Protest in Bocas!

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Your Bananama Republic is currently reporting from the picturesque town of Changuinola, in Bocas del Toro. This is not a voluntary arrangement - we don't even have a decent camera here as you can see - but forced by circumstances beyond our control: Our beloved government is not paying its bills!

Here's what happened: There are all these campesinos, and they have leased out some of their land to electricity company Empresa de Transmisión Eléctrica, S. A. (Etesa), to put up these huge towers that support huge cables. And then in November, after much ado, a contract was signed between those land owners and Giacomo Tamburelli of the National Aid Program that $3.3 million would be paid to all these people (somewhere between 400 and 600 persons) in compensation. That agreement came after years of not being paid.

But - what else is new - the government isn't paying. They just don't. The money was probably already stolen. So now these campesinos are angry, and they blocked the road between Almirante and Chiriqui Grande, close to the bridge over the Uyama. Your Bananama Republic was there yesterday night, and miles of trucks, cars and buses are waiting to get through (we had to turn around). In Changuinola, where it always rains, people are waiting at the bus terminals to travel to the capital or David.

Latest we heard is that they're cutting trees to further block the road - a tested tactic from earlier protests. And they won't go before someone from the government shows up with a cheque that doesn't bounce. EndNote: Most people here actually seem to sympathize with the protesters, which is not surprising given the history with our government here. Similarly, the police is scared shitless and won't intervene.

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