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Land Grab In Punta Chame Panama - A Walk On The Beach - Documenting New Fences on Video

CorruptionBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - I went to Punta Chame yesterday morning. I wanted to see for myself the land the former Director of Land Titles of the National Land Authority (ANATI) Anabelle Villamonte gave away. Through ANATI Resolution 329 dated 7 October 2011, Anabelle Villamonte gave away - for free - a parcel of land measuring 9,381 square meters to a newly formed company called Puntabeach Interprises S.A.. This parcel of land is located between existing, titled "beach front" lots of land, and the ocean. That is to say, the people who already own "beach front" land in Punta Chame hold title to their land that was granted many years ago. These title clearly say that their Southern boundary is the Pacific Ocean. I published the first article about this situation two days ago, on Wednesday, 25 July 2012. Yesterday I drove up there to confirm a few things with my own eyes, to shoot some video, and to ask some questions. This morning I appeared on the channel 2 TVN morning news broadcast. So, at this point you can consider the cat to be well out of the bag. The word is spreading quickly, and people will become aware of what happened. And of course my investigation will continue. (more)

Here's A YouTube Video: I shot this YouTube video yesterday, Thursday, 26 July 2012 in the areas of E Street to H Street on the Southern side of Punta Chame. Hopefully it will give you a better idea of what's going on up there. It was kinda funny that when we first showed up there was a government owned pick-up truck from the Municipality of Chame there, doing a slow drive-by, giving us the once-over, trying to figure out who we were and what we were doing there. Remember, the original documents used to justify the granting of this land title were based on the Rights of Possession documents granted by the "Corregidor" (Justice of the Peace) in Punta Chame. So, these guys know what's up, for real. Anyway, here's the video...

Related Article: In order to make sure you are up to speed, please see the related article published yesterday on this issue;

The Ocean Doing It's Thing - Punta Chame Getting Wider: Sometimes Mother Nature gives, and sometimes she takes away. In the case of Punta Chame, the ocean has been steadily and consistently depositing more land and the peninsula has been growing over the years, towards the South. I wanted to go up there myself to walk the land, to see what was going on, to get a better feel for what was happening, and to shoot some video. There I talked to a man who has been living in Punta Chame for more than 50 years. He said "when I was a kid, the ocean used to be right here..." indicating where we were standing, on what is now the road. So, this process of new land being created and sand being deposited is not a new phenomenon. It's a well known existence of fact of what is occurring in the area.

No Body Knew This Had Been Done: None of the people who own the existing "beachfront" lots of land knew the ANATI had already granted title - for free - to the company Puntabeach Interprises S.A.. I spoke to one property owner while I was there yesterday, and he had no clue as to what had been done. When I explained to him there was a very good chance the ANATI had already granted title to the land "behind" his (between his property line and the ocean) he immediately jumped on his cell phone and called his lawyer. The American landowner who contacted me did so because he wanted to sell his land and a potential buyer had come forward. When the buyer went to inspect the land, he asked the seller "what's with the fence? Is there another lot of land between your's and the ocean?" That's how all of this started.

Why They Had To Move Quickly: On 12 July 2012, President Ricardo Martinelli signed Executive Order Number 425 - ordering the expropriation of the 54 hectares of land in Juan Hombrón, returning the land to the State of Panama, stripping the 14 owners of any title or claim. This Executive Order specifically said "there will be no right of indemnification" because of this act. And, Martinelli ordered the Public Registry to inscribe the fourteen parcels of land in question under the name of the Nation. It was written and signed on Thursday, 12 July 2012, and immediately Pulbished in the Official Gazette. It is my personal belief that the people who are behind this apparent land grab in Punta Chame came to the conclusion they had to act quickly to sell these parcels of land, because sooner or later someone would find out what had happened, and it would be taken away from them. So, they started promoting these parcels and offering them for sale on several Internet websites. In short, they wanted to cash out while they still could.

I Appeared on TVN This Morning: I know in these kinds of cases the most important thing is for the land owners who have held titled beachfront property in Punta Chame for decades to be alerted to what was going on. These new fences were only erected two weeks ago - starting the day after president Ricardo Martinelli signed Executive Order 425. And even though the ANATI had, in fact, granted title (for free) on these properties on 7 October 2011, no one knew that had occurred. So - I went on the news in order to sort of wake people up, to alert them to the potential problem.

The Legal Side Of Things: Now I'm sure each and every one of the owners of the existing "beachfront" lots in Punta Chame will be calling their lawyers and speaking with the same nervous and excited tones as the guy I ran into yesterday. The American who contacted me earlier this week is now coordinating actions with his lawyers and they will be filing their legal complaints soon - if they have not done so already. There will be plenty for the lawyers to do in this situation to untangle it all.

Jimmy Papadimitriu - "I Don't Have Anything To Do With It" - After I appeared on the channel 2 TVN morning news broadcast to explain what I had found in my investigations in this situation so far, I received a call from the former Minister of the Presidency Demetrio "Jimmy" Papadimitriu. He said he saw the Interview, and "the first thing I did was to call my family" to ask them about land in Punta Chame. He said he has since confirmed that neither he nor his family have nothing to do with the granting of these land titles in Punta Chame. Papadimitriu told me he got "kicked in the nuts" over the whole Juan Hombron land scandal, and he didn't want to be held responsible in the press for every future land scandal that erupts in Panama. I explained so far I have found only two direct links between the cases. First of all, the documents were signed by the same Lic. Anabelle Villamonte, who was also responsible for the Juan Hombron scandal. And, the lawyer Ricardo Antonio Bonilla Jaramillo appears as the Resident Agent of the Panamanian company Puntabeach Interprises S.A.. He also served as a defense lawyer for two ANATI public employees who were called to testify before the Public Ministry during the investigations into the Juan Hombron case. But who's "really" behind this land grab in Punta Chame? I have no idea. Jimmy Papadimitriu stepped forward to assure me it's not his family - and I believe him.

The Money Behind This Move: I have no idea who was actually behind all of this. I'm sure the stalwart bands of Panamanian journalists - backed up by the lawyers representing all of the individual land owners in Punta Chame - will take it from here. Those same lawyers will be seeking documentation, pulling ANATI land titles and deeds, obtaining maps and drawings, corporation documents from the Public Registry, etc. Once armed with documents, evidence, and proof, they will be filing a whole raft of complaints, motions, (add a bunch of legal terminology here), in order to have this undone. Then eventually the prosecutors of the Public Ministry will get involved, and it will likely snowball into another free-for-all.

Media Bias And Journalistic Investigation: Of course most of the news media outlets in Panama - all of the major newspapers and television stations - are biased in favor of one political party and against the others. For example the La Prensa newspaper is 100% owned and operated by the Panameñista party - so they attack Ricardo Martinelli and the CD all the time, and the PRD to a lesser extent. You will never see the La Prensa newspaper say anything bad about a Panameñista politician. The Panama America generally supports the CD and attacks the Panameñistas and the PRD. And, the channel 13 Telemetro news is biased in favor of the PRD and against the CD and the Panameñistas to a certain degree. All of this relatively unethical journalism has a sort of unintended positive consequence. No matter who is behind this land grab in Punta Chame - whatever team they happen to be batting for - I'm sure there will be at least one news media outlet willing to dig out the details, figure it all out, and latch on like a hungry Rottweiler in heat. For my part (as Mister Neutral) I will continue to investigate, to try to figure it out. At this point I know the names of the lower level players who actually signed documents and such - but they are not the real power players who are responsible for all of this. But my true motivation remains to serve the interests of the foreign land owners in Punta Chame who simply "woke up" one day to the new reality - that their "beachfront" property is now just property near the beach - and some other dude has slipped in behind them to take the "beachfront" title away. Thanks to the ANATI. Again.

International Implications: Here in Panama these kinds of things tend to gain attention and notoriety because of the political aspects and implications. However I see Panama through International eyes every day. These kinds of slick behind-your-back land grabs do an incredible amount of damage to Panama's image. Outsiders read about these shenanigans and they think "What is this, Chicago?" (grin). But really, I hope in the end all of this gets fully investigated, sorted out, and fixed. Eventually Panama needs to grow beyond this kind of stuff, and I hope the legal and justice system comes crashing down upon those responsible with the "full weight of the law" as they like to say so much around here. It almost never happens, but there's always hope...

Copyright 2012 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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Land Grab In Punta Chame Panama - A Walk On The Beach - Documenting New Fences on Video | 3 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Land Grab In Punta Chame Panama - A Walk On The Beach - Documenting New Fences on Video
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, July 27 2012 @ 10:10 PM UTC

I really hope I'm wrong, but if nobody in Martinelli's government is involved in this, the media wont care about it. They just want to destroy Martinelli. If Jimmy Papadimitriu were not a cabinet member, no one would have heard of Juan Hombron, trust me. Don't give these "journalists" so much credit.

Land Grab In Punta Chame Panama - A Walk On The Beach - Documenting New Fences on Video
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, July 28 2012 @ 02:18 AM UTC

Actually Sr. Winner is the only one who has been brave enough to talk about this ugly secret in Panama where no title to land is safe and where if they want to steal your land, you can't get help to fix it.

The rest of the media won't talk about this because it's bad for business.

Congratulations Sr. Winner for a good job on this story.

Pablo

Land Grab In Punta Chame Panama - A Walk On The Beach - Documenting New Fences on Video
Authored by: susangg on Saturday, July 28 2012 @ 01:11 PM UTC

And while crooks and corruptos seem to be able to take advantage of the island/coastal titling law (Law 80) to gain "title" to land that they have no legitimate possessory rights in and would not legally be allowed to title, and with lightning speed.....hundreds of ordinary folks with legitimate, vetted, and documented possessory rights cannot. Some of these people have been waiting years for their title, having jumped through every procedural and legal hurdle imposed by Catastro/ANATI...but their applications, sit....and sit....and sit. These are people who actually OCCUPY their ROP property, meaning that they live on it, or farm it, or are operating a business on it. But they can't title it, while corrupt guvvies fall all over themselves issuing fraudulent titles to people who have no legitimate possesory rights and therefore, no legal right to get title. Will there ever be a government truly interested in cleaning up the horrendous corruption in the administration of lands in Panama? Still waiting.....