If you're in opposition against a government, what you want to accomplish is its isolation: It's physical isolation, its mental isolation and its moral isolation. This causes that external feedback and information about what they are doing and on its decision making doesn't reach them any more, and they depend entirely on internal feedback which comes from yes-men and those who already think that what they do is right and bright, a sort of endless loops. The end result is insanity, actions that have no relation with the real world any more. It could be seen in the government of El Toro after he lost the reelection referendum and, with barely a year in office, the Martinelli government is already visibly suffering from all three forms of isolation.
First of all, Martinelli and his people have done a great job in isolating themselves mentally from society. All of its members are insensitive to criticism, and often show that they don't even know what the criticism exactly entails. Numerous examples sustain this. It is this mental isolation that has made Martinelli send his consigliere Guiseppe Bonissi to Costa Rica to file bogus criminal charges against a web-based news publication there, thus enlarging what started as unfavorable press into a full-blown international affair which may even result in the security and defense of the Canal being discussed in open court - and make Martinelli look like a pompous third world dictator in the process no matter how it ends.
Another example is obviously the "sausage law" that has been rammed through the assembly while Martinelli was vacationing in Greece. The way in which this was done - major changes to the penal code, the labor code and the environmental laws hidden in a law about aviation - clearly demonstrates the isolation of a government that is afraid to propose any of these changes out in the open. They even went as far as blocking entry to the assembly for activists and the public, thereby isolating themselves physically as well. After the law was approved in the third debate, those who voted in favor all went in hiding and refused to talk about it - more isolation - or make lame attempts at excuses, like José Blandón.
Due to this isolation, they clearly didn't expect that their law would create such a backlash - something that anyone who is connected to society (or just to Facebook) could see coming miles away.
Moral isolation is achieved when the government violates ethics and rules they pretend to be upholding, and there has been plenty of that as well. Not just did the handling of the "sausage law" violate every rule on the book about transparency and good governance - to the immense anger of civil society and labor unions - but acts like presidential pardons for murderous cops who killed innocent teenagers and planted evidence on the bodies as well as minister Raúl Mulino openly admitting to influence peddling and nepotism had already put our rulers in moral no-mans land.
For our so-called "civil society" and the labor unions, all of this is good news. The government is evidently feeling besieged; this causes further isolation; this leads to increasingly insane decisions; which then leads to more protests and further isolation and so on - until they simply disintegrate and/or collapse as internal mistrust takes a hold or deserters start abandoning ship for fear of their political future.
So what should the opposition do? First of all: Build alliances. Raisa Banfield of CiamPanama accepting the invitation to confer with the unions is not just intelligent but also historical in a way; usually the environmentalists (and even more so the people of Transparency Intl. and Alianza Pro-Justicia) prefer a purist and sectarian approach to their activism that produces very little results, if any at all. Plus they often pretend to be too chic to be seen with construction workers waving red flags. However, teaming up with those who are used to do the heavy lifting that has already proven capable of closing down such environmental disasters as Red Frog Beach Club in Bocas del Toro is a necessity if environmentalists want to accomplish the elimination of this "sausage law". The typical "strategy" of Panama's civil society to repeat its point of view endlessly in press releases and on billboards - in the hope that if they repeat it often enough the government may suddenly agree with them - has never worked and will not work now either. There is a common agenda - stop exploitation - and they have to work on it together, period.
Alliances having been formed, they need to keep the pressure up, relentlessly, and attack from all sides. Not just by organizing marches and manifestations, but also by designing international strategies that count on international bodies, courts, financial rating agencies and other governments to address violations of international treaties, human rights and free trade agreements by the policies and legislation of the government. And then the names of those who vote for illegal and repressive laws have to be divulged and made one promise: "You won't get reelected, we guarantee you that".
Can they win from Martinelli? Yes they can. The government is in disarray. Confusion rules. The Panameñistas are afraid for their political survival if they keep supporting Martinelli's mafiocracy. Cambio Democratico is starting to realize that when Martinelli's term ends - and that may be sooner rather than later - they have no future at all as a political group because Martinelli is Cambio Democratico. Civil Society and the unions need to hit them hard, be fast and stay ahead of the game. It's not just putting the government in more isolation; it's also simultaneously increasing your own connectivity, your connection with society at the same time that builds a winning ticket.
Still 59% of popularity?
Pingback: Protests in the streets, chaos in the government, consumer boycott and another "lobster law" | Bananama Republic