Editorial: Affordable housing for the poor and an end to land grabs by the rich

The lament of a member of one of more than 540 families whose homes were destroyed.

Nito’s land tenure violence

Where was the pressing need to evict the squatter community from public land next to the Nicolas Solano Hospital in La Chorrera?

We are told that the land was sold to private parties for an irrisory price so that at some point a stadium might be built. Really it was about land along the Pan-American Highway being cleared and privatized for speculative purposes. Politically is was a Panamanian version of what so many small US cities with separate and unequal white and minority communities on different sides have seen – those on the darker and poorer side of town are an “eyesore” to be removed.

There was a mass eviction, with some of the more than 540 families who had their homes summarily demolished offered some sort of alternative, so the government claims.

Later some of the evicted people came through the hospital looking to get back into the area and recover lost possessions, and were attacked by police. A brawl ensued and there was some furniture damaged. Nine people were charged with aggravated property damage and six others with disorderly conduct. The rabiblanco media narrative is that hundreds of families of thugs were routed and that these thugs’ “attack” on the hospital proves it.

It’s not a secret that we have a Ministry of Housing and Territorial Planning (MIVIOT) that’s building precious little housing to meet a huge demand, and doing very little to stop big land grabs by a relatively few wealthy and connected people. The PRD may be a member party of the Socialist International, but their housing policy is socialism for the rich and everyone else has to fend for themselves.

It’s a “safe” controversial stand for parts of the rabiblanco media to cover politicians acquiring public land for next to nothing. For such news outlets it’s also “safe” to note the crude manipulations in the National Assembly, of our election laws and other things. But Panama is deep into an economic crisis and bread, butter, clothing and shelter issues are front and center. There is nothing very safe about a government siding against the poor and media cheering them on in times like these.6n

Informal communities may be driven off and this is being done in various places around the country. Legislative budges and campaign war chests are swelling, so that a feature of the next election cycle will be gifts of building materials for modest new homes, some of which to be torn down by future administrations. Or so goes the cynical plan.

It’s worse around upscale expatriate enclaves, where once there were long-standing fishing villages on the beach and now those who were evicted and their progeny are still being driven from place to place. Gates, guards and guns offer little real protection.

In the shadows of fishing villages that were, so often we now see mostly empty money laundering towers. The legislators risk greater international financial sanctions by killing attempts to confiscate money laundering properties.

It’s not just a plague that has left more than 7,300 Panamanians dead, it’s a country out of balance. We don’t need snobbish attempts to make the poor just go away. We need a new balance that leaves everyone in a dignified place, humble as many of the spots must be.



I have created nothing really beautiful, really lasting, but if I can inspire one of these youngsters to develop the talent I know they possess, then my monument will be in their work.

Augusta Savage

Bear in mind…

Happiness never decreases by being shared.

Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha

Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness — it has no taste.

Charlotte Brontë

Those who are wise won’t be busy, and those who are too busy can’t be wise. The wisest man is therefore he who loafs most gracefully.

Lin Yutang


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