Gustavo Perez, what did you do with Valentín Palacios?

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Valentín Palacios, cedula 1-705-1667

It is already over a month ago that banana plantation worker Valentín Palacios was taken away by the police and never heard of again. In more than a month, all the police has come up with is the statement that "he doesn't appear on our list of persons detained". The public ministry says the case is being handled by the personeria in Changuinola. In Changuinola, inquiries are met with a deafening silence.

Palacios was last seen on July 8, when he was arrested by the police on Finca 66. There is a rumor that he was transferred to the prison in Davíd.

Yesterday, thirty civic organizations filed a habeas corpus with the Supreme Court, demanding that they investigate where Palacios is, or what happened to him.

A large part of the opposition has been quiet about the case, because they belong to or are affiliated with the PRD, which still hasn't answered many questions into its own past of killings and disappearances during the military dictatorship of Omar Torrijos and Manuel Noriega.

Similarly, the media are only paying minor attention to the case.

So, all Palacio's wife and two children have to hope for is that the Supreme Court will do something. That'll be a long wait, because one half of the court are Martinelli yes-men and the other half is PRD. Nothing is to be expected from Winston Spadafora either - whose own brother was beheaded by Noriega's goons - as he has been silent about the case and is mired in an endless series of corruption scandals.

Yes, dear reader, the situation in Panama is now so bad, and the opposition and the media so lame, that when the police disappears somebody this now generates far less response than during the dictatorship when opposition was more dangerous.

So, what will happen? Eventually some sort of cover-up will come out of the criminal police force with the support of the Martinelli narco-mafia. And then we wouldn't be surprised if policemen start disappearing too, one by one, until Valentín Palacios is brought back, dead or alive. With a fascist government and a civil society that knows of nothing better than to go to a totally corrupt Supreme Court, violence is what one may expect.

25 thoughts on “Gustavo Perez, what did you do with Valentín Palacios?

  1. Dear Okke:
    Your constantly implying that under the military dictatorship of Omar Torrijos and Manuel Antonio Noriega violations of human rights were not quite as bad as under those of our democratically elected president Martinelli is so unfair that in my opinion it tends to undermine the rest of your otherwise quite refreshing left approach to Panama’s political situation. If I may, I would like to suggest to you that measured critisism is quite often much more effective than over-killing News. Having been myself a victim of Noriega’s “batallon de la dignidad”, i can only invite you to refrain from systematically comparing the current abuses to those of the military dictatorship of the past. Thanks for your understanding.

  2. @XIO: But that’s not what I’m implying at all. What I’m referring to is that there are recurring patterns, similar tactics – and often the same people. I know it was far worse under Noriega and Torrijos; my point was that the PRD and those who supported them are today mute about a disappeared person because they don’t have any moral ground to stand on complaining about it and they know it. Quite different from what you say.

  3. XIO – I think you would expect dictators of all ilks to violate human rights and behave in a, well, dictator way. I would NOT expect such degree of human rights violations as we see today, albeit not in the same magnitude as under Noriega, from a democratically elected leader. We also had such high hopes for “change”, what is going on is very disappointing not to mention worrisome. He could have gotten support from the left (increase wages, 100 a 70, taxes increase to fund social programs, scholarships etc etc) and the right, (more jobs through major infrastructure improvements – metro, canal, etc) but he is squandering all of this support through very bad leadership and appointments of people who should be in jail, certainly not in high positions. Although I guess if you suffered at the end of the dignity batallions, anything would be better, I understand.

  4. @Frombocas,

    You’re absolutely correct. Noriega was a wolf in wolf’s clothing, Martinelli is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The latter is much more dangerous.

    I fear poor Sr. Palacios is long dead. Probably beaten or tortured to death by novice goons that went too far. Now everyone in the government is hoping like hell he’ll be forgotten. I bet there are some internal investigations going on, but this is going to be one hot potato politically.

    I was glad to see, in the newspaper Panamerica today, that Bernal had an editorial also asking Gustavo Perez what he has done with Valentin Palacio.

    @Xio, Many other victims of Noriega, Bernal included are very troubled by the repression. It is only a difference of degree not nature. These are early days for Martinelli, who now faces the choice of back down or ramp up the intensity.

    Many Panamanians have now woken up to the fact that the corrupt but peaceful 20 years of pseudo-democracy have ended and they are falling back down the slippery slope of repression, government violence and killings.

    I was so relieved when the concubine of the dictatorship, Balbina Herrera, lost the last election, only to be shocked to find that Martinelli has done her proud and is perhaps more dangerous in his megalomania.

  5. My hypothesis – totally unproven, I should add – is that Palacios was killed by the police and disposed of, and it might have something to do with the fact that there was this rumor about activists having killed one of the policemen they had taken hostage (which wasn’t true).

    Some of those in power are so retarded that they actually talk about killing people openly. I remember vividly that the vice-mayor of Santa Isabel, on the Costa Ariba, told me twice during an interview how he thought that killing a number of Kunas, five or so, would make them back away from a land claim (the mayor of Santa Isabel is the sister of Lucy Molinar). He just said that, to me and a witness who was there, as if it were a totally acceptable way to deal with indigenous land disputes. Just kill them.

    Democracy and an elected leader are no guarantee for anything, and we only need to look at Colombia as an example, with its “false positives”, the parapolitica scandal, politically motivated murders and so on.

    I don’t want it to get like that here in Panama, yet there is no denial in the fact that some of what occurs today last happened in the days of the tyrants. It was the same Bernal who said not too long ago that he felt safer under Noriega, and when I asked him about it he explained that, under the dictatorship, it was much easier to know what dangers were looming and where they came from than now.

    The thing that really, really worries me is that there is no alternative. Without Martinelli, the CD party is nothing. But the PRD won’t be back unless they replace all of its leadership and most of its legislators. I don’t see anyone emerging from the disorganized social movements and the Panameñistas are dumb enough to drown themselves, playing the fiddle while the Martinelli ship sinks. That leaves a violent state of disarray as a likely prospect for the future.

  6. Varela has already tried to distance himself, in small pathetic ways but none theless, from Martinelli. I can easily see them picking up disgruntled CD voters. I dont think any hardcore PRD or CD/Panamenistas will jump ship tot he respective opposite party, but this is such a young country, there is a ton of new voters coming online in the next 4 years, and just as many of voting age but too young to remember what the skirmish was all about. The next election can go to the first charismatic candidate who can talk well and get high visibility in the press and the internet (maybe radio) regardless of party. But as you say, there is NOONE.

  7. Varela makes the same mistake as Alemán (remember that Colgate smile?) made when he thought he could win after being VP in the Mireya locust plague for 5 years. If he doesn’t break with Martinelli, he won’t win. If Martinelli is dethroned and Varela takes over, I don’t know if he can run under our constitution, but if he does a good job he could then win. Bottom line: Anyone associated with Martinelli won’t stand a chance.

  8. Palacios’ widow for president????? Speaking of him, is there anything the average person can do about this? who should we write to?

    • Who should you write…

      First of all, why not use the opportunity to see some of Panama’s absolute worst trashy shitty web design, and visit our National Police. They have a page with a link to file denuncias, here. I’d say, spam ’em!

      Then, there is the Defensor del Pueblo. They explain how to file a complaint here.

      Fun could be had as well writing Mentirelli and Papademente. They have a site called “presidencia“, and normally only money launderers are supposed to contact them, but here’s the details nevertheless.

      At your service!

  9. Great journalism Okke! You killed a guy that is alive and kicking. I wonder what’s the next twist you’re gonna do… “Ohhh, Palacios was threatened by the police, and he is totally lying”

  10. Palacio appears!!

    OK Let me get this straight.

    1) Palacio is mugged by two black guys while he happens to be in the middle of a riot defending his rights as a worker.

    2) The police, during the riot , try to chase down the bad guys who have beaten Palacio up. These are the same police, who at the same time are shooting his fellow workers in their faces.

    3) The bad guys steal his cedula and other items. The police continuing to help him by driving him to the hospital with his injuries. Perhaps Palacio is up front with the driver while the other policeman is continuing to blind other innocent protesters behind the vehicle. Meanwhile the black guys who beat up Palacios are nowhere to be found.

    4) Palacios forgets where he has been for 6 weeks and forgets that he has a family and friends. But then remembers his friend Gustavo Perez with whom he has a TV interview that he has forgotten about.

    5) Palacios goes on TV with his friend Gustavo to tell us how could we possibly think the police had anything to do with his disappearance that really was just a kind of Panamanian Walkabout that he forgot to tell his family about. He forgot bout his job cutting bananas also.

    6.) The dog eats his homework. His friend Gustavo gives him a big birthday present. The police catch the black guys that stole his wallet. He has now been offered a position as judge on Muevelo, Panama´s teenage dance contest.

    Okke, you were correct. This is a theme park awaiting its theme.

  11. Ok – so Palacio is alive and in a private hospital, with guards (that alone is a tad weird) . Which version of what happened do you think is the real version? He was arrested, then released under pressure and told he would be killed if he talked? But then why keep him alive to begin with? And do we know it is the same Palacio?

  12. You’re last question, FromBocas, I was asking myself. I’ve not seen any pictures yet. Don’t know whether they showed some footage on TV. Weird story, any which way.

  13. Well the guy is alive and it has been confirmed that he is Palacios by his family.

    So nobody thinks that the SUNTRACS has something to do with this guy being lost?

  14. @Great journalism,

    I didn´t think there would be anyone who was gullible enough to believe this sudden reappearance.

    You have proved me wrong.

    I think that you are the only one in the country who has fallen for this. Congratulations. A just fell off the pumpkin wagon award is in order!

    I guess you think the dead and blinded workers are just faking it also.

  15. No Faustino, I don’t think the dead and blinded workers are just faking it also.

    I’m just pointing out how ridiculous is this desperation to put Panama as if we’re living in a Nazi state, by using half truths, lies, and disinformation, the same trick they imply that our government is using.

    People wanted badly their first “disappeared” of the so-called civil dictatorship, so they could have more reasons to trash the government. They even killed the guy and decapitated him, as Dr. Mauro Zuñiga implied, without even try to investigate, and it results the guy is alive. Epic fail!

    And now that is not decapitated, proving they were totally wrong, they are twisting the story to make people think that the goverment has tricked us, because people don’t reappear suddenly. Well, if you don’t know, indigenous people in Bocas and Chiriquí (specially men) get lost for weeks and months, without having contact with their family and friends. It’s something that they do a lot, and anyone in Bocas can tell you that.

    Since day one of this Bocas situation, people are trying to manipulate perception by lying and not telling the whole story, for whatever reason they have (political, ideological, etc), and they don’t feel they have a responsibility when they are wrong. Is that OK? Hell no!!!. If you wanna fall for that, then you’re as gullible as you’re implying I am.

  16. @Great journalism: You’re talking crap.

    First, if these disappearances were so “normal” in Bocas as you claim, why then did his father and several others report the disappearance?

    Second, as La Prensa reported, there are at least seven different versions of what happened here.

    Third, it has been civil society, and not the government nor its supporters, that has consistently been calling for an investigation of what happened. It’s not really very exotic to think that Perez et al may have had something to do with his disappearance given the fact that the authorities killed at least four people in Bocas, and likely more.

    So I would appreciate it if you drop the snotty “los groceros somos más” attitude that is so typical for Martinelli’s clique and its admirers.

  17. @Great journalism, I am from Bocas and this story is plain weird. Many indigenous disappear for a few days, especially after pay day and after a fiesta, or if they meet a new woman, sure. But this is not one of these stories.Too many contradictions. Nothing squares. Come on, 6-week black out? private hospital where he is heavily guarded? The regular hospital where he was supposed unconscious for many many days has no recollection of a unconscious patient? etc etc etc. I would buy the disappearing for days, if that was only that, and not all of the crap added to the story (by them, not the journalists)
    “half truths, lies, and disinformation,” that is exactly what the government has accused the populace of Changuinola of. Now you are saying the people accuse the government of that? What a circus indeed.
    So in as much as we would like everything to be hunky dory and all. No twisting necessary.

  18. To Greatjournalism

    No, we are not living in a Nazi state. The Nazis were organized and efficient.
    For once there is an upside to the government disorganization! Let’s instead say they are Nazi wannabes. That fits.

    Real Nazis would have had a cover story about their disappearance of Palacios that would have risen above the Panamanian “dog ate my homework” approach.

    The problem is that the government is nevertheless ineptly controlling and manipulating the information. So how are people supposed to know the truth without making educated guesses?

    Do you actually still think the government had nothing to do with Palacios disappearance?

    He is currently to be found in “protective custody” in the hands of the police, (an irony of such incredible richness) He cannot talk to any civil rights group, his relatives or his friends. All conversations with the press are handled through the police spokesman and a puppet evangelical pastor.

    Now doesn’t this treatment strike you as a little weird? This is a guy that they would have us believe, went on a bender for six weeks? Not exactly information worthy of such spin control.

    You are incorrect in your glib assertion that people want a disappearance. What they want is a clear away to notify the world that the government here is killing people and it will continue to do so until someone responsible takes notice. In a world of political expedience and information overload most crimes against humanity proceed unnoticed until something obvious happens. This is what people want, sooner than later.

    I congratulate you on the survival of Palacios. Nothing like Righteous vindication.
    Such outrage you express at Okke and others for trying to bring down this flawed but noble government ! Okke, “so wrong in many ways” to assume that they had disappeared this guy.

    Hey, give them a break! You imply. Just because they blind 20-30 innocent people, (some only lost one eye!) OK, so a little girl died of tear gas poisoning while in her own home. No big deal, the police can’t be expected to know that tear gas kills infants! Don’t blame the police for the death of a guy who was shot in the chest and some other guys didn’t know CPR. OK so they did kill one guy fair and square…but the rest are just cases of “shit happens”.
    .

    But I wonder who you are?

    Are you so glib and morally lost to think that you can scold people for thinking that Palacios was disappeared, yet at the same time patronizing us with lip service to the real tragedies of blind and murdered people?

    Or are you a supporter of our present murderous regime pretending to offer a dissenting view for the sake of balance?

    Either way your comments do provide us with insights of where the danger lies in the warped psychology of abusers who after victimizing others convince themselves that others have wronged them “in so many ways”.

  19. One more short comment.

    The police admit that Palacios was treated for a severe blow that damaged his inner ear.

    Perhaps he was beaten into a coma, from which he awoke after some weeks.

    They kept him hidden, under medical care knowing that it would be a nightmare politically if he was found to be in a coma or dead.

    Now they are holding him to scare him into keeping quiet. Perhaps he doesn´t remember anything anyway..so they fed him a story.

    Just a theory …but the facts fit, no??

  20. Faustino: First, I explained why I used sarcasm in my comments, and why it was hypocritical to say that I was rude. I made some good points to think about and suddenly that post, (the one you read) was deleted. I wonder why. From now on, I won’t use more sarcasm, and i’ll try to write in a way that doesn’t get interpreted as an attack.

    Second, I’ll point out why I think this case has been based from the beginning in gossips, lies and disinformation. You said the facts fit, but I said they don’t, and I’m gonna explain why I’m not talking crap as Okke said. I hope he doesn’t delete my post again.

    I posted my comments in the other article about Palacio’s case.

  21. I was watching an “Animal Planet” documentary on Cable-TV last night. It was covering primate (chimps) pets attacking their loving masters. The adult chimps are stronger than humans and when pissed they tear up and chew on the faces, limbs and genitals of their victims leaving them faceless.

    I thought about the recent police actions in Bocas. There is a striking parallel between the disfiguring of the demonstrator faces by the anti-riot police and the disfigurement of their masters by the chimp pets. The police and the political leaders are public servants of the people who: gave them their mandate, voted for them and nurtured them with taxes and political contributions. But like “chimps” they have turned against the people by viciously attacking them and leaving them disfigured and faceless.

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