Warning for permanent tourists
by Eric Jackson
Are you going to take the American Embassy as the authoritative word? Or how about someone on the social media who got the scoop from a Panamanian lawyer who in turn is working the gringo community for new clients? For that matter, even from Panama’s Servicio Nacional de Migracion? Do pay attention to those folks, but also understand that discretion, arbitrary interpretations, shifts with the political winds, slow and garbled transmissions of policy changes down official chains of command and from time to time the grease of bribery may affect the rules applied by a particular public official to a particular person at a particular time. If you can’t understand and adapt to the flexibility then most probably you have not fully adapted to life in Panama.
Migracion has set forth the basic rule that they are enforcing at the moment at Paso Canoa: “Foreigners who leave to Costa Rica to stamp their passports to enter as tourists will not enter Panama.” So do you say that this just means Venes? Whether that is how it may be as a practical matter, Panama’s Minister of Security warns that the law and regulations only allow a six-month continuous stay as a tourist and that “we will continue implementing our policy for the welfare of Panamanians and for persons who want to visit our country.”
There may be any number of reasons, and there is probably a mix of several. There are racist demagogues whipping up xenophobic hysteria. There are slavish imitators who have a national inferiority complex that gives them the compulsion to copy the United States, and they see what Donald Trump is doing. There are Venezuelans and Americans who believe themselves to be sovereign unto themselves and privileged persons who are necessary to the economy of a Panama that they view as hopelessly backward. There is a criminal element of many nationalities coming and going to and from Panama. The economy is slowing down and there are concerns about foreigners taking jobs from Panamanians. This country has one of the world’s worst school systems and those who get foreign educations are frequently raised in a subculture that disdains work, such that there are important jobs in the national economy for which it is hard to find Panamanians to perform.
We might argue the pros and cons of the issue but those who purport to speak for the interests of the American community are for a variety of reasons unable or unwilling to do so in any effective way.
But if you have been living the permanent tourist life, beware.
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