Turmoil on Taboga as José Chirú sells half the municipality

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tabogatanks [dropcap type="circle" color="#ffffff" background="#e53b2c"]T[/dropcap]he Martinellistas are going full force with their exit strategy from the government: Land grabs. All over the country land is being taken without further ado, or being "sold" by questionable means.

On Isla Pedro Gonzalez, part of the Las Perlas archipelago, anti-riot police arrived to make sure a tourism project that is being developed on public land by the Eleta family can proceed without interference of pesky locals who have been objecting to this invasion of public property.

And José Chirú, the outgoing Martinellista mayor of Isla Taboga, signed off on the secret sale of various islands and over 14 hectares of land that belonged to the municipality.

Supposedly, these under-the-table sales concern various tourism projects as well. However, when asked by La Prensa, neither Chirú nor his associates could name one single project that would be under development or being planned.

Instead, Taboga residents fear that the sale of land and islands is one step further towards establishing more oil storage and transshipment facilities on and around the island - most of which is a nature reserve. Such oil storage facilities have been substantially expanded recently on nearby Tabogilla. Isla Melones - which used to have a nice beach - has over the last years been flattened and now houses numerous oil storage tanks as well.

The secret deal - which only came to light after the sale was published in the Gaceta Oficial - appears to have been done in true Panamanian Martinellista fashion: Sloppy and clumsy. Today, La Prensa reported that the Panama Canal Authority is not amused that Isla Tortolita was sold by the Taboga hoodlums. Tortolita belongs to the ACP and is part of the Canal zone, and currently is in use for dredging activities. It can not legally be sold.

José Chirú

José Chirú

In its editorial, La Prensa recounts how a meeting of municipal authorities and baffled residents on Taboga was characterized by Chirú and others threatening people and yelling at them.

The Taboga Civic Association - an organization that consists mostly of well-off part-time residents - is vehemently opposed to the sale and the possible establishment of oil storage facilities. On their facebook page, they list a number of objections, from environmental concerns to the transformation  of Taboga into an industrial zone.

What they do not mention however is that property values, which have gone up considerably over the last years, will certainly drop sharply if no assurances are forthcoming that Taboga will not be part of some petroleum free trade zone scheme. Similarly, those who have invested in tourism businesses won't be thrilled by the prospect of contaminated beaches and the smell of crude oil wafting from giant tanks that dominate the view.

So how could all of this happen? First, because corruption is part of the menu on Taboga just like everywhere else, and the same people who will now be victimized by the land sales have never shied away from playing their part in it.

Second, nobody does anything against the most ridiculous policies that are implemented on the small island. You may not know this, dear reader, but if you visit Taboga, as soon as you get off the boat and walk down the pier you're met by armed soldiers who make you drop your bag and stand in line while they go over your luggage with a drug-sniffing dog.

This bizarre spectacle has never resulted in any drug busts. Taboga does not have a drug problem or even a crime problem, and the few drugs that are on the island arrive there by the many small launches that are privately owned, away from the pier. Yet nobody has moved to end the total waste of resources and manpower invested in the absurd war-on-drugs show at the pier.

In an environment where such idiocy is tolerated or even encouraged, it should come as no surprise that local officials are tempted to believe that they can get away with just about anything. And they probably will.

12 thoughts on “Turmoil on Taboga as José Chirú sells half the municipality

  1. Drug searches on Taboga? I’m glad I missed that last time I was there, three years ago. The place is insanely beautiful, I hope that anyone working to mess it up meets their just reward.

  2. I own raw land on Taboga that suddenly encountered an unknown problem with Catastro a year ago. Perhaps the Mayor has sold my land. Does anyone have a description of the exact pieces sold?

    • A year ago they were doing surveys to solve the land-owning mess here in and around the village. I don’t think this had anything to do with the land that Chirú sold, but one can of course never be sure…

  3. My memories of Taboga have just been soiled. The last time I was there, the island was still pristine and didn’t even have any cars on the island. If the beach you are talking about at Tabogilla is the same one that I remember, we would anchor about 200 yards off-shore and swim into the beach. We had Styrofoam coolers that would float that we had a harness around to tow with us with drinks and lunch/supper in them. It was so damn pretty with absolutely purest white sugar sand. You could leave the beach and hike/climb the steep rock face that made the cove where the beach was located. The reward was a view of the anchorage and the entrance to the Canal as well as the Fortified Islands and Taboga. I can’t remember the name of that tiny island that was connected to Taboga by a thin causeway of sandbar and was only accessible during low tides and transition to high tide when it became covered with water about 6′ deep. As a kid and an adolescent running around those places, climbing Taboga and Tabogilla with your girlfriend of the moment are cherished memories. Any bastard who has soiled those memories will roast in the bottom level of Hell. Panamá will be decades recovering from the damage of Martinelli, if it ever does recover. I try not to wish ill for anyone, but in Martinelli and the clowns he installed around Panamá, may they contract a terminal, extremely painful, slow-to-kill the host disease.

  4. Very fond memories a beautiful place that should be left alone. Go polute the swamps, there are so few places like Taboga and Tabogilla. The world if full of morons that should not be given license to destroy.

    • Well previous administrations did pollute the swamps until they found out they’re worth more with skyscrapers on top.
      Development is inevitable, but it could be done more intelligently. And some laws obstruct alternatives. Why not use floating oil storage, an old tanker or oil rig? That would be much cheaper. But there is probably some law preventing it.

      • No, there is logic preventing it. There are already floating storage facilities; they’re called bunker ships. There’s several out there near Taboga. But what they are after here is storage that is big enough to store many times the amount of oil that fits in a tanker. It’s much easier and cheaper to build that on land than as a floating enterprise.

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