Martinelli faces legitimacy crisis

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Low intensity warfare at calle 50

Expanding on our previous post,  (see also: "Who are the real maleantes de mierda?") it seems that the coherence of the government is rapidly deteriorating under ongoing pressure from SUNTRACS protests in the streets against Martinelli's pandilla stealing from the poor and the middle class to aid the rich in Panama. Several factors are contributing to this:

1. The legitimacy of the police as a force to maintain law and order - already questionable because of widespread corruption - is further undermined by the fact that this police is headed by a war criminal and Martinelli refuses to do anything about it. What's more, the file about the disciplinary action previously taken against Gustavo Perez has supposedly "disappeared" (and everyone who knew about it transferred to Colón), even though former police chief Ebrahim Asvat assured us that it does exist. As a result, the police can only win by applying brute force, which results in violence of today and will only gain them a temporary victory at best. Nobody will be impressed by Perez denouncing violence and damages, because as a former Noriega thug he doesn't have the moral standing to complain, the police started the violence and these battles are fought in the moral sphere. Expect SUNTRACS to come back better equipped and loose groups of protesters/gangs to join in more clashes:

2. More or less the same applies to the judiciary. Martinelli's interventions in the Supreme Court and the Public Ministry have further eroded already minimal respect among Panamanians for these institutions. Minister Raul Mulino is totally unfit for the job, blurting out one stupid statement after the other, and his advisor appears to be soliciting bribes for early releases of prisoners, La Prensa reported today (does anyone actually still believe this whole "cambio" thing?).

3. Overall lack of clear strategy. There is no comprehensive policy on crime, nor on rampant corruption, nor on the economy other than to raise taxes. While Martinelli buys helicopters and builds naval bases, the crime-ridden neighborhoods of the capital are further deteriorating right under his nose, unrelated to the much hyped threat of drug trafficking, and he doesn't seem to care - other than seeing it as an opportunity to start a debate about the death penalty. His recent call for "unity" is another sign of weakness: Apparently his government coalition isn't strong enough to actually govern in any meaningful way.

So, with Martinelli & Co undermining their own legitimacy as a government, how can civil society exploit this to attain its goals?

5 thoughts on “Martinelli faces legitimacy crisis

  1. With all due respect, I do not think you have your finger on the pulse of the Panamanian people on this issue.
    I think the vast majority of Panamanians do not give a shit about the “war crimes” issue, and mark it down to some crazy shit that happened during a crazy time decades ago. By and large they feel Gustavo Perez is doing a good job and he remains popular amongst the people in spite of the recent allegations.
    I think Martinelli, while admittedly an egomaniac, also still enjoys the support of the majority of Panamanians for his ongoing battle against the corruption of the previous administrations. And I haven’t met anyone in any economic class in Panama that is sympathetic to the SUNTRACS thugs tactics of throwing rocks and blocking the roads.
    Besides, SUNTRACS workers protesting in the streets and throwing rocks at tongos is de rigueur in Panama and I don’t think indicates a legitimacy crisis with the current government.

  2. I don’t think Martinelli will put up his tax reforms, his removal of the Attorney General or the Gustavo Perez issue up on one of his planned referendums, do you?

  3. This whole idea that there is less corruption under Martinelli is just a myth. I have regular deaings with customs, the civil courts, the ATTT, and various municipalities in Panana. Rest assured that it is business as usual, blantant corruption that is, with Martinelli’s apointees. Customs and the courts seem about equally corrupt, now but the Municipality of Panama and the ATTT are worst than before.

    Although entering with a flurry of promises and noble ideas the current regime, and regime is the operative word, is in my estimation much more dangerous than the bungling Torrijos or Moscoso administrations.

    Martinelli is much more aggressive, extreme and perhaps capable for example than the dithering boy-like Torrijos. He is a guy that gets things done. Unfortunately what he is getting done is converiting his country into a right wing dictatorship on the lines of Pinoche or Fujimoro. Human rights abuses, police killings, torture etc. are all in Panama’s near future, and with the blessing of Uncle Sam. Uncle Sam will tolerate any homicidal maniac abusing his people as long as he is right wing.

    It is a shame that we will probably see a repeat of the 1980s Latin American murderous epoch with full backing of the US in a suposed war against the “flavor of the month” bogey man Chavez and endless unwinnable pantomime war on drug producers.

    • I think the Fujimori analogy will prove to be right on the mark. Which makes one wonder again what that “kidnapping plot” really was all about, by the way.

  4. I agree with taustino. Martinelli is well on his way to the dictatorship that the wingnuts always crave. The oligarchs all support that, provided he doesn’t touch their money. That flat tax he imposed is the most regressive thing he could have done and the oligarchs love him for it.
    90% of Panama’s population will be hurt by that tax and the richest 10% love it. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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