A suspect but nothing said from on high: a PRD activist falls gangland style

Yoyi on the primary campaign trail. The late bus syndicate leader served in the National Assembly from 2014 to 2019, then ran for re-election in 2019 and lost. A campaign graphic of his.

When members of his party are slain by
hit men, Nito tends to stay mum about it

by Eric Jackson


About 3 o’clock on the afternoon of February 9, former legislator Diógenes “Yiyo” Vergara was a a tire sale, repair and balancing place in the  Cabra neighborhood of the corregimiento of Pacora on Panama City’s east side. While he was waiting for service with his son and driver, a blue car drove up, a man with a gun hopped out and the erstwhile legislator and reputed boss of the Pacora bus terminal was shot twice at point-blank range and instantly killed. The sicarios made their getaway, driving off and ditching the car not far away.

The hallmarks of a professional contract killing. Or maybe semi-pro. Some witnesses said that the gunman dropped a recharge clip on the ground in his haste. In any case, some media are quoting anonymous police sources about how they have a specific suspect.

So, what was THAT all about? We may never know. But Vergara, who owned several buses and taxis that others drove for him and was leader of the Cooperativa de Transporte San Cristobal in Chepo, was one of the people mentioned in the inconsequential investigations of the government buyout of the old privately owned “diablo rojo” buses that plied the streets of Panama City and San Miguelito before the coming of the public Mi Bus system. A bunch of the old buses were paid for but never received. A bunch of buses that never existed were paid for. Some owner/operators surrendered their buses but got cheated out of what they were owed.

The bus and taxi syndicates, in many a case very unfairly, have this mobbed-up reputation. They are mostly not “sindicatos” in the sense of the unions that the construction workers, doctors and nurses, PanCanal employees or brewery and soft drink workers have. Their leaders tend to carry themselves differently and behave differently. Those organizations tend to have different norms of succession. Their members have different opportunities for criminal activity if that’s their pleasure. (Moving any sort of contraband from Point A to Point B along the breadth of Panamanian territory? Peruse police and prosecutor trophy stories and you will realize that just about all forms of transportation get used.)

So, what IS this? Syndicate leader who brought his crowd into politics but couldn’t build and keep the base to keep himself in the legislature rubbed out by sicarios sent by some rival organization, by all appearances. Nothing that a PRD president cares to discuss, as it may reflect upon some of the tendencies in a political party that embraces nearly one-third of the Panamanian electorate as its members.

On the local level, the PRD organization did pay some respects. Notably missing was any sort of mention of what happened or call to bring the perpetrators to justice. 

This murder was at least the third gangland-style assassination of a PRD activist in less than 12 months. More, by some counts.



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