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Panama: Presidential Insults Online

On July 19, 2011, the President of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, angered Twitter.  As usual the president (@rmartinelli) began by tweeting about his current government's goals and making jibes against the opposition. He began criticizing [es] a statement published in the daily La Prensa, which signaled Panama's debt (37%) in comparison to that of the United States (84%).  

Sin argumentos, politicos neofitos y el diario del N0 a todo,no dicen que la relacion deuda pib es de 37% en Panama versus USA que es de 84%

Indisputably, new politicians and “No to everything” daily do not say that the debt in relation to GDP is 37% for Panama versus USA which is at 84%

He later responded to a number of negative comments, initially with patience, despite being bothered when Osmar Nuñez (@osmaramed) reproached him in a rude manner for the rise in cost of living in Panama. The tweet was erased, but you can see it in the image displayed below.

The president responded to the tweet with words that have sparked controversy: “Respect, hp” (In Panama, the letters ‘hp’ have a vulgar meaning, similar to ‘sob’, son of a b***h in English).

Twitter users did not hesitate to react and created the #respetahp hashtag where, first and foremost, Panamanians were dedicated to speculating the possible meaning behind the letters.

Alvaro Mateu (@alvaromateu) referred to the famous Harry Potter book and film character:

#RespetaHP Respeta Harry Potter

#RespetaHP Respect Harry Potter

Juan José Castillo (@jjcastillo19) interpreted it as a reference to the Minister of the Presidency, Jimmy Papadimitriu:

#respetaHP quizo decir Hijo de Papadimitri @la_cascara

#respetaHP he meant son [Hijo] of Papadimitri @la_cascara

Erick Manuel Herrera (@xMavErick17) opted to consider the political nuances and a possible reference to opposing party PRD [es]:

@la_cascara respeta hambriento perredista. #RespetaHP

@la_cascara respect the starving PRD-er [hambriento perredista]. #RespetaHP

For some time, many speculated that the president's Twitter account had been hacked, but no one from the presidency confirmed this information. The truth is that the tweet disappeared and the president tweeted [es] accusing people of jumping to conclusions, as he had only made reference to the popular wizard, Harry Potter:

Para todos los mal pensados hp es Harry Potter. Gracias

For all of you cynics, hp is Harry Potter. Thank you.

In response to the president's answer, Carlos Ernesto Riera (@CarlosErnestico) asks himself, What did the young wizard do to the head of state?:

Eso es lo malo de Harry Potter por que le falto el respeto a nuestro presidente? #respetaHP

This is the bad thing about Harry Potter, that he doesn't have respect for our president? #respetaHP

A group of Panamanians created the respetahp.com [es] webpage, where people can supposedly let off steam.

For some, the incident is funny, although for others the president's behavior is shameful. Twitter user Fútbol Extremo (@futbolextremo) believes that despite the what was first said by @osmaramed, the president should not respond by the same token:

Ese señor se pasò con el presidente pero no se debiò igualar,,, que pena!!!!

This man has gone too far with the president, but the president should not respond in the same way … what a shame!!!!

Nito Cortizo (@NitoCortizo), one of the presidential hopefuls for 2014, noted in his account:

Los políticos tenemos q aprovechar las redes sociales para promover el debate de altura, recibir las ideas, criticas y consejos de todos.

As politicians we must take advantage of social networks to promote a high level of debate, welcome ideas, criticisms and advice from everyone.

The user that received the insult has increased his popularity from about 20 to more than 800 followers. The topic will surely continue to give people something to talk about over the course of the next few days on the social networks.

Meanwhile, Panamanians continue to wait for the true meaning of the phrase, “respect hp.”

Thumbnail image shows President of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli. Image by Flickr user World Economic Forum (CC BY-SA 2.0).

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