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¿Wappin? Can you relate?

Gato Barbieri
Gato Barbieri, playing a cover of a Carlos Santana tune here….

Your VJ showing his age and preferences

¿Wappin? Can you relate?

Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs – Woolly Bully
Lila Downs & Juanés – La Patria Madrina
The Rivingtons – Papa Oom Mow Mow
Ritchie Valens – La Bamba
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – Oo Baby Baby
Rosie & the Originals – Angel Baby
Santana & Romeo Santos – Margarita
Freddy Fender – Wasted Days and Wasted Nights
Frank Zappa – Go Cry on Somebody Else’s Shoulder
El Tri – Triste Cancion De Amor
Alejandra Guzmán – Mi Peor Error
Zoé – No Me Destruyas
Gato Barbieri – Europa
Jerry Garcia – Ruben & Cherise
The Very Best of Dick Dale


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How do we want to count it? Is it four, or five, Martinelli cases in the high court?

That was then
That was then. Jonathan Farrar is no longer ambassador and Ricardo Martinelli is no longer president, and two questions loom: How long will the United States care to harbor Martinelli? and Does Varela really want to bring him back to face justice here? Archive photo by the US Embassy

Panamanian prosecutors give files about their investigation of the tax privatization scheme to the Supreme Court and the Attorney General forwards files from the Italian courts to the magistrates

Four now, or is it five?

by Eric Jackson

Ricardo Martinelli is sending out increasingly strident Twitter tweets from his Miami refuge, to a decreasing band of followers. Due to internal Cambio Democratico elections, he briefly had immunity from prosecution as party leader but the Electoral Tribunal has stripped that away. The cases already accepted by the high court for investigation are on hold for a moment as the magistrates consider a constitutional challenge to a law that Martinelli had passed to shorten the time to investigate criminal activity by politicians. If that law is upheld, look for some quick summary trials and Martinelli complaints about rushed justice. If it is overturned look for complex investigations of extensive criminal enterprises, leading to longer trials on charges with many counts.

The latest file sent by Panamanian investigators to the Supreme Court was sent to the magistrates by Fourth Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Ruth Morcillo. It’s about corruption in the Cobranzas del Istmo tax collection privatization scheme, for which former national revenue director Luis Cucalón is in jail and businessman Cristóbal Salerno is under house arrest. Salerno testified that he had delivered suitcases full of between $400,000 and $600,000 in cash to Ricardo Martinelli every two or three months, and that he had given Martinelli a check for $900,000 made out in the name of a company linked to the ex-president. Morcillo still has jurisdiction over Cucalón, Salerno and several other suspects but as a member of the Central American Parliament Martinelli can only be investigated and possibly tried and sentenced by the Supreme Court.

Arriving at the Supreme Court a few days earlier were case files from Italy in which former political operative Valter Lavitola was convicted for extortion and kickback schemes involving Martinelli. It will be some time before the magistrates even consider whether to open a formal investigation, as the files are in Italian and must be translated to Spanish. Revelations of documents in those files from years ago indicated schemes for Martinelli or his party’s campaign slush funds to receive money from Italian contractors, and of a partially successful shakedown of Italian construction company Impregilo. However, as Martinelli was not a defendant in those cases some material about his real or alleged conduct may not have made it into the trial courts’ files. So do we count that as a Martinelli investigation?

Cases already accepted and under formal investigation — but stalled by the constitutional motion — are about kickbacks in the purchase of food for school lunch programs and illegal electronic espionage. Particularly in the latter case, investigations are proceeding against other defendants and turning up information that will probably figure in the Supreme Court cases against Martinelli.

A third case that will be formally opened shortly has to do with hundreds of unconstitutional pardons issued by Martinelli. Under Panama’s constitution, sentences may be commuted for just about any crime for which there has been a conviction and sentence, but pardons are only allowed for “political crimes.” It might be interesting to hear Martinelli’s arguments that police killing innocent young fishermen and and then planting a firearm in their boat to plead self-defense is a political crime. Many of the pardons, however, were for public officials who stole public funds for use in the Cambio Democratico campaign. Between President Varela’s decrees and Supreme Court decisions, some 355 of Martinelli’s pardons have been revoked.

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Now there’s a tested vaccine for Ebola

The Ebola virus under an electron microscope. Photo by the US National Institutes for Health
The Ebola virus under an electron microscope. Photo by the US National Institutes for Health

Research by the Public Health Agency of Canada developed the vaccine, many others have worked to test it and develop strategies to use it

The world is on the verge of an effective Ebola vaccine

by the World Health Organization

Results from an interim analysis of the Guinea Phase III efficacy vaccine trial show that VSV-EBOV (Merck, Sharp & Dohme) is highly effective against Ebola. The independent body of international experts — the data and safety monitoring board — that conducted the review, advised that the trial should continue. Preliminary results from analyses of these interim data were published on July 31 in the British journal The Lancet.

“This is an extremely promising development,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization. “The credit goes to the Guinean government, the people living in the communities and our partners in this project. An effective vaccine will be another very important tool for both current and future Ebola outbreaks.”

While the vaccine up to now shows 100 percent efficacy in individuals, more conclusive evidence is needed on its capacity to protect populations through what is called “herd immunity.” To that end, the Guinean national regulatory authority and ethics review committee have approved continuation of the trial.

“This is Guinea’s gift to West Africa and the world,” said Dr. Sakoba Keita, Guinea’s national coordinator for the Ebola response. “The thousands of volunteers from Conakry and other areas of Lower Guinea, but also the many Guinean doctors, data managers and community mobilizers have contributed to finding a line of defense against a terrible disease.”

“The “ring” vaccination method adopted for the vaccine trial is based on the smallpox eradication strategy,” said John-Arne Røttingen, Director of the Division of Infectious Disease Control at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and Chair of the Study Steering Group. “The premise is that by vaccinating all people who have come into contact with an infected person you create a protective “ring” and stop the virus from spreading further. This strategy has helped us to follow the dispersed epidemic in Guinea, and will provide a way to continue this as a public health intervention in trial mode.”

The Guinea vaccination trial began in affected communities on March 23, 2015 to evaluate the efficacy, effectiveness and safety of a single dose of the vaccine VSV-EBOV by using a ring vaccination strategy. To date, over 4,000 close contacts of almost 100 Ebola patients, including family members, neighbors, and co-workers, have voluntarily participated in the trial.

The trial stopped randomization on July 26 to allow for all people at risk to receive the vaccine immediately, and to minimize the time necessary to gather more conclusive evidence needed for eventual licensure of the product. Until now, 50 percent of the rings were vaccinated three weeks after the identification of an infected patient to provide a term of comparison with rings that were vaccinated immediately. This now stops. In addition, the trial will now include 13 to 17-year-old and possibly 6 to 12-year-old children on the basis of new evidence of the vaccine’s safety.

“In parallel with the ring vaccination we are also conducting a trial of the same vaccine on frontline workers,” said Bertrand Draguez, Medical Director at Médecins sans Frontières. “These people have worked tirelessly and put their lives at risk every day to take care of sick people. If the vaccine is effective, then we are already protecting them from the virus. With such high efficacy, all affected countries should immediately start and multiply ring vaccinations to break chains of transmission and vaccinate all frontline workers to protect them.”

The trial is being implemented by the Guinean authorities, WHO, Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, with support from a broad partnership of international and national organizations.

“This is a remarkable result which shows the power of equitable international partnerships and flexibility,” said Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, one of the funders of the trial. “This partnership also shows that such critical work is possible in the midst of a terrible epidemic. It should change how the world responds to such emerging infectious disease threats. We, and all our partners, remain fully committed to giving the world a safe and effective vaccine. ”

“This record-breaking work marks a turning point in the history of health R&D,” said Assistant Director-General Marie-Paule Kieny, who leads the Ebola Research and Development effort at WHO. “We now know that the urgency of saving lives can accelerate R&D. We will harness this positive experience to develop a global R&D preparedness framework so that if another major disease outbreak ever happens again, for any disease, the world can act quickly and efficiently to develop and use medical tools and prevent a large-scale tragedy.”

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Los vecinos y el puerto Diablo-Corozal

APC ports
Que la ACP quiere hacer

Puerto Diablo y Corozal

Vecinos de áreas revertidas exigen transparencia a la ACP

por Olmedo Beluche

Invitados por la compañera Rocío de Carnheiro, presidenta de la Asociación de Vecinos Residentes de Altos de Diablo, el sábado 1 de agosto acudimos al auditorio Ascanio Arosemena, del Colegio de Balboa, a la reunión que esa comunidad tenía con técnicos y directivos de la Autoridad del Canal de Panamá (ACP) para que explicaran el impacto sobre su comunidad del proyectado Puerto de Corozal. El asunto preocupa y se evidencia en la asistencia de casi cien personas del área, acompañadas de algunos observadores solidarios invitados, como en nuestro caso.

Lo primero que se evidenció en la reunión es la falta de democracia y consulta con que funciona la ACP, la cual lanza este proyecto de desarrollo económico sin tomar en cuenta a las personas cuyas viviendas se verán afectadas por el proyecto, tal y como ha sucedido en otros lugares, como Barro Blanco, etc., por lo cual las comunidades en todo el país han salido ha exigir sus derechos frente a proyectos hidroeléctricos o mineros con que lucrarán terceros a costa de la gente que vive en la zona.

La primera y reiterada exigencia que hicieron los residentes de Diablo fue que se hicieran públicos los estudios de impacto ambiental del proyectado Puerto de Corozal, los cuales se mantienen bajo secreto absoluto. Secretismo que es contradictorio con la legislación que exige la consulta y participación de la comunidad.

Según explicaron los técnicos de la ACP, el Puerto de Corozal será una mega estructura en la que atracarán buques postpanamax a depositar contenedores para ser transportados por ferrocarril a través del Istmo. Completadas las dos fases tendrán cerca de 2000 metros de “frente de mar”, que en realidad serán frente de cauce del canal, pues su ubicación estará al norte del actual puerto de Balboa, entre el hangar de botes de Diablo y las instalaciones de la ACP de Corozal, frente a la comunidad de Cárdenas.

La principal queja de los residentes de Diablo es que ya han sido afectados por la expansión del puerto de Balboa, el cual incluso les ha robado el acceso a su comunidad, y ahora quedarían emparedados entre los dos megapuertos, con todo lo que ello implica en cuanto a polución, ruido, etc.

Algunos ingenieros y arquitectos presentes señalaron que la ubicación del puerto era inconveniente no solo para las comunidades aledañas, sino para el propio tráfico por el canal, ya que la dársena del puerto de Corozal, es decir, el área donde los buques serán maniobrados para atracarlos, está dentro del cauce del canal, justo donde confluyen el acceso a la esclusa de Miraflores y la entrada a la nueva esclusa ampliada del Pacífico.

Los residentes denunciaron que durante muchos años se promocionó, e incluso se hicieron estudios, para construir este segundo puerto del Pacífico, no en Corozal, sino en Farfán – Palo Seco, que está en el margen occidental del canal, y fuera del cauce. Señalaron además que oscuros intereses han llevado a la ACP a desechar ese proyecto a favor de Corozal.

En los corrillos algunos recordaban que los dueños taiwaneses de la concesión del puerto de Balboa, temiendo la competencia, se opusieron al Puerto en Farfán. Otros, “off ther record”, hablaban de que aparentemente figuras poderosas, como el político y banquero Alberto Vallarino, habían comprado varias de las hectáreas del área de Corozal. Los funcionarios de la ACP despacharon rápidamente el tema alegando que el puerto en Farfán había sido proyectado para construirlo con el material excavado en las nuevas esclusas, y que como se dispuso otro uso al mismo, automáticamente se descartaba esa ubicación.

Lo que resulta claro es que la construcción del puerto en Farfán – Palo Seco, que sería mejor por no ser un área residencial, estar fuera del cauce del canal y no tener ningún proyecto planificado ahí hasta ahora, sí requeriría una mayor inversión, siendo la principal la construcción de una línea férrea, ya sea a través de todo el Istmo hasta el Atlántico, bordeando el cauce occidental del canal, o hasta algún punto donde, a través de un puente confluyera con el ferrocarril que usa ahora el puerto de Balboa.

La construcción del puerto en Corozal se ahorraría esa inversión, pues quedaría junto a la vieja línea férrea, a costa de las comunidades de Diablo y Cárdenas. Inclusive los residentes preguntaron a los representantes de la ACP, por qué estaba dragando junto a la zona donde quedaría el puerto de Corozal, si era para beneficiar a los futuros concesionarios de esas instalaciones.

Por cierto que, otro asunto que gravita en torno a la ACP, es que de acuerdo al título constitucional de 1994, y a ley orgánica, parece que la Junta Directiva puede otorgar en concesión este tipo de proyectos sin pasar por todos los requisitos de licitación y transparencia que se exige al resto del Estado panameño. Lo cual se suma a lo que se ha venido denunciando desde hace años: desaparecido el control norteamericano sobre el canal, se ha creado en sustitución una “zonita del canal” en la que los directivos de la ACP actúan “como si fueran soberanos” y estuvieran al margen del resto del país.

En conclusión, nos parece evidente que la ciudadanía conciente, las organizaciones populares, los grupos ambientalistas, debemos acompañar y apoyar a los residentes de las comunidades de Diablo y Cárdenas en esta lucha, con el mismo ahínco con que hemos apoyado la lucha contra la hidroeléctrica de Barro Blanco, pues se trata de la misma lucha: exigir que las comunidades sean partícipes y verdaderamente consultadas frente a todo proyecto económico que directamente les afecte. En eso consiste la democracia, ¿verdad?

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The Panama News blog links, August 4, 2015

Dule Arts Festival
Dule means pertaining to the Guna, but not all the artists at the Dule Arts Festival will be Guna.

Eric Jackson’s links to other people’s work

The Panama News blog links

“Blog,” which derives from “web log,” has come to mean many things. Two of the nastiest are as a euphemism by corporate media management when they move journalists from the payroll to piecework and as an epithet to denigrate the small online media and those who work in them. But although the new front page and sections as such are not yet up, The Panama News will have a Blog section, which gets back to the more original meaning of a log of noteworthy things appearing on the Internet. But you know what? Eric Jackson won’t be the only person collecting and posting links in this section. Maybe YOU might be one of the people who will selecting links to post in the Blogs section. Send us an email if you are interested.

Video: Erika Ender – El lugar que me vio nacer
STRI, Star gazing from the sea floor
The Straits Times, Charges over financing of Chong Chon Gang
PR, Copa now serving Villahermosa
The New York Times, The Casco Viejo cleans up
Baker: Bernie Sanders, open borders and a serious route to global equality
Reich, The revolt against the ruling class
Buruma, Clowns on the campaign trail
ADITAL, Ramonet sobre la izquierda vesus el golpe mediático
Gandásegui, The re-encounter between Washington and Havana
AFP, Polémico proyecto de ley de prensa en Panamá
Wallach, Yet another ‘final’ TPP ministerial and again no deal
Ghosh, Taking stock in China
Video, Puerto Rico defaults on bond payment
Foust, The Puerto Rican debt crisis
DPA, Martinelli podrá ser sometido a juicio tras perder inmunidad
EFE, “Puro teatro” lucha de Panamá contra la corrupción
Simpson, ¿Por qué no arreglamos a Panamá?
Video, Bio-prospecting in Panama
Chavkin, Costa Rica’s new strategy against kidney disease
AFP, Usuarios de internet se duplican en América Latina
TeleAnalysis, Alcatel-Lucent completes Pacific Carribean Undersea cable
ANP, Regulador de seguros pedirá un aumento de capital a las aseguradoras
ADITAL, Violencia paramilitar en Colombia dificulta el proceso de paz
Seattle Weekly, Hiroshima’s Hell 70 years later
Video: Rubén Blades on Fear The Walking Dead

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Trump’s questionable Latin American crowd

Salo, Kahfif and the Trumps
Salomón Shamah, Roger Khafif, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump. At the time the photo was taken Shamah was tourism minister, but do the connections go back to an earlier time? Various associations, direct and indirect, raise that question. And what did former US ambassador to Panama Barbara Stephenson say about Shamah? He’s “suspected of links to drug traffickers” and those suspicions were such that Shamah, even when he held a high post in the Panamanian government, has been denied a visa to enter or travel through the United States. Some of the specific suspicions about Shamah in turn point to some unsavory ties in common with Khafif, who is the main developer and owner of the Trump Ocean Club in Panama City. Photo by the Tourism Ministry

Donald Trump, whose mother and paternal grandparents were immigrants, rails against both legal and illegal Latin American immigrants, which has deeply offended Latin Americans. But it’s not as if The Trump Organization hasn’t done business in Latin America.

The Donald’s Latin American business associates

by Eric Jackson
Jeb Bush has to like the Mexican illegals because of his wife.
Donald Trump, about Jeb Bush’s Mexican-born wife


They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, and some I assume are good people but I speak to border guards and they tell us what we are getting.
Donald Trump, about Mexicans


If he ever got elected you would have people flowing across the border.
Donald Trump, about Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants


Is Donald Trump’s business operation mobbed up?

Is that an unfair question? Perhaps it is, suggesting guilt by association as it does. However, when somebody runs for president of the United States, those with whom she or he associates and does business reasonably do become matters of public interest.

With Donald Trump, the question becomes all the more reasonable because it has been asked before and the answers have raised concern. In the current contest for the Republican presidential nomination, the question becomes relevant because Donald Trump has made sweeping broad-brush characterizations of Latin Americans and meanwhile he and his network of companies do and have done business in Latin America. Does he say those things about Latin Americans because a pollster has told him that this is what he needs to say to mobilize ultra-right support in his bid for the presidency, or because it reflects what he has noticed about people with whom he and his businesses have dealt? Trump has, after all, been involved in some noteworthy real estate ventures in Panama and Mexico, and his Miss Universe pageants do seem to show a certain preference for light-skinned Latin American women. If Trump appeals to those Americans whose stereotype of Latin Americans is that the men are all gangsters and the women are all whores, does he make that pitch as a matter of sincere personal belief based upon his own experiences?

Take a poll in Panama about who is the sleaziest Panamanian of us all, and a top contender would be one Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal, now living in Miami as Panama’s legal system pursues several criminal investigations against him. Has Donald Trump said anything about this Latin American immigrant on the campaign trail? Not a peep. But it’s not as if Trump doesn’t know the man. Their photos together are all over the Internet.

But all along, hasn’t Trump made the distinction between rich criminals and poor ones?

Take Atlantic City as an example. Trump bought the land on which the Trump Plaza casino was built from Philadelphia hit man Salvatore Testa, the son of the one-time boss of the Philadelphia mafia, Philip “Chicken Man” Testa. A New Jersey crime commission report adds that two mafia-owned construction companies were used in the construction of the Trump Plaza.

Or what about New York City, where it’s hard to do construction without running into the mafia in one way or another? In Manhattan the concrete work for the Trump Tower was done by S&A, a company controlled by the Gambino family’s Paul Castellano and the Genovese family’s Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno.

But if Trump has an issue with Mexican gangsters, might that have to do with a failed Trump project near Tijuana? The Trump Ocean Resort Baja Mexico was to be a luxury resort and condo complex. The project, about 10 miles from the US border and bearing the Trump name and images, was heavily marketed to upscale baby boomers in Southern California.

Dozens of people paid hefty pre-construction deposits, more than $30 million worth, for their Trump Ocean Resort Baja Mexico condos — and nothing was ever built. Trump took his name off the project and the promoter who was left told the depositors that due to the 2008 Wall Street collapse he couldn’t get the financing he needed. Some of the money was returned, but some $22 million was “missing,” apparently spent on other things.

So had Trump been burned in Mexico by a partnership with a Mexican crook? Actually, no. The main promoter of the Trump Ocean Resort Baja Mexico project was Los Angeles-based developer Jason Grosfeld. Trump more or less disavowed any connection with the project or its failure, pleading to The Los Angeles Times that his only tie was that Grosfeld had paid a licensing fee to use the Trump name and image. But 190 depositors sued both Grosfeld and Trump in a US federal district court and in 2012 out-of-court settlements were reached with both Grosfeld’s and Trump’s companies in which both paid out millions..

Will The Donald be answering questions about the Tijuana venture on the campaign trail? Probably not. Since the settlement The Trump Organization has declined comment on the matter, claiming that a confidentiality agreement that was part of the settlement prevents any public statements about the matter.

And was the falling out between Grosfeld and Trump over the Tijuana fiasco all that bitter? Apparently not. At least it didn’t take the Trump name off of another Grosfeld project, the Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk in Hawaii. There has been a lawsuit over deposits there, too, but the thing was built. It seems that most of the deposit disputes were not between the Grosfeld’s company and people who had put money down with the intention of living in the condo tower, but with speculators hoping to flip units. The project was announced in 2006 and finished in 2009, with the US financial and real estate crash coming in between. Some of the would-be flippers argued that since Trump and his companies had no ownership stake in the project there was a risk that the name could be taken off of it at any time, impairing the value of the property on which they had paid deposits. Others claimed that their contracts provided that if they pulled out before closing and the units they had committed to buy were sold for more than they had agreed to pay, they would get their deposits back.

Also announced in 2006 — when Panama City’s later to burst luxury condo bubble was still inflating — was the Trump Ocean Club. All along it was known that the primary developer was Roger Khafif, nor was there ever any secret that its condos were primarily being marketed to wealthy American baby boomers. But the project was announced in Trump’s offices in New York, the name was and is on the project and there were no disclaimers about the Trump name contained in the promotional materials. Indeed, Donald Trump and his three children who work for the family business made repeated promotional appearances for the project in Panama.

So who, really, is Roger Khafif? By all accounts as a developer he operates through a network of companies he calls the K Group. Bloomberg identified his higher education with the Southern Institute of Technology (in New Zealand) and summarized his background in this way:

Mr. Roger Khafif serves as the President of Newland International Properties, Corp. Mr. Khafif also serves as President of K Group developers, one of the strategic partners of Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower. Mr. Khafif is a partner in 2 companies located in the Colon free zone: Kedco Fashion Corp. and Rafkas Imp/Exp. From 1978 to 1981, Mr. Khafif worked as textile engineer in one of the main textile mills of Guatemala. He serves as the Chairman of Newland.

So did Khafif make a fortune as a Colon Free Zone merchant, as the platform for a career as a developer? Some very well connected Free Zone people whom The Panama News asked did not know of Khafif in any role at the duty-free import/export zone.

Looking online, one finds Khafif variously described as Colombian, Panamanian and as a Florida developer. Try to find an online K Group, Newland or Khafif mention in connection with a real estate development in Florida or Colombia, however, and one comes up with a blank. In Panama, K Group comes up with references to the Coronado Country Club Resort and to a development called Emerald Bay on Isla Contadora.

Coronado Country Club Resort does exist — but the actual country club, as in the place with the golf course, is the much more established Coronado Beach and Golf Resort, an Eisenmann family venture that has no Khafif or K Group connection. Khafif is also not known as a man about town in the Coronado community.

Emerald Bay? One finds resorts of that name in the Bahamas and a number of other places, none apparently connected to Khafif. You find a dissolved Panamanian corporation called Emerald Bay Inc in Panama’s Registro Publico. The Registro does have company called Emerald Bay Development Inc, an Emerald Bay Associates Inc, all with with no apparent Khafif connection. (Under Panama’s corporate secrecy laws, however, the owners or managers of a company do not necessarily show up in public records.) There is an Emerald Bay SA, a property of developer Herman Bern. There are references to an exclusive and remote place on Isla Contadora in the Perlas Islands called Emerald Bay, said to be only reachable by private plane or yacht — but you won’t find photos, reviews or booking information about it online.

Khafif comes up as nearly a cipher, a face posed with various dignitaries and the main guy at the Trump Ocean Club to be sure. But who is he? Ah, but of course, there is the Ricardo Martinelli endorsement. The former president says that everything that Trump and Khafif touch turns to gold. You can trust what Martinelli says, can’t you?

When the Trump Ocean Club was conceived, however, Ricardo Martinelli was not president. Martín Torrijos was. If Trump had already acquired a reputation for dealings with the likes of the Genovese family, that should not have bothered Torrijos. He and the first lady, and his minister of agriculture, were using their public positions to pump a Swiss-based bogus teak plantation scheme called Prime Forestry, which also had a Genovese connection. In the present scheme of things, however, that’s not the set of ties that should concern us.

Back then Khafif had a business partner, a Brazilian named Alexandre Ventura Nogueira — Alex Ventura — and in turn Ventura and Torrijos had someone in common, a Colombian named David Murcia Guzmán. Murcia Guzmán also allegedly had a Martinelli connection, and was business partners with the two sons of then Colombian President Álvaro Uribe.

Alex Ventura, having skipped out on a million and a half dollar bail, is a fugitive from Panamanian justice, facing a five-year prison sentence that was handed down to him in a fraud case. David Murcia Guzmán, were he returned to Colombia, would have a 30-year sentence to serve for financial crimes. But he was extradited to the United States, pleaded guilty to laundering drug money for Colombian and Mexican gangsters and is in a US federal witness protection program.

Before a falling out between Khafif and Ventura and another falling out between Murcia Guzmán and the presidents of both Colombia and Panama — which were more or less simultaneous in late 2008 — Khafif and Ventura were real estate partners in The Loft One Corporation, a joint venture between Ventura’s Homes Real Estate Investment Services and Khafif’s Newland International Properties to buy and sell apartments in an upscale Panama City residential project. Ventura was a partner in Murcia Guzmán’s DMG.

David Murcia Guzmán had been selling pirated videos on the streets of Santa Marta, Colombia, but shortly after a US-backed Plan Colombia offensive on the other side of the country displaced FARC rebels from their position of being able to tax the drug trade in Putumayo department and gave that opportunity to the AUC paramilitary, the street vendor moved to Putumayo and suddenly became very wealthy and influential. The vehicle was DMG, an investment scheme that looked an awful lot like a Ponzi-style pyramid swindle. Eventually the Colombian authorities called it that, but had it been such it should have collapsed under the weight of demands from later investors. It never did. There was always a lot of cash coming in. US authorities called it a drug money laundering scheme. Various Colombian media identified Murcia Guzmán with the Valle del Norte Cartel, at the time when the erstwhile CD vendor got rich associated with the AUC. Also by that time the AUC had acquired such an odious international reputation from a string of massacres that it had been placed on the US list of terrorist organizations.

In the fall of 2008 Ventura was in addition to the Loft One business with Khafif engaged in pre-construction sales of condo units in the Trump Ocean Club. Ventura claims that he had been a guest in Donald Trump’s home, which Trump denies. Then Colombia’s Uribe administration, most probably at the behest of US authorities, came down on DMG, branding it a pyramid scheme. At the time Murcia Guzmán was in Panama, tooling around in a fleet of Ferraris, Maseratis and Lamborghinis, guarded by SPI presidential guards, escorted around customs and immigration officers at the airport by the National Assembly’s protocol staff and apparently — although all politicians involved deny it — making large and illegal campaign contributions to candidates of both Torrijos’s Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) and Martinelli’s Cambio Democratico party (CD). Paper trails, accounts in US Embassy cables revealed by WikiLeaks and the local gossip had both leading presidential candidates for the 2009 elections, the PRD’s Balbina Herrera and CD’s Ricardo Martinelli, on the take from Murcia Guzmán.

Who was the conduit through whom Murcia Guzmán’s money got into the 2009 Martinelli campaign? Rumor had it that it was the brother of Murcia Guzmán’s pilot. The pilot’s brother would be one Salomón Shamah, Martinelli’s tourism minister and perhaps the innermost member of the former president’s inner circle. See Mr. Shamah in the photo at the top of this story, with the younger Trumps and Roger Khafif.

When the DMG scandal broke Kahfif dropped Ventura like a hot rock, and accused the latter of swindling him out of more than $800,000 in an investment scheme related to apartments in a building that was never intended to be built. That’s the basic complaint for which Ventura was sentenced to prison and skipped the country on an appeal bond.

The situation got noticed in some of the world’s Spanish-language media at the time, most notably the Univision television network, which until a few weeks ago had the contract to broadcast Trump’s Miss Universe pageant in Spanish. The Donald’s son Eric Trump dismissed the relationship as a matter of an independent real estate agent selling units in theTrump Ocean Club: “I looked into him, having never heard the name and not being in our database, and what I found out was Mr. Ventura owns a real estate agency in Panama that has sold apartments in our building, but it’s a third party real estate agency.”

Meanwhile, Ventura defended Murcia Guzmán, appearing with two others at a press conference organized by the latter’s defense lawyer. With Ventura were a man of Belorussian origin, Alexander Altshoul, said to be like Ventura a partner in DMG, and American attorney Juliette Passer. Altshoul, according to claims asserted in a Canadian court, is a member of the Russian mob. (The court did not rule on that claim, but held that is was beside the point in the matter of a lawyer who said that he stole under duress from Altshoul.) Passer also has a Russian connection, as adviser to the Committee of Economic Development of St. Petersburg for the development of free economic zones — in the Yeltsin-era years of 1990-93 when Russia’s oligarchy and mobsters were rising in tandem and looting what was left of the fomer Soviet Union.

(So might someone dismiss suggestions that Trump, indirectly and several time removed, associated with the Russian mob here? Fair enough. It might not be at all fair to mention but for Trump’s partner in New York’s Trump Soho, Russian businessman Felix H. Sater. Mr. Sater was named in a sealed US federal indictment and as an unindicted co-conspirator in other indictments as a money launderer for four different US mafia families. By several accounts Sater pleaded guilty, turned state’s evidence and got the conviction record sealed. Enough is known, and was known when Trump went into business with Sater, to set off alarm bells. But Donald Trump told The New York Times that he didn’t know about Sater’s criminal past. “We do as much of a background check as we can on the principals. I didn’t really know him very well.”)

Now that Trump is making a pitch for the white racist vote at the expense of Latinos, Latin American media are re-examining The Donald’s history in Latin America. The Colombian newspaper El Espectador recently recounted “The Trump Bubble in Colombia,” a tale of a decade of business exploration by the Trumps in that country. Describing Donald Trump as “the anti-Latino candidate,” El Espectador’s tale starts in 2005, with Khafif and Ivanka Trump in Colombia, looking to bring a Bogota company in on the Panama City project. Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. were back in 2006, discussing a possible project in Cartagena and trying to arrange a meeting with then President Uribe.

They never got their meeting with Uribe. Would an awareness of Trump’s Atlantic City and New York mob ties have scared Uribe off? Or were a younger generation’s questionable ties — the people around DMG — a warning signal? Or was it The Trump Organization’s de facto director for the Latin American region, financier Camilo Benedetti?

Benedetti worked out of New York and is the brother of now senator Armando Benedetti, who was president of Colombia’s House of Representatives when the Trumps were trying to get a meeting with Uribe. At the time Armando Benedetti was politically aligned with Uribe, but when Uribe and his successor Juan Manuel Santos parted ways Benedetti went with Santos.

In the waning days of the Uribe era, in 2009, Camilo Benedetti came under investigation for an alleged scheme to defraud the Colombian government of oil royalties. That case seems to have gone nowhere, and in 2011 Donald Trump Jr. got a meeting with now President Santos, along with both Benedettis.

But when Univision looked into the Trump and Benedetti connection, stories shifted. First it was that the Trumps didn’t know of Camilo Benedetti’s legal troubles. Then they did know, but considered it irrelevant because Benedetti was just an intermediary in the questioned transaction. Then Camilo Benedetti allegedly never had any business connection with the Trumps.

Is it a matter of Donald Trump having insulted Latin Americans, who are now ganging up on Donald Trump? It could be. However, the hard questions about Trump associating with underworld figures, in Latin America and elsewhere, have been around for years.

It’s a long road to the November 2016 US presidential elections. The conventional wisdom is that a Republican needs at least 40 percent of Hispanic voters to win the presidency. It’s not easy math because the Hispanic constituencies in the United States are by no means a fungible mass, let alone a solid voting bloc. The largest and oldest components of the Latino ethnic groups, the Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans and Puerto Ricans, are each subject to a different set of immigration rules, for example. There are Spanish-surnamed Americans who are entirely assimilated into the Anglo culture and speak no Spanish, but there are more than 40 million people in the United States for whom Spanish is their first language. Among Latinos here are differences of class, religion, race and political ideology.

Perhaps Mr. Trump has found a way to discard all such distinctions and ride an anti-immigrant, anti-Latino wave to the presidency. Even if he has, however, as with the aborted Tijuana adventure, Panama City’s Trump Ocean Club may cause the presidential hopeful headaches that are not “a Latino issue.” There are grievances, and most of the people who are raising them aren’t Hispanic. They tend to be white people with more money than most Americans, a demographic segment to which Republicans try to appeal.

Panamanian corporate secrecy keeps us from knowing whether the Trumps retain an ownership interest in the project here, and if so what that would be. But a group of people who put down deposits on condos there went to a federal court in Florida, complaining that they were sold a project with the Trump name and with representations that The Trump Organization would run the hotel and casino, the latter two plans having then been changed. The plaintiffs also claimed that they had been told that those who put down 30 percent of the purchase price as a deposit would get financing of the rest from The Trump Organization, and that those who had paid deposits for two units could resell one at a profit before they would be required to close on the second, and the promises were not kept.

Under US law those sound like material breaches of a contract, which would in equity at least give the depositors the right to cancel the deal and get their money back. However, the contracts specified that any dispute was to be resolved in a Panamanian court. In Panamanian law (as in the Civil Code family of legal systems generally), principles of equity as known in the Anglo-American Common Law don’t exist as such. The court in Florida dismissed the depositors’ complaint without prejudice, allowing that if it turns out that there is no semblance of justice for them in the Panamanian courts they could come back and refile their suit. The process in Panama would take years, maybe decades.

The rule was different for Mr. Khafif’s Newland International Properties, which faced default on some $220 million in bonds it floated to build the Trump Ocean Club. Khafif’s company went to a US federal court in New York and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. Newland alleged that problems getting banks to finance upper end real estate led them to the bankruptcy, and the judge approved their petition.

The concerns of condo flippers who gambled and lost their deposits, or of bondholders who got wide-eyed about the Trump name and now won’t get paid back as quickly as they thought they would, probably won’t move a large portion of the US electorate. Especially so, when Trump can say that it wasn’t him but the other guy. Early polls suggest that even Trump’s own four bankruptcies don’t offend too many likely Republican primary voters.

However, the grandson of German immigrant Friedrich Drumpf and son of Scottish immigrant Mary Anne MacLeod has made complaints about immigration and stereotypes about Latinos the centerpieces of his presidential campaign. So how persuasive will he be to Republicans if it is perceived that he hooked up in a business venture with Latino characters who have underworld ties, and when things didn’t go right it was upscale white American investors who ended up with the short end of the stick?


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Rich soil, starting from zero

soil comparisons
Poor soil (left), rich soil (right)

Rich soil, starting from zero

by John Douglas

Our great friend Carla mentioned that some folks do not know where to start when they want to make compost or just compost in place.

First, Lazy and Free are the main starting points.

Then chop and drop.

Do not worry about compost except in a vegetable garden.

Take a walk on the wild side. What do you see in the jungle? I saw Mother Nature dropping leaves, branches and giant trunks. Then she went to the hammock and opened a cold one.

Think about it.

Holes are your friends. Throw your scraps into little ones, big ones, round ones, long ones. If the material, such as kitchen scraps, might attract black hat types, cover it.

Moving on to the bigger and better.

Cleaning up and trimming your bushes is more fun when your fruit trees smile at you and you hear them purring.

Where there is smoke, there probably is fertilizer.

It is waiting to be hauled to your place to be put around trees, at the drip line, or dumped in holes.

Mother Nature told me….

When you burn your leaves, you burn your money.

All those living fences you drive by are just waiting to give you rich and black soil. Balo not only fixes nitrogen but it repels and, when foliar fed, kills bugs.

We chopped and dropped the leaves, branches and trunks of the almacigo. The peeling red bark over a green trunk reminded me of a tourist in the Panama sun. Sunburned or not, it grew us a 63-pound yuca and a bunch of 20-pounders.


Most importantly, do NOT think about it, DO IT.

Go thee out and grow thee rich black soil.

We are looking for a variety of papaya seeds for a park project in Panama City.

Don Perezoso = The Lazy Farmer … THE SECRET IS IN THE GARBAGE

Visit the website: http://www.organicpanamapermaculture.com/

Vanguardia Torrijista, Una salida democrática a la crisis


OmarEl torrijismo vive!

por Vanguardia Torrijista

En el marco del 34 aniversario de la desaparición física del Comandante Omar Torrijos, con el país en un alucinante crecimiento económico sin equidad social, hombres y mujeres que aportamos al proceso revolucionario, nos hemos auto convocado, de acuerdo a las nuevas realidades, a fin de impulsar los cambios necesarios para resolver las reivindicaciones sociales que han sido aplazadas, abandonadas después de culminar el objetivo anticolonial que unificó al pueblo panameño.

Surgimos de la madurez de condiciones sociales y la lucha que alimentaron la recuperación de nuestra integridad territorial, nuestro derecho a la autodeterminación y por el acceso a nuestras riquezas para la solución de nuestros problemas como nación independiente y soberana.

Pero hoy, desaparecido el enclave colonial, nuestro pueblo ha sido asaltado por el voraz apetito de las elites económicas que más allá de hacer el uso más colectivo posible de los bienes y recursos recuperados, hacen el uso más privado posible sobre los bienes e ingresos del Canal y a nivel nacional, han impuesto un modelo económico basado en el despojo y en la entrega al capital transnacional, al cual se asocian mercantilmente.

Nuestro propósito como Torrijistas es contribuir unidos a las fuerzas progresistas, los movimientos sociales, los jóvenes, las mujeres, la diversidad humana, los trabajadores del campo y la ciudad, los empresarios comprometidos con una economía humanista y con todo aquel ciudadano o ciudadana, a forjar un proyecto de nación por encima de las ambiciones político electorales, que ha de servir para lograr bienestar en toda la sociedad sin exclusión alguna con una institucionalidad consecuente.

Crecimiento económico sin rostro humano

La incorporación de los recursos de la antigua “Zona del Canal” a la economía, valorados en decenas de miles de millones de dólares, las reformas económicas neoliberales y las inversiones en megaproyectos, han consolidado un modelo económico cuya lógica privilegia el amasamiento y concentración de enormes excedentes en manos de pocos y la exclusión de la mayoría de la población del disfrute de los beneficios.

El orden político post-invasión, carente del contrapeso de organizaciones de los sectores populares y de políticas de arraigo social, ha permitido que las fuerzas económicas regentes desaten sus energías en la concentración del poder político. El control del Estado se usa para garantizar la apropiación de la renta de la posición geográfica o como facilitador de los grandes negocios. El rescate de la democracia no es suficiente ante la instauración de la plutocracia.

La crisis

El distanciamiento del legado político de Omar Torrijos y la cruenta invasión militar norteamericana, sirvió a un pacto entre los grupos económicos que, al amparo del capital transnacional, aplican un modelo político supuestamente democrático, con un número plural de partidos, y un solo proyecto económico, el neoliberal.

La actual coyuntura política se caracteriza por la falta de representación social de los partidos políticos, la persistencia y afianzamiento del presidencialismo y el total sometimiento al modelo de dominación conservador, impuesto a escala global.

Construyamos una nueva república

La nación necesita un nuevo pacto que le permita construir una nueva república con equidad social. El eje de ese pacto deberá ser la inclusión de los sectores marginados del desarrollo, la edificación del poder social y el ejercicio de una democracia participativa, deliberativa, protagónica y de contenido humanista sobre la base de la participación y la organización de las comunidades y del movimiento social (gremios, sindicatos, grupos estudiantiles, los pueblos originarios, Afrodescendientes, los campesinos, entre otros).

Salida democrática a la crisis

Hemos analizado los acontecimientos internacionales y nacionales en el ámbito económico, social y político. Como demócratas revolucionarios y leales al pensamiento político del Torrijismo, consideramos que a todas las fuerzas y corrientes progresistas del país, nos toca construir el poder social capaz de superar las deformaciones de la partidocracia, en especial el caso del PRD, a través de la movilización e impulsar la transformación del Estado.

Es la hora de ponernos de acuerdo y de articular nuestras luchas para hacer realidad un proyecto alternativo, solidario, equitativo, ambientalmente sostenible y participativo, que derrote de una vez por todas, el modelo económico y político de las élites de apropiarse de los recursos de la nación y de los beneficios de nuestro principal recurso, por fin recuperado. Alcanzar la transformación democrática de la sociedad no sólo es necesaria, sino también posible dentro de la diversidad de nuestras especificidades.

Nos proponemos vencer al clientelismo, retomamos los principios, postulados y método Torrijistas, no demagógicamente para hacer negocios, sino para devolver el propósito de la política como un bien común ciudadano, adecuándolos a las nuevas y complejas realidades nacionales e internacionales.

La sobrevivencia del Torrijismo radica en su vinculación entrañable con las causas del movimiento popular y social, en el debate reflexivo para encontrar nuestra propia aspirina, así como la militancia en el seno de nuestro pueblo a lo largo y ancho del país.

Como tarea, inmediata asumimos el compromiso de que BAYANO circulará nuevamente como medio de orientación al servicio del Torrijismo y de las nuevas generaciones.

Nuestra membresía, que así lo decida, se mantendrá y militará en el PRD para recuperar el Partido de Omar y ponerlo al servicio de la nueva república.

Además, nos integraremos al tejido de las organizaciones que luchan por las reivindicaciones sociales con el objetivo de convertirnos en una fuerza política alternativa capaz de conducir al pueblo a la victoria del desarrollo.

Instamos a todos los patriotas del país a trabajar en la construcción de un poder social permanente, basado en la búsqueda de soluciones a los problemas y reivindicaciones de nuestras comunidades, gremios, organizaciones populares y de la sociedad civil.


Panamá, 1 de agosto de 2015

Editorial: No criminal convictions isn’t a high enough PanCanal standard

Does being the developer of projects like this one — on land obtained from the Social Security Fund during the Martinelli administration, and in which Ricardo Martinelli has some sort of interest — truly qualify someone to be on the Panama Canal Authority board of directors?

Is scandal fatigue setting in just as the investigations reach the Panama Canal Authority’s board of directors?

Innocent unless proven guilty is the standard of justice but not of good government

It is reported that both testimony and a paper trail indicate that construction company owner and Panama Canal Authority board of directors member Nicolás Corcione Pérez Balladares facilitated, coordinated and was a beneficiary of a scheme for overcharges and kickbacks in the construction and renovation of court facilities. That scheme, so it seems, was one of the ways that Alejandro Moncada Luna got rich by means that he could not legitimately explain while he was the presiding magistrate of the Supreme Court.

“Innocent until proven guillty.” It’s an important cornerstone of criminal justice and Corcione is due his day in court. Whether the process that is due to him and other members of Ricardo Martinelli’s inner circle is the courts entertaining motions by lawyers on their behalf while they are out of the country is another issue. And while conviction on any serious charge gets Corcione kicked off of the ACP board, the question of whether there are criminals involved shouldn’t be the beginning and end of a long overdue public review of the Panama Canal’s governance.

Any public review that’s of a grandstanding “gotcha” nature would detract from its most important public purpose. There are genuine forward-looking policy questions that ought to be answered and to properly do that we have to look clearly through and beyond the hype to see where canal governance has been. We need to sort out the myths from the realities and take account of both the triumphs and the tragedies. With the canal expansion mega-project nearing completion the ACP management is moving to expand the scope of the institution’s economic activities and thus regulatory authority and Panama is not well served by a Varela administration and fragmented National Assembly acting as uncritical rubber stamps in such a process.

Back in the days when the old Canal Zone was by and large a US government company town, the Panama Canal Company was a widespread and not always so efficient conglomerate. The first limits on that came years before the Torrijos-Carter Treaties as Panamanian merchants pressed for controls that reduced the competition that they faced from the Canal Zone commissaries. In the treaties and in the decisions made after the treaties, the scope of PanCanal activity was greatly narrowed, often in ways detrimental to the nation. Assets and activities were abandoned or sold when they should not have been. Some decisions seem to have been a matter of a new set of masters asserting their authority for no other reason than calling dibs on political turf.

Might it be wise for the Panama Canal Authority to go back in the direction of the old Panama Canal Company, running ports, pipelines, fossil fuel power plants and a plethora of other businesses? Perhaps. But first of all, it should not be presumed that the ACP has the talent pool to do those things well, and second the nation should consider the implications of expanding the scope of an authority that for practical matters has not been answerable to outside public scrutiny and decision making.

Then we should consider Mr. Corcione, regardless of the facts of these criminal allegations, as a symbol of who has been running the Panama Canal. The aristocratic rabiblanco families play a dominant role on the ACP board. There are no labor representatives or PanCanal retirees on that board. Panama’s small white minority has a large majority on the board. One of the most obnoxious of the board members is in the ship waste disposal business but in effect a representative of certain port interests. The financial sector, the corporate law firms and the construction industry have all been well represented. In the canal expansion there have been abundant and flagrant conflicts of interest, as there have been all along, for example with the early decision of the Panamanian canal administration to discard the apprenticeship program and effectively privatize the training of new talent via an undistinguished for-profit university in which a person in the canal administration had a prominent role. The whole scheme of canal governance, including but not limited to its cast of characters, needs to be reviewed and subjected to public scrutiny, comment and debate.

Now is not the time for people to tire of all the scandals and allow parts of the Panamanian government — which the ACP is, notwithstanding its posturing as a private corporation — to go unexamined. As the Panama Canal expansion process approaches its completion we actually come to an appropriate moment to review canal governance and the role that the ACP plays in our society. This should be done before the authority gets into a port venture that in the present structure of things is more appropriately the bailiwick of the Panama Maritime Authority, energy projects that more properly belong under other jurisdictions or so on. For one example, if there are reasonable arguments to merge the canal and maritime authorities, those ought to be made and heard, if that is done then we should then all understand that the current directors and management of the canal authority are insufficient for the new role.

Spare us the propaganda and information control. Open the books, scrap the rules and customs against candor by people working for the ACP and get outside audits and opinions. “Not guilty of an infamous crime” is not a suitable standard for the governance of Panama’s principal public asset.


Bear in mind…


Centralism, the army and absolute authority have been related ideas, sisters like the Furies, destined to bring about the people’s ruin and humiliation.
Justo Arosemena


I drank to drown my sorrows, but the damned things learned how to swim.
Frida Kahlo


Calling Bush the devil offends the devil. Bush is a tremendously dimwitted president who has done great damage to the world.
Rafael Correa


Editor’s note: You, the reader, should know of the editor’s bias here. Mr. Corcione’s alleged partner in crime, El Renacer Penitentiary inmate Alejandro Moncada Luna, once between his stints in government that included being fellow inmate Manuel Antonio Noriega’s man in charge of closing the opposition press and his last public sector post as a Supreme Court magistrate, was the unsuccessful private prosecutor of the editor for this story about convicted felon Mark Boswell (alias Rex Freeman) who now runs a “Panama Christian Foundation” (sic) scheme in the Coronado area. The editor won the case because the story is true.

Barro Blanco impasse deteriorates on at least two levels

July 25 confrontation in which 20 people were briefly detained for blocking the Pan-American Highway near Tole. Several people were injured and along with the National Police riot squad there were members of the militarized SENAFRONT border force. Photo by Oscar Sogandares
July 25 confrontation in which 20 people were briefly detained for blocking the Pan-American Highway near Tole. Several people were injured and along with the National Police riot squad there were members of the militarized SENAFRONT border force. Photo by Oscar Sogandares

Government adamant about an agreement to dam the Tabasara River that no credible indigneous representative would countenance, rival Ngabe factions spar over how best to resist the company and authorities

Varela can’t get Ngabe acceptance of GENISA’s European-financed fraud

by Eric Jackson

The cancellation of the work is not an option.
Chamber of Commerce

We will not move from here until the president of the republic, Juan Carlos  Varela, comes to this place.
Clementina Pérez Jaramillo
Mama Tata leader and deputy regional cacique

The Honduran-owned GENISA company that’s building the Barro Blanco Dam? Their permits were obtained by fraud, and a member of their board of directors is in prison in Honduras for another fraud. The Dutch and German banks that backed GENISA? They didn’t do their due diligence, which would have exposed the fraudulent misrepresentation by the company and its Panamanian lawyers that no cultural sites were affected, when in fact the plan to flood the Tabasara River would destroy ancient petroglyphs that are protected by UN conventions and considered holy by the 60,000-member Mama Tata denomination that accounts for about one-third of the Ngabe indigenous nation.

The Varela administration is offering jobs and development projects, but the destruction or removal of the petroglyphs is a nonstarter for anyone who wants to endure in the fractious world of Ngabe politics. A coup d’etat to replace the current general cacique of the Ngabe-Bugle Comarca, Silvia Carrera, who insists on the dam project’s cancellation and demolition? The company already tried that once. But Carrera and her allies in the April 10th Movement (M-10) do have ever stronger competition from the September 22 Movement (M-22) — which should be no comfort to those who want the dam project to proceed.

So are Dutch and German bankers, and Panama’s Chamber of Commerce, insistent? None of them live in the area to be affected by the dam. None of them are indigenous, speak Ngabere or stand to be directly affected by a religious conflict that would be sparked if Carrera signed off on a deal to destroy a place that’s sacred to a large part of her constituency. Ever the defender of its members’ property rights, the chamber routinely supports the dispossession of impoverished rural communities. The fraud artists — those who commissioned, concocted and filed the dishonest environmental impact statements — are letting other people do their bidding and have not been called in to be interrogated by prosecutors. Polls show that by about a two-to-one margin Panamanian believe that they know exactly what is going on and support the indigenous side in the dispute.

That leaves the GENISA supporters with the usual rabiblanco divide and rule tactics in the face of a strong majority. Might there be major national power outages for which Silvia Carrera is blamed? The Martinelli administration already played that card. But the main problem is that the division which is there to play is between rival factions that claim to be more militantly opposed to the dam than the other.

In the last elections for the Ngabe-Bugle General Congress, the Electoral Tribunal took a census in a season when migrant farm workers were away picking crops and eliminated much of the electorate from the poll list. Ricardo Martinelli’s people poured significant government resources into the campaigns of those with whom they intended to take over the comarca’s government — and lost to the PRD, with many people who were not on the poll lists boycotting. Martnielli then bribed enough of the PRD-aligned delegates who were elected go get one of his followers elected as president of the congress — but nobody respected that man and the notion that he and those who voted for him would choose a general cacique was a nonstarter. Instead they called an election for general cacique. The Electoral Tribunal restored the voting rights of most of those who had been disenfranchised in the previous voting, but there was also a widespread boycott of that election. Lo and behold, farmer and craftswoman Silvia Carrera, an activist in the movements against dams and strip mines in the comarca, walked from village to village and won the election.

Carrera had the support of a lot of the teachers, who are mostly members of the Veraguas Educators Association (AEVE), a militant union whose leaders are aligned with Juan Jované’s faction of the left. But the election she won was boycotted by traditional leaders who object to any role for such outsiders as the Electoral Tribunal in indigenous self-government and by those aligned with Genaro López’s faction of the left. Among the most insistent opponents of elections run by non-indigenous authorities were the members of the Mama Tata denomination, a syncretist religion with both Christian and traditional indigenous roots that was preached by their late prophet Mama Atencio in the 1960s. The traditionalists called a Traditional Ngabe-Bugle General Congress to conflict with the government-sponsored elections and chose its own general cacique and officers who claim to be the legitimate authorities in the comarca. The local Buko Day police force takes directions from Carrera rather than the traditionalists or Martinelli’s discredited congress. Carrera avoided a major power struggle with the traditionalists and soundly thrashed the Martinelli people when they tried to remove her.

But as the impasse over the Barro Blanco Dam has dragged on, a new alliance that includes the Mama Tata faith, the Traditional Ngabe-Bugle General Congress and FRENADESO supporters has been camped out near the dam construction site, carrying out protests and participating in the talks with the government as the September 22nd Movement. While M-10 and M-22 trade insults and pursue separate tactics, there is no division between the about whether to accept the dam.

The resumption of work on the dam was accompanied by police moving into the M-22 campsite. The talks dragged on with neither side budging and new leadership emerging in Silvia Carrera’s part of the indigenous side, with Rolando Carpintero, the mayor of the Muna district of the comarca of which the places to be flooded are a part, taking a high profile. On the M-22 side Mama Tata leader Clementina Pérez Jaramillo has emerged as the principal spokeswoman.

On July 25 a small group of M-10 supporters blocked the Pan-American Highway near Tole and the police moved in to clear the road. There were 20 arrests and some rough play that caused some injuries that were not life threatening. Although those who were arrested were quickly released M-10 has taken the occasion to withdraw from the talks and La Prensa reports that people have been walking down from the largely roadless hills of the comarca to reinforce the protesters near Tole. M-22 has not formally withdrawn from the talks, remains encamped near the dam and has filed a lawsuit with the Inter-American Human Rights Court to enjoin further work on the dam.

The government and M-10 have called for United Nations mediation. During the Martinelli administration there had been UN mediation but when the mediators found justice in the indigenous cause the government just ignored them.

The impasse continues, but the situation is far from static.