Political Differences

Political FlagYesterday, Sunday May 4, 2014, the Panamanian political season climaxed. The vote was finally in and everyone, Panamanian and foreigner alike, said, “Thank god that’s over.”

During the past year – and longer, really – the air has periodically been filled with ear-shattering propaganda and music as trucks with giant loudspeakers tour all the neighborhoods, touting the virtues of whichever candidate and making sure that everyone can hear them.  The politician who liked best to publicize himself in our neighborhood seems to have been Tito Afu. I say this based on my neighbor’s parrot who learned, from the passing loudspeakers, to cry “Tito Fu! Tito Fu!”‘  Free publicity.

We also had a number of visits from the politicians themselves, passing door to door to press the flesh. Of course, once they figured out that I don’t speak Spanish well and therefore very probably can’t vote, my house was ignored. But it was quite exciting for my dogs for a while there.

Getting out the vote is a serious business here, mostly because it deeply involves business. The winning candidate will be that person who will provide jobs. Really good jobs, I hear. If your candidate wins, you get a great job. If not, too bad. The other guy’s supporters will get the jobs. So the populace turns out in force to support their guy and be as persuasive on his behalf as they possibly can.

Something else I noticed that I thought worth a comment as different from what I expect of politicians, is the prevalence of nicknames on the political signs. Vote for Jose Rufus “Flaco” (Skinny) Jimenez Colicia. (I’m making the names up, but not the nicknames.) Or Vote for Euclides “Niño” (Little Boy) Garcia Gateño.  Or Simon “Gordo” (Fatty) Callense Dominguez.  Can you imagine a sign in, say, Iowa, that reads “Tom ‘Fatty’Jones for Mayor”?  Not me.

Last week I was out near Playa Rompio.  On the road there, we passed a small lake notoriously heavy with crocodiles.  But one of the ubiquitous political party flags proudly waved from a long pole in the center of the pond.   Obviously some fervent supporter had boarded a small boat and taken himself out through the snappers to the middle where he planted it.  One wonders if he was brave, foolhardy or merely drunk when he did it.

In any case, both this past Saturday and yesterday, Sunday, were completely dry.  No booze was for sale anywhere in Panama, not even beer.  I guess voting with a hangover is frowned upon as much as voting while drunk. Probably a good plan.

I’ll vote for that.