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The Panama Drug Scene

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Written by Matt   
Wednesday, 08 April 2009 08:37
Panama Drugs CrimeWhen at my parents' house in the States, diagnosis I enjoy taking the opportunity to catch up on my reality TV seeing as though they have every cable channel known to man. Now, look when most people say this, they mean the previous one or two episodes of their favorite show. When I say it, buy viagra I intend fully to watch, for the first time, anywhere from 10-15 new reality TV shows and then playback, in sequence, every single episode that ever aired. Some might call this sort of thing a marathon, bur I like to think of it more as the notion of eternity, seeing as though marathons have a defined ending. My most recently adopted reality program followed a team of tough-nosed federal agents as they went from location to location, surprising gang members then seizing their guns and drugs: an updated version of the old show COPS with new faces, better camera angles, and more complex plotlines. This one particular episode I found particularly enthralling was when the young and unpredictable agent Chris Mathers stopped a tractor-trailer carrying the largest amount of crystal meth ever seized on the eastern seaboard. The stash had been concealed amongst hundreds of palates of fresh mangoes from Mexico and when photos were taken of the bust, I remember wondering obsessantly, not how long the prison sentance would be, but rather what they'd be doing with all those extra mangoes.

While I could probably find a similar experience in Detroit or, in the case of Chris Mathers, New Jersey, Panama serves as the perfect spot for the foreigners to encounter reality-TV-style drug paranoia. Drugs are seized all the time in Panama, most of them on their way from Colombia and wrapped in shoebox-sized bricks. Many of the seizures happen in broad daylight in otherwise upstanding neighborhoods of Panama City such as Punta Pacifica, El Cangrejo and Obarrio which leads me to recall the scene from a famous drug-runner movie where the main character works on packaging hundreds of pounds of cocaine while, on the other side of the wall, a group of several youngsters play the party game Twister.

As a young and sociable guy, who goes to parties, bars, clubs, and the occasional after-hours bash, I can personally say that drugs are not a palpable pastime in Panama. While there may very well be an underbelly of drug-users I rarely see, the majority of Panama's youth and party-goers either don't talk about drugs or simply frown down upon them. The most active drug-using scene I have observed in Panama, far and away is the foreigner circuit. Foreigners consider the stuff cheaper and better than they get at home, the penalties not nearly as strict.
If you are looking to buy or do drugs, you can probably accomplish your goal: waiters at many of the nightlife establishments sell drugs, hookers sell drugs, taxi drivers sell drugs. But in general, it's not like the times I visit New York and see kids doing lines of coke on the Subway. It's not like San Francisco where you see people smoking joints in the street. And it's certainly not like Baltimore, Maryland where I once sat across from a prostitute at the train station and watched as she snorted something sticky from a heated spoon.

Drugs in Panama to the neophyte are just that: a corporate business, a lifestyle choice, a mound of bricks displayed in a conference room. On the rare occasion an innocent civilian gets caught in the crossfire, people grieve for the family and the police vow to catch the perps. It'd be naïve to overlook the fact that, with Panama's rise in drug activity, it's experienced a giant swell in crime (up something like 30% last year): kidnappings are on the rise, robberies are too, and according to The Panama Star, the homicide rate here in Panama City is 10.7 for every 10,000 residents (Mexico is a 10 and Costa Rica is a 7.6).

I watched the last episode of my favorite show (agent Chris Mathers) with Panama's publicized drug activity in mind and it struck me that the very things I love about the show, frighten me to death in real life. Agent Mathers busted in on a crack house and arrested a top Mexican cartel member who was identified by the tattoo of Odie (the dog from Garfield and Friends) on his upper arm. I was admiring the clarity of the tattoo and giggling until the realization set in, that Odie's dangerous and volatile cohorts were presumably still at large.

Comments (2)Add Comment
big daddy
written by miguel , May 04, 2009
I enjoyed the article...and your style of a matter of fact I've enjoy all your articles they're very informative, educating and you have a wit that keeps it interesting.

thanks miguel

PS NO e-mail junk!
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Drugs in Panama
written by George Taylor , May 15, 2009
Dear Sirs,

You make a very good point about the infestation of drug dealers here and the ease which this illegal government allows them to operate in our land. Once that "person" who is in our Presidency in Washington is ejected we will see a great change in my countries relationship with these drug dealing countries. Panama is indeed one of them. It has always been involved in this trade, pretending that it is only providing services.

Panama will come back. We will invest, relocate and once again run this country.

Yours sincerely
George Taylor, III, VFW
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Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 April 2009 08:45