Saturday, March 10 2012 @ 12:13 PM EST
Contributed by: Don Winner
Editor's Comment: President Martinelli might not understand it, but Gustavo Perez is now making everyone very, very nervous. There is a long history of military coups in Panama, and Gustavo Perez was a member of the Panamanian Defense Forces under Manuel Antonio Noriega. As the expression goes "once burned, twice shy" and in Panama there are hundreds of thousands of people still living who have vivid memories of the coup of Omar Torrijos and the continuing military dictatorship under Manuel Antonio Noriega. It took a military invasion by the United States and Operation Just Cause in 1989 to restore democracy to Panama. And with democracy comes a respect for civilian rule and the subordination to elected officials. Gustavo Perez might be the best Police Chief on the planet, and he might be doing a wonderful job. However he also just demonstrated his true power in this administration and his ability to buck the chain of command in an act the Minister of Public Security qualified as "illegal, unacceptable, and unconstitutional." My jaw literally dropped open when I saw the video tape of Gustavo Perez telling the press "it has been explained" to Minister Mulino and the new law has been "rejected" - and this, after it had already been passed and accepted by the Cabinet Council. Since when does a subordinate "explain" shit to his boss and then get his way, backed by the president? Hop, skip, and jump over the chain of command. Does Gustavo Perez really yield that much power in Panama under this government of Ricardo Martinelli? If so, that is completely and totally unacceptable - and scary. Gustavo Perez sees himself as a military officer who happens to wear a suit and tie instead of a uniform. In his position as the Chief of the National Police he can have an opinion - but he also needs to know how to take a direct order from the civilian authorities who are his boss - and on paper anyway Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino was supposed to be Gustavo Perez's boss. Basically what happened is that Gustavo Perez went out in public, on the news, and flexed his political muscles. In my opinion that was a tremendous mistake on his part. And the result is that now everyone is afraid of the National Police and Gustavo Perez. People are checking their windsocks to see if a coup is in the offing. Really. No shit. In 2012. Panama. Sometimes fears are irrational. Sometimes fear is justified. This case falls somewhere in the middle. Some Panamanians are about ready to freak the fuck out ... and move to Miami, just like last time. The PRD guys are polishing their machetes and breaking out their "been there, done that CODEPADI" t-shirts. Can Martinelli cage or control Gustavo Perez? Let's watch as the situation develops to find out. There's a whole lot of shit going on, just barely below the surface...