Xenophobes march against law allowing foreign doctors in Panama

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We've had plenty of bad things to say about Ricardo Martinelli and his administration here on Bananama Republic, but there are things he has done right. The MetroBus system, for example, has been badly executed but that doesn't change the fact that it was about time we got decent and safer public transport than the diablos rojos.

More importantly, Martinelli has done what very few nations are doing these days: He has opened up the country for immigration by relaxing immigration laws. People from a number of countries can easily migrate to Panama if they start a small business here; it has been made easier for parents of Panamanian children to establish residency in Panama, and the tourist visa is valid for 6 months. These are changes that should be an example for the ever more restrictive "developed" countries of the North and other Latin American countries alike.

The next step, obviously, would be to get rid of the xenophobic protectionism that shields professions such as doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers, store owners and radio hosts from being exercised by non- Panamanians.

Because there is a shortage of medical specialists on top of that, Martinelli has passed and signed a law that allows for foreign medical professionals to be contracted by the Social Security hospitals and clinics.

But Panamanians are xenophobes. It's sad to say, but true. Even though the country owes its independence and prosperity almost entirely to foreigners and foreign investment and even though the impulses for cultural progress largely come from abroad, Panamanians are not ashamed to show vile resentment towards immigrants "taking their jobs". The further to the so-called "left" you get politically, the more apparent the xenophobia becomes.

And so, the doctors are on strike and have taken to the streets to protest against this law that allows for foreign doctors to be hired by the Seguro Social. It's a disgraceful spectacle against the abolishing of  a measure that dates back to the reign of one Arnulfo Arías, a Nazi sympathizer who held it that blacks and indians weren't real Panamanians. It's those politics that the protesting doctors are defending.

If the US or Europe were to implement such discriminatory policies banning people from certain professions based on their nationality or origin, progressives would be all over it, and rightfully so. But in Panama, as is so often the case, everything is upside down.

Miguel Antonio Bernal, for example, tweeted yesterday:

"Anti-Panamanian" and "anti-national"? This is indeed the creepy nationalism that is unfortunately found everywhere among the so-called "progressives" on our isthmus. In Costa Rica, foreign doctors have been able to practice for ages. Is Costa Rica less Costa Rican because of that?

Similarly, activist and doctor Mauro Zuñiga tweeted, also yesterday:

As if it is some kind of horror for which one needs to be "prepared" to be treated by, say, a Colombian doctor or medical specialist. These are sentiments that border on racism at best, voiced by people who are supposedly progressive opinion leaders. It's utterly disgusting.

Panama flourishes when it opens up. The best this country has to offer was all accomplished in tandem with foreign input or initiative. On the other hand, the sectors of society that are dysfunctional - the legal system, health care, politics - are exactly those where foreigners are not allowed because of xenophobic laws.

Mediocrity is always afraid of competition. The hypocritical arguments now voiced by the doctors on strike and their supporters - about privatization and such - are nothing but tools to mask their own fear of everything foreign, their ugly nationalism, and their delusional beliefs in Panamanian superiority. I hope Martinelli defeats this nastiness.

UPDATE Oct. 7th: Next to the comments below, there's also a more or less lively thread going on on Reddit, here. Worth reading.

37 thoughts on “Xenophobes march against law allowing foreign doctors in Panama

  1. Its the same old same old story, local doctors don’t want to practice in the interior because of economics, RMB is right on with hiring foreign doctors to give reasonable health care to the people who live in the interior. Panama should return to past by requiring recently graduated doctors to do their internship in the interior.

  2. A close friend of mine is a doctor and practiced in two different countries only for marriage to land them here in Panama. Also they did not graduate form a diploma mill university.

    They want to work but not as experienced professionals to intern again for two years.

    Also NONE of the candidates or rabi blancos will ever be in a public hospital only Miami or Houston.

    So it really is’t important is it Juan Carlos N! Unless you are just trying to grab votes in the heat of the moment.

  3. You write ¨If the US or Europe were to implement such discriminatory policies banning people from certain professions based on their nationality or origin, progressives would be all over it, and rightfully so¨

    While it is true that in the US they don’t ban you based on your nationality, the laws that prohibit doctors, lawyers, engineers from practicing in the US if they did not obtain a degree in the US is very similar. Protectionism for the elite. Dean Baker writes about it a lot. I agree with you that it is deplorable in Panama as it is everywhere else it happens, whether in the name of nationalism or protectionism for a select class.

  4. Sr Araúz nuestras universidades son a vergüenza internacional!

    Entones! “Sin ninguna preparación”

  5. La ley 61 tiene muchos huecos que no satisfacen los acuerdos que se acordaron con los médicos, razón por la cual ellos siguen en paro. NO ES POR RAZONES XENOFÓBICAS, como asegura deportivamente el señor OKKE. Los médicos aceptaron la posibilidad de trabajo “en el interior” de especialistas extranjeros acreditados, pero lo que dice la ley NO es eso. Tampoco corresponde lo que declaró RMB ayer a lo que dice la ley. Ese es el punto crucial de esta huelga.

    • Dude…. people go where the job is , if they can be hire and they want the job.. if not they can apply in any other country… really? I kind of remember when we “hispanics” where the ones trying to get working visas… Is this what’s going on?

  6. The real jest of this law is to have greatly expanded Medical tourism trade here to fill the next new group of Private hospitals and clinic all provide by Martinelli, his family, and their associates! They want to usurp and destroy the CSS system by derailing the Nurses, techs, doctors, and administrative staff! Yes, the CSS hospital and clinic system is below par! In reality you cannot blame the doctors, nurses, interns, techs, and administrative staff for all the short comings of this CSS hospital and clinic system! The Politicians have been looting the CSS medical system by shorting, over pricing, issuing no bid contracts, and seal bid contracts for Prescription drugs, Medical supplies, and equipment for their own personal gain for too many years to count! The sudden rash of hospital deaths due to infections’ along with the complete misused cheap out of date drugs have run a muck. Now Martinelli, his family and their associates have taking this overt greed, corruption, and outright thief of the CSS public funding to new heights never seen before here in Panama!

  7. The other dilemma is with all the new IBT group built hospitals who is going to fill those positions!

    Nobody! They don’t have the doctors nurses etc what rob Peter to pay Paul?

    The CSS etc do a wonderful job being that they have nothing to work etc. Everything is sub standard low quality / low bid and no maintenance of course.

  8. Para proporcionar una medicina de calidad, necesitamos médicos bien formados por una buena universidad. Como médico, jubilada que ha trabajado tanto en Panamá como en Europa sé que la excepción a la regla de la mediocridad de la universidad es la facultad de medicina.En la agenda de este gobierno está la privatización de la medicina y por eso quieren traer médicos extranjeros que acostumbrados a que los traten como esclavos modernos, sin trabajo, mal formados, serán dóciles y sumisos y obedecerán a quien les consiguió empleo ( como la CSJ ,la asamblea ) los que les pagan! Aquí no se trata de ninguna manera de xenofobia, esta huelga es para proteger a los panameños más pobres de un gobierno voraz y que piensa que todo tiene un precio. Verdad Sr. Ornstein ? De nada sirve diabolizar a gente que trabaja ataque a los verdaderos culpables de la crisis! No se necesitan más médicos se necesitan los insumos para poder trabajar y el personal de salud NO los tiene.

    • Pero la privatización es un asunto muy diferente que levantar parcialmente el privilegio que tienen los Panameños para trabajar como medicos (y abogados, ingenieros, arcitectos, locutores etc.). La privatización se puede protestar – y yo lo apoyaré – sin handar en protestas xenofobicas contra extranjeros. En un país moderno no hay lugar para monopolios nacionalistas.

      • Cuando la privatización se tienda como una sombra.. creo que no te querremos ni cerca…. Es asunto nuestro no tuyo.. ya eres residente o ciudadano panameño? Lo mismo me preguntarían a mi si meto mis narices en asuntos nacionales de Holanda ..O no?

  9. Indeed it is a very good idea to relax immigration laws so small scale business can be set up. Such a business can only thrive when people are healthy and the environment is in a good condition. People will be healthy when attention is focused on preventive healthcare which is linked to the ancient dictum “let your food be your medicine”.

    IOW if the physicians now on strike had done a proper job, there wouldn’t have been a demand for foreign physicians!

    How many of them were ransacking the pubmed archive when some hospitals were infected with resistant strains of bacteria, in order to find a solution, or were taking experiments with agents like nano-silver and/or certain essential oils? So if a result of easing immigration for medical professionals would be preventive healthcare, medical tourism then will have positive effects in the countries of cured patients, Panamanians will be happier, more productive and hence wealthier, and the govt. benefits from a much lower cost for healthcare.

  10. Señora Armarillys,

    SI necesito más de todo médicos, aparatos etc para el interior es siempre el mismo no hay! Solo en Panamá! La salud publica es casi igual una fracaso come educación publicó.

  11. A mi me da terror consultarme con “médico” panameño que diagnostique gripes en vez de neumonía y me muera por mala praxis, las universidades en Panamá no deberían de llamarse así porque no lo son con sus 50 años de atrasos que tienen, manteniendo un discurso pueblerino y xenofobico extremo. Hay que empezar por botar a esos y que profesores mediocres y traer todos nuevos y extranjeros para que de verdad aprendan algo.

    Este país es país gracias a los extranjeros porque a los panameños no les da la cabeza para nada, y este país nació del soborno, que más prueba es que al general Huertas le pagaron 5 mil dólares para echar las tropas colombianas y tener “independencia” y sentir orgullo de eso, vergüenza debería darles tener un pasado tan oscuro y basura.

    Espero que pronto deroguen la restricción para las otras profesiones y que así se esfuercen en prepararse mejor, al menos ya no hay restricción para periodismo y podemos ejercer libremente sín pedirle permiso a los cuenteros del CNP que son lo peor que tienen de lo mal llamados profesionales

    • Más xenófobo que esta persona no existe. Que hace este no identificado colombiano en Panamá ? Los panameños son muy tolerantes en cuestiones como el problema que resiente, si no le gusta el país, sus médicos , el hecho de que no seamos colombianos, tiene una libertad que le concedemos: LA DE IRSE!

      • Amarillys, el “si no te gusta que te vayas” es el “argumento” más debil que existe en Panama, a pesar que es muy popular. Solo sirve para distraer de asuntos reales que aparentemente no quieres discutir. Es prueba que los Panameños no quieren escuchar la critica de extranjeros y por esto el mismo decir de “te puedes ir si no te gusta” es una forma de la xenofobia. Así no te ganas el respeto de nadie, y menos de mi. Además, los Panameños tambien se pueden ir si no les gusta que los extranjeros tambien reclaman sus derechos.

        • No, este es el argumento contundente que deben escuchar los extranjeros en cualquier país y recuerde que todos somos extranjeros en todos los otros países que no son el nuestro. No es un argumento panameño es el de todos los nacionales de un país que son agredidos por personas que no agradecen el hecho que se les haya acogido y no es xenofobia es defensa de los derechos que todos tenemos en nuestro propio país. Es muy difícil convencer a alguien de que cambie de opinión así que esta discusión no tiene sentido.

    • Y que observas tu? piensas que vamos ceder a que vengan aquí todos los médicos que no pueden calificar en ninguna otra parte …exactamente por que? aquí tengo entre dos de mis dedos el violín mas pequeño del mundo tocando la tonada mas triste para ti y para el Holandés este que se hace pasar por periodista… porque es mas que claro que no lo es… ha roto las cinco reglas principales de esa noble profesión…

    • Creo que debes realmente conocer Panamá, su gente y mas aún, poder conocer de primera mano el problema de esta ley y sus repercusiones, creo que sin ofenderte no sabes ni que has escrito allí y fíjate que no te he dicho insulto alguno solo te invito a que conozcas el problema te ilustres bien, puedas hacer conversatorios con las partes interesadas y luego, solo así intentar realizar un análisis objetivo de esto, si no puedes hacer esto, mejor no opines

  12. I’m not against the law. It’s good to bring “qualified” and better prepared specialists to this country but I’m afraid the law is flexible regarding the exams and test they have to take in order to apply for those jobs and that’s why I’m against of it. By example, Brazil applied medical exams to see how good are the cuban doctors… from a sample of 100 persons, only 17 passed the test and 83 couldn’t get the minimum…do you know where are they going? Panama maybe? Because the really good doctors will never go to Panama, they will go to other developed countries with better payment. If RM wants to fix this law, he will add a filter process like medical tests and exams to certify the quality of the resources coming. (Even the panamenians who studied abroad, they have to pass the internship of 2 years and exams to apply for a permanent position but this foreign doctors..no exams, no test just come with your papers thank you)

  13. Ok Okke…where do we start… You call us xenophobes ? who the hell are you to judge.. this is not the Nederlands…. Let’s see if a Panamanian Doctor can go practice in your country without, first going thorough a myriad of channels and procedures. All we ask is that if foreign doctors are coming here , they do the same. You are as sorry excuse for a journalist, you are not reporting, you are just passing judgement on us based in what you believe is right in your u topical Scandinavian self righteous mentality. really civil groups can find a way to sue you for some of the things that you wrote here. I mean really who the fuck do you thing you are?

    • OK, Olmedo, where do I start. First of all, The Netherlands is not in Scandinavia. Second, there are plenty of foreign doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers and radio/TV hosts who work in the Netherlands. Here in Panama you can’t go through tests, what you say is not true. You simply can not practice any of these professions here, by law.

      Who am I to judge? Why shouldn’t I? There are various things I can not do in this country because of your xenophobic laws. It seems to me that I have every right to denounce that, whether you like it or not.

      • WHAT A SHAME WITH YOU! Con este artículo deberíamos ponerles visas a todos los extranjeros y especialmente a los norteamericanos. Esto que publicas es una falta de respeto! Luego quieren respeto y de donde?
        El tema de salud va mucho más allá de las cosas que publicas Okke, e involucra un problema de estado, no es el simple hecho de traer médicos extranjeros, es el hecho de ¿cómo traerlos si ni siquiera cumplen con un servicio de salud digno para quienes día a día trabajan en este sector, no se les paga a tiempo y muchos no han recibido su aumento, no hay equipos para trabajar, las maquinas se dañan o son viejas, no hay calidad de servicio? En Panamá no se invierte en la salud como debe ser y no es correcto aplicar leyes para médicos extranjeros con beneficios que ni siquiera los mismos regionales reciben.

        DO NOT POST GARBAGE, cause it isn’t Xenophobe!

        • I agree with you that public health care in Panama is a mess. Maybe you could explain to me how that would get worse if a foreign doctor works here. Most sectors of Panamanian society where foreigners are allowed have benefited immensely from foreign input.

      • There are foreign doctors practicing here… They migrated and became legal residents. Now answer my initial question…. Can a Panamanian doctor move to your country and set up for business without going to a process that involve accreditation? The most successful architect in Panama happens to be from Spain* ever heard of Mallol ^ Mallol? Catalan if i’m not mistaken. As for lawyers ..is more than obvious that you need to be well antiquated with the country in order to practice … you have not the fainted idea of what it took many of us to gain the freedom form oppressive systems… Freedom that people like you come here to criticize and take for granted. All our conquers as a civil society have been fought in the streets, and further more , you have no idea what’s cooking behind the desire to bring foreign doctors into our public system..do you? Yet you run your mouth of as if you did. let me enlighten you a bid… The government wants to take any opposition out of the way to privatize our public health care without any obstacles.. man …don’t pretend you know us… We certainly do’t need to take your shit.. and I strongly doubt that the pulitzer price is going to be knocking at your door any time soon… the way i see it… you went to Hellen keller school of journalism..if any… You are the complete opposite of what a journalist is…

        • “You are not a real journalist” or “you don’t know because you’re not Panamanian” or “in your country such or so” – Olmedo, do you have any more such great and intelligent arguments you want to share here?

    • Right so Mr. Gaitan, as you say, nobody can practice medicine not Law in another country without passing exams , for doctors working an internship, residency etc. etc.
      and it is the same in the Netherlands as in Switzerland that is not in the UE . the panamanians are not xenophobic, they are protecting their own people!

  14. Dear Mr. Author:

    I stop reading your article at “Bananama”.

    Maybe you could put some colors in the title of your article and a happy face on the “O”s of Xenophobes. In such way you could reach better the childish audience that reads such type of articles. Because starting with an insult to a whole nation in an article its just like getting into an internet forum full with kids flaming each others.

    I’m Panamanian and like many others, I disagree with the new law.

    I particularly like how you support your point of view, with not a single reference. Maybe you are a genius?

    Just want to conclude that I’m right now living in your beautiful country, The Netherlands, and I was really surprise to find out that the author of this lame article is Dutch. You really should come back to the Netherlands and find out what went wrong, because if I present an Article in such manner here in the Netherlands I should probably failed.

    I guess you studied in your home country so you should probably understand what I’m talking about.


    C. Diaz

    • Mr. Diaz, what is your point? If you stopped reading at “Bananama”, you haven’t even read most of the piece?

      If you live in Holland, you’ll be no doubt be aware that there are plenty of resident foreigners who work in all kinds of professions that in Panama are only accessible to Panamanians.

  15. Sr Gaitan, One of the requisites for example to work for PAN salud of the UN is tho graduate from a WHO accredited medical school fine no problem.

    My friends did just that and then practiced as doctors in two Central American countries while their son (born and raised in Costa Rica) practices in the U.S. and their daughter in the U.K but here IMPOSIBLE! examen or no examines.

    How many Rabi Blanco ‘s study medicine in other countries? AH???????????

    • There Panamanian doctors working in the US and other countries.. * One of them developed a HIV vaccine no less* They went through an exhausting process to ear that right. Both professionally and legally. rabiblancos? are we assuming here that only wealthy people go to med school in Panama. On behalf of the students of professionals that come from very humble backgrounds..that it quiet insulting… there are only 200 spots every year at the public University and not all of them finish the first year. further more… I wonder how many of you actually read what this new law implies and what the health worker demands are.. I bet you haven’t*…so here you are getting involved in a matter between Panamanians… which is really none of your business… And I also wonder, If I did the same in your countries…with such passion.. if you all would take ever so candidly… I really , really doubt so… FYI …

    • well still can be privatize , however it would be a lot harder if the doctors, nurses ect are Panamanian and not under a yearly ‘ yes sir, no sir contract” besides…what the hell do you get out of this sponsors? The hole article is nothing short of insulting to us… We are democratic and to prove that… you are still talking garbage….

  16. Some of the comments here are truly amazing, because they are so profoundly xenophobic and/or simply distractions from the issue at hand. I’m not interested in discussions on who is a “real” journalist or not. And this is a blog about Panama, not about Holland or any other country. People who get all upset about “falta de respeto” and “insults” and god knows what: Get a life. Stay off the internet. If you can’t handle different opinions, close the borders and become another North-Korea and let’s see how far that gets you.