Okay, ignorant expat readers, pay attention, because we're going to dive into a little bit of Panamanian popular culture here in order to understand the current political
crisis circus about C&W shares and the Sala V.
It's all about Bernie.
Decades ago, there was a movie, "Weekend at Bernie's" and from that movie came a silly dance. The world had forgotten about it, almost, except for the Panamanians. The immensely popular TV show La Cascara did a skit about el baile de Bernie, and since then the wacky dance is unstoppable. People dance it in the streets. In the shopping malls. In the Metrobus.
So, what is el baile de Bernie doing in a story about politics?
There was major upheaval at the National Assembly and in the city Monday, because of politics and money. The government plans to sell shares Panama owns in companies like Cable & Wireless and the electrical companies and
steal the money spend the money on projects. And they are appointing new magistrates for an illegal Fifth Chamber for constitutional affairs, which would come in a kind of handy should Martinelli decide to steal the next elections to protect the constitution.
So, the PRD, the Ñamistas loyal to booze king Varela, and some other fringe groups that haven't sold themselves yet to Martinelli, have set up an alliance for the protection of democracy, constitutionalism and their right to steal, to get bribes and to feed from the state trough too.
You might say that just two years ago these Varelas and their henchmen were themselves ramming sausage laws through the Assembly and were playing apologist for shooting and killing protesters, but here in Panama we don't nitpick about such details so we do not call them a bunch of hypocrites, okay? And no difficult questions either about how on earth we are supposed to trust yesterday's thieves and corruptos with today's democracy. Instead, we should all admire how this crowd embraces a right-wing batshit crazy pundit like Mary Anastasia O'Grady and takes whatever she writes about Panama as gospel.
Today these true patriots all went to the National Assembly to save democracy and the C&W shares from being sold without them receiving a penny, and their supporters flooded the public tribune, chaos ensued, there were fights and flags, and then Juan Carlos Navarro, Martinelli's man in the PRD, showed up with PRD banners and then others got angry about that - and after lots of shouting and pushing and shoving all sessions were suspended just in time for everybody to watch European soccer, Spain-Croatia, live on RPC.
After soccer, the opposition called for a march, and people assembled at the Iglesia del Carmen in Via España. Then they couldn't really decide where to march to, and eventually a couple of hundred people marched somewhere (Update: Our friend Ricardo Soto says he was there and it was at least a thousand, so there).
And while all this was going on, president Martinelli took the always prudent decision to go to a party. At that party he did the Bernie dance (video). Now the opposition was already angry at him, but this was really the limit. Finmeccanica, Valter Lavitola, the mining laws, Bocas massacre - that's all good and well, but dancing like Bernie? Unacceptable! How dare he ignore their protests and go dancing at Atlapa!
Since today's protest wasn't really that big of a success, there will be another attempt tomorrow. Maybe they would be better off organizing a street Bernie dance event against Martinelli instead of yet another predictable march with guaranteed zero effect. In any case, don't bother following the news on this whole affair. Just watching La Cascara on Saturday night will tell you all you need to know about Bernie and the state of the nation.