"Wild Bill" and his charming wife/girlfriend have been caught while trying to enter Nicaragua in a hijacked boat. This will solve at least a couple of murder cases in Bocas as well as some missing person mysteries, but the majority of those guilty in recent killing sprees and what appears to be one forced disappearance remains at large.
The police chief of Bocas del Toro, Didier Degracia, said today that the "intention was not to hurt anyone seriously" during the violent repression of protests, but they had to shoot birdshot because "there were many strikers".
He added that those who participated in the protest marches "maintained high levels of discipline, determination and strategies for the struggle".
Much saner observations came today from former consul of Panama in London, Kevin Harrington, who visited Changuinola and surrounding areas. He distributed his conclusions by email (translation by us):
- No private businesses were damaged. There was talk about one clinic, but I didn't see it;
- The Global Bank was the only private enterprise that was damaged and has been quickly repaired, it appears the reason was that the police was shooting from the top floor at the crowd;
- No public entities were damaged, only five cars, most of which were from the ministry of labor;
- The airport has been repaired at the speed of light, the complete interior, the ceiling and everything else is new. The exterior still shows signs of the battle and fire; it was indicated that the airport was besieged by the people. The police maintains a presence at the airport, they sleep in one of the hangars.
- Most people talk about more than 8 deaths, and suspect that those bodies that are still in the morgue are victims of bullet wounds, among them a small girl hit by loads of birdshot.
- The failure of the government to maintain order and stay in control is due to the fact that they don't know Changuinola. The police would at times flee into the banana plantations and hurt themselves by running into the cable systems that are used to transport the harvest.
- The people were in full control, not just Changuinola, but from Almirante to Guabito. At one point, between Costa Rica and the protesters there was no Panamanian authority present.
- There are black banners everywhere. The commercial area (banana growing and processing) isn't damaged at all, the people don't really resent the banana company, but they do resent the government and its ministers.
- The so-called "apology aid" from Martinelli was generally not well-received. The kids accepted the bikes and have formed groups that ride through town.
- The indigenous people who live on the plantations reject the "show" by the government.
- The people are clear in that the "sausage law" has to be repealed, which is what they told labor minister Alma Cortés from the beginning. However, this demand fell on deaf ears, which was the first violent act: Not listening. The second violent act was to insult the people - the rest was to be expected.
- I felt humbled by the courage of the people of Changuinola, where the "ignorant indians" speak three languages - Spanish, English and Ngobe - and study at the university. The ignorance is all coming from the government, its ministers and its president.
Meanwhile, the National Robbers Den Assembly is discussing the partial suspension of the now infamous sausage law. The unions, the environmental groups and several others, including the Federation of Retirees, demand that the complete law be repealed and not just three articles. Furthermore, they want chief of police Gustavo Perez, minister of labor and former Martinelli narco-lawyer Alma Cortés and minister of security Raul Mulino sacked. A criminal complaint was filed to underline the seriousness of the demands. Banana workers already announced they will be back in the streets if the government doesn't cede to their demands.