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Tuesday, September 02 2014 @ 02:56 PM EDT

Welcome to Panama-Guide.com

Panama Guide is the #1 English Language web site about the Republic of Panama. There are currently 23,957 articles in our ever-expanding database and we update daily so check back often. More than 7,000 people visit Panama-Guide.com every day to follow current events and to use the other resources available. We provide fresh English language Panama news daily, as well as information about all of the other things you need to know if you plan to visit or live here. We focus on those topics and issues which are of greatest importance to the English speaking expatriate community. And if you can't find what you need to know, we take requests. Welcome aboard, and tell your friends.

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Rumor (Denied): Has William David Holbert "Wild Bill" Committed Suicide? (No, He's Fine)

Expat Tales Update: Yesterday afternoon a reader sent me an email regarding the rumor that William David Holbert had supposedly committed suicide. I put a note on Twitter, asking my Panamanian journalist colleagues for help in either confirming or denying the rumor. They contacted Holbert's lawyer, who made a statement to the press;

  • Claudia Alvarado de Sotto, the attorney for William Dathan Holbert, better known as "Wild Bill", denied that her client had committed suicide, as was rumored yesterday afternoon through social networks.

  • She said "Wild Bill" has not performed any action which would infringe on his personal integrity, and he remains quiet in holding cell 1 of the public jail of David.

  • "William is quiet, and he has not shown any type of behavior that would lead him to make that decision. I see him frequently on lawyer visits offered by the criminal justice system. Apparently, it was a bad release, he's fine," said the lawyer.

Editor's Comment: Holbert continues to await decisions from the Supreme Court on motions put forward by his lawyer. Once those are resolved, a trial date will be established for the several murder cases he's facing. He's already confessed to having murdered six people, so the only real issue in the trial will be how the Panamanians handle Holbert's accomplice, Laura Michelle Reese. Both of them will probably spend the rest of their lives in prison. And once Panama is done with them, they still have to face the Costa Rican justice system for the murder of Jeff Kline. And if they ever get done with that, there are still cases pending against them in the United States. So yeah, they will never see the light of day again.

(Original article, published as a rumor. Has since been proven wrong)

By Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - Someone just gave me a heads-up (thanks) saying there's a strong rumor going around in David and Changuinola that the confessed serial killer William David Holbert - a.k.a. "Wild Bill" - has committed suicide in the public prison in David.

Right now, it's nothing more than a rumor. I'm working to either confirm or deny these reports right now. I'll let you know when I learn more, either way.

Copyright 2014 Panama-Guide.com.

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Gioconda Torres de Bianchini - Waiting For A Decision From The Supreme Court

PoliticsThe National Assembly Deputy from the Panameñista political party Luis Barria said the Supreme Court of Justice should issue a ruling in a timely manner, regarding the status of the Comptroller General, Gioconda Torres de Bianchini. (more)

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Four Killed In (Drug Trafficking Related) Traffic Accident

Drug TraffickingFour people died during the early morning hours on Saturday in the community of San Juan, in the district of San Lorenzo, Chiriqui province, after the truck in which they were traveling collided with another car, from which the occupants fled. (more)

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Juan Carlos Varela Will Travel To Vatican To Meet The Pope

Panama NewsPope Francis will receive Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela in an audience next Friday, September 5th, the Vatican confirmed Monday. (more)

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Cocaine Discovered In Shipping Containers - Bound for Europe

Drug TraffickingThe National Police confiscated 80 kilos of cocaine hidden in two different shipping containers, in a port in the province of Colon. (more)

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Construction Workers Close Streets In Protest

Protests & DemonstrationsConstruction workers who are building the new Russian embassy returned again to close both lanes of the Avenida Manuel Espinosa B. in Panama City, demanding payment in arrears for the past three pay periods. (more)

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Jaime Alemán Resigns After A Wave Of Criticism

PoliticsJaime Alemán, the nephew of Minister Álvaro Alemán, who was appointed by him as an executive assistant in the Office of the President, submitted his resignation following a barrage of criticism from various "civil society" groups who rejected this act of nepotism. (more)

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Former Labor Minister Cortés Charged With Embezzelment

CorruptionThe State of Panama paid about $25,000 in per diem to cover travel expenses of the former Labor Minister Alma Cortés and a group of delegates to participate in an event sponsored by the International Labor Association - but the problem is the travel expenses were paid twice. (more)

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National Assembly's Move Against Comptroller General Gioconda Torres de Bianchini Will Likely Fail

PoliticsThe resolution passed by the National Assembly asking the Supreme Court of Justice to investigate the Comptroller General Gioconda Torres de Bianchini will not achieve the results expected by the deputies who endorsed the action. (more)

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Pellegrini Says "Vernon Ramos Was Investigating Ricardo Martinelli's Account In Financial Pacific" When He Disappeared

CorruptionMayte Pellegrini, who has been accused of fraud for 14 million dollars from the Financial Pacific brokerage house, testified this morning before the Panamanian Special Prosecutor for Organized Crime about the disappearance of Vernon Ramos, the Deputy Director of the Financial Analysis Division and Audits of the Superintendency of Market Securities. (more)

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Calling All Expats: Learn Spanish for a Better Life in Panama

Schools & Education

50% off for Panama Residents at Habla Ya September 2014

If you're moving to Panama or already live here and can't speak a word of Spanish, you should really make an effort to learn some. I mean, you don't have to be completely fluent but being able to have a basic conversation does go a long way. Even a survival level of Spanish will gain you smiles, respect, better service and even friends.

So do your part, get out there and start practicing! A Spanish speaking friend and some classes will do wonders. Habla Ya Spanish Schools in Boquete and Bocas del Toro have this special Spring promotion for those who sign up during the entire month of September.

You'll basically get a 50% discount off any Spanish course of over 60 hours. One of Habla Ya's most popular courses for expats is their 10 week course (6 hours per week) at only $250 per student (that's just a bit more than $4 per hour at Panama's top rated Spanish school). This is only for expats that live in Panama so come and grab yourself a deal before they fill up!

If you don't live in Bocas or Boquete (they still don't have a school in Panama City, take 3 or 4 weeks for a Spanish learning vacation in the Caribbean or mountains of Chiriqui and do a more intensive course by taking 20 hours a week (4 per day).

You can find more info about the the promo here: http://www.hablayapanama.com/blog/2014/08/50-off-spanish-lessons-for-panama-residents-september-expat-course/

Editor's Comment: One day, many years ago, I was at the Arrocha pharmacy on Via España buying (whatever.) I was waiting to pay for my purchases when I heard some sort of kerfuffle at the other cash register, next to where I was standing at the front of the store. There was this old cranky pissed-off gringo there. He was about 6' 4" tall and about 75 years old. I don't know what his problem was, but when I looked over he was towering over the poor young Panamanian girl who was working the cash register - and with a very loud voice and threatening posture he yelled "... why don't you learn some GOD DAMNED ENGLISH!"

When I looked over, the first thing I saw was the cashier - pulled back in fear - afraid this great, big gringo was going to hit her or something. I interjected myself between him and her immediately. I mean, I physically placed myself between the guy, and the cashier. I quickly told him "hold on, let me talk to her for a second..."

Then I spun around and told the girl (in Spanish) "I apologize for this idiot. I have no idea what happened to him, why he's having a bad day, or why he's yelling at you. But obviously, that's inappropriate. If anything should learn anything, it's him and he should be learning some Spanish. You don't have to be afraid of him because he's not going to hurt you. I'm going to talk to him now. Are you OK?"

Her face melted in relief. She relaxed, and said "thank you, very much..."

I then turned around to face the idiot. I started with "listen, moron. I don't know what crawled up your ass, but you are WAY out of line. Do not come in here, screaming at these poor women who are working for minimum wage - they don't make enough money to put up with your bullshit. What's more, she doesn't understand what you're yelling about anyway. And if anyone should learn something it's you. Why don't you learn some GOD DAMNED SPANISH!" And at this point I was nose-to-nose with the geezer. He grabbed his shit, and huffed his way out of the door.

The Arrocha employees gave me a standing ovation as the moron departed the premises.

Living in a foreign country where English is not the primary language can be difficult, frustrating, and challenging. Learning Spanish can go a long way to ease your path, make you feel much more comfortable in your new adopted home, and reduce your frustration level. I'm fluent in Spanish (speaking, writing, conversation) - learning another language will pay dividends for the rest of your life.

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French Citizen Killed In Accident Near Albrook Mall

Traffic AccidentsA French national was killed today when the vehicle he was driving was struck by a Metrobus. (more)

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Panama Prison Horrors: Cellmates tell of 12-hour wait for medical attention

Crime & PunishmentBy James Whittaker - Cellmates of drug mule Mark Bodden have told of the squalid conditions and nonexistent medical care in the notorious Panama prison where the Caymanian died on Aug. 18.

The 37-year-old, according to the witness accounts, was injured in a fall from a makeshift bed in the seriously overcrowded cell block 6 of La Joya prison, where 506 foreign nationals are crammed into tiny rat-infested cells with limited access to clean water or exercise.

Three of Mr. Bodden’s fellow prisoners, including Dr. Arthur Porter, a high profile physician wanted in Canada in connection with a bribery scandal involving Montreal’s McGill University Hospital, have been in contact with the Cayman Compass to give their version of events surrounding the death.

The Caymanian prisoner was left without access to proper medical attention for nearly 12 hours after sustaining serious head injuries when he fell 8 feet from his “home-made bed space,” according to an unofficial two-page medical report produced by Dr. Porter.

“I am of the opinion that if Mr. Bodden had received a prompt transfer to a hospital with neurological competence, he would have had a substantial chance of making a complete recovery,” wrote Dr. Porter, who has been in the prison for 14 months fighting extradition back to Canada following his arrest on an international warrant in Panama City.

His report was emailed to the Compass through fellow prisoner Leo Morgan, a British drug dealer locked up for money laundering, who has been representing foreign inmates in talks with prison officials and embassy diplomats in an effort to improve conditions.

“Mark was not a bad kid. He made a mistake, did something to make some money and he ended up here.

“What happened was an accident, but he didn’t have to die. It could have been prevented if he had got medical care. He died because of neglect,” Mr. Morgan told the Compass in a call from the prison’s public phones.

The 57-year-old former boxer and nightclub bouncer, described as a “drug kingpin” in British press reports, said he had seen 60 people die during his 10 years in the Panama prison system from accidents, stabbings, fights and disease.

“There’s no medical center, there’s not even any water. We have to buy everything we have,” said Mr. Morgan, who competes in boxing bouts with fellow inmates for cash.

“Mark had good people looking out for him in Cayman. His grandmother sent him money and the church was helping him out. You have to buy everything, you have to buy your bed, you have to buy toilet paper.”

He said the cell block is a 180-bed facility that houses 506 foreign prisoners – a mix of Colombians, Africans, Jamaicans, Guatemalans and three British citizens: Mr. Morgan, Mr. Bodden and his cellmate Ben Perschky, who is serving a 112-month sentence for trying to smuggle cocaine out of Panama.

Mr. Perschky, speaking to the Compass via instant-messaging service Whatsapp, told how inmates had banged on the cell-block doors and made frantic calls to the British embassy to raise the alarm as Mr. Bodden slipped in and out of consciousness throughout the night.

“He fell around 9:30 Saturday night. The Canadian prisoner in here [Dr. Porter] examined him and he had broke his shoulder and his head was bleeding. He was responding though. We went to the people upstairs, with the contacts, but were told nobody is here and we would have to wait until morning.”

Mr. Perschky, one of six inmates who shared a cell with Mr. Bodden and bunked on the bed below, said he became seriously concerned when his friend began to experience convulsions.

“We carried him to the door. He was in a really, really bad way. We banged and banged on the door and at 8:30 a.m. Sunday a policeman came and opened it and they took him away. Monday morning we heard he had died.

“I believe he died because nobody came here to get him out and give him the care he needed to survive.”

In his report – a typed manuscript of his medical notes on the incident – fellow prisoner Dr. Porter, the former medical director of McGill University Health Centre, expresses similar opinions.

He writes that Mr. Bodden had suffered injuries to his chest, head and shoulder in the fall and had an “open laceration on his cranium.”

He describes how he attempted to “medically manage” the patient, who was suffering epileptic seizures, while others tried to raise the alarm.

“At around 8:30 am a policeman arrived and the patient was placed in a food trolley and wheeled out. On Monday 18th August I was informed that Mark had died. Frankly I am of the opinion that the care that Mark received was sub-standard,” Dr. Porter wrote.

He adds, “I have been incarcerated here for over 14 months and can attest this is not an isolated incident… Not having any ability to contact authorities, transfer or even have basic resuscitation equipment represents a significant systemic flaw in the delivery of medical care in the Panamanian Penitentiary system.”

Dr. Porter was injured himself during a riot at the prison – widely reported in Canadian news media earlier this month.

The Sierra Leone-born doctor is a prominent figure in Canada where he was a member of the Privy Council and served as chairman of the Security and Intelligence Review Committee under Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

He has been in La Joya since being arrested at the airport in Panama City on an international warrant in May 2013.

He is wanted by Quebec police in connection with a $22.5 million bribery and kickback scandal, described in media reports as one of the largest frauds in Canadian history.

Dr. Porter is facing charges of fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, fraud toward the government, breach of trust, participating in secret commissions and laundering proceeds of crime, according to Canadian media.

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Government Will Build 47km Of New Sewer Lines In San Miguelito

Infrastructure Upgrades"Today we reaffirm the commitment of the Government of the Republic of Panama to provide all Panamanians access to basic sanitation, under the Sanitation Project City of Panama and the program 100 / ZERO" said the President of the Republic, Juan Carlos Varela Rodríguez on Monday afternoon, during the announcement of the tender for the second phase of sewer networks of San Miguelito. (more)

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Panamanian Government Confirms Second Case Of Chikungunya Virus

HealthcarePanama's Ministry of Health announced at a press conference the Chikungunya virus may be circulating in low intensity somewhere in the community, and they reported on the detection of the second case of the virus. (more)

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"Gang Of Thieves" Had Plans To Expand Into The Interior

Crime & PunishmentThe criminal gang that robbed 11 restaurants in the past month planned to expand their criminal activities into the interior of the country, and had already executed an assault at a fast food restaurant in La Chorrera. (more)

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Lightening Strike Knocks Out Panama Metro (Subway) System

WeatherA lightening strike took the Panama Metro subway system down yesterday afternoon. (more)

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Protesting Construction Workers Cause Traffic Jam...

Protests & DemonstrationsA group of construction workers protesting because they have not gotten paid are causing a significant traffic jam. (more)

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No Water On Sunday...

Infrastructure UpgradesSeveral sectors of Panama City will be without water service on Sunday. (more)

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New Ferry Service Will Connect Colon and Cartagena

Boats and SailingA new ferry service will soon connect Colon to Cartagena, as well as provide a local cruise option to Bocas del Toro. (more)

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The Rains Have Finally Come to Central Panama

WeatherBy Julie M. Ray - Panama, as you well know, is a tropical country filled with amazing rainforests. Surely images of high humidity and rain immediately fill your head of what the country, in general, must look like. However, for the past one and half years much of Panama has been experiencing a drought. The rains simply have not come.

The typical rainy season in central Panama is from about the first of April until mid-December. It is typical in our community, at the base of a cloud forest, to experience rains nearly every afternoon, shortly after lunch that continue on to mid or late afternoon. However, in 2013, this normal pattern did not take form. We went days without rain. The red clay soils dried and cracked and the plants drooped with thirst for rain water. The grasses remained brown from the dry season well into what should have been the wet season.

The effects of the dryness also was noticed in the community. Our small reservoir, fed from the mountain streams, could not keep up with the demand of the community. The streams were not being refreshed by rain water and soon our taps were dry as well. We would go entire days without a drop of water coming to our faucets. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, some water would make it down the line and it was at this time that tired women would get up and wash a load of laundry or clean the dishes. Everyone began to save plastic soda bottles to fill with water to use for cooking and cleaning during the day.

This problem of a lack of water in the communities has persisted for the past year and half. We even had some guests who marveled at the fact that they could "shower" with just one gallon of water a day. It is amazing what you can do when needed!

We worried that again this year we would go without the rains as it is already mid-August (remembering that the rains should come in April). How happy is everyone with the falling of the rains this week, turning the grass and plants brilliant shades of green and filling the streams again. What a welcomed sound to hear the frogs and toads singing at night and for our shoes to be colored with wet red clay!

We hope that the missing of a rainy season was just a one time event, but we all fear that it is more. Climate change has come to the cloud forest and rainforests. It is time to take note of the lack of water and do what we can to change our habits for the sake of the environment. Maybe taking showers with just a gallon of water shouldn't be something we do only when camping or in cases of emergency, but rather something we consider doing on a more regular basis, in Panama and around the world. (examiner.com)

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SINAPROC Issues Green Alert

WeatherThe National Civil Protection System (SINAPROC) has issued a "Green Alert" due to the bad weather occurring today in the provinces of Colón, Coclé, Panamá, Darién, Veraguas, Chiriquí y Bocas del Toro and the Comarca of Guna Yala. (more)

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Floods In Chiriqui Have Affected Tourism - Recovery Continues

WeatherThe recent floods in the province of Chiriqui have had a negative impact on tourism, and recovery operations continue. (more)

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Panama Canal Traffic Situation for August / September

Canal Daily OperationBy Joseph R. Fonseca: It is advised that there will be average traffic delays in Panama Canal. The projected queue as of 24:00 hours on August 23 is 48 vessels.

IMPORTANT: The Panama Canal invoked booking Condition 2 for the duration of Miraflores locks lane outage Aug. 26-Sep. 2 which will reduce the amount of booking slots available per day to 10 supers and 6 regulars.

All slots for supers are taken Aug. 26-30. Available slots Aug. 31-Sep. 2 will be given in a first-come, first-served basis. Auction Booking Slots will be offered normally for this maintenance period.

Current average delays (today and tomorrow’s traffic) as follows:

Supers (large, over 91 feet in beam, transit with restrictions): Northbound: 1-2 days Southbound: 1-2 days

Regulars (small, under 91 feet in beam, unrestricted transit): Northbound: 1-2 days Southbound: 1-2 days

The booking competitions today were as follows: Second period Large vessel (slots for Sep. 11): 10 slots, no applicants

Second period Small vessel (slots for Sep. 11): 4 slots, no applicants

Third period Large vessel (slots for Aug. 24): 11 slots, 1 applicant, 10 slots left

Third period Small vessel (slots for Aug. 24): 7 slots, 1 applicant, 6 slots left

The Auction Booking Slot for Aug. 23 was not offered because there were normal booking slots still available.

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MOP Announces Partial Closure of the Bridge of the Americas

Infrastructure UpgradesWork being done on the Bridge of the Americas will cause headaches for drivers this Saturday, August 23rd. (more)

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National Assmebly Has Concerns Over Comptroller's Performance

CorruptionThe National Assembly Deputy Ana Matilde Gomez is concerned about the "limited and law-abiding" appearance of the Comptroller Gioconda Torres de Bianchini, according to statements made on the Telemetro morning news. (more)

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Police And Restaurant Owners Talking After Wave of Robberies

Crime & PunishmentMeetings between restaurant owners and the National Police (PN) will continue this afternoon, following a wave of thefts that have happened in recent months, according to police commissioner Javier Castillo. (more)

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Homeland Security Meets With President Varela

Panama NewsThe president, Juan Carlos Varela, met with a delegation from the Department of Homeland Security of the United States of America. (more)

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Environmental Police Seize Shipment Of Illegal Cocobolo Lumber

Environmental IssuesUnits of the National Police stopped an attempt to traffic illegal Cocobolo lumber from the port of Coquira, in the district of Chepo. (more)

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Tow Trucks - On The Hunt For Illegally Parked Vehicles

Cars & TransportationThe fine for leaving your car illegally parked have increased in recent years, and with this cars that are towed are taken to "corrals" distributed throughout the city. (more)

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