As I get older I am less nearsighted and need to get new glasses to adapt to the changes. In any case, from decades ago I acquired these Rust Belt bureaucratic eyes from being a historic preservation guy, a lawyer who occasionally dealt with unsafe roads, a building inspection appeals board guy and a young hippie city council member. In my buzzardly old age, having covered the Panama beat for some 29 years now — The Panama News first appeared in December of 1994 — my eyes have become a bit jaded by games I have seen played.
So, walking up the road that goes from Las Uvas de San Carlos to El Valle de Anton, I saw this little street improvement of what was a little dirt lane that lets out at the main road near a mini-super. Is this a preliminary phase to paving, or is THIS the improvement?
It’s campaign season, and given Panama’s habit of ousting the party in power at the next opportunity, also governmental smash-and-grab time, played out in so many ways.
What do I see here? If this is the whole deal, shoddy construction with facile thought, if any, having gone into its conception. If this is a prelude to paving, or not, and even before any of this “improvement,” a dangerous intersection, going up a little hill onto a main road where, notwithstanding a speed bump in front of a nearby school, drivers often to go too fast. Too steep going into the intersection. To make it safer there needs to be a lot more material, or a structure, to greatly reduce the grade up at the top. Probably more than the representante’s or diputado’s dole allows.
Shoddy, unwise or short-lasting construction — WONDERFUL if you are a gravel company, I suppose — is to be seen all over Panama of late. You can read about some of the more massive abuses in La Prensa every day now.
Would some politician stand by this scene for a photo-op to tell the voters what he or she has done for them? Naaah — they’d send in a few of their downscale retainers with rakes to smooth out the gash before snapping the photo.
We have this rotating political patronage system, that over the years has put plenty of good people in public works jobs for a shift until the next election brings in new people. We have lots of competent and honest civil engineers in Panama. Driving safety is an underdeveloped art here in Panama but that’s mostly a political decision about resources, not a lack of qualified personnel.
All of these roadblock protests are about not only a mining colony but also a long list, going way back, of abusive practices. Do we get to a point when graying protesters can tell tall tales about these past few weeks to wide-eyed kids, but the odds of people being slaughtered on the roads have gone down because the government has gotten its act together about things like public spending, hiring contractors and consultants and national traffic safety standards that local Boss Hawgs can’t flout? That would be a nice attribute of The Revolution.
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