Panamá,25º

19 de Feb de 2020

Nacional

Mud slinging McCarthy style

Labels can be deceiving. Just look at the supermarket shelves. “Less fat”, less “sugar”, which raises the question “less than what?”. Th...

Labels can be deceiving. Just look at the supermarket shelves. “Less fat”, less “sugar”, which raises the question “less than what?”. Then there are the doctor or dentist “recommended” products, that you see on TV with some warm, friendly, confident health specialist, clad in a white coat, explaining why you should tell your doctor to prescribe an overpriced drug for your ailments.

Most of those advisors come straight from a local talent agency, or are doctors who have forgotten their Hippocratic oath and sold their souls to the devil, disguised as a pharmaceutical company.

In the US election “Muslim” was the dirty word, aimed at Obama. In Panama, it is “communist” with Balbina Herrera as the target. We all know that if you throw enough mud, some of it sticks, so when one of the Martinelli supporters used the dreaded “c” word, others accepted it at face value.

It’s a word long familiar in Latin America, where in the days before the political landscape began to tip away from the extreme right, any opponent of the ravages of United Fruit, or US political interference, received the “communist” label. It was attached to anyone, or any group that had nationalist leanings. That in time led to an upsurge of violent dictatorships, mass killings, and “disappearances”. Panama was not immune, although compared to other countries in the region our dictatorships were relatively benign. But don’t say that to relatives of our own disappearances, and those seeking apologies from the government.

Ask some of the people who like to bandy the communist word around, what it means and you will find most of them nonplussed, or perhaps they will relate it to the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin in Russia, and the satellite dictatorships of Eastern Europe during the Cold War. Maybe they will go further and link it to the alleged communists whose careers were destroyed by the odious McCarthy hearings in the US at the height of fears of the red bogey. None of which relates to control of the means of production and distribution, espoused in the 1848 manifesto.

Which brings me to a recent function where I was asked who is going to win the Panamanian presidential election. I could only quote the polls, and as I am a disbeliever in how some polls are constructed, I didn’t have a firm answer. But when one of the expats in the group said: “I’m afraid of what will happen if that communist Balbina gets elected”, I realized that the mud was sticking.

Herrera, a life time politician, who recently pocketed over half a million dollars as compensation for a piece of Ports land, who owns several homes, and sports Cartier designer spectacles, is as related to “communism” as a penguin is to a race horse, although according to Darwinism, there is a distant link between the wild life species. With Balbina the comparison could be to the race of apparatchiks in the Stalin regime, who lived the life of Riley while the people under the dictatorship struggled under the chains, passed on from the previous rulers.

Next to the extreme “c” word, comes “socialism”, which to some expatriate commentators in Panama is a creeping evil, even in the United States. Government involvement to save the country from the mess created by the free market and the banking system, is seen as a step towards perdition.

Martin Torrijos a member of the Socialist International, is not quite the figurehead of the people that Marx and Engels had envisaged.

So for expats in Panama, leave the mud slinging to the Rush Limbaugh’s of the world, and those on CNN who describe Latin American immigrants as “aliens”. Let the people of Panama make their decisions based on the merits of the programs put forward by the candidates. Whoever wins is going to have a tough job. Look at the hard time facing first world leaders.

Maybe coming in second will be a win-win situation.