File This Under “STUPID”

I spent a couple glorious days in Boquete, which I will write up later.

The “STUPID” reference is related to our return to David around 8:00 PM last night. Before we got to Dolega, we saw flashing lights and a stream of car headlights. The first thought that ran through my mind was that there had been an accident and the road was blocked..

A couple minutes later, I realized that it was a traffic check point and they were stopping all cars going in both directions.

When I got to the officer, he asked to see my drivers license, which I provided. He took it and walked to the back of the car and looked at the license plate. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am still waiting on the municipal office to get in my January tag.

The officer came back and asked to see the permission slip for having an expired tag, which I produced.

He looked at it and told me to pull ahead and to the side of the road so that other cars could pass. He then took my drivers license and the permission letter from the municipal office to another officer.

The second officer, a female, came to the car and informed me that the permission letter was expired and asked to see the receipt for paying for the 2010 tags. With this she said since this was the first time I had been stopped, that I needed to go Monday and obtain a new permission letter to drive with expired tags.

There is no way to look at this but just being plain stupid. This is the second year in a row that the municipal office has not had my January tag when I went to get them. I paid for the tag and the fact that it is not on the car is not mine, but the fault of some part of the Panama government.

If you are driving around with expired tags and have a permission letter permitting you to drive with expired tags, don’t think you are safe from being annoyed.

Come to think of it, I may be the reason that the road blocks were out last night. I wonder if the driver of the car, I took the photo of, and other cars that I have seen driving with expired tags, have permission letters and just never went back to get the new tag. Hmmmmmm.

Well, this rant is over. Now go out and have a wonderful day. I will.

UPDATE: I added the Crime tag to this post due to the comment received below.

35 thoughts on “File This Under “STUPID”

  1. No definitely filed correctly. The police know that the tags aren’t available. Even if you have an expired permission slip it means you’ve paid. Can you imagine every driver going every month to get new permission slips.

  2. I understand, since Martinelli has been elected, to raise taxes from 5% to 7% to get income into Panama. Other incidentals has been the building in Panama and not having the right permits, etc…….BUT, at the same token, the lesser problems are not being addressed:
    1. The driver’s licences — where to go — how to do it….. We are still being charged for
    their not taking care of these problems. Every time we go for plates – it is the same
    thing — we have been here since ’05 and we have NEVER gotten our plates when we put in the effort to get them when due. NOW, they are charging us for their inadequacies. Nothing is ever ready. I cannot believe they charged “Don Ray” for paperwork that expired when they didn’t take care of their responsibilies.
    when you need it they penalize us for what they are not doing.
    2. I have continously been hampered by the postal service. We do not get our packages, we cannot talk to anyone since they don’t speak English. I mailed “registered” mail in February and, to date — no receipts.
    They are making our lives miserable with they consider, “small” (I guess because there is no tax on it). Take care of the small stuff and stop everyone from running around and getting nothing done and being “billed” for this.
    3. Our friend in Panama did get a fine for crossing the “yellow line”. she went everywhere, was re-directed to other locations because people would not accept the money. Had to go to an Attorney to get it paid so she can register her car. At the same time, the “fine” receipt had the wrong numbers on it. They added 00000 to the title and now, because she wants to register the car they told her to remove the 0000. They put it on — what the heck is happening?
    Can someone send this to Martinelli to look at the “minimal” problems for everyone trying to stay within Gov’t control. ????

  3. Don Ray:
    Welcome to Paradise, bureaucracy sucks big time. And I thought Don Ray was already used to it.

  4. Off topic – sorry.
    I mailed some postcards to the U.S. from the Boquete post office earlier this month. Should I expect not to get them even though they had U.S.A. and Los Estados Unidos in the address? Thank you.

  5. Hi John. Thanks for taking th etime to leave a comment.

    Hi Charlotte. They didn’t charge me anything, just told me to get an updated letter. I have never had problems with registered mail. However, I would send packages to David or from David from the Post Office.

    Hi Jaime. I understand it. I still think this instance is stupic.

    Hi Mike. I have sent a lot of Postcards and they have all been delivered.

    Hi Bob. Good advise for anyone wanting to live in Latin America, not just Panama.

  6. The headlines in the papers yesterday indicated that the government is not going to issue tags at all this year. They threw in the towel. Next year’s will be plain white with black numbers, and they are considering issuing two (front and rear).

    This is one of those cases where the bureaucracy gets in the way with an otherwise lovely place to live. It happens a bit too regularly and I doubt we gringos ever get used to it. I usually take some deep breaths and try to smile.

    Also, the comment about learning some Spanish is right on the money. I’m surprised there is any expectation that Panamanians “should” speak English… I’ve found they are really appreciative (and often surprised) when Americans and Canadians have taken the time to learn the language here. It’s definitely not required, but not learning it, especially after having been here for at least a year, also means you forfeit the right to complain about things that knowing the language could resolve (or, if not forfeit the right, then forfeit getting any sympathy over your complaints).

    Keep up the good work, Don!

  7. Hey Don (or anyone else), OT, but what the heck happened with Jim “Jet” Nielson? Did he make his run?

  8. File this under “Security Awareness”

    Like most of you I am a resident of David, actually Potrerillos if some of you are not familiar with the out laying areas of the greater David area. I am a former law enforcement officer from the USA and like “some” of you I have an abundance of common sense, but however hard I try to assist and educate the residence that live in my area I still hear about crimes committed against North Americans that could have been avoided with a little commons sense and due diligence.

    Today while out making my courtesy rounds contacting the American residence in my area I was advised of our latest robbery. The victim is a retire American couple who owns a single family residence in the Potrerillos area and the owner was robbed of his wallet right out from his home presumably on or near his night stand in their bedroom. The victim indicated that both he and his wife were home at the time but were busy working on a home improvement project in another part of their residence and some one entered the home and lifted the man’s wallet during the mid day.

    They saw nothing, however they did indicate that the front and back doors of the house were unsecured and they believe that the perpetrator entered from the rear of their house.

    I politely suggested that they keep their doors secured all the time like I do in my home and establish a life style that encompasses a higher degree of situational awareness that also includes monitoring activities in and around their house and the surrounding areas.

    I have personally started a basic neighborhood watch program for our local gringos who want me to share my LEO experience with them in combating crim. As a member of the North American Community in and around David I encourage all of you to redouble your efforts and raise your sense of awareness and take in the big picture.

    If you have any reservations about anything you see do as I do and play the “what if” game. I’m competent you will discover a whole new way of perceiving things so as to reduce your likely hood of being victimized. Are you next?

  9. I enjoy reading your website. I appreciate all the positive things you are doing in Panama. I hope you do not stop making your points about things that are “wrong” without justification. These things drive me nuts too and I speak Spanish and am a product of that society; I have been deeply affected by the many years lived as a ressortissant.
    I want to enjoy a better place when my time comes up because my roots do call me. I look forward the day where bureacracy and the average person have improved. I look forward the day where institution run with the apropriate amount of modicum.
    Please keep the good work and do not stop complaining; if you do it in Spanish without being patronizing and accepting the reality of living in that environment, better.

  10. I paid $40 for a license, I don’t have (valid for only two weeks). I paid for my plates which I don’t have on my car. I paid for an inspection but the card I don’t have. Yep, Panama is a nice place but it is still third world. It is however better than other places I have lived down here.

    When I renewed the registration on my pickup I got a temporary permission for 3 months. When I renewed the permission for my Explorer, I was given a temporary, temporary permission for 15 to go back to get the regular temporary permission for 3 months (all since there are no plates). I got smart and went with a friend the second time (who happens to be police) and she said “since there are no plates, why don’t you just give us a temp permission for the whole year.

    They agreed to this and gave me a temporary permission for a year, however we did not look at it until we left and they had mistyped 2011 as 2010 so it was just good for a few days. On my 10th trip back I brought both temp permissions and the temp for the temp permission and got two new temp permissions for a full year. This time I looked it over real well and the only problem was my last name spelled wrong (don’t care).

    Anyway if anyone goes to the town hall to get the temp permission for the plates just tell them you want a temporary permission for a year and do not take no for an answer. Then kick back and enjoy Panama until the next time you need to renew your plates.

  11. So, does anyone know? Are there going to be plates / tags later this year–or next year, or how long does this issue remain an issue? Do the tags eventually get issued each year? Is this year an exception to the rule, or more or less the rule?

    (Was thinking of getting a car, but perhaps its better to just take the bus and rent a vehicle when absolutely needed….) This defintely gives one food for thought.

  12. Hi All. My plan, unless something happens, is to go to see about a new permission slip today and I will ask more questions. If I am told that there will be no 2010 tags, I will contact the US Embassy and see if I can get them ti issue an advisory notice to that effect. No everyone reads CC and that news needs to get out.

  13. Thanks Don. I always learning something when I come for a visit.

    Rosa and I thoroughly enjoyed Scott’s reply about his experience….a temporary, temporary permission 🙂

    Charlotte…a Latin America Spanish course is available from Rosetta Stone…install it on your computer…works great. I get to make lots of mistakes before I practice on people.

  14. Hi: I am learning some Spanish from Panamanian friends but it takes time. Trying to get plates — I should speak Polish to them and they would probably understand me better. I think it is my accent. ??

  15. Attention: DK. I am not saying that Panamanians should speak English — my point is that many xpats are moving to Panama and the Gov’t should have some employees that speak English & Spanish to help the new people to the area until they have time to learn Spanish, especially with Postal services and Gov’t entities. We built a home here — our Panamanian friend spoke Spanish & English but, for some reason, the Panamanians that live here — if there is a problem with the building — don’t want to address the problem with the builder as an interpreter, as they feel they are “insulting” them. The work we paid for was not done. I had the same problem with our Attorney and we were duped out of $l000 by an accountant but our lawyer would not address our problem. I don’t know if this is fear or respect for vocalizing or lawsuits that can be instituted. Problems are not dealt with at this time.

  16. I have read all the comments, BUT, will someone explain. I put it on information site before and our car is supposed to be registered in April and get our tags.
    l — it is getting close.

    1. What do we have to do?

    2. Where do we have to go?

    3. What do we have to get?

    4. What paperwork do we need to get what we need for a year?

    5. How much is it?

    Can someone just tell us? Where is the municipal building located? We keep gettting sent to Dolega, to Chiriqui Mall and I am almost afraid to ask where else.

  17. Don Ray:

    I read the comment by Alex and want to be sure my first note was clear. Yes, by all means complain — I wasn’t directing that comment at you at all. If nobody ever said anything, nothing would improve. I get just as frustrated as anyone else with the bureaucratic snafu’s here (like the three, two-hour each trips to EDECHI just to get the electric account changed into my name). This included an extra trip to a notary to get a stamp verifying the previous owner’s signature. He was not with me, but the notary happily stamped the form anyway, based on my saying it was the guy’s original signature. The whole thing was about giving the notary his $5 payment, as he actually “notarized” nothing… My point was that in rural Wisconsin, where I’m originally from, you have many new Latin immigrants who speak no English, but the state doesn’t hire people at post offices or anywhere else who DO speak Spanish, because the expectation in rural parts of the U.S. is that everything must be done in English. Just like here – in Panama City, you will often find people who do speak English, but in a country of Panama’s limited resources, expecting that in places like Chiriqui is totally unrealistic.

    Also, AJ’s comment above was also right on the money regarding common sense security measures.

    Thanks again to you for providing this excellent blog, where you clarify so many things for so many people. And I’ve noticed you DO always look at the bright side of things, so if I wasn’t clear earlier, my apologies to you. I wasn’t implying that you were “complaining” at all. It was a very informative post about frustrating issues here. I also stand by what I said about learning Spanish. I have a BA in that language, and I still make time to study an hour or two every day to improve upon it, since I live here now part time and a huge part of the adventure being here is getting to know the Panamanian people in THEIR language… 😉

  18. PS. Here’s the article from Saturday’s newspaper, announcing that car license plates won’t be issued in 2010:

    No habrá placas de circulación del 2010
    Hubo atrasos en la emisión de la resolución para la elaboración de la lata.

    Carlos Anel Cordero

    Caos. Miles de personas formaron largas filas para adquirir su salvoconducto en el Municipio de Panamá.
    Ya es definitivo, no habrá placas del 2010 para los autos, pero los propietarios deberán pagar el impuesto de circulación vehicular en sus respectivos municipios, informó el director de la Autoridad del Tránsito, Jorge Ricardo Fábrega.

    Ante los inconvenientes y retrasos surgidos con la adquisición de los materiales y la confección de las latas, “se tomó la decisión de cancelarlas y en su remplazo sólo se utilizarán las calcomanías”.

    No obstante, insistió en que esto no quiere decir que los contribuyentes quedan exonerados de pagar el impuesto de circulación en sus municipios.

    Reconoció que la emisión tardía de la resolución en la pasada administración para mandar a confeccionar las placas influyó en el retraso.

    Además, que cuando empezó el actual Gobierno se hizo la evaluación de establecer un método similar al que se utiliza en Europa, que involucra el uso de dos placas, una trasera y una delantera.

    Fábrega manifestó que ya se tomaron las previsiones para confeccionar las latas para el 2011, a fin de evitar que se repita el mismo problema.

    El diseño de las placas para el próximo año será mucho más sencillo, ya que se trata de una lata blanca y los números serán negros, sin dibujos u otros colores.

    Expresó que se decidió hacer hacerlo así para facilitar la identificación de los vehículos que circulan en las calles de todo el país.

  19. AJ?
    While not on topic, and your “neighborhood watch” efforts are positive,
    I think its important to to properly ID a crime, so as not to give erroneous info and cause undo fear.

    Robbery is defined (by the US Department of Justice) as: The taking or attempting to take anything of value from the care, custody or control from a person or persons by force or threat of force or violence and/or by putting the victim in fear.

    Force, fear and violence are the main elements of robbery and are lacking here.

    This is different from mere theft, where force is not used against you personally, but objects are stolen. In short:

    Theft happens to your property. Robbery happens to you.

    A perpetrator (who takes your wallet from a nightstand) is not committing robbery, he is committing theft. Perhaps a “Burglary”, but we can discuss the elements of “specific intent” in our next lesson.

    Someone who walks up and puts a gun in your face and demands your purse is committing robbery. In a robbery, you are put in danger. This is why robbery is deemed a more serious crime.

    As a former LEO I am sure you agree that proper crime classification is an important starting point in crime prevention.

  20. Hi Charlotte.

    In April, you will have to go to the municipal office where your car was registered when you bought it. That information should be on your title. If it is Dolega, then you will go to Dolega. If it is David you go to the Municipal building. The following post has a photo of the Minicipal building and close to the megracion office and on the two way street that intersects with the one way street (Calle Rapido) and to the right if you are turning from the one way street.

    You will need your paperwork for the car and you will pay for the 2010 tags. They will not have the tags and will give you a “Permission” letter to drive with 2009 tags. When you get the permission, make sure it says you have permission until April 2011 or they will just give you a letter for two months and you will have to go back.

    I don’t remember the cost but it was in the neighborhood of $30 or $40 dollars.

  21. Hi Jack Webb, Just as a comment, there has been an increase of home invasion in Panama and it has been done with the sole purpose of having people in the house when they entered. This was done many times when it was known that the people had safes in the house the people would be needed to provide the combination. Some times it was to secure bank cards and the robbers wanted the pin of the bank or credit card.

    While Most crime in Chiriqui is theft when houses are empty, I would not want people to think that there has been none of the other, because there has. Your comment implies that there has been none of that type of crime in Chiriqui and there has been.

    In fact, it was just on the news that a gringo in Algarrobos was robbed and and killed and the robbers left in the gringo’s car. This was on the 12:15 news March 29, 2010.

  22. Hi Carey. Nothing is the answer. I understand that they did that a quite a while in the past, but not since I have lived here.

    Maybe they are worried about forgeries of the stickers.


  24. Hey Don Ray,

    I wasnt trying to say in the slightest way that robberies and/or “home invasions” dont occur in the R. de P. or Chiriqui. Not my intent and My condolences to any victim of any crime.

    I follow a couple of these blogs and have been since before my second visit in March of last year. My first visit was in 1977 (thru ’78) at the invite of my uncle sam, in a place called Ft Clayton. I have seen the reported general increase in crime of all types in Panama, via the varied sites, and robbery/murder included. Its a damn shame.

    As a retired Police Sgt, and college instructor in Admin. of Justice, I tend to hone in on the issues I am familier with. If I could speak and read spanish, better than “otra cerveza”, I’d volunteer as an instructor at the PNP Academy(s). If I was a resident, Id be proactive in a neighborhood watch program as AJ said, and I’d be harping on the local station officers to stop sitting around flexing their muscles and actually go out and do some police work/community service. AND yes I suppose more roadside checks (the original topic) would result by more PNP activity , but if those officers are paying attention more thieves and robbers would be located and dealt with. From other sites I read of the “new” handheld computers some officers are using there are good results in identifying and arresting wanted persons.

    My point was clarity in crime reporting. If every lost wallet or stolen lawnmower is reported as a “robbery”, Then you will have attention and resources drawn to lessor crimes. It takes away from victims who suffered the terror and violence of a home invasion/pistol whipping for the sake of a four diget pin#, and could give an unknowing reader a false indication the happenings in the area. Its a “cry wolf” situation. Not intended, but happens.

    Hope that helps?

    And hey, lets be careful out there!

  25. Hi Jack. All good points and I concur with all of them. When I post anything I try to be as accurate as possible. One of the problems many new people run into coming to Panama, is that they have believed all of the BS that is publised in International iving and believe that this is Nirvana and only good exists here. Because of incorrect expetectations being set, many leave in a few months unhappy with their decision.

    Panama is not perfect, but I am still happy with my decision to move here. I try to provide a view of life as it comes to me, both the good and the bad.

    Thanks for taking the time to clarify your statement.

  26. I have read all the comments, BUT, will someone explain.

    1. What do we have to do?

    Ready your passport or carnet and the original registro único de property (Excuse my Spaniah spelling) that is the title to the car, original copy of the inspection (you need to do this first).

    2. Where do we have to go?

    You need to go to the municipio (town hall) and go to the line to the right as you enter in front. There you pay and go to the line to where the plates are suppose to be to get a temporary permission in lieu of plates. Ask for a one year permission not a temporary (not a 15 day, 3 months etc.) one just to return again and again for the whole year.

    3. What do we have to get?

    A paper that can easily be forged that says you paid you yearly taxes (so they have money to make new plates I suppose)

    4. What paperwork do we need to get what we need for a year?

    What I said above (and below what you should end up with)

    5. How much is it?

    My pickup was $46 and my Explorer was like $35 or so (I forgot after all I went through)

    Can someone just tell us? Where is the municipal building located? We keep gettting sent to Dolega, to Chiriqui Mall and I am almost afraid to ask where else.

    Depends when the car was last registered, if in Dolega you need to go there. If it is in David the town hall kind of in central David, sorry I can seem to get the hang of direction in a country that has no street name or signs or numbers on building. If you just brought the car in and have been through customs you need all the papers from that for the town hall.

    You do not need to go to the mall as they have a place upstairs in the town hall in David now. You will however need to get the plastic credit card size card at the mall for you inspection but only a month after you pay for the inspection.

    After all is done and the month passes, you need the Temp permission (in liew of plates) and the plastic card from the mall with you in the car when you drive here.

    All of this is subject to change depending on who helps you in the town hall and the weather that day – but it is more or less.

    Don, question – did you get the sticker for the inside of the windshield? I did not.

  27. SGT Webb,

    Thanks for expressing interest in the issues we face daily as we deal with living not only here in Panama but ells ware including the USA. Your classifications are helpful but perhaps a bit to detailed for the average consumer (just my opinion). You are correct with the types of crimes as they are classified , however the victims are probably less concerned about the correct classification than the fact that they were victimized.
    I may not have 30 years in the department and perhaps my loosely applied descriptions of recent crimes leave room for interpretation by those who are well versed in the law enforcement arena. There is no intent on my behalf to divert the readers and concerned citizens who frequent CC in any direction other than the facts as I become aware of them. It’s just down to earth communication at a level that common individuals can understand not just seasoned LEO.

    I hope you can provide advanced LOE training in Panama they need all the help they can get.

  28. Thanks to all for the information on tags. Just give someone a laugh this AM – can’t go for tags just now because we were greeted with a completely flat tire this AM and 2 stray dogs that we take care of tangled with a porcupine last night.. There are 30,000 quills on a porcupine and I think the dogs have l/2 of them.

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