Chasing down Pedro Miguel
PANAMA. Pedro Miguel Gonzalez, the Panamanian lawmaker accused of having assassinated US Army Sergeant Zak Hernandez on 10 June 1992, i...
PANAMA. Pedro Miguel Gonzalez, the Panamanian lawmaker accused of having assassinated US Army Sergeant Zak Hernandez on 10 June 1992, is running a third time for the National Assembly.
This time around, however, opposition groups have joined together in a united effort to end his family’s political empire, an event that would place him a step closer to facing US justice.
“We have managed to unify the ticket,” explained a Panameñista leader. “In other places this is not possible. Many opposition candidates have been selfish, and one can see them run against each other. Not here.”
In the 9-3 circuit in Veraguas, there were three candidates running for a spot in the Legislature: Pedro Miguel (PRD), Francisco Brea (Panameñista), and Dr. Gumercindo Barsallo (Cambio Democratico, Molirena, and Union Patriotica).
When Ricardo Martinelli and Juan Carlos Varela allied into one ticket, Dr. Barsallo placed the 9-3 circuit’s well-being above all, stepping down from the race and endorsing Brea.
The Veraguas area has 30,000 votes. Pedro Miguel won by 1019 votes in 1999, and 300 votes in 2004.
This year the opposition sees a golden opportunity to get rid of him once and for all.
Lucas Abrego, area agronomist, identified Gonzalez and the PRD government as the fuel behind the opposition’s new sense of purpose.
“Injustices are increasing. They are abusing low-income people. If a peasant brings from town cans of food to sell to his neighbors, the government imposes a sales tax. If he wants to cut down a tree, he needs to go to town and get a permit and pay a tax. If not, he is fined,” he said.
The peasants he talks about are subsistence farmers. They live marginalized from the local economy in scattered villages accessible only by footpaths through the rainforest.
Brea criticizes Pedro Miguel for spending $2.5 million on his own safety in a needy town where every cent is important.
“With what Pedro Miguel wasted on safety we could have bought 50 tractors. Peasant leaders don’t ask for themselves, but for their communities: a health center, a school, a footbridge,” he said.
The reason behind Pedro Miguel’s exorbitant expenditures in personal safety is no secret.
But the fact that the US indicted him for murder is far from their concern. Their minds are set on establishing a united front against the economic advantage of the PRD, which can use government coffers to lure in voters by politicizing programs such as the “Opportunity Net,” which helps families who keep children in schools.
Yet if the opposition were to win, Pedro Miguel Gonzalez might have more reason to spend on his safety.
The US Government regards the June 10, 1992 ambush on the US soldier to have been an act of terror.
US law authorizes the capture of alleged terrorists in any part of the world, but it is believed the Northern country will not act on it against an elected official of a friendly country such as Panama.
If he were to lose his seat, as the opposition ticket aims, Pedro Miguel’s vulnerability would increase as he would no longer have the immunity given to elected officials and could become a target for bounty hunters.