Police roadblocks all over Panama look for fugitives, teenagers and foreigners without proper papers
by Eric Jackson
The National Police are sending out Twitter messages about how they are setting up roadblocks on “all” streets and road in all of Panama, at every hour of the day and night, without regard to the traffic problems that they may create. They say that they are looking for people with warrants for their arrests and foreigners with “irregular” papers. In Chiriqui they have also been rounding up minors found out and about after curfew.
It’s the old-fashioned “prophylactic social action” that Panamanian police stage from time to time. If you are a foreigner, or a citizen and also a member of an ethnic group whom the police might consider non-Panamanian, be prepared to have all of your identification in order. If you are a dual citizen of Panama and somewhere else, hand them your cedula, not a foreign passport. If the past is any indication, those Panamanian citizens who speak with foreign accents may be held for questioning on suspicion of being in Panama illegally.
It’s hard to say. The crackdown is surely intended to prompt those will questionable or illegal immigration status to leave Panama, but how long the roadblocks will be up and how severe the policy shift will be remain to be seen. Security Minister Alexis Bethancourt Yau is part Chinese himself — related to a long-established community with a lot of illegal immigration with a lot of citizens who have over the years been treated as suspects because of their race. But he’s an appointed official, carrying out the policies of an elected president. Whether or not he has any sympathy, figure that the cops at the roadblocks very likely won’t.
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