By Erick Simpson Aguilera
October 15th, 2014
According to Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia, to declare Panama a tax haven “is not a decision against Panama, but a measure to prosecute tax evaders.“
According to President Santos, we as Panamanians should interpret as positive and favorable the negative effects of the measure, especially, the damage to the international image of Panama’s financial center; the increment of 14% to 33% taxes on the money orders from Colombia to Panama; the double taxation for Colombians living in Panama, and so on.
How easy it is to play with words as if Panamanians were ignorant not knowing any better. You should understand, President Santos, that Panama is a sovereign state, not a Colombian department which you can cheerfully submit to the collateral damage of internal Colombian politics without paying the price, ignoring Panama´s sovereignty all together.
In addition, says President Santos, Colombia has to implement a policy including these measures because they want to be recognized by the OECD as a country seriously fighting tax evasion. This means that the attack to the Panamanian banking center, according to Santos disrespectful justification, is collateral damage, not a direct measure against us. In fact, Colombia´s aspires to become part of the OECD and win admission into this self-congratulatory group of hypocritical countries who pretend to have the moral authority to make lists of tax havens when many of them are just that, tax havens. They believe the law does not apply to them, only to Panama and other countries outside the exclusive club of rich OECD nations which Colombia seeks to join.
The Colombian president seems unaware of the inconsistency of his arguments. On one hand he claims that to include us in its list of tax havens is not a measure against Panama, while on the other hand he refers to us as a sort of sacrificial offering to the mighty OECD in order to be admitted into the club.
The Colombian President also noted that Panama “was informed of this situation long ago,” and even technical meetings were held, but given the lack of response from the Central American country in recent weeks, “the “Minister of Finance had no option other than to act because the law demands it.” Fine, if that’s the sovereign position of Colombia which should be respected even if it is prejudicial to us. However, by the same token, Panama’s can act as the sovereign country it is and retaliate against Colombia by applying what its law demands.
In that sense, once more I praise the decision of the Government of Panama to apply to Colombia the lawful principle of retaliation, following its discriminatory treatment to our nation: if within the seven days notice given it does not rectify its position by withdrawing us from their specious list of fiscal havens.
In a week we will know whether or not we need to apply to Colombia some of the following measures:
1- The same percentage of tariffs to major Colombian exports which they impose on our Colon Free Zone.
2- An increase to 33% tax on remittances and money orders.
3- Visa requirements for Colombian citizens who want to travel to Panama.
4-Cancellation of the Monteria Treaty that granted free passage for their ships through the Panama Canal.
5-Deportation of thousands of Colombian prisoners and illegal immigrants in Panama.
6- The immediate cancellation of the project for electricity interconnection, for Colombia has proven to be a country unworthy of confidence; we cannot depend on energy provided by a nation that threatens, blackmails, and attacks our economy.
7- Inclusion of Colombia in our own blacklist of troublemaker countries involved in drug-trafficking, terrorism and human trafficking, nations with which we should avoid association and should keep under scrutiny. We should not collaborate with a country that exports so much instability and problems to the entire world, and disqualifies us in order to finance their post-conflicts at our expense.
8- Exclusion of Colombian companies from Panama’s public contract solicitations.
Perhaps the enforcement of the drastic measures mentioned above would make Colombia appreciate the brotherhood, friendship, and goodwill that Panama has shown, unlike countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador, and Nicaragua, which for various reasons (which I respect as each country is free to choose their friends and enemies) have openly opposed Colombia and have harshly strained relations with Colombia and thus won respect for themselves. It is obvious that Colombia´s policy is not to disturb their contrary neighbors, to show friendliness and to please as much as possible, even though they treat Colombians as enemies. If that is not masochism, then it is the Stockholm syndrome but normal, it is not.
By the way, do you remember the conflict between Colombia and Nicaragua regarding the boundary delimitation in the Caribbean? Who rushed to defend and backed Colombia against Nicaragua? Panama did, dear reader; Panama supported Colombia in that conflict. And this is the payback we receive for our friendship and brotherhood; for the great support we have given to secure our common border so the Province of Darien does not become a sanctuary for Colombian rebel groups; and the warm welcome we give to their nationals who until now have had open doors to live, study, work, and invest in Panama as if they were Panamanians.
Ultimately, as Colombia partners with the OECD to damage our economy, Panamanians are again reminded they are not our allies; that we should be tougher; that we cannot live out of the romanticism born from our joint history; and that we must completely separate from them as we did in 1903.