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Commentary, sarcasm and snide remarks from a Florida resident of over thirty years. Being a glutton for punishment is a requirement for residency here. Who am I? I've been called a moonbat by Michelle Malkin, a Right Wing Nut by Daily Kos, and middle of the road by Florida blog State of Sunshine. Tell me what you think.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Visa controversy? No overdue

Here's an interesting article I found at the Miami Herald website. In order to fight corruption, the US has tightened visa policy in regards to politicians who want to visit the US. This is mostly directed towards Latin America, and of course the people affected are unhappy.

But this new policy is right. The US has turned a blind eye towards corruption for too long. Thinking we needed to show our support towards the regimes in power. This change is just another step by the Bush administration to bolster and support democracy. Funny how so called populist democrats don't like these measures.

Open Post- Basil's Blog, Bright & Early

PANAMA CITY, Panama -- In a bid to pressure Latin American countries to fight corruption, the United States has stepped up its policy of denying tourist visas to government officials it suspects of graft. But when Washington recently canceled the visa of a sitting Panamanian supreme court justice, the move touched off controversy and no small amount of puzzlement.

Panamanian Supreme Court Justice Winston Spadafora, 64, had his visa revoked for unspecified acts of corruption and because his entry might cause harm to the United States, a U.S. Embassy spokesman here acknowledged this month.


The U.S. government has provided no evidence in public to back up its charges, and Spadafora has never been formally charged with a crime in either Panama or the United States.

In the past, American officials have described Panama's judicial system as extraordinarily corrupt. Rumors have circulated in Panama that in his former capacity as interior minister -- a post that oversees police and prisons -- Spadafora sold favors to drug traffickers and land developers.

At least three former Central American presidents have had their U.S. visas revoked in recent years. What was unusual about Spadafora's case is that he is a sitting judge with seven years remaining in his term and that U.S. officials publicly accused him of corruption.

''It's an important departure because he is someone still in high office, not retired as has been the case in the past,'' said Jorge Giannareas, a local university professor and political analyst. ``Before these things were managed with discretion, and now you have a second-rank embassy official accusing a magistrate of the Supreme Court of committing crimes.''

Under guidelines issued last year, the United States is actively enforcing the visa denial policy and speaking out about its reasons for denials as a means of promoting democracy and transparency in government.

The U.S. government has made it known that it is taking the action to spur local leaders to investigate alleged illegal conduct.

''It's a way the U.S. government has to say it doesn't agree with countries that turn a blind eye to corruption,'' said one analyst here who asked not to be identified.

Former presidents Arnoldo Alemán of Nicaragua, Alfonso Portillo of Guatemala and Ernesto Pérez Balladares of Panama have each lost their U.S. visas because of alleged corrupt activities, but only after leaving office.

The U.S. said information gathered in Spadafora's case is available to Panamanian officials under terms of a mutual legal assistance treaty.


But a spokesman for the Panamanian Interior Ministry said Tuesday the government has no intention of even requesting the information, much less opening an inquiry into the alleged corruption charges that led to the visa denial. Officials previously had said that the denial is a ''personal matter'' between the judge and the U.S. State Department.

Spadafora's attorney, Rogelio Cruz, said his client has committed no illegal act and
that the cancellation was made without giving the judge a chance to respond. He noted that those accused have no legal recourse and face a suspension of U.S. visa privileges for up to 40 years.

Balladares, the former president who lost his visa in 1999, told a Panama reporter that he has amassed $1 million in legal bills with a Washington law firm in a bid to get his visa reinstated, with no success.

Prior to becoming a supreme court judge, Spadafora served as interior minister under President Mireya Moscoso and had a reputation as being pro-American, facilitating the boarding of Panamanian-flagged vessels suspected of drug trafficking, said one former Spadafora associate.

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