Yesterday, the U.S. Embassy held an outreach at Hotel Ciudad de David in David. Cynthia Caplan, the ACS Chief introduced the new Boquete Warden, who replaced Price Peterson. Price had served Boquete for more than 20 years, if memory serves me correct. The new warden for Boquete is Hank Landis and the Boquete Alternate is Bonnie Williams.
Considering the Embassy Outreach meetings, I always learn something from the new contacts I meet.
Sometimes I go to to the outreach to get something attended to, such as document authentication. Sometimes I go to just let people know I am in David and available in case help is needed.
I always enjoy meeting people and continue to be amazed how many are new with less than a year experience in Panama.
A couple observations following the meeting.
I always get asked by some, if I know when the next meeting will be held in Boquete. Every time I post an Outreach ACS message, I get emails about when it will be in Boquete as opposed to David.
These Outreach Meetings, while beneficial to all that are able to get their business transacted without a trip to Panama City, are always tied to a real budgeted Embassy expense of visiting prisoners in the Chiriqui province. I hope all that were able to get their needs taken care of took the time to thank the Embassy for holding the outreach. They are not obligated to do it. They are obligated to visit the prisoners.
I received a couple comments that they thought previous meetings in Hotel Gran Nacional had more meeting space and were more comfortable. I will make sure the Embassy knows that comment came in.
I think that Boquete was considered for this Outreach, I was told that a fee of $500 was requested by the library. As I said, the primary reason the Embassy comes to Chiriquí, is to visit prisoners, and sometimes U.S. citizens with unusual needs that requires their presence.
For them to hold an outreach in Boquete, extra expenses are incurred, such as taxi fares and pay for the driver to be in Boquete all day. The Embassy uses specific drivers for security reasons and I am sure the cost is not cheap. The additional $500 fee was a budget breaker.
I am protective of the Embassy’s reputation and I tend get upset when I hear criticism directed toward the Embassy. I know about so many of the problems they work on and am amazed with their tolerance in resolving the problems. I write generically about some things I get involved with, but many problems never receive the credit that is deserved. I have been fortunate to work with some excellent folks at the Embassy and they give more support than you can imagine.
The Embassy security officer was here and took some questions. It jogged my memory and I have recently been asked about being able to use a Panama Driver’s license when visiting the US. I had received an email from US citizens that were in the process of making rental car arrangements and the agencies had requested a translated and authenticated license.
He had not heard of this before and said that Panamanian’s, who obtained a visa to visit the US, are allowed use their Panama Driver’s license for 30 days. He didn’t know why it should be different for US citizens. He said he would get back with me.
I also visited with a neighbor of the victims of a home invasion where the daughter was killed and the mother was in intensive care from Boqueron. This was a Panamanian home and they had recently moved here from living in the US. The mother was questioning her decision to move back to Panama and was considering returning to the US.
I met another lady that hadn’t been here very long and was surprised to find Panama so different from how it is presented in many publications. Welcome to the real Panama.
Certainly, this is not the Panama I visited in 2002, when I was considering moving here. Crime was trivial and usually a crime of opportunity, such as lawn mowers or garden hoses left in the front yard. I never heard of armed home invasions. Speed forward to 2016 and violent crime is plentiful.
A fair amount of the crime is not reported, especially by gringos, because they are afraid it will lower property value or they have some vested interests that requires a only positive image of Panama being presented.
I have always believed that the more people speak up about crime and push for it to be recognized by the Panama government, the more likely it will be addressed. At the present time I have seen few signs of improvement of finding the law breakers, or having law breakers punished and not immediately released.
In this outreach, I heard some people complaining about having to pay for document authentications. I also heard complaints about not liking the first come first served system. The fees for documentation are require by law. If you don’t like it, write your congressman. If you want a scheduled appointment, then that is available by going to the Embassy in Panama City.
This morning I took Cynthia Caplan to Hogar Santa Catalina to visit Robert. I wanted her to see the facility and the type of care that is afforded him. Every now and then a case comes up where a citizen may need to consider something similar to Hogar Santa Catalina. I appreciated her adding this to her calendar.
In closing, let me go back to the Embassy’s Chiriqui outreach. I remember when we were lucky to have one outreach a year. Now the Embassy tries to have one quarterly, when they have prison visitations. Be thankful for what you have. It is better than it used to be. I know the Embassy is working on some service improvements and if approved, they will be announced.