Our earlier story about how Florida armed militia leaders are setting up shop in Bocas del Toro is leading to new revelations.
If you recall, Z7 Tactical is a company founded and managed by one Amelia Foxwell, who is also a card carrying member of the Florida Charter Oaks Militia. Z7 offers Bocas expats "home protection courses". Sounds innocent enough, you think. So did we, initially. But let's find out what these people think "home protection" should look like.
On the Facebook group "Bocas Crime Talk", a couple of weeks ago one Jim Schmidt posted the following message:
Daniel David - Our house on Solarte was robbed on Tuesday while we were teaching at our school. Among the many items stolen were 2 silver Macbook Pro laptops, which have great personal value to us. We believe we know who committed the robbery, but I've heard the way to retrieve stolen electronics is to put the word out that I'd like to buy the items back. Does anyone have a clearer plan of action that has worked in the past? Or perhaps someone who has a lot of Bocas connections? Feel free to message me privately, and thank you for your help.
Sucks to have stuff stolen. Especially if it's expensive Macbook laptops. Buying back such goods is indeed often the fastest and cheapest way to undo the harm. There are also systems to secure laptops against theft.
However, the partner of Amelia Foxwell, one Darren K. Wilburn, has very peculiar ideas about how home security should be enforced. Replying to Schmidt's message, Wilburn responded:
Based on your suspicion, brutally beat the parties until they confess or give up who did it. Negotiation and diplomacy are futile paths of weakness. Peace is only achieved in the face of superior violence.
In other words: Torture them. Needless to say that this is highly illegal in Panama and would probably quickly land you in police custody, and rightfully so.
But apart from legal considerations; who do these people think they are? You must be pretty full of yourself, in a sickening way, to think that you can just descend on Bocas bringing your gun toting militia hired gun mentality with you and start torturing the locals over a stolen laptop. Where does this Wilburn guy think he is, in Pakistan? What's next, a Z7 black site for enhanced interrogation of petty crime suspects?
Wilburn is a leader of the Florida Charter Oaks Militia as well, and owns or owned a company called "Novus Investigations" (their website is defunct). We hope for his sake that Bocas residents who are offended by his torture promotion won't act upon his theory that "peace is only achieved in the face of superior violence".
His girl weighed in on the thread as well:
Sure, here is a plan. Tell them you will pay them and tell them to meet us to get their money.
So, dear expat readers, you now have a choice: You can take shooting lessons from an arms trafficker in Volcan, or take torture classes from wacko militia types in Bocas!
Yeah, I saw these two clowns working various Bocas Facebook forums a while ago, spouting with their hideous pro-gun spiel. No wonder Jim Schmidt wants to keeps his pages ‘closed’ now. ‘Peace is only achieved in the face of superior violence’? What a psycho! I just saw Wilburn’s facebook page where he and his buddies are vomiting up bile about Eric Jackson and ‘the liberals’. Unbelievable. The pair of them, been here five minutes, who the fuck do they think they are? Call the FBI on these creeps, bad fucking news.
There was this other gringo, years ago, who ran a big scam in Bocas with noni farms. Tom McMurrain was his name. He started something called “Angel Patrol”, a vigilante group made up of locals to aid the police in maintaining law and order. McMurrain also donated mountain bikes to the cops.
The only problem was, the locals were all thugs with a history of drug dealing and violence. Their patrolling came down to driving around in a white LandRover with black windows, selling drugs to tourists. It was eventually dismantled and McMurrain arrested and extradited to the US on charges dating two scams back.
But what if the confession is inadequate? Will you have to shell out more money for the enhanced interrogation course?
As in http://reaganpluscats.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Water-Board-Cat.png …
Eric, I just read on Wilburn’s facebook wall that you are a liberal hater! Is that true?
Tom McMurrain was a piece of work and I think I remember his private police force getting involved in some thuggish ‘law and order’ BS. They pretty much held Bocas in terror for a couple of years until I think it was the Torrijos administration who finally cracked down on them and deported them back to the US. These people sound even worse, but they are right up Il Duce’s alley. These are the kind of tactics he admires so it will take a real change in direction to get them deported. Couldn’t happen to soon in my book.
Greetings to All (Hey Okke..!)
I lived on Solarte for almost 3 months (house sitting gig) and found the Bocas area to be beautiful and enchanting (but of course not without it’s own unique problems and issues.
As a N.American, I find these Gun toting expats to be the most repugnant and worst examples of expats…and one reason (of many) why I abandoned living in the US anymore.
My 2 cents worth for retrieving the stolen property: offer a “no questions asked” CASH REWARD.
I DO know for a fact that these type of petty thefts are solely a way to make some (badly needed) money (for some locals it means the difference between EATING or starving).
After all…who are they gonna sell them to..? Other locals..?
(BTW…many of whom are without computer skills nor internet connectivity, let alone money).
Pay the “ransom”…lesson learned and be smarter in the future regarding securing your valuable personal property.
Further…these Militia types should be shunned and denounced publicly at EVERY opportunity…”Gringos” already have a well deserved bad reputation…and folks like these wacko’s will only make that far, far worse should just ONE bad situation occur (ie: the death of a local due to gun violence).
Folks….we are guests in THEIR Country…this isn’t “Kansas” and this isn’t your home turf.
“As one sow’s…so shall he reap”.
Thanks for a great site Okke..!
I beg to differ, i do not think MOST of these petty theft go to feed families. I believe that MANY , at least in Bocas, go to feed drug habits. But really, the point was about the advised response, which is abhorrent regardless of the reason behind the theft.
Okke, I read Chairman Mao’s “Combat Liberalism” every night.
“To let the pots and pans soak when it is your night to do dishes at the commune, instead of immediately scouring them out like a true communist — this is a 439th type of bourgeois liberalism.”
Combat Liberalism (revised edition)
So does that make me a “liberal hater?” And if insufficiently so, when I get sent to the countryside for intensive re-education, will they have me weeding the rice paddy or spreading nightsoil on the turnip field?
Insufficiently so. Enough that your beard will substitute for the weeds and will be plucked out one hair at a time and then you shall be given a facial with the nightsoil.
“I DO know for a fact that these type of petty thefts are solely a way to make some (badly needed) money (for some locals it means the difference between EATING or starving).”
That is the kind of BS that only encourages immoral behavior. And an insult to countries where people are truly starving if they don’t work their asses off, like my wife’s cousin who cuts sugarcane in Thailand 12 hours daily for 50 cents a day plus food & shelter. Mind you he is from Cambodia, 300 miles away.
If you can’t make a living in Bocas (which I find very hard to believe given all the tourism), try your luck elsewhere. There is no excuse for stealing in a free world.
“Free world”? Panama?
Too bad your wife’s cousin doesn’t have a cajita de musiquita…one of the few real money makers in the third world….
I don’t want to sound sermonizing, but it is quieting to hear people talking about poverty, sounding moralistic.
I like to listen to professor Laurie Taylor http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/ta, his area of expertise is social science, and I remember that in one of his programs, programs that I listen online every week, he discussed how “organized crime in London” exists and he explained how it is a way individuals in England supplement their inadequate salaries. I likewise read the case of Brooke Magnanti, she is a research scientist, blogger, and writer, who worked in London as a prostitute in order to supplement her inadequate earnings, while studying in London.
This lady was charging more than 300 dollars per hour for her services as prostitute.
Let’s not be hypocritical, in Panama not only there are people starving due to their lack of income, but also people whose salaries are a pittance, so they may need to supplement their inadequate salaries with other activities. If they happen to lack skills, if they are not resourceful, organized crime or petty thefts are both an option, just like in the developed world.
I really resent those simplistic comments, considering the countries from where you all come from. I don’t approve violence, and peace can never be achieved with violence. Those expats who are promoting gun use are not only arrogant, but brainwashed.
The process of colonization and the international division of the labor have to be considered.
These people are conquered people, they don’t have background, they don’t have pre Hispanic heritage, and you have just to look at the foods they eat. The plantain was brought by the Europeans to America, for just to give you an example. They are more than poor; they were conquered, which is even worse than being poor. You have to study history and understand the surrounding. I remember discussing this issue with a history professor in Mexico. Those people from Bocas are all conquered people.
I would like to see more research, I mean, high quality research in the public interest when justifying your reasoning, and less ideology that is fabricated to justify corporate agendas, and the making of profit. I don’t like opinions, but reasoning based on research…
…have you EVERY been to Bocas…?
Have you actually spent any lengthy really LIVING there (and interacting directly with the locals)…?
I am not in way condoning/ nor rationalizing crime…just speaking truth to “the way it IS”.
Further…”…all the tourism…” ???
I’ve gotta’ flash bulletin for Ya’…it’s not Disney World up there with throngs and throngs of tourists flocking up there to blow wades of money. Most of the businesses up there barely eek by day to day to pay the bills.
Of all the jobs/ industries in that area…Banana farms are the largest employer…and even those positions are quite limited in the scope of numbers and vacant positions available. Of all people in that VERY rural area who desire to have job…many may not even be qualified to be hired in the first place.
I FIND YOUR MORALIZING TO BE MOST OFFENSIVE .
I’m just guessing your views are likely based upon your utter ignorance of any real facts of having lived and seen first hand how the locals remarkably barely scratch by.
And hey…before you really fly off your right wing perch…some people in that area of Panama ARE actually STARVING…many do not have enough to feed families…and many will skip entirely one meals everyday to simply stretch farther what little they do have.
My comments above were shared as a possible viable solution for the return of the items…and a friendly warning of the potential dangerous downside to accepting/condoning the “right wing” gun toting reactionaries who are attempting to exploit/ possibly incite radical unjustified extremism.
EDITS TO MY MESSAGE ABOVE:
“…lengthy really LIVING there”…..should read= “..lengthy time really LIVING there”.
And: “..entirely one meals everyday”…..should be= “entirely one meals everyday”
No need for name calling mr. Panama-Mike,
I’ve been to Bocas and I am not saying it is easy living there. But there certainly is plenty of work to get by, and the fish you catch and the banana’s from your garden are free. And if you still can’t make it there, you can move to the city – like so many honest people from Bocas/Chirici/Kuna Yala etcetera do.
Have you read my comment? My wife and her family are from a country with REAL poverty – where some people have no options whatsoever. But nobody in her family became a thief. To her and to any honest hard working poor person your assumption that poverty justifies theft is highly offensive.
There is no need to steal in a country that is not at war.
Okke I agree with you that Panama is not a 100% free country, but there certainly is enough freedom to make an honest living
Calling theft immoral is “OFFENSIVE MORALIZING”? By what standards do you live? Have you given away all your worldly possessions and walk around in a habit?
I don’t think anyone here agrees with theft. And sure, poverty is relative, but that isn’t the issue here either. The issue is that some crazy gringo gun nuts think they can come here and advocate on a public forum the torture of suspects of petty theft. That’s what my story was about and I resent your efforts to twist that into allegations of anyone here advocating thievery.
“There is no need to steal in a country that is not at war…”
Tell that to the Mayor, Sr Jose Anderson, who is leading by example down there. While you’re at it, tell it to the President.
“My wife and her family are from a country with REAL poverty…”
This is rather obnoxious and I’ve heard it so many times in so many different contexts, usually from rabid right-wingers who want to justify revolting social disparities.
I posted previously about a shanty town called Barriada La Solucion out by the airport on Isla Colon. It is almost entirely populated by economic migrants looking for paid labour in the tourist industry, roughly 1000 inhabitants.
The living conditions are appalling, rough wooden shacks built over black water swamps, unplanned, overcrowded, highly unsanitary. Some of the shacks have electricity, many don’t. Some don’t even have four walls. In some places, the water board is illegally pumping untreated sewage directly under their homes. It stinks. As you’d expect, there’s a range of social problems; crime, unemployment. Hang around long enough and you’ll see malnourished kids, bellies swollen from parasites. To say these people don’t experience ‘real poverty’ is a joke in bad taste.
Okke I am not trying to twist your story, someone was justifying thievery. As to the nutjob, well people babble all the time on facebook, why would you take it seriously?
In the meantime we have another commenter resorting to name calling, an Exiled Brit, somehow I’m not surprised.
I am not trying to justify social disparities, I am simply saying that being poor is no justification for stealing.
But just for the record, this is what poverty in Cambodia looks like:
You say these people in shanties are migrant workers, do you mean foreign migrant workers who have been refused a work permit?
If not, there would be absolutely no need for them to remain in poverty:
Surely corrupt elites are keeping people down, but in spite of this it is not difficult to make an honest living. The point remains, no matter how poor you are, in a country such as Panama there is no justification for stealing. Take a job, keep your head low, work yourself up.
Please, I didn’t call you any names, not directly. I was impolite about your comments because they upset me. No hard feelings.
Here are some photos of La Solucion, the shanty town I was telling you about:
So while I accept that Panama as a nation is more prosperous than Cambodia, I cannot accept that there isn’t terrible poverty in places.
Panama City also has its own problems and the poverty there is a thousand times more vicious than anything in Bocas. Depending on what neighbourhood you visit, you will find unemployment, drug addiction, homelessness, gun violence, gangs, prostitution, slums, squalor etc which you can find in any city of any size. But why so much of it in Panama City when there are apparently jobs available for all? That is a fair sociological question, but one that I’m not going to try to answer. I am sure the answer will be complex.
I do know there is a relationship between poverty and crime, but it would be simplistic to say that one causes the other. Now as a privileged white European, I don’t feel very comfortable telling poor people in the developing world that they’ll get on in life if they just keep their head down and work hard. The truth is, they don’t really have much of a chance, they will probably die in poverty. There might be hope for their children if they can provide them a stable home and a good education. A few lucky ones will experience upward mobility in their own lifetime.
On a personal level, I cannot really know what it is like to live in destitution, but I would imagine that desperation day after day does things to you, and with all the abuse that comes with poverty, one might be tempted to disregard the law. After all, we live in a world that applauds self-motivated individuals who simply take what they want. Modern life is so bent on this idea of winners and losers, money, wealth, consumption, status, at the same time so utterly contemptuous of the weak. When the rich steal, it’s fair game, but if you’re poor, you better know your place. I’m not condoning criminality, but you can’t expect people who are born into severe disadvantage to behave themselves when the game is obviously rigged.
On top of this, consider the way that a certain group of prosperous Americans have behaved in Bocas, not all of them, but enough of them, the way they have gone about speculating and accumulating, and how this might breed resentments. Again, I’m not condoning anything, just trying to understand.
Sir Michael Marmot has addressed that issue you have brought to the discussion, inequalities matter to him, and he has dedicated his life to the study of this situation in the English speaking world, that explains, in part, the welfare state enjoyed in those countries, in comparison with the reality we have to endure in a colonized country like Panama, whose economy historically has been based on “exploitation and racism.”
Inequalities matter, and Sir Michael Marmot explains why, from his perspective as an epidemiologist:
Inequalities is the issue here, just like it is the case in any other part of the world, inequalities bring resentment and crime, so it is detrimental to society as a whole.
Thank you for clarifying your position Exiled Brit. Perhaps we can find common ground.
I understand that it might feel wrong to tell people that they have to work hard when you (and I) have been born in a more affluent part of the world. However your background doesn’t change the universal fact that the only way to truly better your live is to work hard, no matter how poverty stricken or how rich you are born. I also believe you are underestimating peoples chances: I know plenty of people with a poor background, some from villages with no paved roads, running water or electricity, who are working their way up. Dubai and Singapore are full of such people, as are many, many cities in developing countries, as is Panama City. Poor people in Panama have options, whether they take them is up to them.
But if they do not take the honest option, but simply desire the unearned without wanting to work for it, I do not even consider that understandable. In order to steal you need to lie to yourself first. Is inequality the lie you will be telling yourself? Or rappers who romanticize crime? Or that there are some rich thieves in the world who do get away with it? What makes someone think that they are more deserving of a certain item than the person who owns it? I don’t think anybody (with the exception of psychopaths) is truly capable of convincing themselves of such a lie, and henceforth all thieves, rich and poor, must feel unhappy inside.
Moreover, how can anybody hope for a better country if everybody is stealing from everybody. That is pure nihilism that causes trash to built up in the streets – because everybody else is doing it.
Now to get back to the discussion: torturing people, obviously, comes from a similar sort of nihilism: that you must assert power over other people in order to feel self-worthy. I would consider it more dangerous, where it not for the fact that the remark was made on a facebook page, and the person who wrote it might just have a morbid sense of humor. Anyway they’re gone now,