While deposed dictator Manuel Noriega awaits his trial in the U.S. for drug trafficking, the new leader of Panama, President Guillermo Endara Galimany, went on a lengthy fast last month. The purpose, he said, was for national unity and “human solidarity” with the poor, “who suffer malnutrition because of poverty.”

Endara emphasized in an interview during his fast that the new Panama is “truly democratic.” “We are for freedom,” he said, “and that means, of course, freedom of religion. We guarantee these freedoms under our constitution and under our laws, and the final protector of those freedoms is our Supreme Court.”

Endara granted the interview last month to R. Albert Mohler, Jr., editor of the Christian Index, weekly newspaper of the Georgia (Southern) Baptist Convention. The interview took place at Panama City’s Metropolitan Cathedral, where Endara was fasting.

The Panamanian leader said the country’s people have been sustained through two decades of military dictatorship by their “aspirations [for] democracy.” He said that “people with morals” were shocked at the extent of the looting that took place amid the chaos that accompanied the U.S military intervention in December. “Something happened to [the conscience of the populace] during those days,” Endara said. “But in general, the spiritual health of the people is well.”

The greatest danger facing the nation, according to Endara, is the possibility of its failure to carry out the current experiment with democracy. He said people want a political voice, but that they also want jobs, good housing, and better living conditions. “If democracy fails to give them these,” he said, “we will be in great danger.” The Christian Index’s Mohler said that amid all the discussion about ...

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