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Thursday, April 24 2014 @ 10:25 PM EDT

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Village Of The Dammed

Infrastructure UpgradesBy Lawrence Reichard - On several occasions Ngäbe-Buglé activists and their indigenous, Latino, labor and supporters have blocked the nearby Pan-American Highway, Panama’s chief economic lifeline. ... But they’ve paid a heavy price for their militancy. At least two protesters have been killed in clashes with police.

Walking along the stone and dirt road that follows the Tabasará River to the construction site of Panama’s controversial Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam is a bit like stepping into a Gabriel García Márquez novel, one titled Chronicle of a Battle Foretold. The road is blocked by huge felled trees and seemingly endless piles of rocks and boulders. You know the battle’s coming, but you don’t know when, or how violent it will be.

The roadblocks were put in place by indigenous Ngäbe-Buglé activists who say that the private Panamanian company that’s building the Barro Blanco dam, Generadora del Istmo S.A. (Genisa), built the road so Panamanian police can cross the rough terrain and evict potentially hundreds of Ngäbe-Buglé protesters. The Ngäbe-Buglé firmly refuse to leave the land—their land—that is slated to be inundated by the dam. The trees, rocks and boulders they’ve used to block the road might not pose much of a challenge for Genisa’s heavy equipment, but the gaping hole that they tore through Genisa’s makeshift bridge over the deep, fast-flowing Tabasará could be a real problem.

High up on a bluff overlooking the Barro Blanco construction site and the scarred Tabasará, hundreds of Ngäbe-Buglé demonstrators have constructed a makeshift protest camp replete with banners and flags and one small, rudimentary, three-wall structure made of palm fronds. Scores of protesters sleep under the stars on tarps and pieces of cardboard. They eat handfuls of Froot Loops, and refried beans are dished out of a five-gallon bucket into cutaway plastic soda bottles.

A few hundred yards away on another rough dirt road, a small contingent of police wearing shirts that read “ANTI-DISTURBIO” (anti-riot) keeps an eye on the camp.

Defying heat in the upper 90s, a young man sitting beside me is covered from head to toe, masking his identity. Only his eyes show. “Where are we supposed to go?” he says. “This is our land. We live here. We have always lived here.” This refrain is repeated over and over by the Ngäbe-Buglé.

Construction of the hydroelectric project began in 2011, and resistance to it has been fierce. On several occasions Ngäbe-Buglé activists and their indigenous, Latino, labor and supporters have blocked the nearby Pan-American Highway, Panama’s chief economic lifeline. In one 2012 action, they grabbed national headlines by shutting down the road for more than eight days. But they’ve paid a heavy price for their militancy. At least two protesters have been killed in clashes with police. And now, with construction of the dam approaching completion, the stakes are even higher.

Genisa has said that only 14 acres of land and five indigenous families will be affected by the dam. According to Ngäbe-Buglé activists, those five families have all refused offers from Genisa of between $1,000 and $4,000 each to abandon the lands they have cultivated, hunted, fished and lived on for what they call “forever.”

But Ricardo Miranda, a Ngäbe activist fighting the dam, says that more than 400 Ngäbe-Buglé will be displaced and another 3,500-plus will lose farmland, hunting and fishing grounds, and access to fresh, clean, potable water. A 2013 report from the United Nations Development Programme concluded that it’s likely that three Ngäbe-Buglé villages will eventually be flooded by the project. Gone too will be four pre-Columbian petroglyphs, which, according to Panamanian archaeologist Jonathan González, are protected national monuments. (Genisa did not respond to a request for comment.)

Genisa is incorporated in Panama, but its board chairman is Luis Kafie, one of the richest men in Honduras. According to Genisa’s website, the Ngäbe-Buglé Comarca’s General Congress delegated a decision on Barro Blanco to the Regional Congress of Kädriri, which approved the project. But Ricardo Miranda insists that the agreement is invalid because the congress is not authorized to negotiate a land deal with a private company, and that in such cases a public referendum is required.

Barro Blanco is being financed by the Dutch FMO Bank, the German DEG Bank and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI). All the banks’ websites tout their environmental and social responsibility, and Miranda says he hopes solidarity groups in Holland and Germany will pressure FMO and DEG to adhere to official European Union social responsibility standards and abandon Barro Blanco.

In the meantime, the Ngäbe-Buglé have taken their fight right to Genisa and the Panamanian government. Their first protest camp was a mile or two upstream from, and out of sight of, the dam’s construction site. But in March they upped the ante and moved the camp downstream to its current location, within eyesight of the construction site. Panama has national elections coming up on May 4, and few think the government will move on protesters before the election. But all bets are off if the protesters move on to the Barro Blanco construction site, which they have said they likely will—although they won’t say when.

Miranda is the general coordinator of the April 10 Movement (M-10), an organization founded by Ngäbe-Buglé activists in April 1999 to defend the Tabasará watershed from exploitative hydroelectric projects, and in an interview in Panama City, Miranda said that M-10 is ready if the government moves against the protesters. According to Miranda, 20 labor unions and indigenous and campesino groups have committed to shutting down major roads and highways in at least 15 spots scattered throughout the country if Barro Blanco construction is not halted soon. Miranda added that at least some roads will be closed if the government attacks the Ngäbe-Buglé protest camp.

Meanwhile, the Panamanian government is ratcheting up the pressure. On March 20, Miranda says, the government issued warrants for him and for his uncle and fellow activist Manolo Miranda. And activists blame the government for a recent wave of cell phone malfunctions affecting their ranks. With Panama’s economy booming, electricity shortages widening, and the Ngäbe-Buglé digging in to defend their land, the real battle over Barro Blanco may be just beginning. (inthesetimes.com)

Editor's Comment: This article makes passing reference to Panama's booming economy and looming energy shortage - in the every last line. In fact - that's the headline. A simple fact of life is that no matter where you build a hydroelectric plant, anywhere in the world, someone is going to be displaced by the waters rising behind the dam. Every time. In this case in Panama it's 14 acres of land that will be flooded, and five families will be displaced. And of course the people who are protesting the dam and trying to stop it will inflate those numbers, and at the same time those who are building the dam will try to minimize the numbers. Reality is probably somewhere in the middle.

This project is another example of "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one." Millions of people in Panama plug things in and turn things on, every day. Panama simply needs more electrical power generation capacity to continue growing. This project will be completed. The protesters will lose their struggle, and will be removed. It's a foregone conclusion, and the only thing that remains to be defined are the details, and how events unfold between here and there.

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Water Main Breaks - And Floods A House in Bethania

Infrastructure UpgradesA house was flooded this morning in Bethania, after a break in a water main pipe located in the Via Camino Real. (more)

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Part Removed From Metro That Was Causing Trains To Stop Unexpectedly

Infrastructure UpgradesRoberto Roy, Director of the Secretariat of the Panama Metro, reported on his Twitter account last night they moved a piece that was stopping the trains for a few minutes. (more)

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Supreme Court Rejects Lawsuit Against Barro Blanco Hydro Electric Project in Panama

Infrastructure UpgradesThe Supreme Court rejected a claim against Articles 120 and 130 of Law 6 of Law 6 of February 3, 1997, which allows the compulsory acquisition by the state of several parcels of land found in the area where the Barro Blanco hydroelectric project in the province of Chiriqui is being built. (more)

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More Than 30,000 People In La Chorrera Still Without Water

Infrastructure UpgradesMore than 30,000 people living in the various communities of La Chorrera and Arraiján, in the Western part of the province of Panama, are still without drinking water service after the rupture of a 60" water main last Thursday, 17 April 2014. (more)

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Repair Work Continues On 60" Water Main in Western Panama Province

Infrastructure UpgradesWork crews from the Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (IDAAN) continue with the repair of a line of 60" water main which broke on Thursday April 17 in La Chorrera. (more)

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Martinelli at Maracana: "Here in El Chorrillo, We've Done More In Five Years, Than Was Done In The Last 100 Years"

Infrastructure UpgradesAccompanied by 100 children from El Chorrillo, the President of the Republic, Ricardo Martinelli, today took to the sports field at the brand new Maracana stadium to inaugurate the facility in the popular Panamanian neighborhood. (more)

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Panama to build second subway line with tender due in April

Infrastructure UpgradesBY ELIDA MORENO (Reuters) Panama will build a second subway line, with a tender expected before the end of April for construction of the project costing up to $2 billion, the head of the subway said on Wednesday.

Panama's metro, a 13.7 kilometer line that also cost $2 billion, began service last week, becoming Central America's first subway. The second line would stretch 23 kilometers (14 miles) with 17 stations, said Roberto Roy, the executive secretary of the subway.

Roy said he hoped to present potential bidders with details of the project before the end of April, although he added there is no set date.

"Then there will be three months for them to present their bid, and then a month-and-a-half for us to decide," he said.

Panama is in the midst of an infrastructure boom, thanks to the multi-billion dollar expansion of the Panama canal, which has given the small Central American nation the fastest-growing economy in the Americas.

Panama, with a population of around 3.7 million, escaped the worst of the global recession, expanding at an average rate of 8 percent over the past six years.

Editor's Comment: They will be extending the Metro service to Panama's most populated residential districts. Line 1 covers the massive population of San Miguelito. Next will be Tocumen, and I think Line 3 will make it out to Arraijan and La Chorrera, with a dedicated new bridge over the Panama Canal. So they will be spending at least $1 billion per year over the next five years to improve and expand on what they have already built. So just point those TBM's in a different direction and tally ho, bitches ... it's all good.

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Martinelli Inaugurated Cinta Costera 3 - Then Sits Down To Eat Fish

Infrastructure UpgradesThe president, Ricardo Martinelli, inaugurated the new Cinta Costera 3 - the third phase of the larger "Coastal Strip" project - this evening, with a big party that was attended by his Ministers, the heads of institutions, and the residents from the neighborhoods of El Chorrillo, Barraza, San Felipe and Santa Ana. (more)

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180,000 People Rode Panama's New Metro Subway System on Monday

Infrastructure UpgradesMany Panamanians have begun to use the new Metro train system, some to commute to work, others out of simple curiosity or just to take a ride, so much so that the number of people using the system is increasing every day. (more)

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Panama Is At The Brink Of An Energy Shortage

Infrastructure UpgradesElectrical power generation in Panama could fall below demand, due to the reduced levels of electricity being generated by the country's hydro electric plants, caused by the delay in the arrival of the rainy season, and a lack of water in the reservoirs behind the dams. (more)

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Coastal Strip III To Be Inaugurated Tomorrow

Infrastructure UpgradesPanama's Secretary of Goals announced that the Third Phase of the Cinta Costera ("Coastal Strip") infrastructure project, part of the government's larger New Road Network Plan, will be inaugurated in a ceremony to be held tomorrow, Wednesday, 9 April. (more)

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Panamanians Swarm Metro On First Day Of Operations

Infrastructure UpgradesJust as in a large city, urban traffic in the capital area was fragmented yesterday between those who will stick with the traditional public transportation systems and those who have become infected with "metromania" and will be riding one of the 19 trains of the new mass transit system. (more)

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Panama’s president unveiling subway ahead of vote

Infrastructure UpgradesPANAMA CITY (AP) — Counting down his final weeks in office, Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli on Saturday is inaugurating the most-emblematic project of a five-year term marked by fast economic growth and more than a hint of hubris — Central America’s first subway system.

The metro will surely alleviate the booming capital’s dreadful traffic. But critics say the $2 billion spent on the 9-mile (14-kilometer) rail line would have been better used building a higher-capacity surface transport network and expanded bus system.

The critics also are unhappy about what they consider Saturday evening’s over-the-top party, with a free concert and fireworks, to celebrate the new subway. They call it a political stunt a month before Panama’s elections to drum up support for Martinelli’s preferred successor, former Housing Minister Jose Domingo Arias.

Trains themselves won’t start running a full schedule until Monday.

Martinelli, who leaves office July 1, isn’t fazed by the criticism. Notably brash with friends and foes alike, the 62-year-old supermarket magnate hasn’t tired of boasting that he has accomplished more in five years than was done in the previous 50. He has an approval rating of 60 percent, and relishes the chance of getting his chosen successor elected, which no incumbent Panamanian president has done since democracy was restored in 1989.

“This is a project that makes the opposition burn,” Roberto Henriquez, a presidential aide, said in a recent television interview. “But gentleman, I’m sorry: The metro is a reality, and next week we’ll be delivering the benefits to all the people.”

Since Martinelli took office in 2009, Panama has spent upward of $15 billion on infrastructure improvements, including new hospitals, airports and 990 miles (1,600 kilometers) of highways. The subway is Panama’s second costliest project in the past century, surpassed only by the current $5.25 billion expansion of the Panama Canal that began before he became president.

“Never has a government done so much for a country and its people,” proclaims a TV ad featuring the subway and a catchy, merengue-tinged chorus of “Promises Fulfilled.”

The government hasn’t announced how much a ride will cost. Instead, it is waiving fares for the first few months in what analysts say is a clear attempt to boost the candidacy of the little-known Arias, who holds a narrow lead in most polls over former Panama City Mayor Juan Carlos Navarro.

Panama’s region-leading infrastructure is a point of pride for many of the country’s 3.4 million people, although the spending hasn’t been without controversy.

Vice President Juan Carlos Varela broke with Martinelli in 2011 and later accused the president and his two sons of taking kickbacks from Italian state-controlled Finmeccanica in exchange for government contracts.

No charges were filed against the president, but the allegation has reinforced perceptions that the construction — which has propelled economic growth averaging 9 percent a year since 2010 — is also fueling corruption and waste. Panama fell 20 places to 102nd in Transparency International’s latest annual ranking of 177 countries on corruption.

The subway cost 30 percent more than the price budgeted when the contract to build it was awarded to Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht SA in 2010. Roberto Roy, the metro’s top executive, says costs rose because of design changes, including construction of two additional stations.

Martinelli’s penchant for self-promotion led to the two giant boring machines used to dig the metro’s more than 4 miles (7 kilometers) of tunnels being named Marta and Carolina, in honor of his wife and daughter.

First lady Marta Linares is Arias’ running mate, a sign that Martinelli will remain influential if his political disciple wins. The president was barred by the constitution from seeking re-election.

Carolina Rodriguez, who works as a maid in the downtown district of flashy, high-rise apartment buildings, doesn’t much mind the political overtones of the subway’s inauguration so long as the train reduces her pre-dawn commute and remains affordable.

“It’s all very pretty and Martinelli says the train will help us,” said Rodriguez, who spends 90 minutes every day commuting in from San Miguelito, a poor neighborhood on the subway’s northern terminus. “Hopefully the train will relieve my daily headache.”

Editor's Comment: I have a massive problem with the paragraph which says "Vice President Juan Carlos Varela broke with Martinelli in 2011 and later accused the president and his two sons of taking kickbacks from Italian state-controlled Finmeccanica in exchange for government contracts." That's simply not accurate.

In fact, Martinelli fired Varela and broke the alliance between the CD and the Panameñista political party, precisely because it was VARELA who was leading the charge on the Finmeccanica deal. When the Lavitola scandal broke in Italy (over his attempt to blackmail the Italian Prime Minister) then all of a sudden the shady dealings with Panama came to light. This, of course, was before the bribes had been paid to the Panamanian officials.

So Martinelli fired Varela for dragging him into the mess. They reduced the Finmeccanica contracts down to the amounts where they should have been at, in the first place, and removed the additional money that would have gone to pay bribes to Varela and others in the Panamanian government (including Martinelli.)

Now Varela is trying to make it look like he quit. That could not be further from the truth. He was tossed out on his ass, and he bears most of the responsibility for having put the whole (corrupt) Finmeccanica deal together in the first place.

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A Party To Celebrate The Grand Opening Of The New Metro System in Panama

Infrastructure UpgradesThe government of Panama is planning a big party to celebrate the grand opening of the new Metro subway system in Panama City, for Saturday, April 5th 2014, at 4:00 pm. (more)

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Martinelli Announces Charter Flights Will Begin To Arrive In Rio Hato on 4 April

Infrastructure UpgradesPresident Ricardo Martinelli was very active today on the Internet where he made several announcements, and he said the first charter flights will begin to arrive at the newly constructed Rio Hato International Airport on 4 April. (more)

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Doubts Over Metro Fare Linger

Infrastructure UpgradesThe publication of a technical and economic report written by the Road Commission of the Panamanian Society of Engineers and Architects stating the Panama Metro will require $194 million per year to meet operating expenses has raised new questions. (more)

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Business Leaders Support Panama Government's Call To Conserve Energy (Crisis)

Infrastructure UpgradesRepresentatives of the Chamber of Commerce, of Industries and Agriculture of Panama said they agree with the electricity saving measures implemented by the national government, starting on Monday.

The businessmen called upon the citizens, the government, and commercial sectors to make rational and efficient use of energy, and above all obey the suggested measures for this purpose.

They said the contribution by the private sector during Panama's energy crisis in May 2013 was essential to avoiding energy rationing, which would have prevented companies from millions of dollars in sales receipts, and greater losses in national productivity, according to Jose Luis Ford, the president of the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture of Panama.

"Last year about 320 companies provided support by disconnecting from the grid, and by generating their own electricity through the use of their emergency power plants," he said. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: There was a fire at a power generating plant in La Chorrera over the weekend, which is causing a shortage in electricity. In Panama they call power plants which burn bunker fuel oil or coal to generate electricity "thermal" plants, so if you see that usage in the translations that where it comes from. Also last year in May there was an "energy crisis" caused by the falling water levels in the hydroelectric plants caused by an extended dry season. These thermal plants pick up the slack during the dry season when the hydro plants have to cut back. If this fire had occurred during the peak of the rainy season no one would have hardly noticed. Panama is working to expand the country's electricity generating capacity through the construction of new hydroelectric facilities as well as wind farms, for example. The economy continues to grow like crazy, and all of that growth and expansion needs juice to run.

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Review of the Panama City Metro Project

Infrastructure UpgradesBy Randal O'Toole - The Metro rail transit system now under construction in Panama City, and planned extensions to that system, are poor investments for Panama. Depending on ridership, the US$1.88 billion construction cost of the first 13.7-kilometer line of the system could cost as much as $15 per rider. The costs of operating the line are likely to be greater than fare revenues, and maintenance costs for the system will grow until, after about 30 years, much of the infrastructure will need to be replaced at a probable cost of more than $1 billion.

The government says Panama City needs a rail system because buses do not have the capacity to move the large numbers of people who enter and leave the center city each day. But the government has designed and is building a low-capacity rail system that will not be able to move more than about 6,400 people per hour. By comparison, transit buses can move more than 10,000 people per hour on city streets and double-decker buses can move at least 17,000 people per hour.

The Panama City Metro will use three-car trains that the manufacturer says have a capacity of 600 people per train. But this is what transit experts call “crush capacity” in which everyone on board is pressed up against other people and/or car walls. Few people are willing to accept such crowding, so the actual capacity of each train is likely to be closer to about 375 people. At peak operation, the wait between trains will be about 3.5 minutes, which means the system can move about 6,400 people per hour in each direction.

A single train can hold more people than a transit bus, but buses can safely operate far more frequently than trains. Studies have found that a single bus stop can serve 42 buses per hour. If bus stops are staggered, with four stops every 400 feet, they can serve 168 buses per hour.

Double-decker buses can easily hold more than 100 people, so they can move more 2.5 times as many people per hour as the Panama City Metro.

The one thing rail transit does is create winners and losers. The winners include the companies that design and build the expensive rail lines, owners of property near rail stations, and the few people who will find it convenient to take a train from where most people don’t live to where most people don’t want to go. The losers include the taxpayers who have to support the train, owners of property away from the rail stations, and anyone who wants to travel to the many places the trains don’t go who suffers congestion and poor quality transportation because money that could have helped the entire city was spent on the rail line for an elite few. (Cato Institute)

Editor's Comment: This idiot Randal O'Toole has been a "one note piano" for the past couple of decades or so. He has apparently made a living by being the guy who rallies against light rail systems - no matter where they are built. His conclusion is always the same - that you can fit more people on a bus. (Yawn)

In short, he's basically writing the same paper over and over and over again. This time it was Panama City's turn, because Panama is about to inaugurate their new Metro subway system. So the predictable Randal O'Toole times his piece to generate the most waves. And of course this piece will (predictably) cause waves in Panama City, and in Randal O'Toole's mind he will become all that more famous and respected.

This isn't the first time he's done this - urban planners and developers all over the United States know exactly who he is, and he writes these articles for one reason, and one reason only. He can get them published. He remains controversial. He, in short, is a massive troll.

Good thing I'm an expert at spotting trolls. Now of course the local Spanish language media in Panama City will glom onto this report and repeat O'Toole's words as if they were handed down by God himself, just because his crap gets published by "The Cato Institute." Sounds respectable. It's in English. It came from the United States. So, it all must be true and factual, right? (report, repeat, report, repeat, report, repeat, repeat, repeat...)

Do you think any of them (and I mean even one, besides me) will take the time to do a simple Google search on this guy's past writings, or to conduct even the most basic and fundamental bias checks on the source? Nope, they won't. Most journalists are unthinking robots, slaves to their editors, who care more about ad revenues than reporting, the truth, or the facts.

So, you can feel free to basically ignore this O'Toole idiot. He's been wrong lots of times before, and he's wrong now. And I think it's time for this tired old troll to come up with another gig. And if O'Toole can explain to me off of the top of his head the history of the growth and expansion of Panama City, and why it expanded like it did, and how the new Metro system is being built to serve the current and future growth of the city (without spending several days and doing bunches of Google searches to figure it out), I'll buy him a beer and some ceviche.

The real answer is - he has no clue. He doesn't know where San Miguelito is, or La Chorrera, or Tocumen (not the airport.) How many hours has he spent driving in Panama City traffic? And his article (the full version) is even full of errors regarding the right of way being used for Panama's Metro. I don't think he even took the time to research very much, before he cranked out yet another version of this same old report. Basically, this report is a worthless piece of crap. But I'll let the minimum wage workers who will be using this system to get from their homes to their jobs that they are now considered by the Cato Institute to be part of the "elite few." That should get some laughs...

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New Panama Metro (Subway) System Will Be Delivered on 5 April 2014

Infrastructure UpgradesBeginning March 1, the Secretariat of the Panama Metro will take over the Metro Line One to start operation of the new mass transit system.

The Executive Secretary of the Metro, Roberto Roy, said on 28 February, the Secretariat will hold a ceremony to mark the final acceptance of the project that will be inaugurated on April 5.

Roy said they will be conducting tests and evaluations during which members of the Metro team will begin to work together.

He said this is part of the process of training for all those who will be working in the Control Center of the new Panama Metro subway system.

With an investment of $1.8 billion, work on the project is now 98% completed, and the system way built to improve the quality of life of thousands of Panamanians.

Following this, the task force will initiate the necessary security adjustments for the Line One, and starting on 16 March they will begin a series of planned visits and test runs, consisting of a tour of Line One with 600 people including residents, businessmen from Via España, San Miguelito, and Los Andes, so they can see the entire system, the platforms, entrances and exits, and safety standards. Passengers will have 25 seconds to enter the cars.

For this phase of organized tours , there will be the agents responsible for the stations and trains who will be guiding the tour and present at all stations.

Structure of the Project and Duration of the Tour

The metro line 1 consists of 19 trains, each having three cars, with a capacity of 200 people per car or 600 people per train.

There are twelve Metro stations: The 5 de Mayo Plaza. the Lotería, Santo Tomás hospital, Iglesia del Carmen on Via España, Vía Argentina on Via España, Fernández de Córdoba, and then El Ingenio, 12 de Octubre, Pueblo Nuevo, San Miguelito, Pan de Azúcar and Los Andes - all on Transistmica.

Of these twelve stations, seven are underground and five are elevated platforms. Line One of the Metro covers a total distance of 13.7 kilometers - 7.2 underground and 6.5 km on elevated track.

To ride the full length of the Metro from the 5th of May plaza to the Los Andes shopping center takes 23 minutes, and one train will be coming through the station every three and a half minutes.

Initially up to 15,000 people can by transported on the system per hour.

The system infrastructure is being designed to carry up to 40,000 users per hour.  

Safety in stations and cars  

Both the stations and the cars have a lot of safety and security equipment such as video surveillance cameras. There will be two police officers riding on every subway car to ensure the safety of all users. Regulations stipulate that no children can ride the system unless they are accompanied by an adult.

Once the contractor turns the project over to the Panamanian government, the Secretariat of the Metro of Panama (SMP) will conduct tests, training, and evacuation drills with the National Civil Protection System (SINAPROC), thus providing an optimal service. The government wants to make sure they have tested and exercised all security mechanisms to be used in case of an emergency before opening the system to the public.

The actual speed of the Metro is 80 kilometers per hour, which is supervised, and if any train exceeds the speed limit then the train will stop automatically to ensure the safety of passengers.  

The operations control center is located in the area of ​​Albrook, and there trains will be given daily preventative maintenance to avoid any inconvenience.

Information Agents  

With regards to customer service, the SMP has trained young people who will endeavor to provide information and personalized customer service, so that each passenger feels comfortable in every area of ​​the stations. Agents of information as they are called, will also be receiving complaints and suggestions emerging from the public.  

The SMP also reported they are signing an agreement with the University of Panama, so that 80 students from different faculties, preferably Social Communication, can work part time at stations serving users, because with the number of employees they have hired will not be enough to cover the demand.

These students will be paid a per diem salary rate, to pay for their transportation and food. In order to have the privilege of being part of this system, the college students must have a good GPA.  

Metro culture  

The SMP says it is of the utmost importance for Panamanians to adapt to certain safety rules and regulations on this new system, so they have a big task of creating awareness among users, so they will follow all of the recommendations step by step. For example passing the electronic payment cards through the turnstiles, understanding what are the levels of the stations, courtesy when boarding the metro trains, walking to the right, waiting for the Metro train behind the yellow line, giving priority to the disabled, and to take care of and keeping the cars clean. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: The contractor had big incentives to deliver this project on 5 April, exactly one month before the general elections in May. This was a massive accomplishment for the administration of Ricardo Martinelli, and it's going to be one of the biggest reasons why Jose Domingo Arias will be elected to replace him.

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Solar power plant inaugurated in Sarigua

Infrastructure UpgradesPresident Ricardo Martinelli went to the Azuero Peninsula to the Sarigua National Park where he attended the inauguration of a new solar photo-voltaic plant.

The project has an investment of $9 million and will provide 2.4 megawatts through 11,886 photo-voltaic panels, 30% of the energy consumed annually in the district of Parita.

It is expected that in the second stage, the plant capacity will double to 4.8 megawatts.

Vicente Prescott, Energy Secretary, said "this project marks the beginning of many other projects that are yet to come." The President of the Republic, Ricardo Martinelli said he was happy with this project. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: Panama has two distinct seasons, wet and dry. The hydro electric generating plants obviously work well during the rainy season, and historically there have been several cases in which the supply of electricity became critical due to extended or abnormally long dry seasons. The installation of these sorts of solar projects will help to carry part of the load, and will be particularly good producers during the dry season. And of course both hydro and solar are renewable energy sources. Anything that has to be burned to produce electricity (bunker, coal) has to be imported from somewhere else, but Panama has lots of rain and sun...

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IDAAN Has Finished Maintenance Work on Water Main

Infrastructure UpgradesThe Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (IDAAN) is continuing to check on the areas at higher elevations in Panama City and San Miguelito, to assess the restoration of drinking water service, after they successfully concluded the second interconnection of a 60" water main line, in the sector of Maria Henriquez.

The job, scheduled to take about twelve hours, ended at 7:30 am on Saturday morning, and are part of the project to interconnect the pipelines from the water treatment plant in Chilibre and Panama City, and to connect to a water storage tank located in La Cabima, to supply drinking water to Eastern part of the province of Panama. (Estrella)

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80% Will Have Water Service Restored By Noon Today

Infrastructure UpgradesThe director of the Metropolitan Region of the Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (IDAAN) Abilio Pittí reported that by noon on Saturday about 80% of users will be seeing water service restored to the lower lying areas of Panama City.

He said maintenance work at the water treatment plant in Chilibre has already been completed, so water service will now begin to reach the homes of the thousands of Panamanians who have been without water this morning.

He said at this moment the water treatment plant is working at 50% capacity, and the second interconnection ring is currently being installed on the 66" water main.

"Everything has been done as scheduled," he added.

It will take longer for water service to reach neighborhoods located in the higher elevations such as Bethania, Villa de Las Fuentes, Hato Pintado, and others, as the pressure builds in the water distribution system. (Panama America)

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Soon To Be Finished Projects Will Improve Traffic in Panama City

Infrastructure UpgradesPanama's Ministry of Public Works (MOP) will be delivering four new, large, and important roadway infrastructure projects between February and May of this year (2014), as part of their "New Road Network Plan" for Panama City.

The government of Panama has invested more than $900 million on all of the projects contemplated for the modernization of the road network in Panama City.

By the middle of next month (February 2014) the project to improve the streets of the "Casco Antiguo" (Old Town) in San Felipe will be completed, corresponding to the second stage of the project for the preservation of historical heritage of Panama.

As part of this project, all public utilities have been buried, a new sewage collection system has been installed which will be connected to the larger project to clean up the Bay of Panama, as well as a new system for the distribution of potable drinking water.

Also, the sidewalks were improved, and about 100,000 square meters of paved streets were overhauled.

The next big project on the list - to be delivered in April 2014 - is the Third Phase of the "Cinta Costera" (Coastal Strip), connecting the Avenida de Los Poetas with Avenida Balboa.

As part of this project 2.6 km of new new roadway will be delivered - six lanes wide - with three lanes coming in to Panama City and three lanes leaving.

This Third Phase of the Cinta Costera project also includes the construction of a pedestrian sidewalk and bike lanes, as well as the creation of suitable sites where pedestrians can view the panorama, among other components. A total of $782 million was invested in this project.

In the second half of April 2014 the Ministry of Public Works should be delivering the second Viaduct (traffic bridge overpass) which is part of the Second Phase of the Vía Brasil corridor, which will connect the roadway with Calle 50.

What's more, this month the MOP plans to deliver the first part of the project to expand the Vía Domingo Díaz, including the rehabilitation and expansion of the road and the road bridges in the vicinity of Brisas del Golf and San Antonio, the three pay zones, two of these located in the Metromall and Las Colinas, as well as nine pedestrian bridges.

All of the work on this project will be completed in May. This is when the new concrete bridge in Pedregal will be opened to traffic, which has been expanded to three lanes in each direction, and a new bridge to be built to meet the entrance and exit to the community of Bello Horizonte.

Taking into account the cost of some of these projects, some of which have already been completed and others still being built, the MOP will be delivering projects worth more than $1.37 billion in the first half of this year. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: The heat is on all of these contractors to finish and deliver these projects before election day, 4 May 2014. These public infrastructure projects represent some of the biggest accomplishments of the CD and the Martinelli administration. They have to be open and delivered before the voters go to the polls, so the politicians can point to them and say "See? Look what we did? Want more of that? Then you should vote for Jose Domingo Arias!"

The Panamanian people already know this administration has accomplished more in the past four years than all previous administrations did in the forty years before them. There's no doubt about it, they got a lot of stuff done. The list of accomplishments is long, and impressive. You can't argue with results. And, their political strategy is sound. Who in their right mind would put either the PRD or the Panameñistas back in charge of the country? (Rhetorical question) For these reasons and others, Jose Domingo Arias will win the election in May 2014. The CD is positioned to run the country for another 50 years, as long as they keep performing.

And yeah, they're corrupt and they steal a bunch of public funds, but all Panamanian politicians are corrupt - so that becomes the common denominator which simply gets zeroed out in the political equation...

Anyway, more road projects will be getting delivered soon. Hopefully they will ease traffic pressures somewhat.

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Expansion And Modernization Works Will Be Made At The San Felix Treatment Plant

Infrastructure Upgrades

Today, at a cost of over $4.5 million, the IDAAN delivered to the Constructura Urbana S.A. company the order to proceed with the expansion and modernization of the San Felix Water Treatment Plant.

The director of the IDAAN, Abdel Cano, said this project will benefit about 16 thousand inhabitants of the communities of Las Lajas, San Felix, Remedios, Las Matas Arriba, among other sectors.

Cano stated: "Right now the distribution of drinking water to these communities is insufficient to supply consumers."

"The project consists of the design of a new water supply system, expansion through drive pumps, dredging and construction of structure of the current water intake," as said by Cano.

He also said the work establishes the replacement of asbestos concrete pipes and expansion of the existing infiltration gallery.

The works are expected to be finished within a year.(TVN)

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Cinta Costera Phase II Will Be Partially Closed For A Month Starting Tomorrow

Infrastructure Upgrades

As part of the work done in the area, the Ministry of Public Works (MOP), will partially close the Cinta Costera Phase II for a month, specifically in the area of the Seafood Market.

This will be made as part of the maintenance work of the interconnection project between Avenida Balboa and the new Avenida de los Poetas-Cinta Costera III.

The works will take place from Thursday November 28th until December 28th, 2013.

Lanes to be closed will be the two on the right, toward the Seafood Market, and lanes will be enabled in both directions in the left section of this pathway, to the side of the Avenida Pablo Arosemena.(Telemetro)

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The Colon Corridor Was Inspected Today

Infrastructure Upgrades

Today, The Minister of Public Works, Jaime Ford, held a Corridor inspection in the province of Colon.

This Corridor consists of three viaducts, two in Ameth Waked and one in Aminta Melendez.

It also includes sidewalks paved with the colors of the province, improvements on the drainage, underground cables and the Dely Valdes stadium.

The Colon Corridor will have 6 lanes, 3 for each direction, benefiting 200 thousand inhabitants.(TVN)

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The Paitilla Lookout Park Was Inaugurated

Infrastructure Upgrades

Today afternoon, The First Lady of the Republic, Marta Linares de Martinelli and Panama's governor Mayín Correa, among other authorities, inaugurated the Paitilla Lookout Park.

It was reported President Ricardo Martinelli didn't attend to the ceremony, although it was announced he would.

This park was built in the controversial land claimed by florist César Segura.

The park covers an area of 11 thousand square meters and had a cost of over $1.5 million.(TVN)

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Ininco S.A. Will Be In Charge Of The Causeway Extension

Infrastructure Upgrades

Today, The Ininco S.A. Consortium was awarded the project for the extension of the Causeway after offering $66.5 million.

The base price established by the Ministry of Public Works was approximately $68 million.

The other two companies involved were Constructora Urbana S.A. who offered $72 million and Constructora Obredech who offered $77 million.(Panama America)

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Crews Working To Repair Water Main in Arraiján

Infrastructure UpgradesTechnicians from the Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (IDAAN) continue today, Wednesday, the work to replace a section of 24" water pipe located in the area of Arraiján that was damaged last Sunday, keeping many communities without water.

Workers have been working for 23 hours straight to restore water service as soon as possible.

Water tanker trucks are being used to supply those who have been affected by the outage. There are no classes in schools today in the area.

According to Quintero, the district most affected is Arraiján, and especially the sectors of Burunga, Generación 2000, Virgen del Carmen, 13 de Febrero, La Alameda, Jerusalén, Cerro Castillo, Las Vegas, Cruz de Oro, El Cerrito, Barriada San Nicolás, 7 de Septiembre, Barriada El Gringo, Talamanca, Paraíso, La Polvareda and Los Pinos.

Four thousand residences located in Arraiján, twelve schools, which together have an enrollment of more than five thousand students, and twelve neighborhoods are currently without water because of the damage, caused when a tree fell over and broke the 24" water main supplying water to this district. (Critica)

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