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The Tragedy in Connecticut

There is no way this post will make any impact, the lines in the sand are drawn and emotions run high regarding gun ownership in the USA. I am a firm believer in private gun ownership, a former NRA member and a former firearms dealer in Arizona. Still the slaughter in Connecticut has given me pause for reflection.

The placement of a comma in the Second amendment in the US Bill of Rights makes for a very strong argument for legal, unrestricted gun ownership in the USA.

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The counter argument is that “the right of the people to keep and bare arms” is a dependent clause, tied to the well regulated militia, todays National Guard.

Regardless of the comma, it is time for some debate over how that right might be granted more intelligently than today. According the a Gallup poll US gun ownership is in decline.


That conflicts with FBI numbers on background checks, which show only sales through licensed dealers, not the vast number of resales.


In either event there are hundreds of millions of guns in the US in civilian hands. In my opinion private gun ownership is a good thing. It helps to keep a government under control when it has a genuine concern that an armed population might take things into their own hands. I have little trust for any government to care about it’s people.

Still the crazies get guns and slaughter people, adults and now children. Where is the balance between sane gun ownership and insane people having guns. I actually think Panama has a reasonable balance, as usual on paper not in reality.

In Panama the law says permanent residents may buy guns and carry concealed weapons. They must be licensed and the gun registered to them. Each person needs to do the following to get a license and renew it every five years.

1. A Psychological Exam
2. Submit a urine sample for drug testing
3. A DNA sample for possible future identification
4. Finger Prints
5. A bullet exemplar for future comparison
6. 25 hours of range practice

On paper, this restricts gun ownership to those who are legal residents, were sane at the time of purchase, were not on drugs at the time of purchase and allows followup to identify legal weapons used illegally.

If you added some fiscal accountability to victims of gun related crimes tied to the registered owner Panama might have an example for the US.

Owning a gun is like owning a car, it is a tool. Both are potentially dangerous and like driving a car a gun owner should be licensed and tested to demonstrate responsibility. Resales should be restricted to dealers who need to be sure the new owner passes over the same hurdles.

This will not unduly burden lawful gun owners. In Arizona I had to take classes to get a concealed weapons permit, it was not burdensome and I had learn gun safety. This might prevent some, but not all, of the tragedies that seem too occur too often in the US today.

Thursday Benefit for Boquete Blues and Jazz Festival

I usually write about events after they happen but occasionally I do slip in a promotional post. Hans, Barbara and the others working on the 2013 Boquete Blues and Jazz Festival are toiling to make next years event even more fantastic than the 2012 festival.

This event is a big event for Boquete, but the Panama City Festival is much more important to the corporate sponsors essential for funding, so Boquete needs to raise more cold cash for hot jazz.

Thursday at 6pm they are having a fund raiser with music at Amigos. The music is not live, Amigos cannot have live music, even at 6PM because it is alleged to disturb neighbors.

Support the Boquete Jazz and Blues Festival and let the good times roll on.


Caja de Ahorros, a bank account for expats

Last Tuesday I was approached by the manager of Finca Lerida, he explained that the owner of the hotel is also now head of the Caja de Ahorro. Caja de Ahorro is called Panama’s Family Bank and is owned and operated by the government of Panama. I was told that they wish to encourage deposits by new immigrants. He said they were implementing a new express approval for expat customers and people could open a bank account in less than  a week.

Today I decided to see if it could be done. I went to the Caja de Ahorra in Boquete, it is next to El Constructor and opened a Green Savings account. It took less than thirty minutes.

I only needed my Cedula E, I asked if a Pensanado Carnet would have been equally fast, they said yes. No letters of reference, no lawyers letters, no bank statements, no utility bills required. The government ID worked just as well for me as it would have for a national.

The account I opened was a small savings account, it pays 2.5%, far less than some other options, but far more than an equal account in the US and just as easy to open. They do have online banking and provided login information and showed me how to use the website before I left. I was also given a Clave card, the first year is free after that $15 annually.

If you want a local bank account and have a permanent Pensionado Visa or Cedula E you can have it opened fast. I am not sure of the requirements if you do not have either carnet, but you can ask and I suspect it can be done within the week stated.


More news about Coacecss Cooperative

“The director of the Panamanian Autonomous Cooperative, Ana Giselle de Vallarino said they intervened Cooperative Credit Union of Workers of the Social Security Fund to protect the money of the partners.

Vallarino said that from December 1 at 8 am Christmas savings were delivered.

The intervener Martha Luna yesterday filed a criminal complaint against former manager, the Board for alleged financial crimes and Vallarino as there is sufficient evidence to support the complaint even against the Credit Committee.

Vallarino said that since 2010 had been sanctioned COACECSS for violating  laws to prevent money laundering, and had found that flexible handling of preferred accounts to third parties, payment of high fees (more than a million dollars) to companies by “referring clients” best interest rates on loans to people who were not members and wasteful resources branch openings, which caused more than $ 40,000 in losses.

The director said that despite IPACOOP who sought a rapprochement with the Board, it never came and they never apologized.”

(My translation so please don’t take it to court)

TVN Television



Left at the curb in the Port of Colon

Departing was such sweet sorrow. After three days and two nights without cooking or cleaning I was not ready to leave the Grandeur of the Seas. However it was for the best, gluttony is a pleasurable vice, but gluttony is too easy on a cruise ship and was adding to my waistline. I also confess to sloth like behavior, eating, drinking, dancing, drinking, eating, oh my. The unofficial computation is one pound per day of weight gain on a cruise.

We abandoned ship at about 9:30am with bursting bellies and an ache in my heart. I knew we were to face suitcases, boxes, carryon luggage and a long ride back to Boquete. Some people like this repositioning cruise for food and entertainment, others like Panamanian Customs in Colon. The only inspection was done by a dog and the K9 did earn his keep. The drug sniffing dog did discover contraband on a wheelchair riding, gray haired lady in front of us. The dog sniffed out a bran muffin and the customs agent confiscated the offending item. Remember drug sniffing dogs like bran muffins too.

Loose inspection allows people to bring in busloads of stuff and they do, we did too. We were proactive for the return to Boquete. Mayra bought space for five people, five suitcases and five boxes on a bus from Jonathan Evatt of Inspired Earth Publishing, a Bocas resident who promoted his grief saving buses on Boquete Ning. It was a risk which turned out to be an error.

Jonathan had two undersized, underpowered twenty seat coaster buses. The first bus he rented to a small group with a ton of stuff, they paid him $600 for the service and expected to have the bus to themselves, they did not. The second bus had only twenty seats and another ton of stuff. At first Jonathan gave me hard time about our boxes. He conveniently forgot Mayra had paid for five people. Between the five of us we declared to him exactly what we had, five people, five suitcases and five boxes. Jonathan told me I needed to pay an extra $8 a box beyond two, I reluctantly agreed.

They started loading half a ton of suitcases on the roof of the little bus. Mayra said the little buses were never designed for that type of load on the roof. Then they realized there was not going to be room inside for all the paying passengers and the other half ton.

I volunteered to abandon the bus before people were asked to leave or the tires burst from the overloading. Jonathan agreed and then as we sought alternate transport he decided two of our group could squeeze into the overcrowded, overweight bus. He did finally agreed to refund our money, but since Mayra paid via Paypal he said he would only refund through Paypal. In retrospect I should have demanded the money then and there.

The Port of Colon does not allow taxis to enter for passenger pickup. They did however allow a van to come in and load five people, five suitcases and five boxes. We took the van through the increasing rain to the Bus Terminal in Panama City. In our path the rain turned into flooding and one of the roads into Panama City suffered a collapse killing two Red Cross workers, we managed to escape the tragedy. I feel for all those who lost families, friends and homes in the the disaster we were lucky, their losses makes ours look trivial.

Flooding in Colon Panama 26 Nov.

Photo Credit La Prensa

Arriving in Panama City we loaded ourselves and our stuff into a bus to David and had a comfortable seven hour ride through the rain. We met a couple from Bocas on the bus, they too had been left at the curb in Colon by Jonathan. They did demand a cash refund from him and did receive it,  there maybe more people out there.

We arrived in David at 8pm. People who were on Jonathan’s bus said they suffered a blown out tire along the road, overloading will do that. Arriving in Boquete they were abandoned at Super Mercado Ivan at 8PM and left to try to find taxis from there. Jonathan demanded each of them pay another $20 to compensate for the revenue he lost from us and the other couple who could not fit on the bus in Colon.

I am waiting for a refund from Jonathan. I have emailed him, no response, I have filed a dispute with Paypal, they have emailed him, no response. I will wait another few days for him to respond and then I will file a claim and hope Paypal makes good on the $210 he took from us and promised to refund. I am not sure how many more people were left at the curb as his buses left Colon. If any other readers paid him and were cheated I urge you to also contact Paypal and demand a refund.

It was a memorable end to a lovely week and another lesson about some of the expats who live in Panama. We made a mistake and trusted Jonathan, a mistake that will not be repeated by us.


I wrote about the Credit Union COACECSS in the past to inform people that the government agency that regulates Cooperatives intervened in COACECSS due to irregularities.

The people who were selling expats on investments in COACECSS at the Tuesday Market discounted the event as a “Administrative Intervention”.

“To that end, you can be assured that these are some of the facts regarding Credit Union funds:

This is an “Administrative Intervention” and as such by definition, in no way involved the immediate financial health or solvency of the Credit Union
· The credit union will continue to honor all interest payments in both certificates of deposit and Money Market savings accounts,
· The credit union has the solvency to pay all principal amounts of certificates of deposit when matured and if requested.

Clients funds are not in jeopardy. Hopefully, whatever needs correcting will be done soon, and things will return to normal. For this reason, a decision has been made by this group of Americans, to supply information on this situation on an “as asked” basis, rather than make a company statement.

All is well. And all was well, but needed a few minor adjustments. You are promised to be kept informed, and please keep in touch with us.”

This comment from Jim is below this post, LINK

On Nov 6 2012 the auditors posted this on the COACECSS Web site.

LINK to complete document above.

I do not have the language ability to do a precise translation, if someone can it would be appreciated.  I believe the essence is they will make every effort to pay their account holders.  They were trying to keep the whole deal quiet to avoid panic. They are trying to do what they can to keep open the Cooperative and avoid bankruptcy.

Two of the measures they are taking:

1.  To stop account closings for a while.
2.  When they pay the Christmas accounts, they will deduct any passed due financial responsability the person has.

There are a few loans that haven’t been paid as of yet so they are trying to collect the money, somehow.

In other words the Cooperative is trying to avoid bankruptcy, the issues are real and fiscal.

Today there is an article in La Prensa, LINK in English. It appears that the people being accused of mismanagement are trying to regain control.

This quote is from Capital Newspaper. Full text in Spanish is at this link.

“Referring to the case of  Coacecss operated since June 28, the official (of Ipacoop the auditing agency) explained that one of the problems was that COACESS paid high interest funds with fixed term rates to 9%, while placing these funds in the banks earning interest at 2%.

The directors of this cooperative have also questioned the fact that the intervener has purchased bonds totaling more than $ 20 million, an operation “unusual” that this organization had never done.

Roses Vallarino said that what is sought is that liquid funds were not placed in an interest earning loans of up to 4%, which remain liquid assets because they can sell at the time that these resources are required.
Another issue that remains is related to savings of Christmas, which could amount to about $ 8 million and although it has been announced that will be delivered on the first of December, the director of IPACOOP said “we are working on that evaluation, because It’s useless to meet commitments today, not in January can not be met with other commitments. ”
He stressed that the cooperative has suffered much and detected the payment of over $ 1,000,000 in commissions to companies related funds and identified many foreign funds, without the measures taken to meet the client.” (Emphasis added by me for those who invested through Offshore CD Network, they earned a lot of money)

If you are one of the people who have money invested in COACECSS you should make further inquiries to protect your “safe” investment. You were told no credit union in Panama has ever failed, according to the auditors at Ipacoop, they are doing what they can to maintain that record.

Somos Loco, We are Crazy

Today, 28 November,  is Independence Day in Panama. However, this year the President of the Republic decided to move Panama’s birthday to Monday 26 November.   When the current government ran for office the slogan of the CD party was Somos Loco (We are Crazy), this month people agree. Panamanians I spoke to thought he was crazy, you cannot move a birthday.

Some people I spoke to today said even god was angry about the change which is why much of Panama suffered heavy rain and some areas like Colon flooded. Our mayor decided that since the parade on Sunday was literally a washout he would do it again, on a smaller scale, today. Today instead of all the national bands who were soaked to the bone on Sunday, only schools from Boquete are marching. This will end the 2012 season of the drums, until the Christmas parade if it happens this year.

I was in town as the preparations were being made and fled before it started. I don’t mind the noise, I don’t mind the traffic, I do wonder why the children need to miss still another day of school but that is my North American bias.

Boquete Independence Day parade 2011, last year

This year I missed the Independence Day Parade on the 25th. I understand Boquete was mobbed by bands and tourists from the entire country. I missed the parade because we were returning from Colon, which was flooding as we departed. I understand the parade was loud as usual and had all night discos, lots of sleepless partying people and hordes of cold wet tourists. The noise of these events is permitted in Boquete in the name of tradition and patriotism, but not all noise is permitted.

Yesterday I was told the mayor has instituted more noise enforcement. Now even on weekends the few venues still allowed live music must stop music at 10pm. Since 10pm is when most locals head out to party on weekends this allows only one or two venues for live music on weekends, La Cabana and the new Porotos bar across from Global Bank. I wonder how they gained permits when Mikes, Amigos and La Posada are now restricted.

Somos Loco applies not only the the CD but perhaps also to the local government that is doing all that is possible to eliminate entertainment venues for locals and tourists alike. I do not understand the motivation, but this will be a negative to tourism and quality of life in Boquete. Parades are culturally important, but places to recreate on weekends are even more important to the long term success of a tourism economy.



Our march to the sea and beyond

Mayra, her daughter Yanara and I took a mini vacation to Miami with a return on the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas. The ship is doing a seasonal repositioning from Miami to Colon Panama. For Mayra this was a mini vacation, for Yanara a buying trip and for me a cerebral repositioning.

We were not unique, there were many people from Boquete on the ship and according the the crew most of them went shopping in Miami. Cruise ships are not set up for handling cargo, but people brought a lot. A partial list from the cruise director included, tires car parts, appliances, microwaves, construction supplies, doors and televisions etc. From us bags and boxes of electronics, clothing, shoes, perfume, gifts for teachers, gifts for family and a pile of things for Yanara to resell in David. The cruise director was a bit surprised, he said on their normal cruise Columbians buy in Colon because prices are lower in Panama than Columbia, now he knows Panamanians buy in Miami because many things are less expensive there.

Getting there was part of the adventure.

It took us less than an hour to drive from Boquete to David. It took close to seven hours in a bus from David to the bus terminal in Panama City, another thirty minutes to the Airport and far less time to fly to Miami.

One of the benefits of living in Boquete is that is remote. It is rumored that if the world does indeed end in December, we will be the last to know about it. One of the disadvantages of Boquete is that it is remote and going anyplace beyond David is at best time consuming. In the balance, for my chosen lifestyle the remote out weighs the difficulty of travel. All trips become an adventure.

Dealing with airport security was, as always and entertainment. In Panama the immigration guy spent some time trying to find an entry stamp in my new passport, failing in that he finally asked if I was a resident. A quick look at my shiny new cedula resolved that problem. Then off to a TSA styled, strip it off and put it on the belt. Finally off to the gate for a pat down, hand wanding and carry on search.

Upon arrival in Miami entry was fast and polite, a pleasant change from my last trip to the US. The immigration officer asked if I liked living in Panama, I said yes, she smiled, her name was Gonzales. For Mayra, Yanara and others without US residency, the line was long and slow. It was an hour before they made it to the luggage pickup area.

Miami was interesting. It had been more than twenty years since my last visit, so Miami was a new experience. We stayed overlooking Biscayne Bay with a view of the Grandeur of the Seas, our ride home. I was impressed by the free public transportation available in the city and we used it.

Miami tram

My observations in thirty six hours in Miami included, a few wows and a few sighs. I am glad I speak some Spanish because it is the first language in Miami. We only discovered one person, a cashier in Burger King who required me as a translator from Spanish to English to accept an order. I was shocked at the prices, although our large room at the Doubletree was a reasonable $119 a night, other things were outrageous. This included the trash food at Burger King. Maybe I have been gone from the US too long, but $10 for breakfast seems insane to me. We had one good meal in our time in Miami, a Cuban place called Latin Cafe, great Ropa Vieja, excellent Camerones Asado and a reasonable Cuban sandwich all at close to Panamanian prices, alas no jubilado discount.

Latin Cafe

By the time we arrived at the cruise ship for our return trip I was ready. I personally like cruises, no texting, no internet, no cell phone calls, time to read, write and relax. I thought the drink prices on cruise ships were outrageous, until this trip when I realized they were no higher than the bars in Miami Hotels. Food is included on cruises, but things have changed. I have been on the Grandeur of the Seas before, on their annual cycle from Colon into the Caribbean. Royal Caribbean has invested fifty million dollars enhancing the ship, they added more restaurants, Japanese, Italian, Steaks etc, but these are all at additional cost.

I love the food and constant entertainment of a cruise, a chance to chill out.

Did I mention I love the food and company too.

It is clear Royal Caribbean wants to increase shipboard revenue, hence the new for pay products, but they are voluntary not mandatory. There is no way the sixteen hundred passengers on this cruise to Colon, each of whom paid as little as one hundred dollars made the trip profitable. They have close to nine hundred employees and large fuel bill to pay. It cost us far more to get from Boquete to Miami than the return trip of three nights from Miami to Colon. If you are not in a rush travel by sea is much more fun than travel by air.

Tomorrow I will explain our oh so convoluted trip back to Boquete.

The noise problem in Boquete

Some people have given voice to the complaint that Boquete is too noisy. The Mayor seems to support them in their quest to close down bars and restaurants with live music. The Mayor however has provided us with a glaring exceptions, the Patriotic holidays and January Fair. Complaints about the marching bands and discos playing until three in the morning are from expats. Panamanians who also find sleeping impossible those nights know the drill and although they might not like the noise, they understand the reasons, these events inject money into the local economy.

In reading the Lonely Planet Thorntree Forum about Boquete I chanced upon a question from a person planning a Panama holiday. The question was simple, he asked, I am in my twenties and want to party, should I visit Boquete. The responses were few,  but a clear, no; Boquete is a drag, it’s a town for old people.

I might have more than sixty years under my belt but at times I still like to dance the night away or listen to a good band. We in Boquete have few options. Amigos is banned from having live music, Mikes Global Grill has to request permission weekly in fact the only two spots with dancing to live music are La Posada and Coca Cola. I like them both and apparently the local community does also,  La Posada is usually hopping on Saturday nights.

Boquete has a three phase economy. Agriculture  is in serious jeopardy with the US free trade agreement, residential tourism, the people who moved here and invest in the community and plain old tourism. We lack beaches, we lack the architecture of Imperial Spain, what we have is nature. The government of Panama is two faced on tourism. Panama spends a lot of money promoting Panama as a tourist destination and then the same government continues to pave the country, dam the rivers and desecrate the environment. The mayor of Boquete has been more consistent, he appears to do all things possible to discourage tourism.

Tourism is a potential replacement for the jobs to be lost in agriculture. For this evolution to happen Boquete needs better education for it’s young people and more noise! We need to have live entertainment for all age groups all week. Tourists of all ages are looking for a holiday, many of those of us who live here like entertainment options. The Patriotic holidays of November and Fair in January prove that when there is noise in Boquete we have tourists, with tourists comes money and the local businesses rejoice. Boquete needs more noise.


The devil made me do it

Yesterday I was told twenty-seven states in United States have petitioned to leave the Union. Today I heard thirty-six States, so I decide to check out this resurrection of the prelude to Civil War. The impending end of the United States of America due to secession of the States.

I tracked the petitions down to the hosting website, Whitehouse.gov. The official website of the President of the United States has a section called We the People, where any anonymous registered user can create and sign an online petition. The most optimistic anti Union people were wrong, there are petitions from fifty states. That’s correct, anonymous people from anyplace in the world signed petitions that read like this one from the great State of Mississippi.

“Peacefully grant the State of Mississippi to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government

As the founding fathers of the United States of America made clear in the Declaration of Independence in 1776:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

“…Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and institute new Government…”

I think that based on its history, Mississippi should be encouraged to leave the United States.

Therefore I, as Elmer Fudd, signed the petition from Panama to have Mississippi secede from the Union.

People this real and this is a joke. You all need to chill out.

If you want an interesting read that should be far more widely read on the current state of the US, allow me to recommend this article sent me by a reader and Boquete Coffee drinker in the US.

Published in Psychology Today LINK

The real message is that for the US to survive and prosper, the country needs to stop the dream of empire, cut foreign military adventures and focus on needs at home. This might echo some of the totally ignored words of Ron Paul on foreign policy.

Therefore, Elmer Fudd did a petition of his own and you can sign it, if you wish.

Bring the troops home, from everyplace.
The current financial needs of the United States of America requires a reallocation of resources for the good of the people of the United States of America.

According the Psychology Today in an article entitled “Why America is in Decline”

“The U.S. currently has (depending on the source of information) somewhere between 800 and 1,000 military bases in over 50 countries, and still regards itself as the world’s police force.”

Signers of this petition request the US close all foreign based not needed for the current security of the USA and bring home our troops.

LINK so you can sign the above petition

You can be assured regardless of the number of votes for this petition it will not happen ether.

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