Feb 9, 2012

I Guess Rank Has It's Privileges...

I'm going to try to move away from political topics and get back into more mundane matters very soon.  But I've got a pebble in my shoe, so to speak, and need to get it out before doing so.  Below is a photo taken from one of the Panamanian online newspapers--- La Estrella.

It reveals a line of what happens to be 41 National Police officers, guarding one of Pres. Martinelli's  Super 99 Supermarkets on Tuesday, Feb. 7th.  The National Police also "protected" 4 other stores in Panama City that day.  They were deployed for this purpose following an indigenous protest the day before at a store in Calidonia. To the best of my research, the Calidonia store suffered no damage.

Naturally, there has been criticism of the matter.  Attorney Idalia Martinez, who is coordinator of the organization Justice and Liberty, and is also a member of the Human Rights Commission, was consulted about the utilization  of the national police for this purpose.  She asked, "What Article [of the law] is the basis for this action?" She  remarked that the Panamanian populace suffers significant safety issues, but the current administration doesn't even concern itself with appearances when demonstating just who in this country receives preferential treatment and privileges.  Another attorney (Ernesto Cedeno, no credentials cited), stated the action was perfectly legal.  A third attorney, Carlos Rubio, then remarked if the utilization of the national police in this fashion were legal, then the law is not equal because it provides treatment to the President that it doesn't provide regular citizens.    Interesting isn't it?  What I really enjoy about reading such news articles is the realization that freedom of speech is alive and well in Panama.  People aren't afraid to express their opinions.  Much different from experiences I've had in other Central American countries in the past.  And very different from the Manuel Noriega days, obviously.   

I've been somewhat negative in my accounts re: President Martinelli and thought it might be worthwhile to mention the advice of Don Ray Williams, a US expat who runs a well-read blog from his home in David, Panama.   I don't often agree with Don's views in political matters,  but he's been in the country for several years, speaks Spanish, socializes with Panamanians, and doesn't have the typical gringo habit of sticking with his own kind.   He cautions US expats against forming opinions and taking sides based on limited experience and/or knowledge of this country's history.  He recently posted a comment made by a respected Panamanian friend, and since it gives another side to President Martinelli, I thought in all fairness I should give that opinion equal time. I'm pasting the link to the full post in Chiriqui Chatter, but I'll cut and paste the Panamanian's comment following the link.

This is a long story, in fact too long to cover it here. I’ll try to squeeze the content in a few sentences. Martinelli is a rich man who turned against his own class supporting the humble social classes of Panama. This had never happened in this country since it was born. He has made made many enemies both from the right and from the left. The Panameñista Party is angry because he dismissed Juan Carlos Varela as the Secretary of State, many rich businessmen who paid no taxes, the PRD party which lost the last the elections, and the communist labor unions of Frenadeso and several Communist education unions.

The Ngnabe Buglé Indians have been manipulated by the radical left to topple Mr. Martinelli’s regime and take over the country. This has been organized for several years. The media has cooperated with them (TV-2, Canal 4, Telemetro, and La Prensa). They are constantly attacking the President. The owners of these communication companies were forced to pay corporate taxes. Some examples are Copa Airlines, the banking industry, the Colon Free Zone, the liquor industry and Bobby Eisemann an important stockholder of La Prensa.

Former governments received generous political donations from these strong economic groups and exempted them from paying taxes. Martinelli stopped this romance. If Martinelli is dethroned, I’m afraid Panama we go backwards at least forty to fifty years. All its gains will be lost and the Panama Canal could fall into left wing political parties hands. I’m closely monitoring the situation. It doesn’t look good. More riots are expected during the week.

This is my personal perspective of the situation and I don’t like it a bit.

I can't say I'm convinced, but it certainly is another perspective.  Saint or Sinner?---that's the question.   Mr. Martinelli has 2.5 years of a 5-yr term in office at this time.  In Panama there's no second term for presidents, and he will be out in the middle of 2014.  Thus far he isn't popular, but his legacy could be interesting.
And I think I'm going to go back to talking about birds, flowers, beaches and the weather.   Those are all happy things.  Friends are trying to form a group to go to the Pacific coast, trek into a desolate location, and meet with a man who protects sea turtle eggs and then releases the baby sea turtles back into the ocean when they are ready.  We would help him. That sounds like a lot of fun and I'm hoping to go in the next week or two......