Apr 6, 2015

Panama Hosts the Seventh Summit of the Organization of American States


April 10th and 11th are the dates of the Cumbre de las Americas in Panama City.  Thirty five heads of state are expected to participate, including Raul Castro of Cuba and Barack Obama of the United States. Their attendance is being seen as an historic first attempt at normalizing relations between the two countries. Also expected to be present is Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, who has been actively campaigning against the US president and vows to present Mr. Obama with a petition signed by 8-10 million people requesting that Mr. Obama repeal his March 9th decree naming Venezuela as an unusual threat to USA security and foreign policy.

Panama is going all out with security and hospitality measures.  President Juan Carlos Varela has declared both the 10th and 11th of April as government holidays in order to decrease traffic congestion in the capital city and to facilitate travel for summit participants. 

Four days ago the AAC (Autoridad de Aeronáutica Civil) held a press conference to announce the prohibition of the use of drones in Panama.  The measure is in effect from April 5th to April 13th,  to avoid any mishaps or setbacks in aerial travel for those coming to the Summit.  Heavy fines of $50,000 will be levied against any person or agency not heeding the restriction.  There is to be a post-event conference involving those entities that use drones for the purpose of establishing norms and routes for modern-world usage of these devices in Panama.

The municipality of Panama City has also issued Decree 18-2015 that establishes civil restrictions against immoral or unbecoming conduct, bearing firearms, wearing “any article that totally or partially covers the face of an individual,” creating noise or any type of scandal that infringes on the provisions of Agreement 141 established on 9/23/14, and prohibits street marketing and hawking in the metro areas of Calidonia, Bella Vista, and San Francisco

Legal inspectors, district council persons, and municipal guards have been granted additional authority to facilitate their being able to remove vehicles and similar abandoned properties compromising the designated perimeters along public thoroughfares to the Cumbre de las Americas. Agreement 138 of 9/9/14 is identified as the legal recourse for this. Other provisions allow for the areas of Bella Vista, Calidonia, Parque LeFevre, San Felipe and San Francisco to take prompt action against any administrative offense occurring in the area where the Summit takes place.  Fines for infingements can range from $50 to $1000.

And then, today, the Metro bus drivers in Panama City initiated an illegal and unjustified work stoppage, blocking the exit of public buses from the barn and leaving millions of workers stranded/unable to get to work.  The bus drivers were protesting the delay in payments they should have received from the company Mi Bus, which failed miserably at providing public transportation and employee compensation during the Martinelli years.  The company is being acquired by the Panamanian government and President Varela has agreed to compensate the drivers for lost wages despite a lack of legal responsibility to do so.   The militant drivers who staged the protest, refusing to give way for buses to leave the barn,  threw rocks at the police and eventually were forcibly removed.  Several of the leaders admitted they hadn’t read the contractual agreements regarding payment of lost wages and apparently had to be informed of their illegal actions.  They have since agreed to ongoing dialogue.  The controversy exists because the government cannot compensate these workers until it actually acquires the Mi Bus enterprise. The take over hasn’t yet concluded.

The latest announcements today are that the strike has been lifted.  Several government agencies have employees trained in the operation of the buses should additional personnel be required to maintain the operation of public transportation in the coming days.