Temas Especiales

26 de Jan de 2021


Haven't I seen this before?

PANAMA. The other day was the 15th anniversary of when I returned here to live. That was an election year too, and I was covering the ...

PANAMA. The other day was the 15th anniversary of when I returned here to live. That was an election year too, and I was covering the 1994 campaigns and trying to figure out a way not to go back to Michigan and the practice of law.

What, other than the spectacular collapse of the Blades candidacy, impressed me the most about that political year? It was the constant series of power outages and water outages, and the perception of a country spinning out of control.

Guillermo Endara, who had inherited a government with empty coffers, whom Washington had expected to serve up whatever Bush Sr. ordered, whom many people treated as a bloated lightweight with a weird wife, turned out to be better than that. He wouldn't talk with the Americans about revising the canal treaties. His administration held free elections which his faction lost, and he handed over a government with money in the bank to his successor.

But just five years after they had thoroughly routed the PRD despite Noriega's repression, the alliance that brought Endara to power was shattered, the president's approval ratings were in the low 20s and the PRD came back to power.

More than anything else, it was due to a sense that our most vital public infrastructures, and indeed the country itself, were broken down.

Starting to write this story in San Carlos, I got about a paragraph done before a little blip power outage turned off the computer and erased my words. The day before, parts of San Carlos and Chame went without power for five and one-half hours. The water pressure wavers and sometimes there's no water at all.

I went into the city to take care of some errands and cover an event. I needed to pick up a check and walk half a block to the bank by three p.m. I stepped on the bus at about noon, for what is ordinarily and hour and 15 minutes ride from San Carlos to the bus terminal, and a short cab ride from there to the banking district. But the road was torn up near Chorrera, and traffic was bottlenecked on the bridge, and the city was in near gridlock. I didn't get my errands done in time. That evening I took a diablo rojo that was standing room only --- as they all seem to be these days --- to get to the event that I was covering. Afterwards there were no buses. It was the same after the Panama Jazz Festival events. The Torrijos transportation policy has essentially abolished night-time bus service in Panama City, even on key routes like the Transistmica.

Three election cycles later, again nothing seems to work in Panama. Now it's the PRD that's in office and the target of the voters' wrath.

I'm not laughing about it. I'd much rather see a politician whom I don't like do a good job and take credit for it. Alas, that's not a choice we are being offered.