Teachers And Construction Workers Maintain Pressure (Politically Motivated Strike)
Tuesday, April 29 2014 @ 09:18 am EDT
Contributed by: Don Winner
The construction workers, in ongoing negotiations with Panama's Chamber of Construction, still have to come to an agreement on five clauses that would put an end to the strike which has paralyzed 400 construction projects.
Public school teachers, meanwhile, continued with their actions demanding an unconditional raise of $300 per month.
They closed Calle 50 yesterday, and they have scheduled a march for today.
Meanwhile, the President of the Republic, Ricardo Martinelli, who was unable to attend a scheduled ceremony yesterday to inaugurate a newly constructed hospital in Veraguas, blamed the workers for delaying important projects. (Prensa)
Editor's Comment: And don't forget about the indigenous people who are protesting against the construction of a hydro electric dam, who have been clashing with riot police. All three of these strikes are - in fact - politically motivated. The construction workers, public school teachers, and poor Indians in the mountains for the core of the "extreme left" elements of the Panamanian political spectrum. It's no coincidence that all three of these branches are simultaneously protesting, marching, and clashing with police this week, now just a few days before the national elections on 4 May. Their goal is to create the feeling that the administration of Ricardo Martinelli is not in control, that they have done a bad job of running the country, and they should take over. Genaro López is the Independent presidential candidate for the Broad Front for Democracy (FAD) political party, and he is the former long-time General Secretary of the National Union of Workers of Construction and Similar Industries (SUNTRACS) labor union.
Remember this. Ricardo Martinelli made his first entry into politics when he was appointed as the Director of Social Security from 1994 to 1996. He then served as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Panama Canal, and as the Minister of Canal Affairs during the presidency of Mireya Moscoso from 1999 to 2003.
This is why the candidacy of Genaro Lopez is worrisome...
Mireya Moscoso ran for president in 1994 and lost by 4% - in an election with seven candidates. She then came back, ran again, and won in 1999.
Martin Torrijos ran for president in 1999 and lost by 7% of the vote. He then ran again and won in 2004.
Ricardo Martinelli ran for president in 2004 and lost. He then ran again in 2009 and won by a (Panamanian standards) landslide.
So the last three Panamanian presidents ran once and lost, then ran again and won the second time around. This is the power of name recognition. Martinelli basically spent five years campaigning between 2004 and 2009, all to build name recognition.
There is a trend in Latin America towards left leaning governments. Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Ecuador all have elected presidents who are dyed in the wool communists. Here's the full list, with "left leaning" or "Center-left" presidents marked with an *. Far left or communists are unmarked:
Cuba: Fidel Castro (1976–2008), Raul Castro (2008–present) Note: both Cuban presidents as Marxists-Leninists are Far-left politicians.
Venezuela: Hugo Chávez (1999–2013), Nicolás Maduro (2013-present)
Chile: Ricardo Lagos* (2000–2006), Michelle Bachelet (2006–2010, 2014–present)
Brazil: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva* (2003–2011), Dilma Rousseff* (2011–present)
Argentina: Néstor Kirchner* (2003–2007), Cristina Fernández de Kirchner* (2007–present)
Dominican Republic: Leonel Fernández* (1996–2000, 2004–2012), Danilo Medina* (2012–present) Note: both Dominican presidents party have a centrist position.
Suriname: Jules Wijdenbosch (1996-2000), Dési Bouterse (2010–present)
Uruguay: Tabaré Vázquez (2005–2010), José Mujica (2010–present)
Bolivia: Evo Morales (2006–present)
Nicaragua: Daniel Ortega (1985–1990, 2007–present)
Ecuador: Rafael Correa (2007–present)
Guatemala: Álvaro Colom* (2008–2012)
Paraguay: Fernando Lugo (2008–2012)
El Salvador: Mauricio Funes* (2009–2014), Salvador Sánchez Cerén (2014-present)
Honduras: Manuel Zelaya* (2006–2009) Note: during his presidency Zelaya was a member of the centre-right Liberal Party of Honduras.
Peru: Ollanta Humala (2011–present)
Costa Rica: Luis Guillermo Solís* (2014-present)
And why is this happening? The answer is simple. There are more poor people in Latin American countries than rich people. The left leaning and hard-left politicians spout rhetoric which basically says they will take the money from the rich business elite and use that money to reduce poverty, improve infrastructure, education, and services. For every rich bus owner, there are 500 poor people who ride the bus every day. So, when they all get together to make decisions, and they vote to eat the bus owner, he doesn't stand a chance. That's what's happening in Venezuela today.
Thus far Panama has managed to avoid electing a far-left politician as president. However, it's a possibility at some point in the future. As long as the CD and the Martinelli crew continue to (actually) improve the lives of poor Panamanians then they will probably remain on the job. However if they ever fumble the ball, then guys like Genaro Lopez will be standing in the wings, flush with money donated by all those other communists, who would just love to add Panama to their quiver.
This leftist rhetoric does best when the economy of a country sucks. Panama has been doing so great over the past decade, that the whole "eat the rich" shtick can't get any meaningful traction.
In the meantime, the SUNTRACS, public school teacher's union, and Indigenous organizations continue to lay the groundwork for what they hope will be a brighter future - mostly for them. The reality is that these leftist politicians mostly just use these tactics to obtain power. Once they have it, they become corrupted and bloated, just like any other government anywhere.