Crime makes headlines in Boquete Panama and because there was none here just a few years ago. The headlines echo throughout the community and the world. Over the past months in Boquete there has been one well publicized assault and few burglaries, not much more. In conversations with representatives of the DIJ, the local detectives, I have learned that very little crime is reported to them and they are actively involved in pursuing and capturing perpetrators.
The purpose of this note is not to urge complacency, in fact groups like Alto al Crimen in Boquete are offering solutions to reduce crime in Boquete. However neither the DIJ, Alto al Crimen nor you can resolve the underlying causes of crime.
Crime is everyplace, one curious statistic comes from the United States.
The war on drugs has made the US the country with the highest incarceration rate in the world and it effects not only Panama but most of the world.
The appetite for drugs in the US causes crime in Boquete Panama. Because of it’s geographic location Panama is a transshipment point for copious amounts of drugs moving north. It has been said Panama is a money laundering center for the profits that return south. It is also clear that the abundance of drugs in Panama has created the same need for cash for those here who develop a need for drugs. This drives some local crime, it also drives illegal immigration to both Panama and the United States. The axiom in good capitalism, is follow the money.
The solution is painfully simple, infrequently discussed and needs to come from the major marketplace the US. If you want to see a significant reduction in crime in Panama, talk to the US government. Remove the huge profits from drug sales in the US and the transport of illegal drugs through Panama will come to a screeching halt. Reduce the profit motive to sell drugs and the number of people using drugs will drop.
Declare a victory in the war on drugs. Legalize all illegal drugs and offer them through legal channels. Tax recreational drug sales heavily, like alcohol and cigarettes both dangerous drugs, both legal, both taxed. The illegal drug market would be forced to sell for less than the legal drug market and it would implode.
Do this and use the revenue to reduce the national debt, do this and stop building prisons. Do this and the narco capitalists profiting from drug sales will need to find jobs and police can focus on other things, do this and crime will plummet. Do this and drug usage will drop since the profit incentive to addict people will evaporate. The war on drugs is a joke, the ramifications of this joke is worldwide crime, worldwide poverty and a prison population that makes the US the largest jailer in the world.
Stop fearing that a percentage of the population is going to be stoned and unproductive; they are already. By not putting those drug users in prison the US can go a long way toward solving its budget problems. The coca farmers of Bolivia can grow a legal cash crop, the poppy growers of Afghanistan will not hate the US, the large California Marijuana economy can go public and provide tax revenue and hemp for fiber again.
As prohibition failed, the war on drugs failed. The effects this time are world wide and we in remote Panama are suffering for the insanity of a series of laws in the US that were all enacted for political reasons in the twentieth century.
Decriminalize drugs, save the economy and cut the crime everyplace including Panama. Dry up a source of revenue for organized crime and terrorists, turn a sows ear into a silk purse.
If you believe this will happen in our life time I have clear title to all the islands in Bocas del Toro, I will sell it for $1 a meter if you can wait until the ink on the documents dries.