Protesters Break Into National Assembly Building During Second Debate on "9 in 1" Law
Friday, June 11 2010 @ 11:21 am EDT
Contributed by: Don Winner
Editor's Comment: Several things here. First of all, the draft law or bill that is being debated in the second debate started life as a proposal to reform the laws that regulate commercial aviation in Panama. Lawmakers spent more than a month discussing the draft law, talking to pilots and airlines, and that was the initial purpose of this law. However, later lawmakers tagged on language that would modify three codes (the Criminal, Judicial, and Labor) as well as six other existing laws, on things that have absolutely nothing to do with commercial aviation or transportation. Yesterday there was an opportunity for the public to speak on this bill, and it turned into a circus. The guys from the SUNTRACS labor union showed up and caused a scene, and at about 11:30 pm a recess was called until this morning. Today the "second debate" is taking place.
The Process: In Panama, lawmakers first have the "first debate" in committee, and this bill was debated and approved by the transportation committee, even though the most controversial elements of the bill have nothing to do with transportation. The bill then goes to the full session where the second and third debate take place. To be perfectly clear, Ricardo Martinelli's political forces have absolute control over the National Assembly and a dominate majority of votes. If they wanted to pass a law making everyone change their name to "Shirley" they could to it, and the PRD could only complain, but it would become the law of the land. Therefore, if the ruling government wants this law passed, it will pass.
On the Environment: There is language in the bill which basically says that Environmental Impact Studies would not be required for projects that are determined to be in the "social interest." If passed, that would give the executive branch a way to circumvent the current laws protecting the environment, if they choose to do so. The National Environmental Authority (ANAM) works for the Executive Branch, and what the administration of Martin Torrijos did was just turn a blind eye towards environmental issues whenever they felt like it. And, when it supported their political goals or aims they strictly enforced environmental issues and make headlines with those battles. Also, the need for an Environmental Impact Study is a great way to suck bribes out of unsuspecting international businessmen. Want your EIA, buddy? It's going to cost you... Martinelli is taking a different approach. He wants to be able to simply say "make it so" on large projects - such as a new copper mine for example - without having to wait years for the bureaucratic process of getting the EIA done. That takes too much time. The end result is going to be the same anyway, so why waste time? That's apparently their thinking, anyway. To a certain degree it's actually more intellectually honest than the Torrijos approach.
Martinelli Is In Greece: He's one smart SOB. He knew this whole thing was going to turn into a food fight, so he just dropped the bomb, left instructions, and flew to Greece for a little Moussaka. Meanwhile, the National Assembly will hold one, two, three debates and pass this thing into law. Martinelli comes back and signs it, and in a couple of weeks it shows up in the Gaceta Oficial. In the meantime, South Africa tied Mexico 1-1 in the opening game of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and in about thirty seconds everyone will forget all about the "GOL" that got slammed home in the National Assembly while they were hammered on Atlas. Any questions?
Copyright 2010 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.