Observations After the March Embassy Outreach

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.

13 thoughts on “Observations After the March Embassy Outreach

  1. Thank you Don for the information and for all that you and Embassy staff are doing to help those in need. We appreciate you and your service.

  2. I got my drivers license notarized, filed for Medicare part B and got my social security benifit statement notarized.

    The FBU unit guy looked at my last two numbers on my passport and told me I don’t need a Proof Of Life until next year. I thought he was looking at my social security number, WRONG. I had already looked a few months ago and thought it was for and Even Year. I thought I had figured the dates wrong. So, he didn’t give me one. I got home and figured out he was looking at the passport number. That was the first mistake. Anyway—I was just trying to get a form a little early. Mistakes can happen—I wrote this one off. A POL is suppose to be mailed to me in the local mail in May or June.

    Now the big mistake. Who’s at fault is beyond me. I ask Cynthia Caplan before she notarized the Social Security Benifit Letter for my Residency would this work for residency. She said; “it works for everyone else it should work for you.” My jurisdiction is in Miami. So, I ran to DHL from the hotel after the notarizing and send it to Consulate Of Panama, Miami. It got there fast enough Wed. They called me and WOULD NOT accept the notarization. So, I talked with the assistant in the Consulate (we talked many times before) and She finally spoke with the Consulate. The Consulate called the Embassy in Panama and told them not to issue an Embassy Notarization for Social Security Benifit Letter to Florida for Apostle. I am out $50 for the notarizing and another $50 for DHL.

    I wonder if Cynthia Caplan’s office will contact me now and offer my money back. If not, we’ll move on. Such is life in Panama.

    I found the solution in Miami yesterday through a friend.

  3. Hill the embassy in Panama is a joke. I too had Cynthia Caplan notarize a document for me and charged me an unbelievable $50.00 for this. All the while up in the hotel David was letting me know how she was pro Hillary Clinton. I personally have had nothing but problems with the embassy here. I often wonder what we are paying are taxes for. We need a change. We need to take the problem out of the equation.

  4. John, the fee for notarization is not set by the Embassy. I would also mention that it is worth seeing if the receiving agency will accept a Panama Notarization. Many will and it is much cheaper.

  5. I don’t care about Cynthia’s political affiliation. That has nothing to do with notarizations. She was nice and pleasant. I feel like the Consulate Of Panama in Miami is the problem. The FBU guy made an honest mistake, also.

  6. Notarizstions and spistilked are different. If you hava a pansmnian document to be filed or presented in the us it neefs apostille from the panamanian consulate. If a us officil document isvto be filed here it neefs the apostille from the state whete the doc was issued. States provides apostille and no expensive. 24 dls airbox snd 20 dls state of california. Apostilles in panama city gor panamanin doc cost less than 25
    Dls. I think there is confusiin when determining when to get apostille and when to get noyatization and from where.

    Apostilles validate signature on an official document. That is required to be done by the state not the embassy.

    I know because i have done this for me for my husband and for fellow americans who needed both notsrixations and apostille and were not doing it right.

  7. Noris, While what you say is true for most Panama documents being accepted by another country. It would be the same for a Panama document being accepted by England.

    It doesn’t have to be Apostilled if it is a US document being sent to a US entity

    However, as I said in my comment, it is worth asking the receiving agency what they will accept. For some documents I have found that a document with a Panama Notarization was accepted and was much cheaper. I have done this for US banks receiving a signature executed in Panama.

    I may be wrong, but I do not think the Embassy does Apostiles. Someone can correct me if I am wrong.

    Also if it is a Panama document, it must be Apostilled by the Panama government.

    If it is a US document to be accepted by Panama, it is most likely going to have to be Apostiled by the Secretary of State for the state in which the document originates.

    Many documents that get authenticated in Panama, by US citizens, are US documents that only require US authentication.

  8. I love how the people who migrate to the Boquete area feel that everything should come to THEM! Talk about privilege! Their existence seems to be: “You mean I can’t get it here? You mean I have to go down to David where it’s HOT and everybody speaks Spaaaannnish? That’s just not fair!”

    BTW, taking your admonitions about being prepared to pay thousands of dollars up front if you need to be hospitalized to heart, I’m getting set to return to the States after a wonderful six-year run here in Panama. I hate the thought of doing so, but sometimes discretion is the better part of valor,

  9. OldSalt. Sorry to hear you are leaving, and hope all works out well for you.

    Just to be clear, the upfront pay is going to be for the private hospitals prior to admittance. Emergency cases should always be admitted to the Regional hospital.

    However elective surgeries may not be immediately scheduled at Regional.

    Elective procedures in Regional may require payment ahead of the surgery. I know in one case I had that there was a $10,000 upfront payment that was required for a spinal surgery apparatus.

    Unfortunately the patient died in Regional before the surgery was performed. Arrangements for payment of the device had been setup.

  10. Don…thanks ( as always) for your updates. All things considered…we are VERY fortunate for what services we have offered here.

  11. I don’t believe I am completely off topic with this comment, but I think it is time to take a closer look at how embassy’s operate in the support of their county’s citizens. Up until recent years an embassy primarily aided citizens who were traveling, whereas today many thousands are residents on that foreign soil. Governments still draw hundreds of thousands/ millions in tax money and are swift to ensure any loopholes are closed to ensure no one can hide money and evade paying taxes, but yet they are not so proactive in providing additional and improved services for us. After all, other than the embassy what other benefits are we getting for the money we pay in taxes?

  12. I believe that any services offered by any country’s embassy are a bonus. Too many people move overseas to avoid their country’s intrusions into their life. Then those same people want all the conveniences of their host country in their new foreign country.

    The decision to expatriate is a personal decision. Be thankful that folks like Don Ray and others volunteer their time to help. jim

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