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June 25 2013

Indigenous Land in Panama Sold to Developers

“They said they would make a program to help people, but they really wanted our signatures to sell [the land]. They lied to us and now we have realized this,”

(more…)

May 22 2013

Panama President Levels Accusations Against Journalist on Twitter

Every so often, President Ricardo Martinelli (@rmartinelli) [es] riles up the Panamanian online community by tweeting controversial and confrontational statements, and even insults.

The most recent example is a tweet directed at journalist Santiago Cumbrera of La Prensa, a newspaper with which the president has clashed in the past:

@rmartinelli: Para el que no conoce el odio de Santiago cumbrera a mi es pq se le despide de Epasa por. coimero y acosador sexual de mujeres. [Nota: en Panamá se le dice "coima" a las mordidas o sobornos]

@rmartinelli: For anyone who doesn't know why Santiago Cumbrera hates me it's because he was fired from Epasa for being crooked and sexually harassing women.

Throughout his term, which is in its final year, the president has had constant altercations with the media, which he insults, accuses of antagonism, and then apologizes to, promising to change.

The accusation against Cumbrera has a history. EPASA [es] is a daily publisher of three widely distributed newspapers: La Crítica, El Panamá América and El Día a Día. El Panamá América used to maintain a line for investigation and complaints against the government, but the publishing group was bought a few months ago by an organization affiliated with government interests.

The sale precipitated a change in editorial policy across the various papers, and although it is not official policy, it is common knowledge that El Panamá América is the government's mouthpiece.

Given this change, several journalists left EPASA, some voluntarily, like Santiago Cumbrera; others were fired for not following the newspaper's new approach.

Santiago Cumbrera published a letter in La Prensa [es] sharing his reasons for resigning. In the letter, he makes it quite clear that his convictions weren't up for negotiation:

Presidente Ricardo Martinelli, foto de Luis Carlos Díaz en Flickr  (CC BY-NC 2.0)

President Ricardo Martinelli, photo by Luis Carlos Díaz on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

En esa coyuntura, y otras que me reservo, prefiero renunciar antes de aplaudir las cosas que ayer criticaba. De lo que sí pueden estar seguros los lectores es que no claudicaré a mis convicciones y principios. Tampoco me prestaré para publicar informaciones que ya vienen procesadas por alguien intencionado y que, además, buscan distraer la atención de asuntos de interés nacional. Yo no vendo mis convicciones al mejor postor, como aquellos que dicen ser independientes, pero tienen la libertad de un títere y que buscan fama aunque tengan que mentir y manipular informaciones.

At this juncture, and others that I won't discuss, I would rather resign than applaud that which I previously criticized. What readers can be sure of is that I will not waver in my convictions and principles. Nor will I loan myself out and publish information that comes to me already assembled by someone else, and that furthermore is trying to distract everyone from issues of national importance. I don't sell my convictions to the highest bidder, like some who claim to be independent but who have all the freedom of a puppet, and seek fame even if they have to lie and manipulate the facts.

The president's accusations against Cumbrera stemmed from an article published in La Prensa on May 20, 2013, called “The Hydroelectric Industry: A Business of Power” [es], in which Cumbrera links the president and his cohort to companies that manage hydroelectric power.

Santiago Cumbrera (@santcumb) [es] defended himself against the president's accusations on his Twitter page, clarifying that he was not fired, but rather resigned for reasons that he made clear in his open letter:

@santcumb: Yo renuncie a Epasa días después de que se concretó la venta del diario. Las razones constan en una carta que hice pública.

@santcumb: I resigned from Epasa a few days after it finalized the sale of the paper. My reasons are in a letter that I made public.

Another former EPASA journalist, Eduardo Soto, published a brief post on his blog Hojas Sueltas [es] in which he reflects on his departure from the company and reports that in the new editorial guidelines suggest “concealment, double standards, and deception.” Soto also comments on Santiago Cumbrera's resignation:

Recordemos que hasta antes de que cambiara de manos, Panamá América estuvo semana a semana destapando escándalos y jugadas chuecas del actual equipo de gobierno. El nombre de Santiago Cumbrera coronó la mayoría de esas notas. Santiago no esperó que lo echaran; presentó su renuncia diciéndole a la nueva directiva que eran unos impostores.

Let's recall that until it changed hands, Panamá América was constantly uncovering scandals and crooked moves by the current government. Santiago Cumbrera's name was on the majority of these articles. Santiago didn't wait to be kicked out; he tendered his resignation, telling the new board that they were imposters.

Twitter lit up with reactions to the president's remarks.

Luis Castillo (@Luis03Castillo) [es], for example, reminded the president that Cumbrera resigned and was not fired, and asked him to be serious and act in accordance to his position:

@Luis03Castillo: @rmartinelli yo trabaje con Santiago Cumbrera en EPASA y el renuncio. Me consta. Sea serio y no olvide su investidura.

@Luis03Castillo@rmartinelli I worked with Santiago Cumbrera at EPASA and he resigned. I'm sure. Be serious and don't forget your inauguration.

Others, however, insisted that the accusations were true. Abel D Pereambro (@AbelDPereambro) [es] said that he had spoken to one of the victims himself:

@AbelDPereambro: @RicardoLombanaG yo hablé con una de las víctimas del acosador sexual Santiago Cumbrera. Pidio favores sexuales y coima. Es un degenerado!

@AbelDPereambro: @RicardoLombanaG I spoke with one of Santiago Cumbrera's sexual harassment victims. He asked for sexual favors and bribes. He's a pervert!

Yodalys Vasquez (@YodalisYodi) [es] says that the president also has the right to freedom of expression:

@YodalisYodi :el presidente TAMBIEN debe tener libertad de expresion!

@YodalisYodi: The president ALSO should have freedom of expression!

Edgardo Vidal (@EVidal1507) [es], though, demanded that the president show evidence of his accusations:

@EVidal1507: Q el Presidente Martinelli presente las pruebas de sus acusaciones al periodista Cumbrera… Que bajo lenguaje para un presidente!

@EVidal1507: President Martinelli must show proof of his accusations against the journalist Cumbrera… What base language for a president!

The Panamanian online community is waiting for clarification from the president, although in previous instances no one was surprised when they ended with a brief apology and a charge of wrongheadedness.

May 09 2013

Schools Close in Panama Due to Energy Crisis

Panama is facing an energy crisis that could paralyze the whole country, due in part to the delay in the start of the rainy season.

This is how Prensa Latina [es] starts a report about this drought:

Con un régimen pluvial privilegiado por su condición de istmo favorecido por los dos principales océanos del planeta, en Panamá históricamente llueve nueve meses del año y sus caudalosos ríos y abundantes lagos siempre están saturados.

Sin embargo, el cambio climático se está sintiendo en las cuencas de toda su geografía y pocas escapan a una escasez de lluvias pronunciada, mientras ecologistas y ambientalistas como Raisa Bansfield alertan que a ese fenómeno contribuye la acción del hombre.

With a privileged rain regime due to its condition of isthmus blessed by the two main oceans in the world, historically in Panama it rains nine months per year, and its mighty rivers and plentiful lakes are always full.

Climate change, however, is being felt in the watersheds all along the country's geography and just a few are free from a prolonged lack of rains, while ecologists and environmentalists, such as Raisa Bansfield, warn that human behavior adds to this phenomenon.

The government is trying to avoid scheduled power cuts that could cause losses of up to 3.7 million dollars per hour, as Prensa Latina [es] reports:

La Cámara de Comercio alertó que el sector podría perder 3,7 millones de dólares por cada hora de apagón si se llega a tomar esa medida como resultado de una baja en la generación eléctrica motivada por el descenso del nivel de las aguas en ríos y represas que abastecen a las hidroeléctricas.

The Chamber of Commerce warned that the sector might lose 3.7 million dollars during each hour of the blackout, if this measure is taken as result of a decrease in electrical production due to the drop of water levels in rivers and dams that supply hydroelectric centrals.

The drought has affected the main hydroelectric centrals of the country, motivating authorities to take drastic measures like turning off bright signs, allowing the crossing of two ships at the same time through the canal, or closing supermarkets at 10:00 pm, among other actions.

What has caused more reactions, however, is the closing of private and public schools for three days.

Meme que se ha compartido ampliamente en redes sociales.

Image widely shared through social networks.
- OK! We need ideas to fight this energy crisis!!!
- Let's close schools…
- … and college…
- … or the malls which consume more.

Ivana Tejada (@IvanaTejada) [es], for instance, believes that authorities have been unable to prevent this crisis and are now reacting when it's too late:

@IvanaTejada Incapaces de prevenir las cosas, esperan que el país esté en crisis para tomar medidas drásticas. A ellos les dimos el poder.

@IvanaTejada [es]: Unable to prevent things, they wait for the country to be in crisis to take such drastic actions. We gave power to them.

Jorge Yau (@mopx) [es] thinks suspending classes is an overkill, and claims that it is possible to study without so many electronics devices:

@mopx: En mis tiempos lo único eléctrico en el salón era el abanico de techo, que usan los chiquillos ahora? iPad, Laptop, WIFI, silla masajeadora?

@mopx [es]: Back in the day, the only electric thing in the classroom was the ceiling fan. What do kids use now? iPad, Laptop, WIFI, a massage chair?

For Mery (@megirom) [es] suspending classes to save energy consumption doesn't make sense, as students will be consuming electricity at home.

@megirom: Claro, porque los estudiantes van a estar en sus casas leyendo bajo la luz de la guaricha. [*En Panamá se le llama guaricha a una fuente rustica de luz artificial, por lo genera un mechón con querosén.]

@megirom [es]: Certainly, because students will be at home reading under the light of a guaricha [*in Panama, a guaricha is a rustic source of artificial light, usually a fuse with kerosene].

Oliver (OliverCh17) [es] agrees and thinks that simple math proves that suspending classes will cause more consumption:

@OliverCh17: Matemática simple, 30 niños juntos en un aula de clases o 30 casas con niños consumiendo + energía. . . GENIOS!!!

@OliverCh17 [es]: Simple math, 30 children together playing in a classroom, or 30 houses with children consuming more energy… GENIUSES!!!

For Tito Herrera (@TitoHerrera) [es] the measure will allow government not only to save energy, but explanations:

@TitoHerrera: Ahorro de Energía según el gobierno: “Cerrando las escuelas también cerramos los cerebros, esto representa un ahorro en dar explicaciones”

@TitoHerrera [es]: Energy saving according to the government: “By closing schools we will also close brains, that means saving explanations”.

What's true is that measures will increase and power cuts have been announced if not enough rain falls in the coming days, as La Prensa [es] reports:

Los cortes programados de energía se aplicarían durante los próximos días si no hay agua de lluvia para los embalses de las hidroeléctricas de Fortuna en Chiriquí y Bayano en Panamá.

Scheduled power cuts will be set during the following days if there is no rain water for Fortuna in Chiriquí and Bayano in Panama hydroelectrial central reservoirs.

Rain in several parts of the country in the morning of Thursday, May 9, 2013, has given Panamanians hope that the crisis will find a natural solution without having to take more extreme measures. TVN [es] explains:

Este jueves amaneció lloviendo en Arraiján y otras comunidades de Panamá Oeste, así como en Chilibre, Panamá Norte y la comarca Guna Yala, lo que llenó de esperanza a los panameños de que entre de lleno la estación lluviosa y se recuperen los embalses de las hidroeléctricas Fortuna y Bayano.

On Thursday, day broke with rain showers in Arraiján and other communities in Western Panama, as well as in Chilibre, Northern Panama and Guna Yala region, giving hope to Panamanians that the rainy season might be about to kick off and the Fortuna y Bayano hydroelectrical central reservoirs might recover [their usual levels].

May 01 2013

Brewery Lifts Seizure of Panamanian Football Federation

Despite a tweet from President Ricardo Martinelli that incited controversy, everything is returning to normal after a few turbulent days between the Panamanian Football Federation and Baru Brewery.

On April 29, 2013, President Martinelli (@rmartinelli) [es] made a reference on his Twitter account to one of Baru Brewery's products:

@rmartinelli: Le pido respetuosamente a la Cerv Panamá que retire YA la demanda a Fepafut. La pelea de ellos es contra todo Panamá y ahora es conmigo.

@rmartinelli: I respectfully ask Beer Panama to retract their demand from Fepafut ALREADY. Their fight is against all of Panama and now it is with me.

The president's words sparked opinions both in favor and against his comment. User Joanna (@Buhenona) [es] believed the tweet promoted irresponsibility:

Cerveza Panamá, foto de usuario de Flickr Erik Cleves Kristensen, bajo licencia Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0)

Beer Panama, photo from Flickr user Erik Cleves Kristensen, under the Creative Commons License (CC BY 2.0)

(@Buhenona) @rmartinelli que falta de todo! Apadrinando la irresponsabilidad de los ladrones esos ¬_¬

(@Buhenona@rmartinelli what a lack of everything! Sponsoring those thieves’ irresponsibility ¬_¬

For Jesús Chucho Barrios (@chucho507) [es], however, it is a demonstration of love for the national team on behalf of the president:

@chucho507: @rmartinelli Definitivo nuestro Presidente no es un Robot, el se expresa y siente como cualquiera de nosotros. #ApoyoAlPresi @la_cascara

@chucho507@rmartinelli Our President is definitely not a Robot, he expresses himself and feels just like any one of us. #ApoyoAlPresi [#SupportThePresi] @la_cascara

Baru Brewery lifted the embargo that it had against Fepafut the morning of April 30, as they informed Diario Pro [es]:

En conferencia de prensa convocada en la mañana del día martes, la gerente de Cervecería Barú, Helene Weesie, confirmó que le han notificado a la Federación Panameña de Fútbol que el secuestro que habían interpuesto el día jueves ha sido levantado y que el proceso se retomará después del Mundial 2014.

At a press conference held on Tuesday morning, Baru Brewery manager, Helene Weesie, confirmed that they have notified the Panamanian Football Federation that the seizure which had been interposed on Thursday had been lifted and proceedings will resume after the 2014 World Cup.

The company also used the Twitter account for Panama Beer (@Cerveza_Panama) [es], its main product, to make it known that despite retracting the seizure, they hope justice is done:

@Cerveza_Panama: Los consumidores quieren trasparencia y justicia, nosotros también, por eso continuaremos con el proceso de arbitraje despues del Mundial.

@Cerveza_Panama: Consumers want transparency and justice, as do we, which is why we will continue with the arbitration process after the World Cup.

The company also posted a video [es] on its YouTube channel, where manager Helene Weesie explains the brewery's behavior and clarifies the company's intention, as well as that of all Panamanians, that the national team play. Additionally, the manager spoke about pressure the brewery came under in recent days for simply reclaiming its rights. Finally, Wessie clarifies that Baru Brewery promises to continue searching for justice and will postpone arbitration until after the 2014 World Cup:

April 27 2013

Football and Beer Come Face to Face in Panama

Football and beer, two main interests for many Panamanians, have come into conflict after the Baru-Panamá [es] brewery seized the bank accounts of the Panamanian Football Federation (FEPAFUT), demanding compensation of $7 million dollars for a breached contract.

Cocoas [es] reported it as follows on April 25, 2013:

No malas, son terribles noticias para la Federación Panameña de Fútbol que hoy tiró la bomba de que Cervecería del Barú ha secuestrado a la FEPAFUT por un monto superior a los seis millones de balboas. ¡Oye! Ese no es relajo de plata…

This is not only bad, but terrible news for the Panamanian Football Federation, who dropped the bomb today that the Barú Brewery has seized the FEPAFUT for an amount more than six million dollars. Listen! This is no joke with money…

In Panama, beer consumption produces $390 million dollars annually, making the country one of the top producers and consumers in Latin America. According to Central América Data [es]:

El mercado vale más de $390 millones al año y es controlado por dos grandes empresas: la Cervecería Nacional, subsidiaria de SabMiller, y Cervecería Barú- Panamá, bajo el control de Heineken N.V. El año pasado se produjeron 247,2 millones de litros de cerveza, 5,1% más que en 2010, una cifra muy superior a la del seco (6 millones de litros) y el ron (7,2 millones de litros), según cifras de la Contraloría General.

The market is worth over $390 million per year and is controlled by two large companies: the National Brewery, a subsidiary of SabMiller, and the Barú-Panamá Brewery, under the control of Heineken N.V. Last year 247.2 million liters of beer were produced, 5.1% more than in 2010, a number far larger than that of seco (6 million liters) and rum (7.2 million liters), according to numbers from the General Accounting Office.

On the other hand, football has experienced rapid growth in Panama, attracting thousands of fans to matches to watch the Panamanian national team, which finds itself closer than ever to qualifying for the World Cup for the first time. FIFA [es] considers Panama the country that has experienced the most rapid progress in the area of CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football), as they comment on their website:

Partido de fútbol, Panamá. Foto de Eirene Moreno, usada con permiso.

Football match, Panama. Photo by Eirene Moreno, used with permission.

En cuanto a Panamá, a pesar de caer en la final, volvió a poner de manifiesto que es la nación que más rápido está progresando en el ámbito de la CONCACAF, y obtuvo el pase a su segunda competición mundial sub-17 consecutiva tras realizar varios partidos sensacionales.

As far as Panama [es] goes, despite losing in the final, it came back to show it is the most rapidly progressing nation in the CONCACAF field, and it advanced to its second consecutive Under-17 world competition after having a few sensational matches.

The brewery had a contract until December 2014 with the principal football entity in Panama, but it was suspended in December 2012 when the Panamanian football federation signed a contract with the National Brewery for $10 million until 2018, (the contract with Barú was for $120,000 a year).

The confiscation became known when the members of the Panamanian Under-17 team, recently qualifying for the world cup in their category, tried to collect the prizes they won in the competition. La Prensa [es] quoted the President of the Panamanian Football Federation, Pedro Chaluja:

“Desconocemos la descomposición de estos siete millones de balboas, porque no han recibido formalmente la demanda y no hemos sido notificados. Solo sabemos que hay un secuestro, el cual nos pudimos percatar cuando los jugadores de la Sub 17 no pudieron cobrar sus cheques de premio”

“We do not know the break down of these seven million dollars because they have not formally received the demand and we have not been notified. All we know is that there is a seizure, which we were able to notice when the Under-17 players could not collect their winning checks.”

Reactions on social networks waited for no one and many felt betrayed by the action taken by the Baru brewery.

George Haywood (@25haywood) [es] believes the seizure not only affects the federation but also Panamanians’ future:

@25haywood: Al secuestrar a la fepafut secuestran el fútbol de Panamá y el futuro de muchos jóvenes.

@25haywood: By seizing the fepafut they seize Panama's football and the future of many young people.

The Vía Noticias account (@traficologo) [es] called for a boycott to stop the purchase of any Baru brewery products:

@Traficologo : Fanático panameño: no compres productos de Cervecería Barú y @cerveza_panama. Sus acciones contra @fepafut afectan a la selección de #Panama

@Traficologo: Panama fans: don't buy products from Barú brewery and @cerveza_panama. Their actions against @fepafut affect the #Panama national team.

Rodrigo Tomás (@rodtomas18) [es] believes that Panama's advancement to the World Cup is being put at risk with this measure:

Cerveza Panamá. Foto de usuario de Flickr Daniel Huggar, bajo licencia Creative Commons (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Cerveza Panamá. Photo from Flickr user Daniel Huggard, under the Creative Commons License (CC BY-ND 2.0)

@rodtomas18: Estos extranjeros de @cerveza_panama tendran IDEA de lo q significa La Roja para nosotros? Estan arriesgando nuestros planes de Mundial!

@rodtomas18: Do these foreigners from @cerveza_panama have any IDEA what La Roja [Panamanian national team] means to us? They are putting our World Cup plans at risk!

Nino Mangravita (@ninomangravita) [es], however, believes that what happens between Fepafut and the brewery has nothing to do with attending the World Cup but is rather a business matter:

@ningomangravita: todos queremos que nuestra selección gane, es un sentimiento.. pero lo que está pasando entre Fepafut y CB son negocios, deben solucionarlo.

@ningomangravita: we all want our team to win, it's a feeling… but what is happening between Fepafut and CB is business, they should resolve it.

Jacinto Gonzalez (@JacintoElias) follows the same line of thought and believes that a contract should be respected at any given moment:

@JacintoElias: @lilyvargastv Contrato es Contrato, Fepafut pensó q como era epoca de eliminatorias cerveceria Panama no iba a actuar. Panameño juega vivo

@JacintoElias@lilyvargastv A Contract is a Contract, Fepafut thought that since it was the qualifiers, the Panama brewery would not act. Panamanians like to have the upper hand

Cevecería Baru has come out in their defense posting a letter on their blog where they clarify that it is not their intention to affect football but rather negotiate [es] and find a figure that will be satisfactory for both parties.

#FLISOL 2013: Hundreds of Latin Americans Installing Free Software

Flisol 2013 Banner.

Flisol 2013 Banner.

From the Patagonia to Havana, hundreds of computer users across Latin America are choosing freedom over control by installing free software on their computers. On April 27th, groups of free software enthusiasts will be installing free software in dozens of cities across Latin America as part of FLISOL [es], the Latin American free software installation festival.
(more…)

April 15 2013

Majority of Venezuelans in Panama Vote for Opposition Candidate Capriles

Panama, with its large number of Venezuelans, closely followed the Venezuelan election which took place on Sunday, April 14, 2013. Social networks resounded with the reactions of Panama-based Venezuelans as well as Panamanians who wanted to follow what was happening in Venezuela, their near neighbour.

Panamanian daily Día a Día (@DiaaDiaPa) [es] tweeted that some 900 Venezuelans had turned up to vote:

@DiaaDiaPa: A esta hora se calcula que alrededor de 900 venezolanos han votado en la Embajada de Venezuela #panama

@DiaaDiaPa: At this time we calculate that around 900 Venezuelans have voted at the Venezuelan Embassy #panama

Many Panamanian users followed closely, waiting for results, and some even dared to remember the time Panama spent under dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega. In May 1989, after losing the election, Noriega gave orders to the electoral tribunal to declare the polls null and void. This triggered a series of abuses and arbitrary violence which led to the United States invading Panama. Twitter user Panamá Vieja Escuela (Old School Panama) (@PanamaHistoria) [es] said:

Venezuelans voting in Panama. Photo @Yacare45 Twitter.

Venezuelans voting in Panama. Photo via @Yacare45 on Twitter.

@PanamaHistoria: Me preocupa que mucha gente habla de la situación de Venezuela como si #Panama fuera inmune. Que no se les olvide a Noriega y su pandilla.

@PanamaHistoria: I am concerned that many people talk about the situation in Venezuela as if #Panama was immune. Let us not forget Noriega and his gang.

When they learned the results of the polls, a group of supporters of the winner, Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’ vice president, launched fireworks from the Embassy of Venezuela in Panama. Venezuelan resident in Panama, Marian Queen (@inagc) [es] said on her Twitter account:

@inagc: Empleados de la Embajada de Venezuela en Panamá celebrando con fuegos artificiales. Mucho miedo a que los desenchufaran, no?

@inagc: Employees of the Embassy of Venezuela in Panama are celebrating with fireworks. Afraid they would lose their jobs at the embassy?

Supporters of Capriles reacted unpleasantly and tried to enter the Embassy of Venezuela in Panama, accusing the elections of being fraudulent. The police had to intervene to protect the Embassy according to reports from website La Verdad (The Truth) [es]:

La acción policial se produjo después de que simpatizantes del candidato presidencial Henrique Capriles intentaran ingresar la noche del domingo, por la fuerza y en medio de gritos de presunto “fraude”, a la sede diplomática localizada en el quinto piso de una torre en el área bancaria de la capital panameña.

The police action came after supporters of presidential candidate Henrique Capriles tried to enter the diplomatic headquarters, located on the fifth floor of a tower in the Bank area of the Panamanian capital, on Sunday night, by force amid shouting about the presumed “fraud”.

In the end 1,036 Venezuelan citizens exercised their vote from Panama, where the majority voted for the opposition candidate Henrique Capriles. Website El Venezolano [es] reported:

Finalmente, Miguel Martínez de la Riva, jefe Del Comando Simón Bolívar en Panamá, aseguró que mil 36 venezolanos votaron en Panamá, de los cuales 991 prefirieron la propuesta del candidato opositor, Henrique Capriles.

Finally, Miguel Martínez de la Riva, head of the Simon Bolivar command in Panama, said that 1,036 Venezuelans voted in Panama, of whom 991 preferred opposition candidate Henrique Capriles.

March 06 2013

Catholic Church Condemns Sterilization Law in Panama

On February 28, 2013, the National Assembly of Legislators passed a law that allows women over the age of 23 with two or more children to opt for a free sterilization.

TVN noticias [es] provided more information on their website:

En tanto el proyecto de ley 196 dispone que la esterilización femenina se hará ante una petición voluntaria de la mujer al médico tratante, por recomendación médica, en estado de emancipación, que tenga uno o más hijos, prueba de no embarazo certificada por una institución pública o por solicitud médica, de tutor o de la persona legalmente responsable de la mujer que tenga una enfermedad mental debidamente acreditada.

Bill 196 stipulates that feminine sterilization will be carried out in light of a woman's voluntary petition to the treating physician, per medical recommendation, in a state of emancipation, if the woman has one or more children, with proof that she is not pregnant certified by a public institution, or a medical request from the guardian or person legally responsible for a woman who has a duly accredited mental illness.

The law provoked a reaction from the Catholic Church, who, through Metropolitan Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa, has called the measure [es] “disastrous.” The Archbishop also claimed that the law placed Panama in danger of ending up “aged” like many European nations that have taken similar measures.

The Panamanian population has had mixed reactions. On the one hand, there are those who believe sterilization is a woman's personal choice and that the church has no right to offer its opinion on this type of law, but others are outraged over this “anti-life” legislation.

Ernesto Alvarado believes that 23 years old is too young for such a procedure and women could subsequently regret the decision. Ernesto writes the following in Hora Cero [es]:

El Peligro que percibo es lo referente a la edad de la persona. En España 1 de cada 100 personas que se ha practicado la esterilización con fines anticonceptivos, busca su des esterilización, por las siguientes razones: cambio de pareja, muerte de los hijos, mejora situación médica o social o razones psicológicas.

 Catedral Metropolitana de la Ciudad de Panamá


Panama City's Metropolitan Cathedral, foto taken from Javier Volcan's Flickr under the Creative Commons License(CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The danger that I perceive is referring to the person's age. In Spain, 1 out of every 100 people that has practiced sterilization for contraception looks to undo the sterilization for the following reasons: change of partners, death of a child, improved medical or social situations, or psychological reasons.

Yohel Amat (@te_interesa) [es] is of the opinion that the Catholic Church should solve its own internal problems before stating its opinion on sterilization:

@te_interesa: ¿Q hacen voceros católicos hablando en contra d la esterilización femenina voluntaria, cuando tienen “el rancho ardiendo”? #WTF #Panama

@te_interesa: What are Catholic spokespeople doing speaking out against feminine sterilization when they have their own set of problems? #WTF #Panama

Alfonso Grimaldo (@AlfonsoAGP) [es] says that each person is responsible for making the decisions they consider right for their body:

@AlfonsoAGP: Your body, your choice. Always. (Tu cuerpo, tu elección, siempre.) Ninguno de nosotros aceptaría que nos dijeran como vivir nuestras vidas.

@AlfonsoAGP: Your body, your choice. Always. None of us would accept anyone else telling us how to live our lives.

Xavier (@tortugaconqueso) [es] asks the church to not impose its ideas on others:

@tortugaconqueso: Mantengan sus visiones retrógradas de lo que debería ser la sociedad dentro de sus templos y lejos de la asamblea, por favor.

@tortugaconqueso: Keep your reactionary visions on what society should be within your temples and far away from the assembly, please.

Positions are divided and there are even Christians that agree with the new law, which makes the Catholic Church's official reaction confusing, as Ana Lorraine J. (@analorrainej) [es] expresses:

@analorrainej: Yo no se uds pero yo veo hasta religiosos a favor de la ley, no entiendo la posición de Ulloa.

@analorrainej: I don't know about you, but I even see religious individuals in favor of the law so I don't understand Ulloa's position.

The law is still awaiting the president's signature, but it appears as though the voices of the Catholic Church will be heard, as the President of the National Assembly of Legislators promised to speak to President Ricardo Martinelli to make a number of changes, as La Critica [es] reports:

Gálvez indicó que conversaría con el presidente Ricardo Martinelli para ver de qué manera se modificaban algunos temas que son de la objeción de la Iglesia católica.

Gálvez indicated that he would speak with President Ricardo Martinelli to see how some issues that the Catholic Church objected to would be modified.

February 28 2013

Latin America Turns to iPhone App to Take Hammerheads Off the Chopping Block

The 400-pound hammerhead shark, hunting through the waters of Latin America, first marked its territory 400 million years ago. Now, the process of “finning”  — chucking their bodies seaward after sawing off their pricy fins — threatens to wipe them off the map.

Countries across Latin America are on a mission to wrangle them onto the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) list for protection. They’re armed with a new iPhone app that promises to make fin identification  — previously a roadblock to protecting the prehistoric predator  — quick and easy.

“Basically, you push a button. It asks a question. You look at the phone, and you say, ‘Does it have a big white patch on there?’ You click ‘yes,’ and it just guides you through, and at the end it tells you the answer to what it is,” explained Demian Chapman, a marine biologist with PEW Charitable Trust's shark-saving campaign. He streamlined his shark fin research from a stack of paper into an all-inclusive icon, tentatively titled “shark fin soup.”

Cites tussled with the idea of putting three hammerhead sharks — scalloped, great and smooth  — along with the oceanic whitetip and spiny dogfish on their endangered species list in 2010. They rejected all but the porbeagle shark, pointing out that regulators have to be able to tell fins of different species apart to enforce the law, previously thought to be an impossible task. Listing the sharks at the March 2013 meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, would help fund financially strapped programs in Latin America and restrict global trade.

Defenders of Wildlife, an animal advocacy group, blogged:

Being listed under CITES would mean that international trade in the fins and other parts of sharks would be closely monitored and regulated to make sure that the species would not be threatened with extinction. Given that one of the largest threats to the species is due to trade, regulation could make a huge difference.

Inspiration for the app first struck Chapman from Chinese fin traders. They easily rattle off names for each shark’s fin and fork over a different value for each one.

“If Chinese traders can tell the sharks apart, so can customs workers and other enforcement. We found that it is very easy to train people to do what the Chinese traders do,” said Chapman.

Hammerhead shark, Cocos Island, Costa Rica. Image from Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Hammerhead shark, Cocos Island, Costa Rica. Image from Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Tens of millions of sharks end up in shark fin soup each year, according to Oceana, a marine conservation group. Diners prefer the larger hammerhead fins, chalked full of a key soup ingredient called fin needles.

Thanks to their beefy fins, hammerhead numbers plummeted 80 percent in some regions.

In Panama, hammerheads swim to shore to give birth, making them easier prey than deep sea fish for smaller boats. As a result, 96 percent of cleaved fins belong to sharks too young to have reproduced, according to MarViva, an organization that helps enforce fishing laws in Central and South America.

Chapman flew to Latin America, where the fin trade is booming, to collect samples. He has gathered, photographed and analyzed over 1000 fins from more than 40 shark species around the world. His team crossed referenced their findings with DNA samples to ensure accuracy.

They transformed their research into an app, currently formatted for the iPhone with future designs to make it available across the board for smartphones.

Every shark on the app sports unique characteristics on their dorsal fins.

“The oceanic whitetip, as its name implies, has this massive white patch, which is very distinctive on the top of its dorsal fin. The porbeagle actually has a similar white patch, but it’s on the lower edge of the fin,” said Chapman.

Questions flash: “Is it a shark fin? Are the edges black or white? The questions are very specific… We make decisions based on those answers, that’s what computers are really good at,” said George Mandala, the app developer.

Untrained law enforcement will sort through fins with enough knowledge in hand to spot a red flag, allowing for further testing to find out if a fin belongs to an endangered species.

“These guys are not marine biologists. This boils it down for them to really quickly be able to say yes or no,” said Mandala.

Scientists will verify and answer questions through an email feature.

“We can agree or disagree and give you pointers on things to look for,” said Chapman. “What we’re really interested in is taking away the ability of people to break the law and just slip fins through with enforcement not being able to know what they are looking for.”

The app intrigued other endangered species groups, who struggle with authorities catching endangered animals being traded, Mandala said.

“From a computer programming standpoint, a question is a question, so if they wanted to do it for elephants, or lions, or tigers, or whatever, it could be retrofitted to that.”

Scientists lack data about migratory patterns and exactly how many fins make it to market. The app, currently available in English, French and Spanish, will send key information that will help collect statistics: fin photos, location and a description.

Latin America launches hammerhead rescue effort

In Latin America, Honduras first petitioned that the three species of hammerhead join the Cites list. Costa Rica and Brazil immediately signed on, followed by Colombia, Mexico and Ecuador.

Although Panama voiced support, the Defenders of Wildlife launched their “Ask Panamá to Support Shark Conservation” campaign to turn up the pressure on the Panamanian government to support the predator at the Cites meeting next week.

The petition reads:

Panamá may cast the decisive vote on these critical proposals…This is a critical opportunity to put badly-needed controls in place to halt the rapid decline of these top predators.

MarViva and other shark advocacy groups promoted the campaign through Twitter and Facebook. So far, it has 17,808 signatures.

Latin America leads hammerhead protection, according to Sean Juan Posada from Mar Viva.

Last year, the president of Honduras outlawed shark fishing entirely. Honduras hosted its neighbors at a conference to raise awareness and rally shark support in October, where Posada and representatives from Latin American nations first laid their eyes on the identification app.

Overcoming the hurdles to convince Cites to list the sharks, he said, will open up the funding needed to get them protected.

“Getting support from authorities is our biggest challenge. They don’t have the resources. They don’t have boats, or people to cover extensive areas,” Mr. Posada said. “They have laws, but the ability to enforce the law is lacking.”

Chapman said he’s “very interested in making sure there are still sharks around for me to study for people to swim with for tourism and to fulfill their ecological role. They need protection and they need someone to speak up for them.”

February 24 2013

Panama: TV Nostalgia

With a nostalgic touch, the blog El Panameño reviews [es] some 70s and 80s TV series, and challenges readers to see if they can match the titles with the posters included in the post.

January 15 2013

Panama: Taxis and Taxi Drivers

Carlos Donderis Sanz, author of the blog CaDs Online comments [es] about taxis and taxi drivers in Panama and says “although it's true this is a generalization (I've personally met taxi drivers who do it very well), most of them look like madmen with a steering wheel, in a hurry and stressed, nobody knows why […]”, and ends by recommending “if you come the Panama and you love excitement, don't miss a ride in a taxi, although it might be your last experience you have in life, it won't let you down”.

November 19 2012

Ibero-America: Free Software Assessment Report 2012

The recently released Free Software Assessment Report 2012 shows the opinion, assessment and preferences of more than 5,000 people from Spain and Latin America. The study published in its fourth edition is promoted by PortalProgramas and supported by a number of experts and collaborators [es]. The report aims to contribute to a better understanding, use and dissemination of free software in Latin America. The summary of the study can be accessed online [es] and more information can be found on the report's conclusions for 2012 [es].

November 13 2012

Blogging Contest Focuses on Child Development

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has announced its first contest for bloggers, which will focus on issues related to child development:

Now is your chance to share your ideas! You can tell us about a child development success story in your country or analyze various innovative methodologies. The topic is open. In order to participate, you just have to get your creative juices flowing and share your winning idea with us.

(more…)

October 29 2012

Panama: President Martinelli Addresses the Country after Repealing Law 72

The president of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, yesterday tried to put a close to a chaotic week which left four people dead. He gave a conciliatory speech inviting people to seek peace following serious confrontations in Colon in protest of Law 72. The law would have allowed the sale of land located in the (tax) Free Zone of Colon.

The press conference was broadcast on Panama’s national channel on Sunday, October 28 to a public anxious to see what the Head of State would say after a silence previously broken by only two concise tweets. These tweets were sent during his official visit to Japan which coincided with this crisis.

The Telemetro [es] website summarised parts of the President's speech:

“Tengo el corazón triste, por las vidas perdidas, los heridos, y los bienes saqueados, triste porque en vez de avanzar retrocedimos” fueron parte de las palabras del mandatario quien expresó que se derogó una Ley cuya explicación no llegó a todos. Recalcó que“la violencia nunca debe ser la vía para resolver nuestras diferencia, por el bien del país y de los panameños, estas confrontaciones no se pueden 

“I have a sad heart for the lives lost, the wounded, and the looted goods, sad because instead of moving forwards we have moved backwards ‘ were some of the leader’s words. He also said that the law which was repealed had not been explained to everyone. He stressed that“violence should never be the way to resolve our differences, for the sake of the country and of Panamanians, these confrontations cannot happen 
President Martinelli of Panama

President Martinelli of Panama by Flickr User LuisCarlos Diaz, CC BY-NC 2.0

During the speech some Panamanians on social networks demanded the resignation of the President, while several ridiculed the lack of apologies, and others saw a real opportunity for peace.

For El Joe (@hilmerj28) [es], for example, the President taught his opponents a lesson by delivering a conciliatory message to the Panamanians:

@hilmerj28: “@gonzalezbmariac: Buen mensaje @rmartinelli demostro mensaje conciliador Panama y los colonenses!” triste los lagartos opositores no crees?

@hilmerj28: “@gonzalezbmariac: Good message @rmartinelli message proved conciliatory for Panama and the people of Colon!” sad for the reptiles in the opposition, don't you think?

But for others, such as Zeus Delgarte (@ZeusDelgarte) [es], the speech was too short:

@ZeusDelgarte: Mejor hubiera hecho twettcam RENUNCIA MARTINELLI MENTIROSO

@ZeusDelgarte: It would have been better to have had the RESIGNATION of LIAR MARTINELLI

For Luis Castillo (@Luis03Castillo) [es] the speech was the same that has been used in other governmental crises where everyone is guilty except the Government:

@Luis03Castillo: El discurso d @rmartinelli fue el mismo q uso tras de la crisis de bocas y los gnobes. Lo dije en la mañana culparan a todos, menos a ellos.

@Luis03Castillo: The speech of @rmartinelli was the same that he used after the crisis of Bocas and the Gnobe [Indigenous people]. He said in the morning that everyone was guilty, except for themselves.

The Minister of the Presidency Roberto Henriquez (@RCHENRIQUEZ) [es] saw in the speech sincerity and the chance for reconciliation:

@RCHENRIQUEZ: Ley 72 derogada.Discurso sincero y conciliador del Pres. Martinelli. Ahora vamos a organizar el dialogo con las fuerzas vivas de Colón.

@RCHENRIQUEZ: Law 72 repealed. Balanced and sincere speech of the Pres. Martinelli. Now we are going to set up a dialogue with the civic leaders of Colon.

In contrast, opposition Deputy Beby Valderrama (@BebyValderrama) [es] believed that the speech was simply an opportunity to clean the Government’s hands of the matter and not ask for forgiveness:

@BebyValderrama: 9 días, 192 horas, 11,520 minutos y 691,200 segundos 4 muertos, + de 42 heridos y en 5 min pretende enlodar a todo el mundo y no pide perdón

@BebyValderrama: 9 days, 192 hours, 11,520 minutes and 691,200 seconds 4 dead, 42 wounded and in 5 min he aims to tarnish everyone and not ask for forgiveness

Although the speech called for reconciliation, reactions in social networks have been diverse and conflicting. Perhaps this is not the last we have heard of this controversial law.

October 25 2012

Panama: President Cancels Colón Land Sale Plans

“If the people of Colón don't want the land in the tax-free zone to be sold, the sale will be canceled. The rise in rents 100% for Colón”

Panama's President Ricardo Martinelli (@rmartinelli) [es] tweeted on October 23, 2012, in response to the protests and clashes in Colón sparked by a law which allowed the sale of land located in the tax-free zone of Colón.

October 23 2012

Panama: Protests Erupt in Colón Over Land Law

The controversial laws sponsored by the National Assembly and signed by President Ricardo Martinelli once again are bringing instability and anguish to Panamá. This time it is Colón Province that finds itself immersed in protests, vandalism and even gunfire.

The reason for this is Law 72, which permits the sale of land located in the tax free zone of Colón, the largest and oldest of Latin America. The law was approved in three sessions by a large majority of the Congressional members and signed the same day by the President, who at the moment is traveling in Japan.

Thus, on Monday, October 22, Colón Province found itself paralyzed and in constant confrontations between police and protestors. The blog OtraAmérica [es] relates:

Anacleto Ceballos, director de la Cámara de Comecio de Colón, ha denunciado que las manifestaciones de primera hora de la mañana para exigir la suspensión de la Ley 72 eran pacíficas, pero que tras la intervención desproporcionada de la policía, el ambiente se ha enrarecido y ahora hay choques en diferentes puntos de la ciudad, donde se escuchan detonaciones permanentes de armas de fuego.

Anacleto Ceballos, director of the Colón Chamber of Commerce, reported that the protests first thing in the morning to demand the suspension of Law 72 were peaceful, but after excessive police intervention, the atmosphere changed and now there are clashes in different parts of the city, where ongoing firearm blasts can be heard.

Protesta en Colón

Protest in Colón, October 22, 2012. Photo shared by Twitter user Rene M. Bellido (@renebellido)

The law had already been rejected several times by both townspeople and businesspeople. Before the approval of the law, land was rented to various businesses, according an income to the state of around $33 million USD a year, reports Alba Tv [es]:

El alquiler por metro cuadrado de tierra en el llamado “casco antiguo de Colón” oscila hoy entre 50 centavos de dólar y un dólar con 40 centavos, para empresas multinacionales, que incluso tienen acuerdos con el Gobierno, de cero impuestos. El gobierno panameño recibe al año unos 33 millones de dólares por el alquiler en toda la Zona Libre de Colón.

The rent for space in Colón's so-called “old town” today varies between 50 cents and $1.40 per square meter for multinational companies, who even have agreements with the government, zero taxes. The Panamanian government gets about $33 million USD a year in rent for the entire Free Zone of Colón.

The government's proposal is to sell this land and make $2 billion over twenty years, earning four times what it would earn during the same time in rents. But some Panamanians have doubts about the real reasons for selling the land.

The current government has already had several clashes with the population over laws that are not well accepted by the citizenry. Even attempts to liquidate state assets have provoked protests and general condemnation.

The blogger Erick Simpson comments in his blog 507PTY [es]:

Ojala que, con la misma velocidad supersónica conque el desgobierno remata nuestros activos  batiendo todos los records, solucionen los grandes problemas que aquejan a la ciudadanía, a saber, la pobreza y pobreza extrema, el pésimo sistema educativo, la inseguridad, la cobertura de agua potable a nivel nacional, el alto costo de la vida y la disminución de la canasta básica; temas todos en los que han fracasado.

Hopefully the same supersonic speed with which misgovernment has auctioned off our assets beating all records, will be used to solve the big problems facing the public, namely poverty and extreme poverty, the abysmal education system, lack of security, providing drinking water nationwide, the high cost of living and the diminishing family budget–all subjects at which it has failed.

For its part, the government insists that the sales are good and that it is looking out for Colón Province's best interests. President Ricardo Martinelli (@rmartinelli) [es] wrote on Twitter:

@rmartinelli: Colón merece mejores dias.Esa ha sido siempre la intención.Conversando se arregla todo.

@rmartinelli: Colón deserves better days. This has always been our intention. Dialogue fixes everything.

Cambio Democrático (Democratic Change), the political party in power, also said in its official blog Cambio Democratico 507 [es] that a government commission would travel to Colón to talk with the protestors:

Luego que el ministro de la Presidencia, Roberto Henríquez sostuviera conversaciones con dirigentes de la Cámara de Comercio de Colón y otros dirigentes de la provincia, se acordó que una delegación del Gobierno Nacional viajará mañana martes 23 de octubre en horas de la mañana a Colón, para reunirse con representantes de las fuerzas vivas de esa provincia.

After the Minister of the Presidency, Roberto Henríquez, had conversations with leaders of the Colón Chamber of Commerce and other provincial leaders, they agreed that a delegation from the national government would travel on the morning of Tuesday, October 23, to Colón to meet with representatives of the driving forces of the province.

However, so far the protests have continued, resulting in various injuries and arrests. La Prensa [es] reported:

Durante los enfrentamientos de esta mañana, los agentes de la Policía Nacional retuvieron a seis personas, mientras que el abogado Edgar Ortíz denunció que un morador de las afueras de la ciudad de Colón resultó gravemente herido, pero se desconoce si fue con arma blanca o de fuego.

During this morning's protests, agents of the National Police detained six people, while the attorney Edgar Ortíz reported that a resident from the outskirts of Colón was seriously injured, though it was unknown whether it was a stabbing or gunshot.

Frente Amplio por Colón, dice que no va negociar con el Gobierno Nacional, piden derogar Ley 72

“Frente Amplio (Broad Front) for Colón says it will not negotiate with the national government–they ask for the repeal of Law 72″. Photo by Twitter user Rene M. Bellido (@renebellido)

Social networks have echoed the situation, above all calling for peace and dialogue on both sides. Milagro Rodriguez (@esMilagrosR) [es], a citizen of Colón, laments what is happening in the province:

@esMilagrosR: Que triste lo que sucede en mi Colon :( todo lo quE se mueva lo arrestan.. La gente presa en sus hogares D:

@esMilagrosR: How sad what is happening in my Colón :( they arrest anything that moves. People prisoners in their homes D:

Furthermore, Benjamin Rios (@pilomilan06) [es] believes that the sale of the free zone is about personal interest:

@pilomilan06: La venta de las tierras de la zona libre de colon responden a intereses personales de un grupito con capacidad economica allegados al gob…

@pilomilan06: The sale of the free zone lands of Colón is about the personal interests of a small group with financial ties to the gov…

What is certain is that this controversy continues, and so far it seems that neither side is willing to compromise.

October 19 2012

Panama: TEDxPanamaCity 2012

Porto Diao [es] reviews TEDxPanamaCity 2012, an independently organized TED event held on October 10, 2012. The post lists the best five conferences, providing a short overview of each one. It also shares several photos of the event.

Panama, Honduras and Costa Rica Continue on the Road to 2014 World Cup

Tuesday, October 16 marked the last matches in the third round of the Concacaf (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) qualification competition for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Because the Federation is one of the largest (due to the amount of islands), the qualification consists of three rounds where six teams rank for a final round called ‘the Hexagonal‘. Those six teams will fight for three and half tickets to the World Cup.

With the classification of these six teams, a qualifying round two years in the making has started to take shape. Fernando Palomo (@Palomo_Espn) [es] lists the six ranking countries in this Tweet:

@Palomo_Espn: México, Honduras, Panamá, Estados Unidos, Costa Rica, Jamaica entran al Hexagonal de Concacaf.

@Palomo_Espn: Mexico, Honduras, Panama, the United States, Costa Rica, Jamaica form the Hexagonal of Concacaf.

Thus three Central American countries enter among the six best in the Federation.

Football fans on various social networks have been discussing the qualification matches. The “marea roja” or the “red tide” (the name that followers of the Panamanian selection identify with), for example, took over Twitter last Friday and managed to create a global trending topic under the label “Somos Marea Roja” [es] (We Are the Red Tide).

Panama La Marea Roja Esta Contigo

Panama The Red Tide is with You, image shared by José A. Balmaceda A. (@elbalma507) on Twitter

October 16 was no exception, and although Panama dealt with an agonizing tie in Cuba, Panamanians celebrated their entry to the Hexagonal in the streets and on social networks. Felipe Baloy (@pinbaloy23) [es], the captain of the Panamanian team, posted on his account:

@pinbaloy23: Panama Disfruten el pase a la Hexagonal ya habra tiempo de ver q se hizo mal y q se hizo bien y trabajaremos para corregir, objetivo cumplido

@pinbaloy23: Panama Enjoy the spot in the Hexagonal. There will be time to see what was done wrong and what was done right and we will work to correct it, objective accomplished

Meanwhile Honduras, which needed a win to classify, crushed Canada in San Pedro Sula with a final score of 8-1. Honduran fans also expressed their joy on social networks, like Héctor Martínez (@heremaga2009) [es]:

@heremaga2009: Buenos días.. Despertando después de esa borrachera de goles de #Honduras ayer ante#Canadá y darle esa alegría a ese pueblo q lo necesita.

@heremaga2009: Good morning.. Waking up after that inebriation of goals by #Honduras yesterday against #Canadá and the joy that the team gave to this nation which needs it.

Costa Rica also qualified in a crushing manner beating Guyana 7-0 in San Jose. Joel Campbell (@joel_campbell12) [es], a promising young Costa Rican footballer, commented after the game:

@joel_campbell12: Primer objetivo cumplido, pero esto apenas empieza, la meta es el mundial de Brasil, juntos llegaremos, gracias por tanto Costa Rica!

@joel_campbell12: First objective completed, but this is just the beginning, the goal is the World Cup in Brazil, together we'll make it together, thank you for everything Costa Rica!

The Hexagonal begins in February 2013 and will certainly be full of surprises and more activity on social network sites. The table is set.

October 11 2012

The Venezuelan Elections, From Panama

This post is part of our special coverage Venezuela Elections 2012.

In the last few years, Panama has seen an increase in the amount of Venezuelan immigrants. For this reason, many Panamanians and Venezuelan residents in the country have intently followed the presidential elections leading up to October 7. According to the website Info Sur Hoy [es]:

3,500 venezolanos residen legalmente, informó el Servicio Nacional de Migración de Panamá. Aunque también hay 86.815 venezolanos que llegaron al país en los últimos seis años y que no han legalizado su estatus migratorio, informó el periódico Panamá América.

3,500 Venezuelans [are] legally residing in the Central American nation, according to Panama’s National Migration Service. But there also are 86,815 Venezuelans who arrived in the country in the past six years and haven’t left, according to the newspaper Panamá América.

The Venezuelans that complied with regulations started coming to vote very early in the morning, as reported by El Venezolano [es], the weekly newspaper of the Venezuelan community in Panama:

A las 6:15 am se inició el proceso de votación donde tres salones han sido habilitados dentro de la Embajada. Hasta los momentos, todo ha sido fluido y organizado. Los venezolanos mostraron su cara de esperanza y felicidad por tener la oportunidad de ejercer su derecho en este país, desde muy tempranas horas de la madrugada cuando se acercaron a la Embajada, equipados con café, bebidas, agua, alimentos y su cédula de identidad.

Voting started at 6:15 AM within the embassy, where three rooms were equipped for the occasion. Everything has been smooth and organized so far. The Venezuelans came with hopeful faces, happy to have the opportunity to exercise their right to vote in this country. They started coming to the embassy in the early morning hours, complete with coffee, drinks, water, food, and their ID cards.
Venezolanos votando en Panamá

Venezuelans voting in Panama on October 7, 2012. Photo shared by the user @ElVenezolanoP on Twitter.

Once the winner of the electoral contest was known, reactions quickly came through social networks, where Panamanians and Venezuelans were commenting on the results. For example, Diego de Obaldia (@DeObaldia [es]), a Venezuelan residing in Panama, joked a little:

(@DeObaldia) Vamos a ver quién puede más: la maldad de CHAVEZ o la hospitalidad de PANAMÁ…

(@DeObaldia) We're going to see who is more able: the evil of CHAVEZ or the hospitality of PANAMA…

Twitter messages with this tone started to circulate amidst messages of encouragement and hope for Venezuelans, even though there were also those who warned of a large new wave of immigration. La Estrella de Panamá [es] reports:

Tras la victoria de Chávez se prevé que ocurrirá una nueva ola de migración. Lo que si llega a pasar, sería bueno para la economía panameña de acuerdo con el economista socio de la firma Indesa Felipe Chapman.

After Chávez's victory it is predicted that a new wave of immigration will occur.  If it ends up happening, it would be good for the Panamanian economy, according to Felipe Chapman, economist and partner of the firm Indesa.

Panama has always been considered a multicultural country, explaining why Giordano C (@GiordanoCQ) [es] is grateful for the reception that Panama gives Venezuelans, and why he predicts a large new wave of immigrants:

(@GiordanoCQ) Presiento un tsunami de venezolanos a PTY , gracias Panamá por abrirnos las puertas y recibirnos como en casa …

(@GiordanoCQ) I can sense a tsunami of Venezuelans heading towards PTY [Panama City airport code], thanks Panama for opening your doors and making us feel at home…

For some Panamanians, the elections in Venezuela made them reflect upon the possibility of subsequent presidential terms in Panama (Reelecting presidents is unconstitutional in Panama). The user ‘ec' comments on Foros Slot [es]:

En fin, yo creo que esto es un testamento de que en países con democracias tan inmaduras como las nuestras no debemos permitir re-elección por que las masas son fácilmente manipulables.

In the end, I believe that this shows that countries with democracies as immature as ours should not permit subsequent presidential terms, because the masses are easily manipulated.

Later in the night, on Sunday, October 7, the Panamanian Yoli Moreno (@_YoliM_) [es] reminded her followers of the importance of paying attention to these elections:

@_YoliM_: Leo algunos tuits y siento pena. Cuando empiecen a pensar globalmente se darán cuenta que lo que pase en cualquier país nos afecta.

@_YoliM_:I read some tweets and feel sorry. When you start to think globally you will realize that what happens in other countries affects us.

This post is part of our special coverage Venezuela Elections 2012.

September 28 2012

Panama: Controversial 510 Copyright Bill Approved

Si creían que SOPAPIPACISPAACTA y la Ley SINDE eran negativas, pues esas son un detalle comparadas con el Proyecto de Ley #510 del 23 de Agosto de 2012 de la República de Panamá: “Sobre Derecho de Autor y Derechos Conexos“.

If you thought that SOPA, PIPA, CISPA, ACTA and the SINDE Law were bad, they were nothing compared to the Republic of Panama's August 2012 #510 Bill [es]: “On Copyrights and Related Rights”   

This is how blogger Chris Fawcett opened his post on Panama's new copyright bill on his blog, El blog de Chris Faw [es]. Outrage regarding this bill is coming to a boiling point on social networks and in Panama's mainstream media since, as Pepe Flores describes on technology blog Alt1040 [es], the 510 Bill “incentivizes the hunt for infringers in an implausible fashion.” Article 153 of the bill [pdf, es] establishes:

Las sumas que perciba la Dirección General de Derecho de Autor por las tasas derivadas de los servicios que preste y por las multas que aplique en ejercicio de sus facultades, serán destinadas a mejorar su infraestructura operativa y estimular el rendimiento de sus funcionarios, complementariamente a las partidas que el Presupuesto General del Estado se destinan para el funcionamiento de dicha entidad, de acuerdo con los procedimientos y principios que, para tal efecto, establezca el Órgano Ejecutivo por conducto del Ministerio del ramo, para su correcta administración y distribución.
Las sumas que correspondan a cada funcionario, no excederán del cincuenta por ciento (50%) del total de su remuneración salarial básica mensual.

The funds accrued by the General Copyright Directorate from the fees for the services it provides and the fines imposed in the exercise of its powers, will be aimed at improving its operational infrastructure and to boost the performance of its officers, complementary to the funds that the State Budget reserves for the operation of the entity, in accordance with the procedures and principles which, for said effect, establishes the Executive Body through the Ministry in question, for its proper administration and distribution.

The amounts corresponding to each official, shall not exceed fifty percent (50%) of the total basic salary monthly remuneration.

Chris Fawcett shares five points that have him “profoundly worried” about the 510 Bill:

Imagen contra la Ley 510 compartida en redes sociales.

Image against the 510 Bill shared on social networks.

1) La multa por violación a la propiedad intelectual la pone una “Dirección General de Derecho de Autor” (en adelante, DGDA), bajo la jurisdicción del Ministerio de Comercio e Industrias.

2) No se exige un proceso civil, sino que se impone unilateralmente según la opinión del personal de la DGDA.

3) El acusado se presume culpable, y tiene sólo 15 días para probar su inocencia (ehem… acaso no que acá en los países “democráticos” se presume siempre la inocencia?)

4) El dinero recaudado por la multa -que puede ser de hasta 100,000 dólares- NO VA AL DUEÑO DE LOS DERECHOS DE PROPIEDAD INTELECTUAL

5) El personal de la DGDA obtiene UN BONO POR IMPONER LAS MULTAS. Ese bono tiene un máximo de hasta un 50% de su salario!

1) The fine for intellectual property violations is enforced by a “General Copyright Directorate” (abbreviated DGDA), under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

2) It does not require civil proceedings, but rather is imposed unilaterally per the opinion of DGDA personnel.

3) The accused is presumed to be guilty and only has 15 days to prove his or her innocence (ahem… maybe not since here in “democratic” countries, are we not innocent until proven guilty?)

4) The money collected from the fine — which can be up to $100,000 USD — DOES NOT GO TO THE COPYRIGHT OWNER

5) The DGDA personnel get A BONUS FOR LEVYING THE FINES. This bonus can be a maximum of 50% of their salaries!

For blog Soy Panameño [es], its obvious what could happen with this law:

que la DGDA (Dirección general de derechos de autor) tendrá la libertad de monitorear torrents (legales o ilegales), los IPS de las personas solo para levantar sospechas para poder proceder con multas y generar ingresos. Aún más acosando a personas ya multadas, porque los reincidentes “pagan” el doble.

the DGDA (General Copyright Directorate) will have the freedom to monitor torrents (legal or not) and peoples' IP addresses just to raise suspicions in order to proceed with fines and generate entries. Even more so relentlessly pursuing those already fined because repeat offenders “pay” double.

AnonymousPTYOficial published a video about “#OpLey510″ (#Op510Bill), which gathered reports from @DJArropin [es] and @Djjcnavarro [es] explaining the bill:

The bill was approved during the third debate on September 26, 2012, but still remains to be approved by President Ricardo Martinelli to come into effect. The approval occurred amidst protests by a group of national artists, as Panamá newspaper la Estrella [es] reports:

Antes de la aprobación del proyecto, un grupo de artistas nacionales protestó frente al importante órgano legislativo del Estado panameño, en oposición a que las multas puestas por faltas a le ley pasen expedítamente a la Dirección General de Derecho de Autor del Ministerio de Comercio e Industrias (MICI).

Before the bill's approval, a group of national artists protested in front of the important Panamanian State legislative body, in opposition to the fact that the fines imposed for breaking the law are expedited to the General Copyright Directorate of the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MICI) .

The same newspaper also adds:

Ayer, durante la discusión del segundo debate, el ministro de Comercio e Industrias, Ricardo Quijano, manifestó que “con la implementación de esta normativa nuestro país se está modernizando dentro del contexto internacional y mundial.”

Yesterday, in the discussion during the second debate, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Ricardo Quijano, declared that “with the implementation of this regulation, our country is modernizing within the international and global context.”

Panamanian netizens that oppose the bill have mobilized themselves with the hashtag #Ley510 (#510Bill) on Twitter, and have a petition online at Change.org [es] to veto the law.

Ahikar Dominguez agrees with the fight on piracy but not via the methods proposed by the bill, as he states on Cocoas.net [es]:

Ciertamente la piratería es cosa seria y hay que combatirla, al igual que las obras que nosotros creamos y con las que pretendemos lucrar (o no), pero de allí a montarle una persecución “tipo inquisición” a quienes descargan material de la web, para uso personal (aclaro) acaba con cualquier libertad los usuarios de internet en Panamá.

Piracy is a truly serious issue and we must fight against it, both with the works that we create and those from which we aim to profit (or not), but to go from there to starting an “inquisition-esque” persecution against those who download material from the Internet for personal use (to clarify) brings an end to whatever liberty Panamanian Internet users have.

The law is part of the modifications made by the Panamanian state for the free trade agreement with the United States. Pepe Flores writes about the issue on Alt1040 [es]:

Este proyecto se presentó en agosto pasado, con la finalidad de que la legislación panameña sobre propiedad intelectual fuera compatible con el tratado de libre comercio que sostienen con Estados Unidos (¿por qué no me sorprende?). Entre las propuestas que incluye, se encuentran alargar la duración del copyright a 70 años después de la muerte del autor (el mismo plazo que en Argentina o España; aún menor que los 100 años que prevé México); o la consideración de las copias temporales como infracciones.

This bill was presented last August with the hope that Panamanian legislation on intellectual property be compatible with the free trade agreement they have with the United States (why am I not surprised?). Among the proposals included is the extension of the duration of copyrights to 70 years after the author's death (the same period that Argentina or Spain has, but still less than the 100 years that Mexico expects), or the consideration of temporary copies as infractions.

The bill is about to be approved and many await demonstrations against it if and when this occurs. If President Ricardo Martinelli does not veto the bill, Panamá will have one of the most strict and controversial copyright laws on a global level.

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