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Friday, July 25 2014 @ 08:59 AM EDT

Update On The Citricos S.A. vs. American Hostages Situation

Expat TalesBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - According to Dan Miller, yesterday the Municipal Council voted unanimously, 11-0, to support the Miller's position. In every little town in Panama there is the local Mayor who is like the CEO, supposedly charged with getting things done. And there is also a "municipal council" which is like the local version of congress. So, for what it's worth, the local municipal council produced a resolution in support of the Millers and against Citricos S.A. In addition Panama's Minister of Government and Justice has asked for all of the associated legal documents. Apparently the Mayor sent some of them but not all, and the remaining documents were just mailed yesterday. Yesterday afternoon Mr. Guillermo Cárdenas Pelaez, the manager of Citricos S.A., called and spoke to the lawyer who is representing the Millers. In short he said stuff like "I like Americans" and "I wish more Americans would move to Panama" but he didn't make any specific commitments to fill in the ditches and stop the bullshit they've been pulling. And I just received an email from Susan Guberman-Garcia who called their offices. It seems they have a Secret Magical Public Document that no one else knows about that proves their case...

Susan's Conversation with Citricos S.A. For the record Susan called their coproprate offices in Panama City at 233-0026, and her conversation described below took place on that number. Susan writes;

  • "I just called. I spoke a man, all in Spanish, and explained why I was calling. He listened and then asked me to please wait and talk to someone else. After a minute, a woman came on. She refused to identify herself but I assume is either an owner or in some level of management, from the repeated use of the term "we." She spoke to me in good English, with a slight accent. She said "I am also an American citizen." Perhaps you know who she is?

  • I explained to her that I was appalled at the illegal conduct which is tantamount to kidnapping, and explained that I was boycotting her company's products and that I was asking all the stores in my community to do the same. She said that "what we are doing is not illegal." I said I disagreed. She said that "we have won every case in court." She denied that any court had ordered them to stop blocking the servidumbre and she denied that either the mayor or the municipal council had done so. She said "its all lies." She denied that the road in question is in the official Tommy Guardia map system. She said that the Millers bought the land knowing that there was ANOTHER road that would get them in and out of the property but they would have to build a bridge and refused to do so. She said that "we have documents that nobody else has seen that proves this" and I said "oh, you have a secret document that nobody else has seen and when do you plan to present this?" She said "its a public record." I then said "but I thought you said nobody had seen it, and if its a public record, then presumably everybody involved has seen it, so which is it?" She then muttered something else, but I didn't catch it. She then said "YOU haven't seen the documents, have you?" And I said, No, I have just seen what has been made public by Don Winner and others. She said that Don Winner is a liar and the Millers are liars and everybody who says that Citrico has been ordered to do anything is a liar, there are no such orders." At that point, I told her that she will do what she will do, and so will everybody else, and for me, that means a boycott and I am also writing to the president and contacting the news media....

  • Anyway, now you know what the party line is. "ITS ALL A LIE. I HAVE A SECRET DOCUMENT." Yeah, right...."

She Might Be Telling The Truth: The question is this - Who decides these kinds of legal issues over land ownership and access roads? I have asked the Miller's to provide me with all of the documentation surrounding this case, and in fact I've only gotten involved in this case since last Friday when I first heard about the ditch digging. The Millers have been fighting their battles on the ground, and their lawyer has been busy doing things like organizing public demonstrations and meeting with the press and the governor and the mayor and who knows what else. So, thus far, getting copies of the legal documents to me has simply not made it up the ladder to become the #1 priority. So that's one. Number two - what if the company person you spoke to is telling the truth, that there is no court order telling them that what they are doing is illegal. Maybe the Mayor and the Municipal Council simply do not have jurisdiction in this case. Maybe there is a decision from a local judge that I've not been made aware of. Can you hear me playing the Devil's Advocate here? I'm just saying, there might be something out there that I don't know about. Without a doubt it's a conflict, and it will be decided by a tiebreaker (like a judge), but I'm not sure the person who gets to decide these issues is either the Mayor, the Governor, or the Municipal Council. It might fall to the local judge, and so far I have not heard a single thing about any court cases (until now.) The Citricos S.A. people say they have "won every case in court." I would ask them to send me copies of those decisions. My email address is don@panama-guide.com so fire away.

I Called The Company: I also called Citricos S.A. at the same number Susan dialed. They said "there's no one here right now who can talk about that" and "call back after 2:00 pm." OK, I will. I want them to educate me about their legal stance and position.

Legally Correct, Morally Reprehensible: The more I learn about this case, the more it's starting to look like in fact Citricos S.A. might be on solid legal footing at this point. Sure, there are decisions by the Mayor and local Municipal Council, but those are going to turn out to be little more than cheer leading sections and moral support. There's supposedly a letter or document from the MOP that the Mayor used in his decision, and that will eventually make fine legal material once the case goes to court. But, the Judges are the tie-breakers. If there is no legal action being taken by the Millers in court at this point then, and speaking strictly within the legal framework, then Citricos S.A. might be "right". They might have the legal right to do what they are doing. However, that does not change the fact that they are blocking road access to a man who is a senior citizen, has cancer, and who needs medical treatment. You can be "right" and still be "wrong" at the same time.

I Tried To Call Cardenas: I dialed the number I have been given for Guillermo Cárdenas Pelaez on several occasions and so far he has not answered his cell phone. When I finally get a chance to talk to someone in a position of responsibilty in the company I'm going to ask them if they would agree to lift their blockage, fill in the holes in the road, and then abide by whatever decision eventually comes down in court.

Evolving Information: The woman at Citricos S.A. called me a "liar." Well, not so much. In fact I can only report what I know. And, the information is developing and evolving quickly. The facts on the ground have not changed - the Miller's still can't access their farm. The truth is out there somewhere, and often times the very act of shaking the tree causes all sides to come clean. OK, step one complete. The proverbial Tree Of Truthful Information has been properly shaken. Now that I've got your attention let's see what falls to the ground. No, lady, I'm not lying. Thus far I've only been telling one side of the story and one version of events. What's your story? I'll be happy to lay that out, if you give it to me. And I think it's going to end up being that "legally correct by morally reprehensible thing again. I don't know, so let's see what happens over time.

Copyright 2009 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Update On The Citricos S.A. vs. American Hostages Situation | 1 comments | Create New Account
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Update On The Citricos S.A. vs. American Hostages Situation
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, August 18 2009 @ 09:48 PM EDT

I was completely taken in by this, and was ready to go to the protest in Dolega yesterday. My initial reaction was, here is a well connected company with great palancas, sticking it to the poor gringo. Don, your investigative instincts are much stronger than mine. My first reaction to your photo in yesterday's post was, why don't they make a road from a different direction, but then, I thought that all the neighboring land must be Citrico's or they would have already done it. Your heart is in the right place, and you figured out in 2 days what the rest of us couldn't figure out in several weeks. If you feel used , imagine how embarassed the Miller's must feel. I have to say though, that Citrico needs to train a PR person pronto. They should have jumped into damage control mode as soon as that story hit La Prensa. I suppose that we all learned something from this one.