A day trip to the city and sights along the way…

The journey begins with the distraction of the puppies, who have learned how to follow me to the bus stop a few minutes’ walk from my home in Cocle. Anybody want to adopt a cute little dog or two?
At the bus stop, the vultures are circling. I think this is part of the annual migration although we have local scavengers all year long.


After nearly a week’s website outage, scenes from…

A Friday bus trip into Panama City

photos and captions by Eric Jackson


A stop in Anton to get the bus into the city, but first to grab a bit of breakfast and a couple of the daily newspapers in hard copy.
The Panama News got off of the heartbreak, futility and degradation of the advertising-supported news organization business model some years ago. That stuff is the mainstay of the corporate mainstream, and look at how it appeared in the Metro Times on Friday. Cheery if misleading economic news leads, but above that there is an ad for a government bank. It’s not just the PRD but historically it has been ESPECIALLY the PRD that buys news coverage that favors them when they run the government.


SO MANY empty billboards for an allegedly thriving economy.
It was long ago reported that Ricardo Martinelli had bought control of many of this country’s billboard places, and if he still has them, it could be a matter of businesses and people not wanting to deal with the Martinellis. But he could just be holding them in advance for the campaign, or — maybe AND? — that the economy really is bad and there are not too many businesses wanting to spend money on outdoor advertising.
The exceptions? Mostly Chinese, some European, companies selling expensive machinery here, especially to introduce new lines;
Large established real estate companies, some with misleading stuff about how much per quincena to buy, but not how many quincenas or the total price;
Food and beverage companies; and
The bigger supermarket chains.
Mostly, though, a lot of empty billboards


Approaching La Chorrera, a series of detours to cut down the time stuck in traffic. The delay is construction of the new Metro line, this one to be a monorail with trains made by the Japanese company Hitachi.
It’s an annoying mess at the moment, but this development promises to make travel to and from the city much quicker, with a lot less stress.
Could we say that the system should have been designed a bit differently? Sure we can.
Will we be able to complain about thuggery in the contracting? Perhaps, but at the moment this editor has no such information to say that.


Into the bus terminal and walking across the pedestrian bridge to the Albrook Metro terminal, a view of the Electoral Tribunal headquarters with Ancon Hill in the background.


The terminal is near where General Noriega had Major Giroldi and several other Panama Defense Forces officers executed on October 3, 1989 after a failed / betrayed coup attempt. We can get into all sorts of arguments about the event, but the slain soldiers are treated as martyrs for democracy these days, as in this monument at the train station.


Catching the subway at Albrook. People tend to really like the Metro trains and Ricky Martinelli plays that card a lot. It began to really happen on his shift, although previous and later presidents played roles.


Get out at the first stop, Cinco de Mayo, do a tad of shopping, but mostly sightseeing and photography. It does not take long to notice just how badly deteriorated Panama City’s sidewalks, curbs and gutters are.


The mayor might say that the main streets are the national Ministry of Public Works bailiwick but the sidewalks are traditionally city responsibilities. Then figure all of the grandiose public works the mayor has proposed — and failed to get passed — and figure that whatever the blame shift, messes like these doom his chances of another term. The PRD may not even nominate him for a second term.


There are overt signs of public anger postered and painted along the street near the legislature. A current hot-button issue is about a 17-year-old high school student who was allegedly the victim of a sexual assault at the Justo Arosemena Legislative Palace.


So who is the chupacabra, the mining company or the politician in cahoots with it? Roughly translated, “It isn’t that we lack money. We have too many thieves.” Perhaps the nation’s underfunded cancer hospital is the best known of the underfunded institutions at a time when the legislators are voting for a great deal of pork to pass out in search of re-election. On this day, not far away, the SUNTRACS construction workers’ union was blocking traffic because finishing the new Children’s Hospital, already under construction, is not in next year’s proposed budget.


The canal looked about the same coming, and as here going back, at the Bridge of the Americas. Lots of ships anchored outside the canal entrance to the south. No visible transit activity in the canal itself and little activity in the ports.


It’s not just the drought-induced reduction in canal traffic, but also a shipping industry trend to switch away from fuels that emit a lot of carbon into the atmosphere. Also, the bunkering at the canal entrances is being hurt by competition from bunker ships that let vessels refuel at sea. So this is an ever more uncertain maritime business.


We left the bus terminal almost full but kept taking on passengers. From the canal to Las Guias at the eastern end of Cocle province, some passengers had to stand.
This was a Friday afternoon, some of the passengers cops going home to the Interior after a week on duty in the metro area, and some of them construction workers who had spent much of the day blocking roads in defiance of the cops. People were cordial on the bus. Panamanians are on the whole remarkably patient and tolerant in such situations.


Editor’s note: I was starting to work on this story, dozed off after a long day, and afterward found that I could not upload photos to this website. A version was published on The Panama News Facebook Page and Twitter feed, and over the next several days while the problem was being tracked down and sorted out more stories were published on the Facebook page. Since 2009 that has been our backup, through many a website outage, including some from malicious attacks. This one seems to have been a technical error at our web server, which has been pretty good to us and which we plan to keep. Because this story was started on the website, it is belatedly finished here, but several other stories you will have to look up on our Facebook page if you want to see them.


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