Corrupt Panamanian Immigration Officials Act As Virtual Pimps For Colombian Prostitutes
Thursday, February 10 2011 @ 03:27 PM UTC
Contributed by: Don Winner
How It Works: Any 18 year old girl in the world can board an airplane and fly to Panama as a tourist. Colombia is right next door to Panama and all of the prostitutes in Colombia - every one of them - know there's more money to be made in Panama than in Colombia. Therefore there's a simple economic incentive to come here to work. All they need to come into the country is $500 in cash and a return plane ticked. Of course they loan the money among themselves to meet this requirement so the same $500 dollars has probably been shown at the airport hundreds of times. A girl who will be flying to Panama from Colombia just calls one of the girls that she knows who is here and already working. She wires the money to her friend in Colombia who is about to fly up. The new girl displays the money at the airport, and then returns the cash to her friend upon arrival. The only cost is the service charge from the money wire transfer service which is usually somewhere between $20 or less. So, the $500 in cash requirement is easily defeated and in fact it's just window dressing.
Note: I've written several articles about prostitution in Panama over the years, and I usually use the photos from the website www.elcomplaciente.com - because they normally have the best photos. They don't seem to mind the free publicity for their website so it's a win-win situation.
180 Days On A Tourist Visa: Just like any other tourist, Colombian citizens can stay in Panama for up to 180 days. The girls get settled in, often renting a room or a bed in an apartment where a handful of other girls are already living. They come and go with regularity so there's frequently a degree of turnover. It's easy to rent a no frills two bedroom apartment for $400 per month and they put two beds in each room and another bed in the maid's quarters. The five girls split the costs so their cost of living is very low per month. They never turn tricks in their apartment and always take the Johns back to their hotels, to a "push button" or to some other place. All they need is a place to stay, a cell phone, and a network of friends. They can be established and "in business" literally within minutes after having landed at the Tocumen airport.
Legally In The Country: Up to this point they have done absolutely nothing wrong or illegal. They put on 5" high heels, a miniskirt better described as a bandanna, lots of attention to hair, nails, and makeup - and it's off to the office at 6:00 pm on a Friday night. The primary point here is that there's nothing wrong or illegal with entering Panama as a tourist. Girls can wear high heels, miniskirts, and makeup. It's legal to dress provocatively and to be an attractive young lady. They have not broken any laws.
Independents And Unassociated: There is a class of "entertainers" who work in the larger nightclubs such as Le Palace, Elite, Moulin Rouge and the like. The owners of these clubs pay thousands of dollars for the right to basically import sex workers legally. These girls come to work in Panama on a contract. They can only work at that club. The club owners often do things like confiscate their passports. And, the girls get a big stamp in their passports - the Panamanian "alternadora" visa - which screams to anyone that sees it "this girl is a prostitute." The girls simply hate to work within the system so they choose to avoid all of these problems and hassles and go it on their own, with no "alternadora" visa, no club owner to take part of their earnings, no commitments or or schedule, and the freedom to do what they want.
Where Do They Go? The guys go where the girls are, and the girls go where the guys are. And let's be frank, here. Businessmen from around the world, but most often from the United States and Canada, come to Panama as sex tourists. Panama City is basically an adult playground for these guys. There are nightclubs, bars, casinos, cigar bars, and every other kind of dark entertainment conceivable. The girls go to places like Habanos in the banking district - right across the street from the Marriott hotel, as well as La Bodeguita on Vía España, a new place on Calle Uruguay, the bars in the casinos of the major hotels, and a handful of other smaller locations. In short, they go where they can find the sex tourists, and the sex tourists are looking for them, so they find a way to get together. They also use things like classified ads, websites, and services such as Craig's List to find customers.
What Does A Hooker Cost in Panama? The current going rates these girls are charging is between $200 to $300 dollars - "depending" - on the guy, what he wants to do, what they think he can afford, the amount of competition in that location at that particular moment in time, the hour of the day, how drunk is he, etc. In short, the girl will try to get as much money as he can from the guy, and the guys would like to get laid for free. And, the best looking and most desirable merchandise flies off the shelves in relatively short order. Those who are not as young, not as trim and fit, not as attractive - can only take what they can get. The girls also charge more to spend the whole night, special requests, kinky shit, etc. And importantly, the prices they charge is one of the biggest reasons why sex tourists come to Panama. Even at these prices they are still getting less than half of what the prostitutes charge in Las Vegas, for example. There's a huge monetary incentive for the guys to hop on a plane and fly down here - because they can literally get more bang for the buck.
Can We Do The Math Please? Ok, what are the variables? How many independent Colombian prostitutes are there working at any one time in Panama City? Would anyone like to hazard a guess? Just for the sake of argument let's say there are 2,000 girls. Now, how many tricks does one girl turn in a month? Again, just for the sake of argument let's use 20 for an average - some more, and some less - but that might be a ballpark number just to get an idea. Next, how much are they getting paid? Again, lets use an average number of $175 per trick - because there are places where guys pay less, and places where they pay much more for the top shelf. So 2,000 girls turn 20 tricks a month each for $175 average, that's $7 million dollars. Multiply that times twelve months and we're talking $84 million dollars per year. If you think my numbers are high you can cut that in half and you still get $42 million per year. Therefore, it's not much of a stretch when you hear that corrupt immigration officials are skimming about $1 million per year of that money. There's money to be had, that's for sure.
How To Squeeze A Hooker: It's really pretty simple. These girls are here in Panama legally, but they always go to the same places. Immigration just has "raids" and they scoop them all up, legal or not. They are arrested and thrown into the Immigration holding cells (jail) down on Ave. Cuba. They stay there until they pay a bribe of $1,000 dollars. Once they pay the money they are immediately released with no paperwork, no change to their status, no additional stamps in their passport, and obviously no receipts of any kind. The money is paid in cash to "specialized immigration lawyers" who live off of this business. They tell the girls that they have "contacts" within immigration that will get them released. Of course all of this is done with the full knowledge and complicity of the corrupt immigration officials. It's a huge business and everyone gets paid. Just a few weeks ago about 40 girls were rounded up and they all paid $1,000 each to be released. That was a "take" of $40,000 for just one night. And everyone gets a cut. It's a great business for these corrupt extortion artists who are operating with the full knowledge and support of the corrupt government officials.
If They Don't Pay They Get Deported: If Panama deports one of these girls back to Colombia they get a big stamp in their passport which prevents them from returning to Panama for at least five years. This is the one thing the girls fear. If they get deported - it's like getting fired - and they lose the opportunity to work. Many (most) of these women have children and families back in Colombia and they regularly send money back home to support them. They don't have any other skills or education, and turning tricks as a prostitute is literally the only thing they can do to make money. So, Immigration has them over a barrel. Even though they don't want to, and it pisses them off, and they are even in the country legally, they still have to pay the bribes or risk being deported. So, after a day or two one of their friends shows up with the cash. The cash is handed over to the "specialized immigration lawyer" who keeps part of the money and pays the rest to the corrupt immigration officials. Once that's done, the girl is released and she's free to get back to work for her Panamanian government pimps. The smart ones that have been through this a few times over the years keep a stash of cash and they can literally get picked up, locked up, processed, pay the bribe and be released so fast that they don't even have to spend the night in the holding cell. Sometimes they can get back out and screw a couple of guys that very night to cover their losses.
Complaining Is Useless: Immigration has all the power and is holding all the cards. If a girl complains or tries to mount some kind of a legal fight then she is quickly deported under charges of prostitution. These same corrupt Panamanian government officials have the legal ability to shut the mouths of the witnesses by deporting them. And, it's hard or impossible to mount a legal battle, stay in the country, and get the immigration people to leave you alone. Over the past two years the Director of Immigration has been fined and sanctioned by the Supreme Court twice for having violated the human rights of people in similar circumstances. It doesn't really matter all that much - because the money being generated by the corruption is more than worth it. Awhile ago a handful of girls threw their lot in with a young, honest and correctly motivated human rights lawyer who tried to go to bat on their behalf. The girls were quickly deported (with the five year restriction on returning) and the lawyer was left with no clients. Complaining is futile.
Lower Level Extortion: The police on the street know exactly who the girls are, where they work, and what's going on. They will literally surround a place like Habanos with several police officers. They will sit back and observe the activity and wait for a John to leave the bar with a girl in a taxi, headed towards a "push button" or a hotel or whatever, for sex. They will then follow the car and extort a bribe from the girl. They simply ask both the John and the girl for their identification and if they don't pay at least $20 on the spot then they will take the girl in for "investigation." Of course they usually don't specifically target or harass the tourist because he's the ultimate source of the money. Very often it's the John who hands the money to the girl, who pays the bribe to the cop, who lets them go on their merry way. The Johns "don't want any hassles" and the last thing he needs is to get arrested in a foreign country at 2:00 am with a hot Colombian hooker on his arm. The wife back in Wisconsin might not be so understanding. So, once again, corrupt government officials - this time in the form of police officers - are taking advantage of the situation and extorting money from the girls.
Avoiding The Pain: Most of the girls adopt tactics and strategies that allow them to reduce their risk, reduce their exposure, and to avoid as much of the pain as possible. There's a kind of "Colombian Hooker Alert Network" that let's them know when the Immigration officials are planning a big raid. These girls actually pay a monthly fee to be a part of this network. The girls who have been working in the country for the longest amount of time have the best contacts. They know exactly what's going on, and they know how to keep from getting picked up. I know exactly who's running this intelligence network inside of Immigration and how the alerts are disseminated - right down to the names of who's doing it and how they get paid - and for obvious reasons I have to leave that information out of this article. Ironically, inside of Immigration they are currently conducting a kind of "purge" in an effort to discover the information leaks. They know someone is selling the information but they don't know who. And, when they pull a raid they now only get about 20 or 30 girls in a roundup and not 80 as they had expected, because the rest were warned thanks to their network and they stayed home that night. So, the corrupt Immigration officials are conducting a "purge" of their ranks because the intelligence leaks are putting dents in their ability to extort bribes from the hookers. That's a different way to clean up Immigration, eh?
Big Raid Coming This Week: It's expected either tonight or tomorrow night. The Immigration officials have tried hard to "keep a lid" on this raid they are planning for this weekend, and obviously it didn't work. Once again, other corrupt immigration officials have discovered yet another way to extort money out of the Colombian hookers - this time by selling insider Intelligence information. It all goes back to the money, right? Anyway, there's a big raid planned for this weekend. They are going to go back to all of the regular places with buses, dozens of immigration inspectors and officials, etc. I suspect they will probably get about 20 to 30 rookies because all of the veterans - who are wired in - already know it's coming.
The Rookie Factor: No matter how many girls are rounded up, arrested, extorted or deported, there's an endless supply of new talent arriving daily at the Tocumen International Airport. I was told a story about a group of four girls who had just arrived and they had only been in the country for eight days. When they were told that they had to pay $1,000 in cash or be deported, their answer was "shit, we just got here eight days ago and we have not yet been able to make that much money." The rookies were all deported anyway.
Panama's Tax on Colombian Hookers: In the end, this entire system works out to be a kind of quasi-official taxation of the prostitution industry in the Republic of Panama. The girls see it as a cost of doing business. Everyone who's making money on these schemes could care less if the girl wants to bang dozens of sex tourists for money every day, as long as they can get a cut of the action. The girls can't complain and they have nowhere to turn, because they are being exploited by the same people who are supposed to be enforcing the law and preventing these kinds of things from happening. And lastly - everyone in the government knows exactly what's going on, and no one is doing anything to stop it - because they are all getting a cut.
Copyright 2011 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.