There was a recent incident in Volcan where a gringo was driving and struck and killed a 4 year old child that ran in front of his car. This is a sad story anyway you look at it. It is always sad when there is an accident and a life is lost. In Panama, if a death results from a traffic accident, the driver is assumed guilty until proven innocent. Treatment given to the accused is not the same as it would be in the U.S.
In this case it was a gringo driving, but I really think the treatment might have been the same for a Panamanian. At least I hope the gringo was not treated differently, but the treatment I understand he received has been described as deplorable.
This is another perfect example of why a car camera is a worthwhile investment. It would have shown that the child ran in front of the car and from viewing the video, you should be able to get a rough estimate of the speed being driven.
Another recent incident
There are several lessons to be learned from this incident. Recently a gringo couple in Volcan had their three dogs killed. Two were poisoned. The third dog was missing and later turned up dead. Now when dogs are poisoned, it is usually the precursor of a robbery. In this case the robbery was not immediate.
However, a day or so ago, armed robbers entered their house and beat and robbed them at gun point. They notified the police and when the police came they found marijuana plants in the back yard that one of the victims said he was growing to treat his glaucoma.
The police took the victim of the robbery into custody for growing illegal substances.
I notified the U.S. Embassy of both of these cases. I know that the U.S. Embassy in Panama City will be in contact with the Panama authorities within 24 hours if they are notified about a U.S. Citizen being in custody.
Both of the incidents are getting a lot of discussion on the Yahoo groups. I know that emotions are running high and that many are outraged by the treatment by the police in both cases. The Embassy was notified within 24 hours of each incident.
Both of these cases are recent and how they will turn is beyond my ability to speculate. I will say that they second case, having an illegal substance involved, puts the Embassy in a weaker posture.
I am sure that the U.S. Embassy will get criticized for not doing more in coming to the aid of its citizens. I hear more criticism for what the Embassy does more than I ever hear gratitude.
Let me give you my point of view on this subject. In my opinion, the U.S. Embassy’s primary responsibility in any country is to protect the relationship of the U.S. Government and the government of the country involved.
Here, the Embassy also has the responsibility to request that all U.S. Citizens receive the same treatment as a natural citizen of Panama. The key word is “request”. The treatment cannot be expected to be the same as the U.S. would provide under U.S. law. Panama rules by Panama law. Surprise.
If treatment is determined to be different for U.S. Citizens than Panamanians. then the Embassy can bring up the mistreatment to the appropriate agency within Panama. To repeat myself, the U.S. Embassy can only request equal treatment. It cannot enforce equal treatment.
I can say from experience that the treatment will not be the same in all cases and the U.S. requests are not always listened to. This is a risk anyone moving and living in Panama has to accept and weigh that risk and its relationship to their happiness.