The Caterpillar Effect, or how (not) to lose elections

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REMEMBER how our beloved president Ricardo Martinelli would cause a nation-wide uproar with just one angry tweet? In our chaotic political system it was the equivalent of the Butterfly Effect. The term comes from chaos theory and refers to how small variations in input in chaotic systems (butterfly flaps wings) can cause wild and unpredictable consequences (hurricane). But that was then.

Today, we have the opposite, what we have baptized the "Caterpillar Effect" here in the Bananama Republic newsroom: Martinelli tweets something and nobody gives a shit. There are no consequences at all. The system has changed in a way that no longer allows him to influence it with his petty thoughts in 140 characters. Not even his "call centers" make a difference any more and have been dismantled and all the evidence destroyed.

Martinelli is not the only loser who made the transition from butterfly to caterpillar. On the picturesque island of Taboga, the elections were watched with hope and anticipation by the various local candidates for mayor. It took until the wee hours of the next morning before the results came in, mainly because counting the votes on the nearby island of Otoque did not start before a problem with the electricity was fixed.

Gamboa billboardFinally, it turned out that CD candidate Ramon "Poto" Ramos had been elected mayor - no surprise, really, because even though he did not campaign at all with banners and billboards, the Martinellistas had been busy handing out money, stoves, microwave ovens and other such goodies to ensure their local victory.  Magalys Ricord, who ran for the PRD, took her defeat (with just 95 votes difference) in stride and told us that she intended to work with the new administration as far as possible on projects she thinks the island needs. Edmundo Botello, who ran for the Panameñistas and came in third, said, "well, better next time," and went back to his restaurant business. Even Amilkar Gamboa, a construction worker who ran as an independent candidate and only got a sad 14 of the 1,469 votes, was happily back to work the next day and greeting acquaintances.

So, who turned from butterfly to caterpillar, then? Well, meet Patsy Owens de Pons, de independent rabiblanco candidate.

patsybillboardEnd 2012, Mrs. Owens a sort of hijacked the so-called Taboga Civic Association, asked the expats for money, and turned it into a campaign platform for what many already suspected were her political ambitions. Arriving by private yacht from the capital, she would hand out gifts to the needy, ferry the local doctor to Otoque to attend patients, and come up with a flurry of impractical and even bizarre ideas for the island. The aeronaval soldiers barking at and searching arriving tourists with drug dogs as soon as they disembark from the overpriced ferry is one of Mrs. Owens' crazy ideas that actually got implemented even before the elections took place.

Other plans, like painting all the houses white, obligatory, luckily didn't make it. Similarly, her plans to improve education on Taboga didn't go beyond redecorating the outside walls of the local school. Voilá de rabiblanco agenda for Taboga: Clean the place up and throw some paint at it, so that property values of the summer houses of the rich are not affected too much by the neglect of issues that really should be taken care of.

Not surprisingly, the Taboganos were less than impressed with Patsy Owens, and despite all the gifts and "projects" from the Taboga Civic Association she only got 166 votes.

This made Mrs. Owens very sad and resentful. In a Facebook post on May 8, she announced her transformation from a butterfly - someone who at least did some lasting and useful work - into an inconsequential caterpillar. After a long rant, she concluded:

Acepto mi devastadora derrota y me resigno a recibir todas las burlas y todas las críticas de quienes me conocen o no, de los que saben o no que ofenden a una residente y ciudadana tabogana, haciendo diferencias solo por pertenecer a una equis clase social y económica.

La única desilusión que siento es que NO se me cumplió el sueño de poder demostrar a mis hijas que así como mis padres fueron unos “honorables médicos”, su madre pudo ser una “honorable alcaldesa”.

Mis mejores deseos para el Distrito de Taboga… pero regreso a mi rol de observadora, a la distancia, como cualquiera panameña más.

Oh, no more work for the Taboga Civic Association, then? How telling - it tells us that it was all about her being elected and her political ambitions in the first place. It tells us that it was about showing something to her own children, not to do something for the children of Taboga. Here we have someone who has probably more money and assets than all the other candidates combined, and she whines that that didn't buy her some status when she wanted it.

So: Caterpillar. Had she done her work for that association and continued to do it even when not elected, it would have been a different story, but now she's in the same league as Martinelli: ineffectual, inconsequential and just another bad loser who plays the victim card. And that's about all we really have to say about the elections 2014 here at Bananama Republic.

3 thoughts on “The Caterpillar Effect, or how (not) to lose elections

  1. Panama…will one day sometime in the near future…probably go back to being a true backwater-banana republic. Once the Canal(..the EXISTING…real Canal infrastructure..) starts to fail…due to age and lack of foresight…and revenue starts to dry up( the Russians…AND the Chinese are now both involved in making the “dirt fly” in the Nicaragua Canal..) many people…around the world and within Panama as well…will begin to lose confidence in the how/how/where/what/when…of things going on in Panama…and will simply pull their plug of economic investment(s)..OUT of there…and as the RICH do so well…simply move on to the NEXT “bananama republic”…that will allow them to invest/control/manipulate and thus…reap their own “special rewards”… just like the Rabiblancos…have done for soooo long in Panama. I will hate to see the day that there are “tough times” in Panama…since it will signal yet again…ANOTHER round of social upheaval(s)…Coups’.. dictatorships of many varieties…(perhaps some benign…others..??? mmmm probably NOT so nice).. So..as I have told my many friends for along time there in Panama( and I lived and worked there myself for 32 years…don’t forget!)… I feel the time is coming, maybe sooner than later, when once again a charismatic type…from within the group who “have the guns”.. ie. the POLICE/SENAFRONT…whatever.. will simply say…”Ok..enough of this political shenanigans..we “want in” on the carving up the pie for OUR people…sort of a ‘spread the wealth” deal…ala`…at gun point..maybe?.. All those ex-pats who have dumped soooo much money and investment into Panama…will just be “relieved” of their accounts and property..as has happened sooooo many times before in other places around the world. SO…here is just a “heads up..folks”.. As we used to say in the Merchant Marine… “keep a weather eye open to that storm a`coming…and make ready the anchors for letting go… ”
    Your Captain..speaking!

    • @Dag. I could not agree more. 11 years in Panama and I had reached the same conclusions.

      Like so many countries with severe income disparities, Panama suffers from a cycle
      of abusive exploitation by the rich during US supported pseudo-democracy followed by reactionary upheavals lead by charismatic dictators.

      Neither system serves the average Panamanian as the dictators often ruin the economy or steal themselves. The rich cannot control their greed enough to allow a middle class to develop and the cycle continues. The pseudo-democracy period that stared in 1990 is coming to an end. Each successive elected government has robbed and mismanaged to a greater extent than the previous one.

      Martinelli has set the country up for economic calamity. Strangely enough however he also put in place the forces of the next dictatorship by drastically increasing the power, pay and immunity of the police forces. Why he would relinquish his power voluntarily to the gorillas is a mystery to me. Perhaps he envisioned a coup with him at the helm. However the margin won by Varela may have changed his mind. Unfortunately the stage is set and it is doubtful that Varela can regain control of the police. It will be interesting when and how the upcoming showdown between Varela and the thugs will take place. But I can’t see much brightness in the future over there…

  2. Ah, the rabiblancas, God bless ’em! They never fail to surprise us in their unmitigated selfishness, limitless greed, nauseating self righteousness and utter lack of insight. But of course she won’t help the cholitas because deep down inside she knows that it was probably a cholita in whose bed her husband was writhing last night. Poor rabiblancas, all the “shopeen”, hat contests, bakesales, trips to Disneyworld and silly wives of bankers etc can’t make up for the fact that they are just brand name house ornaments for their rich husbands. You will never find a more miserable bitter face on a human being than the face of a preening Rabiblanca…

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