Friday, March 21, 2008

dd-c05-s13

Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
Chapter 5: The Post-Cold War Era Segment 13/15
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Pamela Constable reports that "bankers and business owners" find that things are looking up, though "a mood of anger and desperation permeates the underclass" in "the blighted shantytowns." Vice-president Guillermo Ford says that "The stores have reopened 100 percent, and the private sector is very enthusiastic. I think we're on the road to a very solid future." Under his "proposed recovery program," public enterprises would be sold off, "the labor code would be revised to allow easier dismissal of workers and tax-free export factories would be set up to lure foreign capital."

Business leaders "are bullish on Ford's ideas," Constable continues. In contrast, "Labor unions are understandably wary of these proposals," but "their power has become almost negligible" with "massive dismissals of public workers who supported Noriega and the unprecedented jobless rate." The U.S. emergency aid package approved by Congress is intended largely "to make back payments on Panama's foreign debt and shore up its creditworthiness with foreign lending institutions"; in translation: it is a taxpayer subsidy to international banks, foreign investors, and the important people in Panama. The thousands of refugees from El Chorillo, now living in what some of them call "a concentration camp," will not be returning to the devastated slum. The original owners, who had long wanted "to transform this prime piece of real estate into a posher district," may now be able to do so. Noriega had stood in the way of these plans, allowing the poor to occupy housing there rent-free. But by bombing the neighborhood into rubble and then levelling the charred ruins with bulldozers, U.S. forces overcame "that ticklish legal and human obstacle" to these intentions, Constable reports.76

With unemployment skyrocketing, nearly half the population cannot meet essential food needs. Crime has quadrupled. Aid is designated for businesses and foreign banks (debt repayment). It could be called the "Central Americanization" of Panama, correspondent Brook Larmer aptly observes.77

The U.S. occupying forces continued to leave little to chance. The Mexican journal Excelsior reports that U.S. forces established direct control over ministries and public institutions. According to an organization chart leaked to the journal by political and diplomatic sources, U.S. controls extend to all provinces, the Indian community, the Town Halls of the ten major cities, and the regional police offices. "Washington's objective is to have a strategic network in this country to permanently control all the actions and decisions of the government." With the establishment of this "parallel government" closely controlling all decision-making, "things have returned to the way they were before 1968 in Panama." The journal scheduled an interview with President Endara to discuss the matter, but it was cancelled without explanation.78

The report provides extensive details, including names of U.S. officials and the tasks assigned them in the organization chart. All of this could easily be checked by U.S. reporters, if home offices were interested. They are not. "The information that we reveal here," Excelsior reports, "is supposed to be known only to very restricted groups" -- not including the U.S. public.

The occupying forces also moved to limit such irritants as freedom of expression. Excelsior reports that "United States intelligence services exercise control not only over local information media but also over international news agencies," according to the president of the Journalist Union of Panama. An opposition activist alleges that the first Panamanian publishing company, ERSA, with three daily papers, was occupied by U.S. tanks and security forces "in order to turn it over to a businessman who had lost it in a lawsuit," a member of an oligarchical family that "favors the interventionist line of the United States." According to Ramsey Clark's Independent Commission of Inquiry, the offices of the daily La Republica "were ransacked and looted by U.S. troops the day after the newspaper reported on the large number of deaths caused by the U.S. invasion." Its editor was arrested and held for six weeks by U.S. troops, then sent to a Panamanian prison without charges. The publisher of one of the few opposition voices was arrested in March on charges of alleged misconduct when he was a government minister, and the government closed a radio station for broadcasting editorials critical of the U.S. invasion and the government it established.79

Miguel Antonio Bernal, a leading Panamanian intellectual and anti-Noriega activist, writes that "freedom of press is again under siege in Panama." Vice-president Ricardo Arias Calderón proposed a new law to restrict press criticism of the government, saying that "We will not tolerate criticism." He also urged stockholders of Panama's largest newspaper, La Prensa, to fire its editor and founder Roberto Eisenman because of the journal's criticism of the government, and called on members of his Christian Democratic Party to work for Eisenman's ouster. Describing such acts, the increasing terror, and the reconstruction of the military with Noriega associates who were implicated in drug running and corruption, Bernal asks why the U.S. is "turning the same blind eye" as in the past to these developments.80

Bernal's question is surely rhetorical. Latin Americans know the answer very well.


Go to the next segment.

76 Constable, BG, July 11, 1990.

77 Christian Science Monitor, April 9, 1990.

78 Excelsior, Feb. 28, 1990; LANU.

79 Felicitas Pliego, Excelsior, April 29, 1990; Commission of Inquiry release, Feb. 17; COHA News and Analysis, May 1, 1990.

80 Bernal, "Panama's fight for free expression," Chicago Tribune, May 29, 1990. KEYWORDS terrorist democracy elections cia mossad bnd nsa covert operation 911 mi6 inside job what really happened wtc pentagon joint chiefs of staff jcs centcom laser hologram usa mi5 undercover agent female sex exploitation perception deception power anarchy green social democratic participation japanese spy black-op false flag gladio terror.

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