National Census in Panama This Sunday, 16 May 2010
Tuesday, May 11 2010 @ 12:48 PM EDT
Contributed by: Don Winner
Yesterday, at a press conference, the comptroller general of the Republic, Mona Lisa Bianchini, called on people to contribute to the census, for which they have provided 13,000 supervisors and 125,000 census takers who will canvas the country from 7:00 am until 7:00 pm on Sunday evening. The people who have to leave their homes must carry with them a card that will be color coded for each province. The census taker will proved at least three cards for each home.
As for the possibility that the census might be interrupted by natural phenomena, such as heavy rains or localized flooding, Cedeño Danis, the Director of INEC, was emphatic in saying that the census will not be suspended. What might happen, he said, is that the process will be completed a little later or the next day, but only "in areas of difficult access," he said. In the case of a person traveling to the interior of the country during the days leading up to the census, during the press conference they said you will be counted where you are, whether or not you are staying in a hotel, or not.
Early Census Filing: There are people who for work reasons can not stay in their homes to wait for the census taker. Some examples are doctors, nurses, and police officers who are on duty that day. For these cases, authorities have established a method of early registration, which will begin on 13 May and end on 15 May 2010. Prisoners and the homeless will also be counted early. To this end, staff will be assigned on Saturday to count these people. Eyra Ramos, head of Population and Housing of the INEC, said prisoners will be counted by guards trained for that purpose. On the other hand, she said the homeless will be counted at night, "because during the day they do not remain in a fixed place." The census staff will be accompanied by police officers, because most of the homeless are in dangerous areas. The questions asked of these people will be basic, so the process will be fast.
With regards to statements made by Esteban Rodriguez, the Director of the National Transportation Board, who said the bus drivers of their union would provide normal service on Sunday, the head of INEC, Danis Cedeno replied that this can not be so, because bus drivers are not eligible to be pre-registered and said that drivers will only be released to work after they have been counted.
Security: Cedeño said "we have been coordinating with the elements of state security" for more than a month. A total of 1,500 police officers will be deployed at 200 security checkpoints that will be established nationwide, he said. The national civil authorities, provincial and municipal authorities, the National Police, the Fire Department of Panama, and the National Civil Protection System will all be available to INEC to ensure faithful compliance with legal standards, especially for the enforcement of restrictions on the basis of the census. They also said that to ensure the public's good faith, census takers will be property identified with badges, shirts, and vests.
Other institutions have shown their full support for the census process. In a public letter, the Panamanian Episcopal Conference regulated the hours for the Sunday Mass and encouraged the faithful to build on this "census party" to share the time with family members, and to organize activities in the home to enable them to further strengthen the bond between parents and children, between spouses, grandparents, uncles and other relatives.
Privacy: Panamanians, foreigners who are residents in Panama, tourists, and people in transit who are in the country at the time of the census are required to provide the requested data. Anyone who is in the country illegally and are undocumented should not be afraid to give their data, because no action will be taken against them. There will be 24 questions on housing and 32 on population, which can be answered in 35 - 40 minutes. The authorities assured that the information provided to the census taker will be confidential.
Questions about ethnicity cause concern. "Does any person in this household considered to be black or of African descent?" This is one of the questions the census taker will ask when they come to your home on Sunday, 16 May 2010. The answer will be difficult because, according to Richard Weeks, the Executive Secretary of the Council of Black Ethnicity, many people do not have black skin although their features say otherwise, and they "try to break away from the black population."
Weeks recognized the importance of why this question has been added to the list of questions to be asked during the census. However, the following question: "Do you consider yourself to be a colonial black, West Indian black, other, or none?" will complicate things a bit because for the person being asked it would be "difficult to determine their origin" considering the fact that the concept of African descendancy is relatively unknown. For the last three months, representatives from the civil society and the Executive Secretariat of the Council of Black Ethnicity have promoted an awareness campaign for people of African descent, so that they might be able to identify themselves with pride, but it has been an arduous task has not had adequate economic resources. "The State has not appropriated funds for outreach," said Weeks. Despite these efforts, Weeks predicted that only 40% of the blacks in the country will report during the census that they belong to this ethnic group. (La Prensa)