Jul 19, 2015

The Other Side of the Coin

I realize it's been awhile since my last post and there are no excuses other than the heart hasn't been in it.   Life had been moving at an ordinary, uneventful pace until a few weeks ago when another home invasion was reported in the Brisas Boqueteñas area.   

This week the news was even more dramatic.   According to posts on Boquete Ning and elsewhere, it's disconcerting.   The community is still reeling. 
  • On July 11th a single man from the US, in his mid-sixties,  was beaten, stabbed, and robbed in his home at 3:00 am in Potrerillos.  Reports indicate one of the perpetrators had a gun and  pulled the trigger in the victim's face three times.  The gun was old and dirty, and didn't fire.  Four young males were involved.
  • On July 14th, Irene Haines, better known as the Tuesday market "book lady" died from a sudden illness in the hospital in David.  
  • On July 17th / 18th, during the night,  Lee Zeltzer of  Boquete Panama Guide, passed away in his home about 24 hrs after being released from the hospital for what he had blogged was "some kind of a bug".   
  • On July 18 at night, there was a home invasion into the residence of Joe and Betsy Potrebenko in River Ranch Farms near Gualaca.  Joe Petrobenko was shot and killed, and the thieves made away with a few old laptops, around  $50 cash, and an old pick up truck.  The victim's wife and mother-in-law survive him, but were tied up next to the bleeding man and forced to witness his slow death. 
Panama is appearing less and less the paradise it once seemed to be.  Despite my continued infatuation with the weather and more laid back  lifestyle, I'm finding it increasingly difficult to make regular upbeat postings as tales of robberies and home invasions become more frequent and generalized gang activity increases. The invasions aren't limited to wealthy expat homes and the motives are less about robbery than about the opportunity for youth and probable gang members to inflict violence and terror on incapacitated and older humans. Panama's liberal treatment of youth offenders doesn't seem to be helping address matters much.  

I have to say that were I to be retiring at this point instead of several years ago, I would think long and hard about proceeding to Panama.  Panama City has become much more violent and congested, and the provinces aren't as safe as they once were.   The cost of living has skyrocketed, and it's no longer easy to survive on even a US pension and social security.  Medical care isn't readily affordable any more,---if you are hospitalized in a private facility you must be able to upfront the costs or leave.   And the social security hospitals are lacking in pharmaceuticals and other necessities to treat patients.  

It's been a rough few weeks and please accept my apologies for the less than optimistic post.  I continue to be more enthusiastic than not about living here.  But I haven't a lot of options, and I was fortunate enough to buy before things got as expensive as they currently are.   

For those contemplating an international relocation to Panama at this time, I strongly encourage you to do your due diligence. Homes for sale many places in the US are now less expensive than lesser quality places here.  And although crime stats may be higher in the US, I've never previously been acquainted with, nor lived as close to home invasion victims (Panamanian as well as expat) as I currently do...   

ADDENDUM:  Today someone posted this link on the Boquete Ning forum regarding a 60% prosecutory failure rate in Panama for homicides.  The article is in English.