Eaton's Speech Draws Response from Gonzalez
Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 11:19 AM UTC
Contributed by: Don Winner
Editor's Comments: Pedro Miguel Gonzalez sticks his foot in his mouth, again. Ambassador Eaton's speech had literally nothing to do with Pedro Miguel Gonzalez, and maybe someone should have explained that to the boy before he stepped up to the microphone. But Pedro is so concerned about his own little existence that he has completely missed the fact that he is no longer relevant. The US House of Representatives and Senate will sit on the bilateral free trade agreement until he is gone. That might take hours, days, weeks, or years but that document is not going to see anything but congressional butt-cheeks until he's gone. Thanks for playing.
What The Speech Said" In this speech (which I've read in Spanish) the Ambassador was primarily talking about corruption among the judicial system in general, and the need to create an environment in Panama in which international investors can come here to invest with an expectation of a fair and level playing field with regards to judicial security. He specifically mentioned remote areas where low ranking local officials wield incredible power and are somewhat autonomous in their operations. He said there is a very weak combination that is fairly easily corrupted, and that those areas of the legal and judicial system should be strengthened. And here is the truly amazing part. The ambassador said there are companies that come in basically wearing a "white hat" and who try to do things right and by the books. And then there are other companies that come in wearing a "black hat" who try to take advantage of the jurisdictional and systematic weaknesses, especially at the lower, regional, or local levels, who use bribery to corrupt those officials to try to obtain unfair business advantages. My jaw hit the desk. That was a "word for word" (almost) description of the crap that's going on in Bocas del Toro.
Like A House Of Cards: In situations like that as soon as a little attention is focused on the details the whole thing falls apart. As soon as national level authorities come swooping in to suction out the septic tank then the playing field returns to normal. But the point the ambassador was trying to make is crystal clear - the press reports on the whole process and the net effect on the country of Panama is generally negative in the long haul. It would be much better if Panama had rock-solid procedures in place that were systematically immune from corruption thanks to auditing, transparency, unannounced field inspections, and rigorous and enthusiastic prosecution of corrupt local officials when these things are discovered. Cleaning up the mess when it's discovered is good, but creating an environment where it's impossible in the first place is even better.
Hey, Are You Guys Reading Panama-Guide? I started my series on Bocas del Toro on 29 September 2007. On Monday morning the Miami Herald published an article along the same lines, and an embassy staffer made a comment like "this is perfect timing for our speech at the Crossroads tonight." In other words, the context and thrust of the Miami Herald article was in line with the spirit and intent of the speech the ambassador was about to give. After the speech I called the press office at the US embassy and asked "was the ambassador specifically talking about Bocas del Toro? Are you guys reading my series of articles on all of the crap that's going on up there?" You know those times when you can almost hear a grin on the other end of a phone line? But of course the person I was speaking to has strict limits on what they can and can not say. The answer was "no, the ambassador said what he said in his speech, and was not talking about any specific area or US companies that are involved in an ongoing legal dispute such as in Bocas del Toro."
That Works For Me: Right, got it. And thanks. I asked them to send me a copy of the speech in English. It was written in Spanish and would prefer if they translate it for me. You know, I might slip up and mis-interpret something here or there. Wouldn't want that to happen... (grin)
González contesta a Eaton
Flor Mirachi Angel firstname.lastname@example.org
El presidente de la Asamblea, Pedro Miguel González, considerado por Estados Unidos "un problema" para la ratificación del tratado de promoción comercial, reaccionó a las críticas que hizo el embajador William Eaton a la justicia panameña. Dijo que "el sistema estadounidense también tiene sus deficiencias" y que "no sé hasta qué punto un embajador se atrevería a hacer esas declaraciones".
Eaton dijo el lunes, ante empresarios, que cuando inversionistas son víctimas de procesos judiciales poco claros y arbitrarios, la imagen del país se deteriora. Domingo Latorraca dijo que el mensaje de Eaton fue sobre la importancia de tener una justicia eficiente y transparente.