Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Panama uprising: "Chaos in Colon"

  "Chaos in Colon." Those are the words of the local Panamanian TV news to describe the violent uprising that has been happening here in the second largest city in Panama for 4 days now. Streets are blocked. Businesses shut down.

 While technically Chris and I are in the city of Colon, we're on the far edges of it -- in the Shelter Bay Marina. The good news is, the marina is protected by the Panamanian military, with armed guards. So we are safe here.

             What could be a problem for us in the short term, though, is the fact that the protesters are blocking roads. As of last night, the main road from Panama City to Colon was blocked. And with Colon in it's current state of chaos, we will not be heading to the grocery stores there for any happy little gringo shopping trips anytime soon.

          The U.S. State Department has issued a travel warning for U.S. citizens regarding Panama

         Unfortunately, this uprising may get worse -- far worse, according to my Panamanian friends. And it has the potential to spread throughout the country.  As best as I can understand it, the cause of the uprising is the President's decision to sell off giant chunks of land in Colon to corporate interests that are currently rented to local citizens. This impending sale will have a massive effect on jobs for the poor and middle class of Colon.

      There have been violent shootouts between police and protesters which have resulted in the deaths of many -- including, unfortunately, one young child. Another child, a 6 year old girl, was shot and critically wounded yesterday. Obviously these tragic events only add the metaphorical fuel to the fire.

    To make matters worse, the President has left the country. Panamanians are hoping that he overturns the decree to quell the violence, but the fact that he and his entourage and family have flown to Japan is certainly not a good sign (although the trip was a pre-planned diplomatic visit).

   Unfortunately for Espiritu, our alternator and battery charger failed on our short trip sailing to Colon from Portobelo.  So until they are repaired, we're tethered to the dock here in Colon.

 If the roads in and out of Colon and Panama City remain blocked, our biggest problem other than the alternator and battery charger may be dwindling supplies of fresh food. The goal of the protesters is to stop commerce, and this is definitely happening.

While we have enough canned food, rice, etc., aboard Espiritu to feed us for weeks and weeks, as a precaution I bought as much fresh food as our little fridge can hold from the tiny marina store. Who knows when they will be able to restock their shelves.

 Same goes for the marina restaurant!  So Chris and I enjoyed a hearty meal there last evening, because they may not receive new food for awhile either.

"Make hay while the sun shines" as the saying goes.   :-)

 So please don't be too worried about Chris and I.  The marina here feels very safe.  The protestors have no issue with us, and we're fine as long as we lie low, which we will certainly do.

 I'm more concerned with our local Panamanian friends. There are several employees of the marina whose neighborhoods in Colon are engulfed in a cacophany of AK-47 fire. So if you pray for anyone, pray for our Panamanian friends Maurice, Alex and Corinna.

UPDATE: The little girl who was shot by the police yesterday died overnight.

LATEST (October 24, 2012): Good news! President Martinelli had announced that he will retract the law to sell off the Colon land. This is a great source of relief for the crew of Espiritu and our Panamanian friends. :-) 

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