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Ads promoting Panama as a tourist destination without black people are one thing…

“Casco” has several meanings, one of which is “city center” or “quarter” — as in the French Quarter of New Orleans. It can also mean “helmet.” If you want to get into Nazi connotations you might look up the history of just why the US government promoted the October 1941 coup that removed Arnulfo Arias as president, or inquire about the more recent history, nature and views of “Wild Bill,” the most infamous of the gringo white supremacists to colonize Panama in the 21st century. If you are a foreigner promoting Nazi beliefs or lifestyles, the immigration laws do provide for authorities to issue a “take him away” order. Preaching racial, ethnic, religious or political hatreds is a deportable offense in Panama. Facebook and Instagram graphic purportedly promoting the Casco Viejo.

And then there’s this

An indignant reader tipped us off about this thing he found on Facebook. The pretense that Panama has no racism is dishonest or ignorant. White people — let alone “Aryans” — are a minority here. The US obsession about race is not a part of our culture but attaching foreign racial symbolism to perhaps the most famous neighborhood in our capital is bound to offend. If the truth is to be told, once upon a time there was a wall around the Casco Viejo, with a moat and drawbridges. They pulled the bridges up at night and forbade the presence of black people other than domestic servants in the neighborhood after hours. But that was way before Der Führer, when there was slavery in Panama.


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¿Wappin? Free form from The Crossroads of The World

Julieta Venegas. Por Fotocuba.

A Crossroads of The World mix

Destiny’s Child – Nasty Girl

Kafu Banton & Almirante – Ella

Peter Tosh – Whatcha Gonna Do

Don and Juan – What’s Your Name?

Los Hermanos Duncan – Sin Embargo

Chaka Khan – Angel

Alfredo Escudero – Cartas Sobre la Mesa

Carlos Santana – Black Magic Woman

Monchy y Alexandra – Dos Locos

Sippie Wallace – Murder Gonna Be My Crime

The Corrs – Little Wing

Los Diablitos – Hasta Cuando Señor

Julieta Venegas – Buenas Noches, Desolación

Moby & The Void Pacific Choir – Are You Lost In The World Like Me

Los Cafres at Miami Reggae Festival 2014


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Editorials, The ACP’s port project; and An ugly final debate

ACP pretension
The Panama Canal Authority can’t get its questionable projects approved through Panama’s regular if not well functioning democratic institutions, so they just barge ahead as if they are a sovereign state unto themselves. Graphic by the ACP.

The lawyers put it mildly, but well

The Panama Canal Authority can’t get the votes in the legislature to take another part of the ports business from the jurisdiction of the Panama Maritime Authority and the elected national government, so it’s moving ahead to present the Corozal – Diablo port project as a fait accompli. It’s also now big into the real estate speculation business, making deals with corporations that could not care less about the canal area environmental regime that came along with the 1977 Panama Canal Treaties and has by and large served the nation well.

For a moment, forget about the current weaknesses and uncertain futures of worldwide shipping and Panama’s role as a regional wholesaling and warehousing center. Those things will surely change, even if we don’t know how. What can’t change is history — the people who ran the canal made ridiculous economic projections for public consumption back in a 2006 referendum campaign, and worse yet acted as if those had some relationship with reality. They didn’t and now their succeeding subordinates at the ACP are looking for more sources of revenue for an institution in trouble of its own making.

The nation’s largest bar association, the Colegio de Abogados, is calling for a national referendum on the port project. That’s a good idea. The Colegio is also calling for the convening of a constitutional convention to redesign Panama’s dysfunctional government and that’s an even better idea. If it comes to pass, delegates to an assembly that drafts a new constitution should take up the entire matter of canal governance. What we have now is not working.

Ugly debate leaves the issues clear enough

The nasty woman against the boorish lout? A lot of people who watched the third and final US presidential debate probably saw it that way, but few of them had their minds changed. The election swing would be among a small percentage of “undecideds,” who are probably less than the maybe five percent shown in the polls, to whom we should probably add some of the folks who say that they will vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson or the Greens’ Jill Stein.

Here in Panama, after a long tradition of quadrennial Democrat – Republican debates, the Republicans have chickened out since the last time we had one in 2008. In this year’s US election campaign it’s kind of sad that there wasn’t a four-candidate debate in which Johnson and Stein, neither of whom are likely to win a single electoral vote, added their in many cases good ideas into the national discourse. Convincing anybody of anything — except maybe those with the money to do so to buy this or that — seems to be a rare and endangered species of social discourse among Americans.

So we are left with a “turnout election” — Donald Trump and his surly, belligerent and fictional crusade for xenophobia, white supremacy and intolerance of religions other than a caricature of the Christianity which he doesn’t practice versus Hillary Clinton and her conventional wisdoms presented with a forced smile in the face of insults that would put ordinary people into a fighting rage.

The most disturbing thing is a man who has suggested that his “Second Amendment people” might deal with his opponent refusing to pledge that he will accept the voters’ verdict. Is the election system rigged? Surely it is, and in the general election more in Trump’s favor than Clinton’s given all of the red state vote suppression laws and practices. Clinton doesn’t use those words and maybe the tale of her primary battles with Bernie Sanders make that avoidance the wise and polite approach, but her stated desire to overturn the Citizens United decision on campaign finance actually shows a far greater commitment to address the topic of unfair election practices than does any policy that Trump has ever suggested. After the election Americans do need a major debate, acrimonious as it may be, about genuine election reforms. The argument is likely to burn hottest among Democrats, but progress on this matter is only possible if Clinton blows out Trump so badly as to erode or eliminate Republican power in Congress.

Elect Democrats, and if Trump’s “Second Amendment people” mobilize their “patriot” militias to overturn that verdict, crush them like noxious little insects. And if Democrats, independents and third party supporters are so unwise as to allow Trump and his entourage to win, then join and grow a new small-d democratic resistance.

Bear in mind…


Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love, for they enkindle and melt the soul.
Santa Teresa de Avila


I didn’t really say everything I said.
Yogi Berra


Does not God love colored children as well as white children? And did not the same Savior die to save the one as well as the other? If so, white children must know that if they go to Heaven, they must go there without their prejudice against color, for in Heaven black and white are one in the love of Jesus.
Sojourner Truth


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Gandásegui, MIREN mira hacia 2019


El MIREN se prepara para la batalla de 2019

por Marco A. Gandásegui, hijo

El Movimiento Independiente de Refundación Nacional (MIREN) anunció que participará activamente en las elecciones generales de 2019. La organización política celebró una Asamblea con la participación de delegaciones provinciales, sindicales, gremiales y estudiantiles de todo el país. En 2014 el MIREN apoyó la candidatura por la libre postulación de Juan Jované, profesor de Economía de la Universidad de Panamá.

La Asamblea eligió al profesor Jované como secretario general del MIREN. La directiva cuenta con coordinadores de Organización, Finanzas y Propaganda y Formación. También tendrá secretarías que coordinarán con los sectores sociales y provinciales.

Durante el acto, Jované hizo un extenso análisis de la realidad nacional señalando que los últimos gobiernos han logrado hundir cada vez más el país en una situación que aparentemente es irreversible. Económicamente, los sectores populares se empobrecen al mismo tiempo que los más ricos se enriquecen cada vez más. Presentó pruebas contundentes sobre la creciente desigualdad que experimenta la población del país.

La ruina de la agricultura y del sector industrial tiene que ser enfrentado con políticas serias que pongan fin al robo descarado de las arcas nacionales. No se rinden cuentas sobre los 20 mil millones de dólares que ha aportado la operación del Canal de Panamá al fisco nacional en los últimos 15 años. Estos recursos y otros – bien invertidos con un plan de trabajo – pueden convertir a Panamá en un modelo de desarrollo y bienestar que beneficie a todos los panameños y no sólo una minúscula minoría.

Jované también se refirió al colapso del sistema educativo y a la corrupción que corroe las instituciones de salud y de seguridad social. Destacó la preocupación legítima de la ciudadanía en torno a la inseguridad en las ciudades y en el interior.

El profesor Raúl González, miembro fundador del MIREN y secretario de organización, denunció las reformas electorales que pretenden aprobar en la Asamblea de Diputados los partidos políticos tradicionales. Las propuestas que benefician a la clase dominante deben ser rechazadas, dijo Gonzáles.

La Asamblea tuvo oportunidad de debatir todas los puntos presentados por Jované y González. Con relación a la seguridad social todos plantearon la necesidad de rescatar la Caja de Seguro Social (CSS) de los malos políticos que están al servicio de la oligarquía panameña. Hay que regresar al sistema solidario que garantiza la salud financiera de la institución que beneficia a casi tres millones de asegurados.

Todos plantearon la urgencia de crear un sistema de salud que atienda a toda la población sin discriminar a los más pobres. Jované denunció la política desarrollada en los últimos 25 años que ha abandonado los planteles educativos y empobrecido a maestros y profesores.

La Asamblea aprobó la propuesta de Jované de convertir al MIREN en un ‘instrumento político’ para competir en las elecciones de 2019. Si el MIREN llega al poder planteará la transformación del país y, especialmente, las instituciones políticas presas en las redes de la corrupción. Hay que erradicar la corrupción para que los panameños sientan seguridad en sus hogares y comunidades. Igualmente, hay que ejecutar un plan de desarrollo nacional para que los enormes recursos del gobierno se inviertan en actividades productivas en beneficio de todos los panameños. Todas las formas de discriminación tienen que ser superadas para que las mujeres gocen de los mismos derechos y que todos los grupos sociales tengan las mismas oportunidades. El MIREN acordó convocar a una Asamblea extraordinaria para tratar la cuestión indígena y rechazar los engaños de la oligarquía en su trato de los pueblos originarios.

El MIREN se pronunció a favor de la realización inmediata de una Constituyente originaria. Rechazó las propuestas de los sectores más retardatarios que quieren eliminar el Código de Trabajo, privatizar la CSS y vender las tierras colindantes del Canal de Panamá. Las delegaciones de las provincias de Coclé, Colón, Chiriquí y Veraguas denunciaron los abusos del gobierno nacional en materia de ambiente, políticas sociales y la falta de inversiones productivas.

La Asamblea aprobó una resolución apoyando a la activista ambiental, Ligia Arreaga, quien tuvo que abandonar el país por encontrar su vida en peligro tras ser amenazada por terratenientes que quieren apropiarse del humedal Matusagaratí, en Darién. El gobierno nacional no actúa en defensa de Larissa Duarte, quizás porque sus miembros están en colusión con los depredadores.

El MIREN reiteró su compromiso de luchar por una verdadera democracia, popular, incluyente y participativa, para todos.


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Ricky and his boys play dodgeball

Ricky whines
Ricardo Martinelli complains via Twitter that the jailing of one of his inner circle for financial crimes is an attack on freedom of the press. Other than Martinelli’s media, few others are saying this.

Ricky and his boys play dodgeball, but some get hit

by Eric Jackson

Apparently safe for the time being in his Miami refuge, Ricardo Martinelli goes on Twitter to celebrate legal victories that may be ephemeral and denounce setbacks that also may prove temporary.

The basic power balance is this:

  • Martinelli and his inner circle ran a notorious looting binge and most Panamanians want to see him brought back to Panama and jailed;
  • There are political complications for the United States to kick the former Panamanian president out; and
  • In Panama the courts are conflicted by the strong residue of Martinelli’s influence and a countervailing widespread public annoyance with this.

Add to that mix the implementation of the accusatory system of criminal procedure in the nation’s most populous eastern area — Panama, Colon and Darien provinces — that leads to decisions of sorts that are unfamiliar to most Panamanians. Then there is the bifurcation in criminal justice, wherein some current or former public officials may only be tried by the Supreme Court or the National Assembly, while others are processed in the ordinary court system.

The sum is that while Martinelli remains in exile in Miami and is apparently protected from an extradition request by political factors that may evaporate with the US elections next month or inauguration of a new US administration early next year, some of the men and women who worked for him are facing trials here. Some of these are out on bail, some are being held in preventive detention and the ones “exonerated” by a controversial appeals court decision may end up back on the hook and the judges that issued that ruling may face criminal charges for it.

The new criminal procedure rules make bail the supposed norm, so we see former officials implicated in alleged multi-million-dollar peculations getting out pending trial and many Panamanians taking this as an example of impunity for the rich and powerful. On the other hand, we see some of Martinelli’s close associates being jailed without bail and civil libertarians who would like to see them ultimately sent to prison criticizing the denial of bail while the charges are pending.

Francolini jailed, not for running Martinelli’s TV channel

On October 12 anti-corruption prosecutor Tania Sterling ordered the preventive detention of Riccardo Francolini, now president and reputed minority shareholder of Ricardo Martinelli’s NexTV television channel. It was for a $7 million loan that the state-owned Caja de Ahorros granted in the name of the HPC-Contratas-P&V consortium, a construction group in which former vice president and relative of Ricardo Martinelli’s by marriage Felipe “Pipo” Virzi is said to be a major player. That consortium had a $193 million contract to build a convention center on Amador, a job which it started but was unable to complete. On the government side, the contract was granted by the Panama Tourism Authority, then headed by Martinelli’s right-hand man, Salomón Shamah, who since Martinelli’s departure from the presidency has returned to his native Colombia.

The prosecution claims that the $7 million wasn’t for the consortium or the convention center project, but to a Virzi company named Summer Venture Inc, which in turn was a conduit to funnel the money to several other businesses linked to Martinelli, Virzi and now imprisoned former Supreme Court magistrate Alejandro Moncada Luna. Under the Caja de Ahorros rules the ultimate beneficiaries of the loan would not have been eligible for such state support.

The defense points out that the loan was repaid, and asserts that because there was no ultimate loss to the bank, there was no crime. Although this sort of claim has been asserted and sometimes accepted by courts or prosecutors in past public corruption cases, there is a strong consensus among lawyers that the repayment of money improperly obtained from the government is not a defense to the crime but only a mitigating factor at sentencing time.

Ordered held without bail along with Francolini were the former number two man at the bank, Rodrigo Arosemena Pino and three other former management figures. Former board members have had knowledge of or participation in the scheme imputed to them and have been or are being questioned by prosecutors, but are not formally under criminal investigation and may or may not eventually be in that situation. But when one looks beyond the bank at the conduits and beneficiaries in the allegedly illegal transaction, it gets to most of Martinelli’s inner circle and Martinelli himself. There may be statute of limitations problems with pursuit of these people, several of whom are also the beneficiaries of a controversial appeals court ruling holding that their alleged financial crimes in association with Alejandro Moncada Luna were legalized by a plea bargain that spared the former magistrate prosecution for other than the charges that landed him in prison.

The preventive detention order has been widely criticized by lawyers and civil libertarians. Under the new criminal procedure rules, bail should ordinarily be granted unless there is a good reason like a flight risk, a large unrecovered stolen fortune to be concealed or moved or the probability that witnesses will be intimidated, bribed or assaulted. None of these factors appear to be the case with Francolini.

There may be unknown factors — at least unknown to the general public — at play here. The usual one is that Panamanian corporate secrecy laws intentionally make it hard to identify the beneficial owners of corporations. This structural incentive for public corruption is not one of the things that President Varela in his dealings with foreign governments after the Panama Papers revelations, or any significant faction of the National Assembly, are talking about changing. Also, in the raid on Francolini’s house in which he was arrested, police and prosecutors seized at least one computer and a cryptic Public Ministry statement suggested information about other matters of interest to authorities being found through that seizure.

Extraordinary procedures in the wake of a corrupt appellate ruling

Ordinarily when an appeals court lets a criminal defendant off of the hook that’s the end of the matter, no further prosecution appeals being allowed. But the Second Superior Court of Justice ruling that Alejandro Moncada Luna’s plea bargain to go to prison for amassing a fortune worth millions of dollars that can’t be explained as coming from a legitimate source while he was a high court magistrate and for forging documents means that none of Moncada Luna’s 14 alleged accomplices can be prosecuted for their parts in the disgraced ex-jurist’s crimes is a legal absurdity.

None of the people who were let off of the hook by that ruling — who by and large comprise much of Ricardo Martinelli’s inner circle of friends — were parties to the case against Moncada Luna. They could not have been, because that legal drama unfolded in the National Assembly, which does has jurisdiction over Supreme Court magistrates but not ordinary citizens. But the files generated by the Moncada Luna case do figure in the investigation that led to charges against Pipo Virzi, Panama Canal Authority board member Nicolás Corcione Pérez Balladares, Ricky Calvo and several others. Deeper digging indicated that Moncada Luna’s ill-gotten fortune derived largely from a series of overpriced contracts that involved kickbacks, with accomplices arranging the deals or laundering the proceeds and generally getting a piece of the action.

Were the notion that an agreement not to pursue all charges against one member of a criminal enterprise absolves all of that offender’s accomplices for unprosecuted crimes to be uniformly applied, a lot of currently incarcerated gang members would have to be freed. (As precedent means relatively little in the Civil Code family of legal systems of which Panama’s is a part, it would not come to that.) Whether or not it ever gets invoked again, the 2-1 appeals court ruling was bad law and finds virtually no defenders in the legal community.

The decision to remove Moncada Luna’s alleged accomplices — who include his wife — from legal jeopardy did not come any of the criminal defendants as such. It was a ruling on a motion brought by an anonymously held corporation whose assets were frozen as allegedly laundered criminal proceeds.

Because the case below was decided on an argument of law and because one of the three judges dissented, organized crime prosecutors have petitioned the Supreme Court to accept a recurso de casación, a relatively rare summary appeal that would declare the Second Tribunal’s ruling null and void, sending the case back to prosecutors for further proceedings. That petition has stayed the effects of the intermediate court’s ruling, which include the return of millions of dollars in frozen bank accounts and other property to the accused.

The case complicates the already problematic life of the Supreme Court, as the Second Tribunal’s ruling was written by Supreme Court magistrate Wilfredo Sáenz, a Martinelli appointee, who was sitting with the lower court. One high court colleague, Harry Díaz, has criticized the ruling in the press.

There are calls for accountability for a corrupt decision. As to Sáenz, jurisdiction for that would lie with the legislature. At the moment the deputies are busy with their annual late October scramble before the October 31 end of their regular session and are not taking up the matter. At least one complaint against Sáenz has been filed with them.

Sáenz got the vote and one-word concurrence of appellate judge María de Lourdes Estrada de Villar, who unlike a high court magistrate would be accountable before the ordinary criminal justice system if an investigation or charges are to occur. Private complaints have been filed against her with the Public Ministry. So far there is no indication whether that ministry’s prosecutors will pursue the matter.

If any proceedings arise against either Sáenz or Estrada an argument that liability for bad rulings would infringe upon judicial independence would likely be interposed. During Panama’s long military dictatorship the independent judge was the exception. It has been alleged the when Moncada Luna was the high court’s presiding magistrate Ricardo Martinelli would send the tourism minister, Salo Shamah, to the Supreme Court with orders for the courts. Despite President Juan Carlos Varela’s denials and little evidence to contradict them there are occasional allegations of and a widespread public belief of ongoing and systematic political interference by the presidency in the affairs of the courts.

Will Martinelli be extradited?

By September 28 a formal Panamanian request to extradite Ricardo Martinelli had arrived at the US State Department’s headquarters at Foggy Bottom in Washington DC. The Supreme Court detention order on which that was based was issued in late December of 2015, based on illegal electronic eavesdropping charges. More than a dozen other pending legal proceedings against Martinelli, mostly based on embezzlement, bribery or contracts with kickbacks, are pending at various stages of the legal process here and are not part of the extradition case.

Notwithstanding an INTERPOL “red letter” arrest warrant, it’s normal for US authorities to take some time to analyze an extradition request before acting on it. There are ordinary but important concerns about an accused person being subjected to a sham trial, torture, political or ethnic persecution or punishment that’s unreasonably severe for a given offense in the eyes of US culture. There are treaty concerns, not only with the 1904 US-Panamanian extradition agreement that does not broach the subject of illegal surveillance, but also with subsequent mutual legal assistance pacts, probably some of which are state secrets.

Beyond the ordinary, this is a request for for the extradition of a former head of state. There may be matters that the US government would not want to have discussed in a court proceeding open to the Panamanian public, things like US military and mercenary activities in Panama, ongoing DEA investigations, the names of spies or informants for the US government, certain details about the capture of a North Korean freighter bearing military materials buried under a cargo of sugar or so on. There are precedents for the United States to condition an extradition on guarantees that certain matters will not be raised in court, but beyond that there would be concerns about whether a guarantee about what will or will not be allowed to transpire in a court proceeding would or could be enforced under Panamanian law.

There are possible legal or political complications arising from Ricardo Martinelli’s immigration status in the United States, which is not a matter of open public record. It is presumed that Martinelli is living in Miami on an extended or overstayed tourist visa, but he lived in the USA for enough years to hold the green card of resident alien status or even to have acquired US citizenship. The State Department never comments on immigration status matters, citing privacy concerns. But what would be the political effect in South Florida of extraditing a right-wing politician with friends in Miami’s exile community who is a naturalized US citizen? At the very least it may make the Obama administration want to put off any extradition move until after the November election.

In any case US State Department Counselor Kristie A. Kenney visited her on October 6 and almost certainly discussed the extradition request with top Panamanian officials. We don’t know that for sure, however, because there were no official press releases about that subject and because during her visit Kenney brushed off questions by telling reporters that the United States does take the request seriously and it’s inappropriate for her to talk about it. It was a diplomatically correct answer.

For his part President Varela has said that he wants to see Martinelli brought back to Panama to stand trial. Polls indicate that most Panamanians want to see Martinelli extradited, most believe that Varela has more control over the courts than he probably does, and most are displeased by the slow pace of proceedings against Martinelli and his entourage. There may be discrepancies between what is said in public and what is discussed with diplomats.


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Libros listos para reforestar y restaurar

STRI trees
Publicaciones del Smithsonian para informar la reforestación de Panamá y la región. Foto por STRI.

Listos para reforestar y restaurar

nota y foto por STRI

El 17 de agosto de este año, se presentó la Guía de Crecimiento y Sobrevivencia Temprana de 64 Especies de Árboles Nativos de Panamá y el Neo-trópico en la Feria Internacional del Libro. Hoy, el Instituto Smithsonian de Investigaciones Tropicales invitó más de 100 practicantes de la reforestación en Panamá a su sede en Ancón para recibir copias gratuitas del libro.

En la presentación de hoy, además del co-autor, Jefferson Hall, también participaron Emilio Sempris, Vice Ministro del Ministerio del Ambiente de Panamá, el Dr. Matthew F. Larsen, Director del Instituto Smithsonian, y Jorge Ventocilla, ambientalista.

“Esta nueva guía de plantación es el resultado de años de investigación de bosques tropicales a través de Panamá y en el Proyecto de Agua Salud en la Cuenca del Canal,” comentó Matthew Larsen, director del Smithsonian en Panamá. “Estamos encantados de ofrecerla como una herramienta para personas que apenas han plantando algunos árboles en sus patios traseros, así como para los profesionales de la planificación de proyectos de restauración y reforestación a gran escala.”

Emelio Sempris, Vice Ministro del Ministerio del Ambiente, mencionó una nueva iniciativa de la USAID y el Departamento del Tesoro de los EEUU para apoyar la banca local en establecer formas de financiar iniciativas de recursos renovables en América Central. De la nueva Guía de Crecimiento, comentó: “Seria de gran utilidad no solo para nuestro ambiente pero también para las más de 50 organizaciones públicas y privadas que se están sumando a la Alianza por el Millón de Hectareas Reforestadas.”

El ambientalista Jorge Ventocilla, editor del libro en español comentó, “Es muy poco lo que se sabe sobre las especies nativas hasta ahora.” “Esta publicación es para hacer que los resultados de la investigación lleguen a un mayor público.” “He conversado con una serie de personas, algunos de ellos quienes trabajan directamente en la reforestación y he presentado el libro para que me den una opinión. Pregunté si habían visto un libro así anteriormente, y me contestaron que no, y pregunté si habian visto un libro en español así y dijeron que no.” “Definitivamente este libro transciende las fronteras nacionales. Este libro va a ser útil en Panamá y en todo el neo-trópico.”

Jefferson Hall, co-autor de la nueva Guía de Crecimiento y Sobrevivencia Temprana de 64 Especies de Árboles Nativos de Panamá y el Neo-trópico junto con Mark Ashton de la Universidad de Yale, felicitó especialmente a la diagramadora del libro, Blanca Martínez, por el arte de la portada, a la traductora, Ela Spalding, y a los editores Geetha Iyer y Jorge Ventocilla. Destacó el contenido, especialmente una serie de láminas sobre especies en particular con información específica sobre dónde crece, la mortalidad, y la productividad cuando crece bajo varias condiciones de clima y en varios suelos.

Con dos otras publicaciones anteriores, este libro conforma un completo juego de información científica basado en más de 30 años de investigación sobre cómo reforestar o restaurar áreas degradadas dentro del país con árboles nativos que tengan un valor económico, hasta más alto que la teca, el eucalipto y el pino caribeño, árboles escogidos en el pasado para este propósito.

Estos tres libros son:


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There Are Such Things by the Theatre Guild

This is a review of a theatrical work, so of course it belongs in the culture section. And then, the count is a man of certain cultural standards. But is it also a lifestyle section article? This gets us to social philosophy — is it a lifestyle choice to be undead?

There Are Such Things

review and photos by Eric Jackson

The Theatre Guild isn’t putting on idolatry for kids this Halloween. There will be neither sermons about nor sacrifices to The Great Pumpkin. October of 2016 is dedicated to horror, which is not recommended for little kids who won’t understand sexual themes but will lose sleep over the thought of a bitten neck in the middle of the night. Playwrights and directors Simon Tejeira and Alfonso Grimaldo bring us an original take on part of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

This is an extraordinary play. The main actors, Yoel Winner as the count, Allen Shor as ambitious young lawyer Jonathan Harker and Monica Porras as the woman Harker would marry, performed beautifully in the press night performance. The story line, the acting and the direction, however, were not the only remarkable things about this work, perhaps not even the main things to notice, as important as they are.

The eerie lighting, the costumes and the incorporation of contemporary dance — the shadows and Dracula’s brides — were huge leaps for a Theatre Guild production. That the shadows, who also moved stuff around during set changes, were not acknowledged as dancers and that Simon Tejeira, who plotted their movements, was not billed in the program as a choreographer, understates the importance of this part of the cast. Far more than the usual Theatre Guild play, There Are Such Things is an outstanding bit of art in multiple media.

Do we want to get into who bites whom and when? Naaah — that’s for you to go see. Bwahahahahahaa!

As unpleasant as the count was said to be with respect to the Turks of his times, he shared in their polygamous ways…
Drac bitees
What POSSIBLE harm could a little business trip to Transylvania do to a relationship?
This is the second Tejeira and Grimaldo play. They should take it on the road.

There Are Such Things

an original play based on the first part of Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Written and directed by Simon Tejeira and Alfonso Grimaldo
Artistic director Stephanie M. Sanz
Producer Giancarlo Benedetti


Count Dracula – Yoel Willner
Jonathan Harkler – Allen Shor
Mina Murray – Monica Porras

Dracula’s brides
Aylin Medina
Maira Serrano
Mimi Vamvas

Gilberto Loffer
Luis Alberto Muñoz
Meagan Crowe
MJ Rojas
Rafa Leonard
Sabrina Ubben
Yasmine Gaspard
Aylin Medina
Mimi Vamvas


Assistant director – Levys Mon Calderon
Stage manager – Cedric Carrere
Assistant stage managers – Kelly Walsh, Andres Diaz & Adriana Valdez Vargas
Set design – Stephanie M. Sanz
Set construction – Cedric Carrere, Dean Hopster, Stephanie A. Sanz, Doug Bennett, Rob Getman, Regis Hanna, Tito Vallarino, Rafa Leonard, Harmodio Harris & Carlos Aleman
Lighting design – Tomas Cortes Rosselot
Associate lighting designer – Juan de la Guardia
Costumes – Stephanie M. Sanz & Dayana Moreno
Props – Stephanie M. Sanz
Makeup and hair – Dayana Moreno
Sound – Levys Mon Calderon

Check out the context

Now that Panama has its unique take on the Dracula legend — let’s take a look back at some of the other classic renditions, through these video links:

The Geman silent classic, in its entirety — Nosferatu

A scene from the Bela Lugosi flick that set the American standard

Trailer from the Mexican classic with German Robles, El Vampiro

There are African-American vampires, too — like Blacula

Chrisopher Lee, the Brit who also played Dracula, talks about the role


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¿Wappin? A tribute to Nobel laureate Bob Dylan

Marshall Dylan?
Bob Dylan in 2013. Photo by Xavier Badosa.

The Wappin Radio Show pays tribute to Bob Dylan, winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature

it’s world culture now, but still a reflection of the best American values


The Rolling Stones – Like a Rolling Stone

Carly Simon & James Taylor – The Times They Are A Changin’

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Subterranean Homesick Blues

Patti Smith – Changing of the Guards

Luciano – Knocking on Heaven’s Door

Sinéad O’Connor – I Believe in You

Jimi Hendrix – All Along the Watchtower

Mick Hucknall – One of Us Must Know

Odetta – Masters of War

Hamilton Quearney – Hurricane

Adele – Make You Feel My Love

Never Shout Never – It Ain’t Me, Babe

Bruce Springsteen – Chimes of Freedom

Norah Jones – Forever Young

Joan Baez – Blowing in the Wind


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The Panama News blog links, October 17, 2016


The Panamanian community marches in Brooklyn. Starting with the October 21 Festival of the Black Christ in Portobelo, picking up for the November patriotic parades and on through Carnival, Afro-Panamanian tourism is a big business here even if the ad cartel portrays Panama as a tourist destination where there are no black people.

The Panama News blog links

a Panama-centric selection of other people’s work
una selección Panamá-céntrica de las obras de otras personas

JOC, Panama Canal struggles to boost container ship transits

Info-Europa, Car plunges into Gatun lock

The Maritime Executive, ACP moves ahead on Corozal port

La Estrella, Kourulis: El puerto de Corozal solo beneficiará al operador privado

Irish Times, Irish-built yacht sails around Arctic in seven weeks

AFP, FIDH pide desechar canal de Nicaragua por impacto humano y ambiental

Global Times, Don’t assume that Chinese private firms have government backing

Costa Rica Star, AirPanama announces new Costa Rica-Roatan route

Los Angeles Times, Ruiz comes through for the Dodgers with go-ahead RBI

ESPN FC, Mexico edges Panama in friendly

ESPN, New Year’s rematch for Jezreel Corrales and Takashi Uchiyama

PR: Ericsson takes control of Cable & Wireless Caribbean, Panama network

AFP, Comisión de expertos concluye informe sobre evasión fiscal

The Guardian, Brexit financier Arron Banks shows up in the Panama Papers

Reuters, Swiss banks in money laundering “red zone”

Huffington Post, WikiLeaks reveals corporate TISA demands of the EU

PanAm Post, Can rebounding oil prices save Venezuela?

Mirgalia, Chile’s privatized pension system fails

STRI, Monkey movements explained by Panama’s forest structure

Reuters, Cuban town avoided Hurricane Matthew’s deadly fury with preparation

CNN, Global deal to cut HFC greenhouse gases

Mongabay, Climate change could be worse for fisheries than we thought

San Angelo Standard-Times, New screwworm outbreak in Florida

La Estrella, Asesora de Kerry evite comentario sobre el caso de Martinelli

El País, Una trama corrupta implica a la petrolera ecuatoriana

The Express Tribune, Pakistan’s high court to hear Panama Papers case

Telemetro, Taiwán detiene a banquero señalado en caso Mossack Fonseca

Fusion, Trump riles up supporters to intimidate minority voters

PRI, One of the six US immigrant Nobel winners on the push to limit immigration

AI, “If I stay, I’ll be killed:” Central America’s refugee crisis

Rolling Stone, Six million adults who won’t influence the US elections

The Intercept, First direct US entry into the Yemen War

TVN, Primera dama no confía en el sistema

Transparency International, Have the BVI cleaned up after the Panama Papers?

Gandásegui, La oligarquía entierra la paz en Colombia

Tate, A dark day in Colombia

Morsolin, El reto de las alcadías

González & Dominzain, Anatomy of the new Brazilian right

Faithful, The stolen Cáceres case files

Caribean News Now!, Haitian elections reset

BBC, Aid trucks looted during UN chief’s Haiti visit

Jessop, African-Caribbean-Pacific Group shouldn’t let the EU set its fate

EFE, SIP reitera amenazas a libertad de prensa en América

Slate, Douthat: Trump isn’t entirely the Republicans’ fault

Stiglitz, How Trump happened

Keillor, Donald Trump is four centuries too late

New York Review of Books, Panama: The Hidden Trillions

Blades, ¿Puede la letra de la musica popular ser considerada como literatura?


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COMENENAL, La crisis en Seguro Social

Seguro Social en el Interior. Foto por el Municipio de Barú.

La Crisis de la CSS


Cumpliendo el mandato de la Asamblea de hoy se generan 3 Comunicados a toda nuestra membresía y al país. El primero de ellos muestra nuestra postura ante la Crisis y debacle de la CSS:

  1. Hace 5 semanas dimos la alerta sobre el cálculo matemático que permitía pronosticar que de seguir el rumbo de ese momento, para después de la 2ª semana de octubre se paralizarían todas las cirugías electivas, procedimientos e incluso hospitalizaciones de la CSS en todo el país.

    1. Sin esa alerta, estaríamos hoy frente a esa tragedia.

    2. Las autoridades actuales de la CSS ni siquiera lo sabían. O sea que COMENENAL les ayudo a que lo vieran.

    3. Decían tener 85% de abastecimiento.

    4. La realidad: menos de 60% de abastecimiento de medicamentos y menos de 30% de abastecimientos en Insumos Médico-quirúrgicos.

  2. Producto de esa alerta se tomaron una serie de correctivos entre los cuales destaca el acuerdo con Contraloría de la República para Compras Directas apremiantes para paliar la crisis.

    1. Estas, en el caso de los insumos medico quirúrgicos, no fueron hechas por actos públicos, sino por invitaciones directas, lo que da margen a suspicacias sobre favoritismo. O sea, se le dio un trato incorrecto a la crisis y sus medidas de excepción.

  3. Algunos asesores del gobierno han pensado que con dichas medidas se resolvía la Crisis hasta por 6 meses. Nada más falso. Nuestros cálculos, que hasta ahora no han fallado, nos permiten predecir que la CSS no llega siquiera a finalizar el año.

    1. De hecho hasta ahora nada ha cambiado en los Depósitos centrales, regionales y de grandes Unidades Ejecutoras de la CSS: En promedio 60% de abastecimiento en medicamentos y de 30% de abastecimiento en insumos médico-quirúrgicos.

  4. Durante esta Crisis ha sido evidente la incapacidad gerencial de la actual administración de la CSS para realmente ponerse a trabajar a favor de la población y los pacientes.

    1. Incapacidad manifiesta para introducir correctivos en todos los procesos de planeación, programación, selección y compra de las Tecnologías sanitarias deficitarias (medicamentos, insumos médico-quirúrgicos, reactivos de laboratorio, reactivos de imagenología, de odontología, y otros).

    2. Incapacidad para detectar a los jefes de departamento, verdaderamente responsables de la crisis: el jefe de Abastecimiento que sigue insistiendo en mentir y hablar de 85% de abastecimiento, según hizo saber el Dr. López (sub-director general) en Debate Abierto del domingo pasado cuando declaró que esa eran laas cifras del informe oficial de este jefe de departamento. Jefe de Insumos Médico-Quirúrgicos para calcular las verdaderas cantidades necesarias para el trabajo ininterrumpido de la CSS, el de Finanzas y presupuesto, que anda metiéndose en las decisiones de que comprar. Los de Ingeniería de la CSS, que intentan aprobar a tambor batiente contratos millonarios que no cumplen los mínimos criterios técnicos, lo que significa lesión patrimonial directa para la institución.

    3. Incapacidad para mantener a los jefes de departamento que si están cumpliendo con las leyes y normas que dictan la actuación correcta de los funcionarios públicos.

  5. En medio de esta crisis se han dedicado a seguir tomando malas decisiones, de las cuales hay múltiples ejemplos a denunciar:

    1. Insisten en seguir con las Primas de Productividad que han sido co-partícipes del actual desabastecimiento.

    2. Siguen insistiendo en demoler el Hospital Regional viejo de Chiriquí para hacer otro contrato para construcción de la 4ª torre.

    3. Han retrasado, a un punto de riesgo, la construcción del puente que interconecta el Hospital nuevo con el viejo. O sea que al momento de inaugurarse el nuevo, los pacientes tendrían que ser pasados de uno a otro, a través de la calle, bajo sol o lluvia. Por supuesto con paraguas. Como no son sus familiares.

    4. Han mediatizado esta construcción, queriendo amarrarla en la adenda con un contrato para la construcción de una cocina de línea fría (una técnica moderna creada en Francia, y usada en España, que aquí en Panamá esta implementada en 4 compañías de venta de alimentos, incluida Sky Chef que provee alimentos a aerolíneas). ¿Dijimos alguna mala palabra?

    5. Hemos conocido que dicho proyecto para la CSS, no cumple los criterios técnicos y especificaciones internacionales. Por ejm., a tambor batiente y presionando a funcionarios han sido aprobadas las millonarias compras para el Hospital Nelson Collado de Chitré y para el Complejo Hospitalario Metropolitano e igual intentan hacer con Chiriquí.

    6. En el caso de Chitré el contrato sería por $4.8 millones, cuando lo ofertado realmente corresponde más a una cocina de línea caliente tradicional, que no sobrepasa el valor de $0.8 millones. O sea, un sobrecosto de $4 millones. No cumple el criterio de factibilidad económica para la inversión, que según cálculos internacionales debe ser para Hospitales de al menos 400 camas para garantizar el retorno de la inversión. El hospital de Chitré tiene sólo 150 camas.

    7. En el caso del Complejo Hospitalario metropolitano AAM (que lleva el nombre de su líder, y deberían honrar), la consultoría para intentar introducir este contrato, fue hecha por un costo de $35,000. La misma compañía consultora fue juez y parte pues recomendó este contrato, y ella misma fue la beneficiada. Hubo sesiones fallidas donde los ingenieros extranjeros, no idóneos en el tema, ofendieron y denigraron al personal técnico panameño que debía dar su aval a este proyecto, bajo el silencio cómplice de autoridades de la CSS presentes, que evidentemente deseaban pasar estas aprobaciones de contratos a tambor batiente. Finalmente, y obviando a los jefes nacionales lograr torcer brazos de subjefes. Estos también deberían remojar sus barbas o faldas. Este proyecto lo valoraron en $11.8 millones. Qué casualidad, de nuevo $0.8 millones que es lo que debe costar la cocina caliente que quieren pasar como fría. O sea, katovsky por liebresky.

    8. Para lograr que estos proyectos pasaran, trajeron ante la JD de la CSS, al mismo personaje que meses pasados fue sacado de jefe de Tecnología e innovación. ¿Qué hace un personaje de esa reputación sustentando proyectos millonarios en la CSS, siendo funcionario de la misma? ¿siendo Juez y parte? ¿o ya renunció? ¿o desea que lo renuncien?

    9. Al parecer hay algunas “pequeñas deficiencias” en las especificaciones de algunas construcciones, pero debemos investigar un poco más.

    10. En el caso de la cocina de línea fría de Chiriquí, la quieren implementar sólo para las 300 camas nuevas (o sea bajo el punto de equilibrio financiero de 400 camas), duplicando así dos cocinas: la antigua que se queda en el hospital viejo y esta, obligando a doble gasto de personal y recursos (otra lesión para la CSS). Para esta “media mitad” pretenden destinar un área de sólo 700 mts2, que no alcanzan y que ni siquiera permite la circulación de los carritos de distribución y trabajar al mismo tiempo en las mesas de producción, pues se necesitan al menos 1,500 mts2. El criterio técnico emitido recomendó adecuar un área externa de + 0 – 1,000 mts2 más, a lo cual se opuso DENISA, porque “esa área es para la 4ª torre”, cuando esa decisión habían aceptado hace cuatro meses, depende del dictamen estructural del viejo Hospital, que dará en meses la UTP. Pero evidentemente ya ellos lo dan por un hecho. Hoooo y grande las ganas de destruir ¡¡¡!!!

    11. La descripción de la compañía que licita las “cocinas de línea mixta fría-caliente (algo que acaban de inventar) pero a precios de línea fría, resulta ser que es una compañía de repuestos de autos, y además al final en letra pequeña …”de servicios hospitalarios” ¿???!!!!!!

  6. Preguntamos, ¿sabrá la Junta Directiva de todo esto y de toda la triste realidad nacional de la CSS?; ¿o seguirán engañados por las cifras de abastecimiento de arriba del 85%? ¿sabrán que fueron burlados por un funcionario destituido de su cargo de sub director nacional, que evidentemente está al servicio de los intereses de una compañía que pretende ser proveedora de la CSS.

  7. ¿Qué dice a todo esto la Contraloría de la República?

  8. ¿qué dice a todos esto el presidente de la república? Que prefirió reprimir hoy a los pacientes en la vía transistmica?

  9. Ya se supo que al final, la intención es que las cocinas no cubran la demanda para así justificar la externalización de la comida hospitalaria, como sucedería en algún hospital de la CSS donde se gastarían $25,000 diarios y unos $¾ de millón mensualmente.

  10. Igual nos han dicho que la intención al final, es externalizar (privatizar) las farmacias y los laboratorios de la CSS. Sin duda eso favorecería a alguien.

  11. Ya no preguntaremos a las autoridades si están dispuestas a hacer algo. COMENENAL, tomará su puesto de batalla, para preservar la institución y contra toda intención privatizadora de ésta, o cualquier administración.


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