In search of change in Panama
In search of change? Don’t get too excited. At the higher levels, while the political musical chairs game has moved the PRD away from th...
In search of change? Don’t get too excited. At the higher levels, while the political musical chairs game has moved the PRD away from the reins of power for at least the next five years, it’s going to take time for the novitiates to learn the ropes. Lower down the ladder, many of those who have luxuriated in jobs for the boys (and girls) and passed out botellas to family and friends, will be re-circulating their resumes.
Don’t look for quick answers to some of the more pressing problems Like transportation. If president-elect Ricardo Martinelli ’s comments during the go-nowhere TV debate are still valid, the cursed diablos rojos will continue belching carcinogenic fumes, running down pedestrians and whacking cars, in their own version of the demolition derby, for years to come, while a metro is planned and built.
From street corner and café soundings, transportation and security are the two issues on which the voting public will be expecting visible results before holding the feet of the new administrators to the fire. Falling on swords, or apologizing has not been a custom among our featherbedded politicians, but maybe that will change if the new president has a hand of steel inside the velvet glove.
SMILE YOUR ON CAMERA. Contributor Eric Jackson commented earlier on the profusion of cameras on city streets as part of the Torrijos era answer to security. He posits that this may be one more step to the Big Brother era without solving the problem of street crime.
In other jurisdictions citizens have fought furiously against what they see as an intrusion into their privacy, and have successfully opposed the introduction of identity cards. In Panama, where people suffered over 20 years of dictatorship, not a whimper of protest.
Do the camera’s work? The jury is out on that one, but my mind goes back to a home invasion in Punta Pacifica in a building equipped with surveillance cameras. The robbers got away with large sums of money and a stack of jewelry. On the streets, in a time of swine flu fears, a face mask could be de rigueur for any mugger facing a camera.
Health and education follow closely behind security as public concerns. With the current flu epidemic, health has moved up the scale, but even when it falls back, there are problems ahead for the new rulers. Many in the medical professions are opposed to the proposed amalgamation of Social Security and Ministry of Health Services, and doctors and dentists are already preparing to unionize. Mr Martinelli has already promised a personal checking on the early morning long lines of people waiting to book in for consultations. His personal involvement with doctors as a minister in a previous government left him licking wounds.
As one reader commented: “The new look cabinet is heavy on people with business experience. When you run a business you can often operate by decree. In politics you have to compromise and seek consensus.” He might have added that the current world recession was not the product of politicians, but of geniuses of the business world. But we shall see. For the moment we are waiting and hoping.
GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT. Our late mayor, Juan Carlos Navarro , gained fame or infamy, depending on your political allegiance, for his efforts to solve the city’s garbage problems. After losing in the PRD primaries last year, the smiling face of the Man Who Would Be President remained on billboards for weeks. During the election proper, it was finally replaced by images of Balbina Herrera , complete with Cartier eyewear to highlight her closeness to the people. After the election the municipal authorities called upon candidates to remove their signs to return the city streets to a semblance of normality. Yesterday, 10 days after the vote, the city was still festooned with billboards of winners and losers. Leading by example? Has anything changed?