McCain Can Still Become President..... of Panama!

Panama City, Panama - Many will remember the controversy about John McCain's citizenship as opponents of his candidacy alleged that since he was born in the Panama Canal Zone, he would not be eligible to run for the US presidency. Eventually the issue was settled, but one related truth fell through the cracks: Under Panamanian law, McCain is a naturally born Panamanian citizen. Panama never recognized the Canal Zone as part of a foreign nation but regards it as having always been part of Panama, but under foreign occupation. As such, McCain is fully entitled to run for President of the Republic of Panama during the upcoming May 2009 elections. Instead of returning to Arizona, as the candidate recently stated he would do after losing in November, he should consider putting his country first and move his campaign down south. Here's why:

He Is Qualified For The Job

Currently there are three candidates for the presidency in Panama. One is a supermarket king, the second is a booze king and the third is a former crony of Manuel Antonio Noriega and prominent member of his paramilitary goon squads. It's quite obvious that anyone with experience as a US Senator would be better qualified. Furthermore, McCain's history involving fraud and scandal (Keating Five, lobbyists etc.) guarantees that he'll fit right into the Panamanian political culture where corruption, impunity, nepotism, bizarre reasoning and an overall disrespect for the law are standard operating procedure. We have plenty of racism here too. He would be, so to speak, "ready on day one".

He Will Give The Canal Back

Conservatives in the United States have long opposed the Torrijos-Carter treaties that gave the Canal to Panama at the end of 1999. As President of Panama, McCain can revert this decision and put the Canal under control of the United States again, reaching across the Canal by engaging in negotiations with the Obama administration. This will be highly beneficial for Panama as well, they just don't want to admit it. In 2006, the country decided by referendum to expand the interoceanic waterway based on an ill-conceived proposal by the Panama Canal Authority that will plunge the country in massive debt and turn the shipping cash cow into a major liability. The Panamanian state is in no position to do any bailouts, so the best solution is to get rid of the thing before it's too late. The expansion project was nothing but a gift to Wal-Mart anyway.

He Will Then Give Panama Back

Panama only exists as an independent nation because Wall Street wanted a canal on the isthmus. Before 1903, it was part of Colombia. A couple of financial hustlers plotted and schemed to have the US take over the failed attempts by France to dig a canal in Panama instead of constructing one in Nicaragua. They succeeded, and Panama was created as a sort of a theme park around the US occupied Canal Zone. Other Latin American nations looked at Panama with disdain, viewed it as an anomaly, a North-American enclave created by gringos for gringos. If President McCain saves Panama from financial ruin by selling the Canal back to the US, the raison d'être for Panama as a nation state has effectively ceased to exist. It might as well be given back to Colombia and finally be connected by road to that country so that culture, trade and public services in Panama can benefit.

Would a President McCain be willing to do so? You betcha! McCain has a history of palling around with Colombian narco-presidents, or those who have business in Colombia:

The week before McCain left for Colombia, Carl H. Linder, Jr., who made billions as the C.E.O. of Chiquita Brands International, hosted a fundraiser for McCain at his home in Cincinnati, Ohio. It raised $2 million—a lot of money, though not much compared to the $25 million fine Chiquita paid for paying, under Linder’s leadership, more millions to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a bloodthirsty paramilitary group which the State Department officially classified as a terrorist organization.

(Not a penny of that $25 million fine has gone to the victims of the paramilitaries, of course).

As President of Panama, McCain can then, in conjunction with Colombia, solve the mess surrounding the US-Panama free trade agreement by just ordering the Supreme Court to take the necessary decisions. Ordering the Supreme Court? Yes, that's how that works down here.

He Can Do Good Deeds With Other People's Money

Okay, it's peanuts compared to the sums he's used to throw around in Washington, but McCain could quickly become a national hero by ending the insanity surrounding the inheritance of a fellow conservative, the late American diplomat Wilson "Chuck" Lucom. Lucom retired to Panama, married into the oligarch Arias family, died and left $50 million in a fund to help poor children. However, Panamanian oligarchs (local and foreign) are typically not interested in helping poor children, so the Arias clan started one of those Panamanian legal battles that quickly reestablished the country's reputation as a sleazy third world hellhole. Again: ordering the Supreme Court will solve this quickly and is a technique that logically follows from 8 years of Republican disdain for the constitution and separation of powers, and McCain can help some poor kids without having to engage in socialism or other such evils.

In short: John McCain has been running his campaign in the wrong country, but it's not too late to correct that error. He should suspend his US campaign and instead put the right country first.

About Okke Ornstein

Okke Ornstein is from the Netherlands where he worked for about 15 years in the wonderful world of television and radio before accidentally moving to Panama. He works as a journalist, radio producer and photographer. Assignments include reporting from Panama, Afghanistan and recently Syria. Ornstein runs the blog Bananama Republic and his own site at


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About Okke Ornstein

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Okke Ornstein is from the Netherlands where he worked for about 15 years in the wonderful world of television and radio before accidentally moving to Panama. He works as a journalist, radio producer and photographer. Assignments include reporting from Panama, Afghanistan and recently Syria. Ornstein runs the blog Bananama Republic and his own site at