Órgano del Estado, para que ni se tocara el tema. Pese a que “democracia es debate”.

Y la corrupción comienza a levantar su cabeza, en nuestra región fronteriza de Paso Canoa…

Resulta fácil entender las chambonadas del gobierno Panameñista actual en términos de politiquería criolla. El pasado 3 de noviembre, al mandatario se le ocurrió abanderar a su chef de la Presidencia –sin duda un ciudadano sin mácula– para luego aparecer nuestro Señor Presidente pasando revista al desfile, con unas cuantos kilos de más… ¡Perfecta imagen visual, de una Presidencia imperial! Este año los desfiles patrios pasarán frente al Palacio de las Tortugas más tarde de lo tradicional, porque nuestro Luis XIV duerme hasta medio día.

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Checks revive the Navarro as Trojan Horse argument

Martínez Acha
Javier Martínez Acha, through whom the money trail from the Martinelli scandals leads, and who has had nothing specfic to say about it for public consumption. Martínez Acha was undersecretary general of the PRD and a key operative in Juan Carlos Navarro’s failed presidential campaign. Photo from Martínez Acha’s Facebook page.

Navarro’s denials don’t match the allegations

by Eric Jackson

The PRD candidate in the 2014 election cycle, Juan Carlos Navarro, is charging long-time intra-party rivals Mitchell Doens and Francisco Sánchez Cárdenas, with criminal defamation, known as calumni e injuria here. So what, specifically, is the lie that Navarro said that they told about him in La Prensa? “Their recent reckless accusations, which appeared on Saturday, October 24 in La Prensa, ARE TOTALLY FALSE.” Specifically how? Navarro doesn’t say. But at an October 26 press conference, the erstwhile PRD leader responded to that story by stating that “none of Mr. Virzi’s companies, the accounts that were mentioned, Hidalgo & Hidalgo — from none of these were funds obtained in a fraudulent operation.” He also denied that Javier Martínez Acha had been his campaign treasurer.

What La Prensa specifically reported, based on leaks from the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office, was that former Vice President Felipe “Pipo” Virzi — who had served in that office from 1994 to 1999 in a PRD administration but was a central character in Ricardo Martinelli’s inner circle — had received some $5 million from Hidalgo & Hidalgo, the highly-paid contractor for a Tonosi irrigation project that was never built, and that later Virzi cut checks for more than $1 million to a company owned by then PRD undersecretary general Javier Martínez Acha and his brother Valentín Martínez Vásquez, and that another company linked to Valentín Martínez Vásquez received both that million dollars and another similar amount from Virzi. Valentín Martínez Vásquez, by Navarro’s admission, was a donor to his campaign — but to what extent we don’t know, thanks to Panama’s designed-for-corruption campaign contribution secrecy laws. (That information should be on file with the Electoral Tribunal, but by law is not available to the public. Navarro would also have those records.)

The lead paragraph of the story in La Prensa that has so annoyed Navarro was a conclusion attributed to Doens and Sánchez Cárdenas:

The existence of a Trojan Horse in the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) campaign in 2013 would be demonstrated in the management of accounts and money of one of its directors, Javier Martínez Acha, and suggests that the then president, Ricardo Martinelli, would have penetrated the party.

Suggests, perhaps, but does not fully prove. This is the stuff from which money laundering investigations are started rather than properly summed up.

That Navarro and his Blue Wave campaign that marginalized party old-timers including Doens and Sánchez Cárdenas were Martinelli plants is not a new allegation. The most noteworthy fact proffered for this conclusion was an August 2013 meeting between Navarro and Martinelli in the office dining room of businessman Mayor Alfredo Alemán. Alemán had been treasurer of Ernesto Pérez Balladares’s successful 1994 presidential campaign. Both Navarro and Alemán have acknowledged that the meeting took place but have dismissed it as a happenstance encounter at the office of a Navarro’s and Martinelli’s mutual friend. It has also been alleged that present at the meeting were Martinelli’s personal secretary, Chichi De Obarrio, and Pipo Virzi. De Obarrio is now a fugitive who is wanted in connection with several Martinelli administration scandals. Prosecutors here have requested an INTERPOL “red alert” bulletin for his arrest in and extradition from wherever he  may have run. Virzi is under house arrest and the records of his Banco Universal — in many ways a financial clearing house for Martinelli era corruption — have produced paper trails into many different public corruption scandals and provided links to the Financial Pacific brokerage firm, itself a hub for a lot of different criminal activities, some of them associated with Ricardo Martinelli and his close collaborators.

So Navarro is apparently now so annoyed with the continued allegations and insinuations that he’s bringing charges against Doens and Sánchez Cárdenas — but not La Prensa. And which lawyers has Navarro sent into the fray? Rosendo Rivera and Gabriel Carreira Pitti. Rivera was Martinelli’s lawyer, but they had some sort of falling out and it was later revealed that Rivera was one of the targets of Martinelli’s illegal electronic surveillance operations. Much of that electronic spying was carried out with Israeli equipment bought through a company called NUNVAV. Gabriel Carreira Pitti was the lawyer who organized NUNVAV’s Panamanian subsidiary.

One of the hallmarks of paranoiac ideation is the unwarranted presumption that lines of connection are lines of causation. Panama’s inbred rabiblanco aristocracy and treacherous political caste create may opportunities for this. Want to find further interesting PRD ties with Virzi? See the board of directors of Banco Universal before intervenors from the Banking Superintendency took it over, and see PRD notable and former diplomat Eloy Alfaro (who now denies that he was the board’s spokesman, although corporate filings listed him as such.) See Dora Pérez Balladares Boyd, the daughter of the former president. And if there is anything to the widespread but unspecific allegations that Panama’s securities industry corruption goes way beyond Financial Pacific, we can start with a who’s who in the nation’s securities broker business. It’s a small country and there are many overlapping and intertwined lines of connection, but what they all mean is another set of questions.

Now that Navarro has taken recourse to the criminal defamation laws, it perhaps gives the defense a golden opportunity to uncover strings and figure out who pulled them. That Navarro directly denied things that had not been directly alleged, and got vehemently specific about the rather inconsequential detail of what title Javier Martínez Acha held when working for the Navarro campaign, perhaps raises certain warning flags.

Navarro is a spent political force — as are Doens and Sánchez Cárdenas — and one wonders what, beyond egos, anyone in this argument has to defend. Within the PRD, however, and most probably among the influential people at La Prensa, there are some real interests to be affected. Within the corporate mainstream media, for example, consider that Navarro is married to the daughter of the founder of Panama’s ad agency cartel, and she’s still a player on that scene.

More important than that, consider that along with Navarro, in the internal PRD warfare that resulted in the Blue Wave victory over the party’s older guard, came Benicio Robinson as party president. With Navarro’s hasty exit after his defeat, Robinson emerged as the big boss man of the PRD and many party members, coming from many different directions, don’t like that at all. Robinson put off internal party elections until July of 2016 and has been busy packing the bodies that will run those elections with his own loyal supporters to the exclusion of other party tendencies. But Robinson was unsuccessful this summer when he formed an alliance with Ricardo Martinelli to take over the National Assembly, end all investigations against Martinelli and his people, install Martinelli’s notorious henchman Sergio Gálvez as president of the legislature’s Credentials Committee and start impeachment proceedings against President Juan Carlos Varela. Robinson failed because he couldn’t secure the votes of about one-quarter of his caucus and Martinelli lost he votes of about half of his party’s deputies.

The Coordinadora Pro Rescate Torrijista, an alliance of seven PRD factions opposed to Robinson, complained in an October 22 pronouncement of the current party in crowd’s “cold, calculated perfidy.” Surely they see the money trail reported by La Prensa as but one more proof of this. But did any of these anti-Robinson factions have anything to do with the leaks that formed a part of La Prensa’s story? If one wants to get into the “who had a motive to do this?” mode of thinking, the possibilities go well beyond the fractious world of PRD politics and into the spheres of business, the legal system and personalities. The possibility of an expanding scandal that shatters Panamanian politics well beyond Mr. Martinelli and his supporters should not be rejected out of hand. But neither should people discount the instincts of individuals or institutions to put a lid on all of this and limit the damage that the hue and cry over the systematic corruption of recent years might do to interests, careers and reputations.

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Congreso Continental de Teología: la religión y la teología en alza

Congreso de Amerindia: para Leonardo Boff la religión y la teología están ‘en alza’ en el mundo de hoy. Foto por ADITAL.

II Congreso Continental de Teología

por Cristina Fontenele — ADITAL

Con el tema “El factor religioso en el contexto de la conflictividad”, Leonardo Boff dio inicio al II Congreso Continental de Teología, que se realiza del 26 al 30 de octubre en Belo Horizonte (Estado de Minas Gerais – Brasil), para debatir cuestiones sobre la espiritualidad, el fundamentalismo y el terrorismo. El teólogo puntualizó que la religión y la teología están “en alza” actualmente y son temas modernos, que movilizan a miles de personas.

El fundamentalismo, de acuerdo con Boff, consiste en la interpretación y la imposición de una determinada doctrina como la única verdad posible, postura que, en general, se encamina hacia la falta de comprensión y la violencia.

Para Boff, la religión y la política caminan juntas, como por ejemplo, lo que ocurre en el Islam, donde la religión es una fuerza central que mantiene la identidad de las personas, sobre todo en los momentos de crisis. “Pero todo lo que ocurre, sólo puede enfermar”, señaló el teólogo, recordando los grandes conflictos existentes en medio Oriente.

Boff afirmó también que, además de la religión, existen otras formas de fundamentalismo y ejemplificó citando la “macroeconomía capitalista”, que ha impuesto un único modo de producción y consumo para la sociedad actual. El teólogo señala que este fundamentalismo es el responsable de la crisis griega y de los escenarios desestabilizadores de países latinos como Brasil y Argentina, que “obligan” a los gobiernos a obedecer a una única lógica económica.

Citando el lema del Pentágono (Estados Unidos) “un mundo, un imperio”, Boff comparó la versión estadounidense con la orientación papal: “un mundo, una casa”. Destaca que son comprensiones directamente opuestas de lo que sería vivir en comunidad. Según el teólogo, desde que Washington (Estados Unidos) dijo “América está en guerra”, el mundo ha vivido bajo la perspectiva de los conflictos modernos, como lo que sucede con los actuales refugiados europeos, que serían el resultado de guerras emprendidas por Occidente.

Defendiendo una postura más autocrítica, Boff recordó también el fundamentalismo individual, que se practica a veces de manera inconsciente. En todo momento, este comportamiento llama a la reflexión a partir del proceso de globalización, que permite a las personas interactuar con diferentes seres humanos de distintas partes del Globo.

Así como el fundamentalismo, el teólogo enfatizó que es preciso abordar también el tema del terrorismo, práctica que, para él, tiene como objetivo instalar el miedo generalizado en la mente de las personas. Para producir eso, el terrorismo presenta algunas características como la necesidad de que los actos sean espectaculares y la imagen de que los atentados fueron minuciosamente preparados.

Sobre la espiritualidad, Boff defendió la necesidad de rescatar la conexión con la tierra, pues “vivimos la cultura del cansancio”. Para él, el futuro puede ser decidido bajo dos perspectivas. La ótica de que el mundo vive una tragedia anunciada en la cual no es posible reparar los estragos ya realizados por el hombre, y la idea de una crisis de civilización, ante la cual es posible retomar el camino del equilibrio, que es la visión defendida por Boff.

Para el teólogo, el próximo paso de la humanidad es, entonces, descubrir qué es lo que él denomina “capital espiritual” del ser humano. Qué significa migrar de la cabeza al corazón y sentir a Dios a partir de ahí. Un camino que ofrece un potencial ilimitado, en función de la vida y no de la acumulación.

Paradójicamente, “no siempre la religión alimenta”, concluyó Boff, relatando una conversación que tuvo con el Dalai Lama, en la cual el teólogo cuestionó al budista cuál sería la mejor religión. Sorprendido, Boff dijo que según el Dalai Lama, la mejor religión es aquella que hace mejor al individuo, más humano, misericordioso y más sensible.

El Congreso

Decenas de teólogos y teólogas latinoamericanos están reunidos en el II Congreso Internacional de Teología para debatir la “Iglesia que camina con espíritu y desde los pobres”. Promovido por Amerindia Continental y con la presencia de referentes de la Teología de la Liberación, como Leonardo Boff y Gustavo Gutiérrez, el encuentro apunta a profundizar el ser cristiano en comunidad, ante los nuevos desafíos de un mundo plural y conflictivo.

En la ceremonia de apertura, este lunes 26, se hizo un homenaje a la Madre Tierra (Pachamama), con la oferta de elementos simbólicos, como agua, tierra y frutos, además de la representación de la basura a partir de la naturaleza muerta y de bolsas plásticas. Los participantes entonaron cánticos y leyeron una oración pidiendo perdón por el consumo irresponsable de los hombres, lo que ha llevado a la casi extinción de los bienes de la naturaleza.

En las palabras iniciales del Congreso, la mexicana Socorro Martínez, coordinadora continental de Amerindia, dijo que la elección del Papa Francisco en 2013 para dirigir al Vaticano produjo logros significativos para el contexto eclesial, dado que el pontífice es un “legado” de América Latina, y el primer Papa que, de hecho, optó por los pobres. Según la teóloga, Francisco invita a una nueva forma de ser y actuar, más allá del asistencialismo, más cercana de una sociedad que debe promover la dignidad de todos.

También con el mensaje de bienvenida, Pablo Bonavía, coordinador del Observatorio Eclesial de Uruguay, destacó que la reforma de la Iglesia debe distanciarse del narcisismo y promover un proceso civilizador alternativo, para vivir con alteridad cuidando de la “Casa Común” [expresión acuñada por el Papa en la encíclica ecológica Laudato si’]. El sacerdote recordó también que asumir un cambio radical y profundo no implica improvisación, y destacó las jornadas de trabajo emprendidas para discutir el contexto eclesial en diversos países, como Bogotá [Colombia], Montevideo [Uruguay], Chile, Bolivia y Buenos Aires [Argentina], entre otros.

La programación del Congreso incluye reuniones para compartir las diferentes experiencias de América Latina sobre ecología, migrantes, tráfico de personas, pueblos indígenas y el papel de la mujer en la comunidad eclesial. Entre las disertaciones, los invitados van a debatir la coyuntura y la relevancia de la Iglesia en el mundo, la autoridad de los mártires y de los pobres. El I Congreso Continental de Teología fue realizado en 2012, en la Universidad Vale do Río dos Sinos (Unisinos), en São Leopoldo (Río Grande do Sul). Después de tres años, el actual encuentro da seguimiento a la reflexión teológica en el contexto latinoamericano pos Concilio Vaticano II.

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World Health Organization on the bombing of a hospital in Yemen

MSF Hospital in Yemen
The hospital in Saada province in northern Yemen. Photo by Doctors Without Borders.

WHO condemns attack on Doctors Without Borders hospital in Yemen

The World Health Organization (WHO) condemns the bombing of the hospital in Saada province in northern Yemen that was supported by Medécins Sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors Without Borders in English). MSF estimates that this will leave 200,000 people with no access to life-saving medical care.

The attack violates international humanitarian law. It is the second attack on an MSF-run health facility in a month. On October 3, 30 people were killed when the MSF-supported medical clinic in Kunduz, Afghanistan was bombed. Twenty-seven MSF staff were injured.

The bombing represents a serious setback for both MSF and the affected community and an additional challenge to humanitarian work in Yemen.

WHO once again urges all parties in the conflict to respect the safety and neutrality of health workers and health facilities. Tragedies like this can and should be avoided, by warring parties consistently observing international humanitarian law and taking all necessary precautionary measures.

WHO is increasingly concerned by the continuous threats to health workers, facilities and transport, particularly in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. WHO is working together with partners to protect patients, health workers, health infrastructure and supplies from violence and thus minimize disruptions to desperately needed health care.

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Benjamin, Hillary Clinton hasn’t learned a thing from Iraq

The former secretary of state could shatter the glass ceiling for women, but she’d leave the old boys’ military-industrial complex intact. State Department photo.

Hillary Clinton hasn’t learned a thing from Iraq

by Medea Benjamin — OtherWords

As the first Democratic presidential debate drew to a close, moderator Anderson Cooper posed a question to Hillary Clinton: How might her presidency differ from Barack Obama’s?

Clinton smiled. “Well, I think it’s pretty obvious,” she replied to rapturous applause. “Being the first woman president would be quite a change from the presidents we’ve had.”

Indeed, a Hillary Clinton presidency would shatter the glass ceiling for women in the United States. But it would also leave intact the old boys’ military-industrial complex that’s kept our nation in a perpetual state of war for decades.

Clinton, it seems, failed to learn anything after supporting the disastrous Iraq War, which plunged a huge swath of the Middle East into chaos and cost her the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Instead of embracing diplomacy, she continued to champion ill-conceived military interventions as secretary of state.

In 2011, when the Arab Spring came to Libya, Clinton was the Obama administration’s most forceful advocate for intervening to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi. She even out-hawked Robert Gates, the Pentagon chief first appointed by George W. Bush who was less than enthusiastic about going to war in Libya.

Ironically, the political grief Clinton has suffered over the subsequent attack on a US diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, which killed four Americans, might never have occurred if Clinton had opted against intervening in Libya’s civil war.

While House Republicans recently spent 11 hours relentlessly drilling Clinton about Benghazi and her personal email account, the larger disaster by far is the postwar chaos that’s left Libya without a functioning government, overrun by feuding warlords and extremist militants.

Clinton favors greater military intervention in Syria’s civil war, too. In her presidential bid, she’s joined hawkish Republican senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham in supporting the creation of a no-fly zone over the country.

That puts her at odds not only with President Barack Obama, but also with her Democratic presidential rival Bernie Sanders, who warned that it could “get us more deeply involved in that horrible civil war and lead to a never-ending US entanglement in that region.”

Clinton did end up supporting the administration’s Iran nuclear deal, but her support came with a history of bellicose baggage.

Back in 2008, for example, she warned that Washington could “totally obliterate” Iran. During that presidential campaign, she chided Obama as “naïve” and “irresponsible” for wanting to engage the country diplomatically.

Even after the nuclear agreement was sealed, she struck a bullying tone: “I don’t believe Iran is our partner in this agreement,” Clinton insisted. “Iran is the subject of the agreement.” She added that she “won’t hesitate to take military action” if it falls through.

Contrast Clinton with the more moderate Secretary of State John Kerry. It’s no wonder Obama’s two signature foreign policy achievements — the Iran deal and the groundbreaking opening of diplomatic ties with Cuba — came after Clinton left.

There was a very telling moment about Clinton’s attitude during the debate when Cooper asked, “Which enemy are you most proud of?”

Alongside the NRA, Republicans, and health insurance companies, Clinton listed “the Iranians” — which could mean either the Iranian government or the nation’s 78 million people. In either case, it wasn’t a very diplomatic thing to say while her successor and former colleagues are trying to chart a new, more cooperative relationship with Iran.

When it comes to war and peace, it might not matter too much if a Republican or Hillary Clinton wins the White House. In either case, the winner will be the military-industrial complex President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about.

Medea Benjamin, the founder of CODEPINK and Global Exchange, is the author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.

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¿Wappin? A Sunday service for those whose faith is more in this world

Jane's Addiction.
Jane’s Addiction.

¿Wappin? A Sunday service for those whose faith is more in this world

GoodLuck & Lisa Kekaula – What Would We Be

Paul Kantner & Grace Slick – Sunrise

Mighty Diamonds – Right Time

Maná – La Prisión

The Clash – I Fought the Law

The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter

Marshall Crenshaw – Cynical Girl

Paty Cantú – Valiente

Exene Cervenka & los Straitjackets – I’ll Go Down Swinging

Jane’s Addiction – Irresistible Force

Cage9 – A Million Miles Below the Earth

Imagine Dragons – Roots

Olga Tañón – Basta Ya

Playing for Change – Redemption Song

Martha Reeves & Friends – Legends In Concert

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