I Have Had It

I still feel like S**T and as I was coughing up more mucus from this flu bug, I smell the odor of smoke. Yep, another trash fire across the road. I sure don’t feel like sitting at the PC and writing this, but I am not going to let this go undocumented.

I am quite sure that this is the gardener that lit the fire, but it is the homeowner that is responsible for allowing it to be lit.

You remember the last time this happened, I went to went to the Local Fire Department to find out who to contact and called them multiple times and never saw the office officials do anything. That was last April. Well if they did go to talk to the owner, then the owner ignored them. If they did not, then the government agency is at fault and I assume the latter.

This morning I called twice reporting the smoke. I have seen no evidence of any action. My plan this time is to print several photos in my file and find the head of the Corregiduria and have a meeting.

I am sure there are more examples, but I don’t feel up to searching form them. Here are links I did find:

Last April.

January 2008

November 2007

Today there was more smoke, but when I am feeling better I am going to build a fire under the Corregiduria.

24 thoughts on “I Have Had It

  1. welcome to Panama, Don. You should know this is normal here.
    And I am not telling this is OK but it is something we have lived for many years, good luck at the corregiduria.

  2. I have put up with this for several years. It is against the law and I intend to get a statement from the corregiduria as to why they are not enforcing the law. I have lived in Panama for over 7 years so you don’t need to tell me that I should understand and put up with it.

  3. Best of luck at getting these people to fulfil their duties, Don Ray. My sister-in-law’s no account hubby has been running a sawmill behind my mother-in-law’s house for decades in Boquete and then burning off the excess scrap/sawdust.

    I talked to him, useless.
    I called the mayor, useless.
    I talked to all the neighbors who must endure the smoke and noise (sometimes at 10PM they are still sawing lumber), useless.
    I got a petition signed and took it to the mayor, still useless.

    If I were one of the neighbors I’m sure I could find a way to stop the smoke and noise.
    jim and nena
    fort worth, tx

  4. Go get them … do not give up!
    You and I know change in Panama comes VERY SLOOOWWW… it requires persistance to say the least. It seems as if the authorities expect that people with complaints will eventually will go away and they have to do nothing!!!
    Hope you feel better soon!

  5. Don Ray:
    Easy there, big fellow! I know exactly what are you talking about. Unless there are real FINES for those doing this, very little they will do. I bet you the neighbour will see your request as “que cree este gringo, que el es dueno del barrio”, rather than see it as what it is, a health hazard.
    Good luck. I am glad you are feeling better.

  6. For what’s its worth, I would predict the outcome of your battle will end with the same results NOTHING. I will say that in 1988 there was an American man pushing the Panamanian Government around a little too hard and was arrested on false charges and held captive for over a year until the Delta Force landed a helicopter on the roof and freed him. Do stand up for what’s right but be careful not to push to many of the wrong low level government slugs to hard, they just might legislate you out of existence or worse.
    No Gringo will ever change Panamanian Culture. Perhaps only time will purge the defects out but very slowly. I have been operating in and out of Panama since 1984 and what I see today is what I saw then.

  7. Yep, you can ask and if they want to do then fine. If they don’t best to drop it. If you push the wrong people to hard it can only cause trouble for yourself. This ain’t Kansas.


  8. Don,

    Have you gone over to the neighbor and simply asked them not to do it?
    Sometimes the personal touch works best. It did for me when a neighbor had a carnival-sized speaker in his car and played latin rap full blast from about 10 am til noon each day. Although several houses away, I still couldn’t talk on the phone because the noise was so bad. I finally went over and complained in person. I got some of the same attitude of “Que crea esta gringa? Yo soy quien manda aqui!” But….when I insisted I wasn’t trying to “mandar” but just “pedir un favor” the stereo was turned off and there hasn’t been a repetition of the same in three months.

  9. “Don Ray says:
    July 8, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    I only expect them to enforce their own law, not legislate new ones.”

    Don, welcome to the 52nd state.

    I had the same problem with the neighbor across the street. She even had an infant (hers) inside the house. The house would be engulfed with the worst smelling trash fire smoke you ever smelt & she’d burn it for up to TWENTY FOUR HOURS!! I kid you NOT. Plastic pop bottles mostly was burnt & DIRTY DIAPERS to boot. It was UNREAL and awakened me in the middle of the night twice. You know, the smoldering fires these folks seem to be expert at burning? Never leaping flames, ONLY plumes of SMOKE!

    I resorted to filling a few 5gal buckets of water, walking over there & putting the POS out myself. Also, since the heads seem thick on the fire front around here, I had a few b*tch sessions with her as well. Result? no more trash fires. Oh, I’ll let her burn one for an hour or 2 like everybody else does. Then, it’s over.

  10. I simply cannot breathe when we get the smoke from down the road. Everyone tells me to call the fire dept — right –.I cannot stand coughing and not breathing. Where is Martinelli in all this with the exception of raising the taxes for the Panamanian people amd eveyone else. Where is Gov’t? . They establish laws not enforced but you do pay w/taxes to eat. Everything here is getting out of control and in the US.

  11. Sorry that you’ve been so ill recently and hope you are now on the mend. I also wish you luck on your campaign to have your neighbor’s fires put out, but I’m afraid I’m also going to predict that it will come to naught. First thing is history – your neighbor (and their employees) will have been burning their trash in this manner for decades and it is ‘costumbre’, the customary way of handling the trash. Second thing is also history – your neighbor’s family is quite prominent in David and it is unlikely that they will even be approached with your formal complaint let alone be fined. Third thing is your position in Panama – a foreigner. Yes, you can point out the laws and expect them to be enforced, but when it comes down to Panamanian vs. Gringo, you will not win, no matter how serious or trivial the complaint, no matter how many witnesses… and pushing the matter will almost inevitably backfire. Having said all that, I still wish you luck and a speedy recovery.

  12. Hi Don: sorry to learn that you were down with the flu and hope you’re much better today. Iam a panamanian and since 1996, I’ve been complainng about this neighbor burning the trash, to no avail. I calle the Fire Deparment, the Corregiduria, etc. but, as LL poiints out, this neighbor is from a prominent family in Chiriqui and they’ve done that for decades.

  13. Lillia et al,

    No doubt you are all correct and nothing will be done. While the prominent citizens in Panama should be the ones setting examples, it is often they that set the worst examples and effectively say laws are for others, but not for me.

    I will still register my complaint at the Corregiduria in person.

  14. Lady Bird Johnson had a large impact on littering in America in the 60’s. Is anyone with political pull in Panamá willing to help with matters like this?

  15. Maybe there is another way to approach the problem.

    If you can present photos of the workers actually setting the fire then they would be guilty of breaking the law. Fifty dollars is a lot to the average laborer and it might make them think twice before following orders from the property owners to burn the debris instead of hauling it off.

    If the workers are just starting the fires to avoid the work of hauling/bagging the debris then they should be the ones fined.
    jim and nena
    fort worth, tx

  16. Mister Ray
    Comparto su sentir y pesar por nuestros coterráneos, que no miden las consecuencias de quemar desechos no orgánicos en sus patios. En mi caso en la casa de mis padres al lado vive una señora que se la pasa todos los dias quemando desechos ya sean inorganicos y restos de arboles, hojas, etc., con la consabida situación del humo. El dilema es que mi madre es asmática y tanto ella como mi padre le ha dicho por años que no queme y eso es por gusto (no entiende) y eso no importa la estación (ya sea estación seca o lluviosa) sigue quemando. Nosotros los panameños no tenemos la costumbre o la cultura de reciclar, reutilizar hasta lo minimo con la intención de no contaminar aun más nuestras ciudades. Si las personas tuvieran conciencia de que lo que bota a diario es dinero, lo pensarían dos veces desechar. Lo peor aun es que como ya LA TIERRA no suporta una quema mas, el aire que respiramos ya no es tan puro como hace decadas atras. Usted que ya tiene su buen par de años viviendo en la provincia habrá constatado que no solo en la ciudad de David se ve estos casos, sino que en toda la república. Es triste ver durante la estación seca la gran cantidad de quemas y el humo esparcirse dia y noche entre las residencias y los que no tenemos aire acondicionado y solo un abanico para por lo menos auyentar un poco el humo venenoso que respiramos, podamos estar un poco tranquilos.
    Nuestras autoridades a sabienda que existen leyes para impedir y en su momento multar a las personas por tan descabellado acto, no lo hacen y ponen oidos sordos y la vista ciega ante tal hecho.
    El día que ya el oxigeno de la tierra no sea respirable será muy tarde para subsanar el mal

  17. Friend Don, when I lived in Boquete and was in situation similar to yours, I drank a lot of fluids, got bed rest and gazed for hours over the beautiful flowers and foliage and people passing by.
    After my landlord did not seem to grasp the concept of negative results his outside trash burning caused, I asked a third party to explain to him that I had a serious lung condition, which the smoke made worse. (Was true) He stopped burning.
    We can either lie in the dirt of git back up on that horse.

  18. I didn’t know it was illegal to burn here since it’s not in Bocas. When I moved to my property I was burning mostly wood chunks from my land, a dead tree and cardboard boxes.

    A few days ago I had a woman in civilian clothing come to my house and tell me I was being fined $25 for burning. She had no ID but told me she was from the Police and Corregiduria.

    I could not understand everything she was saying so I contacted a friend. He spoke to her and told her that I was new in the neighborhood, came from Bocas where it is legal to burn and besides that, I didn’t have $25 so he suggested she give me a warning.

    She didn’t really know how to give me a warning so instead she told me she thought my dogs were pretty and turned and walked away.

    Meanwhile, everyone around me still burns. Now I’m trying to figure out what to do with all the wood on my land.

  19. Mr. Don Ray,

    I’m really proud to have a new Panamanian that try to make a difference here(I don’t like to use the word “expat”, and I feel you can be counted as Panamanian, because you show to care more for this country than most).

    I’m ashamed of the development of this issue, and also for the feeling expressed by some of the comments. To all the “gringos” here, i need to say that this kind apathy in the enforcement of the law is applied the same to locals and new residents. Please don’t feel segregated, because if I were the one making the report, I will be also ignored.

    Now, a couple of recommendations, first check with your neighbors, maybe if the petition is signed by several people, is going to gather more attention. Also, try checking with the people in the government that you know, panama is moved by how do you know, more than anything else. Maybe dropping some names of people of power could do the trick.

    For the way (and amount) that you write about our beautiful country, I know you love it as much as most locals (maybe more), and I hope this problem is resolved, and you can continue enjoying Chiriqui.

  20. Hi Don Ray, my name is Jose and I’m from Spain, I would get in touch with you to tell some things are very important for me and hopefully I can help my email is eloze013@hotmail.com hope to send me an email to respond and comment.

    Thank you very much, greetings.

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