Reports of Problems With Immigration in Pedasi
Wednesday, June 09 2010 @ 03:07 pm EDT
Contributed by: Don Winner
Patrick and I were asking for an explanation and received no answer. We handed over our US driver’s licenses. These representatives were wearing plain clothes and had a name tag hanging off a shoelace around their necks. We continued to try to get some information as to what was going on, and we received no response. Patrick tried to explain that we lived in Los Destiladeros and that we could provide passports and visas if they would let us go get the documents from our homes. We were instructed that we could not leave. I have been coming to Panama for over 7 years and have never before experienced an immigration checkpoint. These people had now retained several people and were not answering any questions. They were in plain clothes and were not accompanied with the police. I was beginning to think this was some sort of money extortion scheme, and certainly felt that my rights to be in Panama were being violated.
I got out of my vehicle and confronted the lady asking for an explanation. No attention was given. I contacted my attorney Damaso Diaz Ducasa, but he was not available in this moment. I contacted another attorney, Berta Sanchez of Gray & Co. I quickly explained the situation to her and asked for her assistance in talking to the woman who seemed to be in charge of this operation. This lady refused to speak with my attorney.
Now by this time I was very angry and demanded my identification back. She pulled it out and reluctantly offered it to me. I grabbed the ID and shouted at her that this was no way to treat a visitor to Panama or even a Panamanian. Patrick and I drove down to our homes and picked up our documents and returned to Limon to present these documents. When we arrived, the officials had left the scene who were now accompanied by the local police. We were told that they were looking for us and had plans to arrest us. Note that these officials still have Patrick’s identification, a document that he needs to legally drive in Panama.
We told the local chino operator in Limon that if the officials wanted to find us that they could do so by coming down to Los Destiladeros. Later in the afternoon, we received a phone call from an employee of Sitio in Playa Venado. She informed me that Immigration and the police had just arrested and took the owner, Nahik, and the same surfing tourists to the jail in Las Tablas.
The next day I heard some more disturbing stories about people being detained in the Las Tablas jail. They were handcuffed to a pole, were not allowed any communication, and were told they would have to stay there over the weekend. Kirk Johnston of the Limon Cafe has since told me he was very offended by the Immigration people coming into his private office to look around.
Cliff, of Pedasi, was at his home over this past weekend, playing cards with some friends. The police showed up at his home and demanded identification. Three of the people didn’t have these documents on them and were arrested. Cliff objected and he too was arrested. He tells me he spent two days in a jail cell, handcuffed to a pole, with no ability to communicate to a lawyer. Other stories are beginning to circulate as well.
These kind of events are very disturbing. Is the government of Panama now empowering its Immigration employees to conduct random roadside stops, demanding proof of their legality to be in Panama? Shouldn't Immigration issues be dealt with upon entry into the Country? Are these same people now allowed to come to our homes to demand visitation and or residency documents? If an individual objects to the demand to pay a random fine, is it now policy that they can be handcuffed and taken to jail, and handcuffed to a pole, without due process or basic rights to communicate with an attorney?
We are not talking about criminals here. We are talking about tourists and local business operators and part time residents. These are hardworking, responsible and law-abiding people. If this kind of policy continues, Panama is in trouble. Like wild fire, these stories will quickly spread and destroy Panama’s image as a great country to live and invest and more importantly, visit.
Please make this situation known to the appropriate officials. I hope these events are just a random mistake and not indicative of a new Government policy. Panama is a wonderful country with so much promise and opportunity. Private property, privacy rights, rule of law and due process are institutions held very dear to the free world. Panama would be the wiser to foster an environment that promotes and defends these institutions.
Sincerely, Douglas Lonneker, Panama cell 011 507 6780 9000, Panama home 011 507 832 5243 US cell 001 307 699 0960 skype douglaslonneker"
Editor's Comment: Interesting. Notice that the two guys who had passports and who were here legally were not, in fact, arrested. I have no way of knowing the immigration status of the people who were supposedly arrested and detained. The short answer is - realize that as part of the Martinelli strategy to clamp down on crime and "insecurity" in general, they are going to clamp down in illegal immigrants from all countries. Make sure you are legal, and make sure you have your documents with you. Or, you can just say you're a hooker, pay a $1,000 bribe, and walk right out. I've seen this before - the attitude, actions, and demeanor of the top person in any organization always filter down to the lower echelons. Obviously the word has gotten down to the local immigration officials in Pedasi that it's perfectly fine to seek out illegal immigrants, and then squeeze them for whatever you can get. That's why they don't want you to talk to a lawyer. There are serious problems in Immigration right now, from the top down.
Copyright 2010 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.