Prison Nightmares

There are expats who will ask, “So, what do the state of Panama’s prisons have to do with moving to Panama, or our somewhat privileged lives in Panama? What’s it to me? They’re criminals: lock ‘em up and throw away the key.”

Prisons are designed not just to wall people IN, but to wall people OUT. A society that just locks people up and throws away the key, or only cares about good people like they assume themselves to be, isn’t a worthwhile society. You ignore the poor, and those in prison at your own risk. Not only can it become a cancer on society, but in the final analysis, well, Jesus put it this way,

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” [Matthew 25:31-46]

If you don’t dig Jesus, or just think the whole world should revolve around you and your needs … well, then, obviously Jesus opinions aren’t important to you. But … the time may come when you run afoul of the law in Panama, or when, rightly or wrongly, you are accused back home of some infraction there, and you end up in the “better” and “protected” area of prison, reserved for expats and foreigners. So even you might find this interesting.

This appeared in CAYMANCOMPASS.COM and concerns the death of a Cayman citizen being held in prison in Panama.

Panama Prison Horrors

Cellmates of drug mule Mark Bodden have told of the squalid conditions and nonexistent medical care in the notorious Panama prison where the Caymanian died on Aug. 18.

The 37-year-old, according to the witness accounts, was injured in a fall from a makeshift bed in the seriously overcrowded cell block 6 of La Joya prison, where 506 foreign nationals are crammed into tiny rat-infested cells with limited access to clean water or exercise.

Three of Mr. Bodden’s fellow prisoners, including Dr. Arthur Porter, a high profile physician wanted in Canada in connection with a bribery scandal involving Montreal’s McGill University Hospital, have been in contact with the Cayman Compass to give their version of events surrounding the death.

The Caymanian prisoner was left without access to proper medical attention for nearly 12 hours after sustaining serious head injuries when he fell 8 feet from his “home-made bed space,” according to an unofficial two-page medical report produced by Dr. Porter.

“I am of the opinion that if Mr. Bodden had received a prompt transfer to a hospital with neurological competence, he would have had a substantial chance of making a complete recovery,” wrote Dr. Porter, who has been in the prison for 14 months fighting extradition back to Canada following his arrest on an international warrant in Panama City.

His report was emailed to the Compass through fellow prisoner Leo Morgan, a British drug dealer locked up for money laundering, who has been representing foreign inmates in talks with prison officials and embassy diplomats in an effort to improve conditions.

“Mark was not a bad kid. He made a mistake, did something to make some money and he ended up here.

“What happened was an accident, but he didn’t have to die. It could have been prevented if he had got medical care. He died because of neglect,” Mr. Morgan told the Compass in a call from the prison’s public phones.

The 57-year-old former boxer and nightclub bouncer, described as a “drug kingpin” in British press reports, said he had seen 60 people die during his 10 years in the Panama prison system from accidents, stabbings, fights and disease.

“There’s no medical center, there’s not even any water. We have to buy everything we have,” said Mr. Morgan, who competes in boxing bouts with fellow inmates for cash.

“Mark had good people looking out for him in Cayman. His grandmother sent him money and the church was helping him out. You have to buy everything, you have to buy your bed, you have to buy toilet paper.”

He said the cell block is a 180-bed facility that houses 506 foreign prisoners – a mix of Colombians, Africans, Jamaicans, Guatemalans and three British citizens: Mr. Morgan, Mr. Bodden and his cellmate Ben Perschky, who is serving a 112-month sentence for trying to smuggle cocaine out of Panama.

Mr. Perschky, speaking to the Compass via instant-messaging service Whatsapp, told how inmates had banged on the cell-block doors and made frantic calls to the British embassy to raise the alarm as Mr. Bodden slipped in and out of consciousness throughout the night.

“He fell around 9:30 Saturday night. The Canadian prisoner in here [Dr. Porter] examined him and he had broke his shoulder and his head was bleeding. He was responding though. We went to the people upstairs, with the contacts, but were told nobody is here and we would have to wait until morning.”

Mr. Perschky, one of six inmates who shared a cell with Mr. Bodden and bunked on the bed below, said he became seriously concerned when his friend began to experience convulsions.

“We carried him to the door. He was in a really, really bad way. We banged and banged on the door and at 8:30 a.m. Sunday a policeman came and opened it and they took him away. Monday morning we heard he had died.

“I believe he died because nobody came here to get him out and give him the care he needed to survive.”

In his report – a typed manuscript of his medical notes on the incident – fellow prisoner Dr. Porter, the former medical director of McGill University Health Centre, expresses similar opinions.

He writes that Mr. Bodden had suffered injuries to his chest, head and shoulder in the fall and had an “open laceration on his cranium.”

He describes how he attempted to “medically manage” the patient, who was suffering epileptic seizures, while others tried to raise the alarm.

“At around 8:30 am a policeman arrived and the patient was placed in a food trolley and wheeled out. On Monday 18th August I was informed that Mark had died. Frankly I am of the opinion that the care that Mark received was sub-standard,” Dr. Porter wrote.

He adds, “I have been incarcerated here for over 14 months and can attest this is not an isolated incident… Not having any ability to contact authorities, transfer or even have basic resuscitation equipment represents a significant systemic flaw in the delivery of medical care in the Panamanian Penitentiary system.”

Dr. Porter was injured himself during a riot at the prison – widely reported in Canadian news media earlier this month.

The Sierra Leone-born doctor is a prominent figure in Canada where he was a member of the Privy Council and served as chairman of the Security and Intelligence Review Committee under Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

He has been in La Joya since being arrested at the airport in Panama City on an international warrant in May 2013.

He is wanted by Quebec police in connection with a $22.5 million bribery and kickback scandal, described in media reports as one of the largest frauds in Canadian history.

Dr. Porter is facing charges of fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, fraud toward the government, breach of trust, participating in secret commissions and laundering proceeds of crime, according to Canadian media.

There is a sense in which you can judge a nation based on how it treats its prisoners. If that is the case both Panama and the US fall short.

Panama’s Pensionado Discounts: Worth it on airfare?

The Panama Pensionado discount program is an often-touted reason to consider an expat retirement lifestyle in Panama. This program was developed for Panamanian retirees, not expat retirees, although Panama generously allows expat retirees who have permanent residence status to take advantage of the discounts. If you are a permanent resident in Panama, whether you live here on a Pensionado visa or “Friendly Nation” visa or other visa, once you reach Panamanian retirement age, which for men is 60 and for women is 55, you enjoy the discounts offered to all retirees. If you have a Pensionado visa you enjoy these benefits regardless of your age.

One of the benefits is “25% discount in air fares in public and private national and foreign Airlines.”

OK, so how does that work out in practice?

I’m back at sea later this fall and Nikki is going with me on several voyages on Silversea. In order to get the Pensionado discount I went to a local travel agent. This is what we needed …

PTY – NYC – Where we pick up the ship
SJU – MIA – This cruise finishes in San Juan. My next assignment is out of Fort Lauderdale. We’ll spend some time between cruises doing a Florida road trip before Nikki returns to Panama.
MIA – PTY

So here’s what the travel agent came up with … with the Pensionado Discount $691.27

DL 392 24 OCT Panamá-Atlanta 8:00 AM –> 1:06 PM

DL 1419 24 OCT Atlanta-John F Kennedy 4:13 PM –> 6:35 PM

DL 309 13 NOV San Juan-Atlanta 12:35 PM –> 3:35 PM

DL 1527 13 NOV Atlanta-Fort Lauderdale 4:10 PM –> 6:05 PM

DL 1827 23 NOV Fort Lauderdale-Atlanta 1:45 PM –> 3:45 PM

DL 393 23 NOV Atlanta-Panamá 5:50 PM –> 9:53 PM

Lot’s of changes – lots of time in Atlanta [It's said with Delta, "If you want to go to Heaven you have to connect through Atlanta."]

And here’s what I came up with using the standard senior discount [65 and over], without the Pensionado discount $707.30

Copa 1922 24 OCT Panama-Newark [Nonstop] 10:05 AM –> 4:20 PM

American 397 13 NOV San Juan-Miami [Nonstop] 2:01 PM –> 3:55 PM

Copa 440 23 NOV Miami-Panama [Nonstop] 10:49 AM –> 1:50 PM

OK, the Pensionado rate was $16 cheaper. But for $16 more three DIRECT flights, and the Panama flight gets in early enough, that with a little luck, Nikki can get the last flight from Albrook to David, saving the cost and hassle of an overnight in Panama City!

So here’s how it works: the Pensionado Discount is the SAME as the 65 and over regular senior fare. If you are a Pensionado you get the senior rate even if you are not 65 and over. Once you turn 65 … it’s the same.

Plastic

Whether it’s plastic bags at the super market, tons of unnecessary packing materials accompanying anything you buy on-line, Styrofoam cups or the waste of foam building materials, plastic bottles … you name it, it’s all accumulating and swirling around in the vast ocean dumps or gyres.  Now a cool-looking, young diver from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands has come up with a great idea to save the oceans from plastic.

This video is well-worth watching! Boyan Slat not only has a fantastic concept but he’s also a great presenter.

Slat’s ocean cleaner looks like a giant manta ray …

The Panama Canal Still Returns Benefit to The US

Yes, the US returned the Canal Zone and the Panama Canal to the people of Panama.  And the US is till the number one customer of the Panama Canal  And, yes, according to the terms of the second Torijjos-Carter Treaty, the US guarantees to protect the neutrality of the Canal, and ipso facto Panama, in perpetuity.  In the ’30s the US realized the necessity of enlarging and expanding the Canal and began work, but WWII came along and focus, priorities and budgets changed.  After WWII there was always something or somewhere else demanding US attention and money, so the project was never resumed.  Now Panama is moving toward completion of enlarging the Canal and increasing the size and number of vessels it can serve.  And the Canal de Panama is already discussing yet another expansion project to serve new super ships.

US port cities who have any sense are rapidly expanding their facilities to be able to handle the new, larger Canal ships.  And the US stands to gain significant economic advantage from the expanded Canal as pointed out in this BUSINESS INSIDER article by Rob Wile.

100 Years After Its Birth, The Panama Canal Is On The Verge Of Creating A Huge New Opportunity For US Exporters
On Aug. 15, 1914, the Panama Canal saw its first cargo ships slice through two continents on their way to Asia, forever transforming global trade flows.

It was the product of almost 15 years of military, diplomatic, and economic maneuvers.

Now, 99 years later, the canal is set to cause a surge in U.S. exports across the commodities sector.

A $5.25 billion expansion is set to wind down in 2015. In its current form, the canal can handle vessels that can carry up to 5,000 TEUs, or 20-foot equivalents — basically, the size of a shipping container. Once the expansion is completed, the canal will be able to handle “Post-Panamax vessels,” which can carry up to 13,000 TEUs.

For reference, according to the FINANCIAL TIMES. carrying a 10,000-size load would require 18 trains, 5,800 trucks or 570 planes.

Any sector where the U.S. is a net exporter is likely to reap some benefit from the expansion. For instance, the U.S. currently enjoys a positive balance of trade in its paper, raw textile, and machinery industries.

But their gains are likely to be modest compared with those of two other major sectors: agriculture and natural gas.

Amber Waves

U.S. agriculture stands to gain the most from the expansion, further entrenching America as the world’s breadbasket, already No. 1 in wheat, corn and soybean exports.  In a 2011 report prepared for the U.S. soybean industry, INFORMA ECONOMICS forcaste that volumes of grain and soybeans transiting the Panama Canal will jump 30% or 426 million bushels (or 11.2 million metric ton s) to 1,840 million bushels (the equivalent of 48.4 million metric tons) by 2020/21 from the projected volumes for 2011/12.

It’s already $6 per metric ton cheaper for farmers in the country’s midsection to ship their goods down the Mississippi River through the Gulf than to ship them out through Seattle. Once the expansion is finished, vessels will be capable of handling an additional 7,000 metric tons on a Panamax or 13,300 metric tons on a small Capesize vessel. As a result, the area of farms who can take advantage of traveling down the Mississippi through to the Gulf instead of using freight trains to the West Coast will be able to expand,

“For bulk shipments, the expansion of the Panama Canal is extremely important,” Informa says. “The possibility of lowering the Center Gulf freight rate by $14 per metric ton will expand the barge competitive draw area. The railroads shuttle train locations in the expanded barge draw area will either lower freight rates or lose modal share.

Of course, the canal is a two-way street, and Informa says any domestic U.S. industry that has to compete could face losses because their competitors will also be seeing transportation gains. Steel, cement, and fertilizer are likely to take the largest hits, Informa says.

But this also means consumers and end users will be seeing price gains and increased economic activity. Informa:

“The ability to unload larger ships on the East Coast makes it more likely a large retailer will build a major distribution center in the the Eastern US That will in turn enable ocean carriers to add a string of ports to call. The new availability of containers, load out times and increased destination ports expand backhaul [trucking] opportunities.”

Ports up and down the East Coast have already invested millions of dollars to prepare for this outcome. Savannah, Georgia, for instance, has spent $662 million expanding its own port to accommodate post Panamax vessels, the benefits of which the Army Corps of Engineers said in 2012 would far outweigh costs.

Gas Boom

Currently, Very Large Gas Carriers, the vessels used to transport American petroleum and natgas products, must sail all the way around South America to reach Asia. But once the expansion is complete, shipping days will be cut to 25 from 41. That means the time it takes to get from the East Coast to Asia will now be comparable to the time it takes to get there from the Middle East, resulting in freight cost savings of up to 50%, according to Alliance Bernstein’s Neil Beveridge.

Beveridge says the coal and petroleum product sectors are unlikely to change much given flagging demand former the former and narrow pricing spreads for the latter.

Not so with natural gas.

Thanks to the shale boom, which has made the U.S. the world’s largest natural gas, natgas prices have plummeted, which has enticed importers, especially in Asia to start sending for U.S. goods. The current cost of transporting natural gas is already relatively high, which means it has more to gain from a canal expansion, Beveridge argues.

Bloomberg’s Isaac Arnsdorf says exports to Japan, which has shut down its nuclear plant fleet in the wake of the Fukushima incident, could surge, and with the canal expansion, it will cost 30% less for carriers to reach a the country from Louisiana.

“There’s a huge market in Asia, a huge resource in the United States, and the Panama Canal is an enabler of this trade, reducing the cost of getting LNG to the market,” Sverre Bjorn Svenning, an analyst at Fearnley group in Oslo who’s studied the canal expansion told Arnsdorf. “We didn’t see this coming.”

Most gas gets exported in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Beveridge is slightly more bearish on efficiencies for LNG, since Washington may seek to limit LNG exports to maintain cost advantages now enjoyed by U.S. consumers.

Rather, he argues, LPG is likely to be the greatest beneficiary. LPG consists of hydrocarbons like propane and butane that exist as a gas at sea level but liquid at reduced  pressures and temperatures. It’s mostly used for cooking and space heating, as well as an industrial feedstock.

Global LPG demand is about 30% larger than the global LNG market.  Asia-Pacific countries comprise 40% of global consumption and 7% of demand growth.

With the expansion, the cost of shipping LPG from the U.S. to Asia will equal the cost of shipping it from the Middle East, Beveridge says. “As such we expect demand for US LPG to increase sharply which will put downward pressure to Middle East LPG export prices,” he writes.

We’ve come full circle.  [Read more at BUSINESS INSIDER]

Another REALLY fascinating BUSINESS INSIDER article is Twenty Huge Trends That Will Dominate America’s Future [with apologies to all the rest of non-US Americans and the rest of the world.  But rest of the world take note, there’s also a Twenty Huge Trends That Will Define The World for Decades.

Back Home: A Changing America

Me and boys 080614Having just been “back home” in the US, I can report that it’s still the same.  But I do wonder what kind of country I will be leaving my grandkids.

It’s easy to hear expats in Panama complain about life back in the US: the Bush so-called “Patriot Act” which Congress and Obama have not only supported but interpreted in even more anti-patriotic ways offering up traditional US American freedoms as trophies to terrorism in the name of “national security”; how the US has become a country living in fear [FDR: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”; how curt and militaristic the airport “Welcome to America!” has become when you go “back home” to visit; and “Obama Care” – if one more person tells me how “bad” or “good” it is I will throw up on the spot!  There are those who still believe that a black man riding on a white horse would save the US from self-destruction, and those whose life revolves around FOX “news” [Yes, it's available in Panama.] who think that had McCain, Palin, Romney (and who was his running mate?) had been elected, the US would be so, so much better.  Palin’s foreign policy experience [Remember?  Even though she'd never had a US Passport she "could see Russia" from Alaska.] would have trumped Obama/Clinton’s bungling.

Some folks love romping in this stuff like pigs in the mud, and others, while still concerned about life in the US, it’s direction or lack thereof, and the implications for grandkids, just enjoy being away from it all in Panama.  Bob Adams, who has a great Web site called RetirementWave.com, says that if you’re coming to Panama to live as an expat you need to pack all that negative, political stuff that has nothing to do with your new life in Panama and leave it back where you came from.

But there is no question that things are changing in the US.  I found this article about Clinton’s potential White House bid that included some very interesting material developed by the highly respected Pew Research organization …

In March this year, Pew published a social trends survey which concluded that the Millennials were “forging a distinctive path into adulthood”. They did not join political parties or churches, lived largely beyond the corporate world, and were mostly broke but still had hopes for their future.

“Now ranging in age from 18 to 33 ½,” the report found, “they are relatively unattached to organised politics and religion, linked by social media, burdened by debt, distrustful of people, in no rush to marry – and optimistic about the future.

“They are also America’s most racially diverse generation. In all of these dimensions, they are different from today’s older generations. And in many, they are also different from older adults back when they were the age Millennials are now.”

Pew found that 50 per cent of Millennials now describe themselves as politically independent, but if they do back a party, it will be the Democrats. They hold “liberal views” on issues such as same-sex marriage and the legalisation of marijuana. Forty-seven per cent of children born to Millennial women are born out-of-wedlock.

They seem to be living differently and adopting different views and values partly because they have had to: they are the generation launched into a global recession with an unprecedented amount of college debt and few job prospects, the first generation to realise that the American Dream is going to remain just that.

They do not want to drive big cars or buy suburban mansions; they repopulate cities (when they can afford to leave the nest at all) and ride bicycles.

Perhaps most significant is that they are adapting to America’s rapidly shifting racial balance. Whites will cease to be an overall majority in America sometime around 2045. That projection is behind the anti-immigrant, right-wing rage of the Tea Party and its related militias. But it bothers the new generations of pink, brown and black Americans less and less.

In short, it is the Millennials who have helped consign the Republican politics of division – “Vote for us or your daughter will marry a black man!” – to the dustbin of history.

It has been calculated that Millennials will not have the majority of votes for another 20 years, and so will not have control of Washington until 2035.

But they have been a rising power since the first of them turned out for Barack Obama in 2008, and their share of the vote will go up in every cycle. [Charles Lawrence THE WEEK]

A Different View of Panama

If you are thinking of “escaping” to Panama, not just because it’s such a beautiful country with what may be a better, and perhaps even less expensive lifestyle, but because you are trying to escape the long arm of the law in your own country, or want to continue some nefarious activity in Panama … think again!

We know how screwed up, backasswards, and unjust the so-called “justice system” can be in the US and maybe in your home country as well.  When you come to Panama you need to understand that it is different in many ways, including the law, court system and justice system, which is why I included a chapter in THE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE entitled “The Devil You Know” as in, “The devil you know may be better than the devil you don’t know.”

If you are a criminal … take note.  But it’s also worth nothing that in Panama, as well as in the US, you can simply be at the wrong place at the wrong time  [See BrandonHein.com].

This week there was another riot at La Joya prison, considered one of the 10 worst prisons in the world.  This story focuses on a Canadian citizen, Dr. Arthur Porter, who was arrested in May 2013 on an international warrant wanted for fraud in Canada.  He has been incarcerated at La Joya for 15 months without a hearing while fighting extradition to Canada. (CBC)

A CANADIAN man at the center of an alleged $22.5 million bribery and kickback scandal involving Montreal’s McGill University Hospital was trampled during a violent prison riot in La Joya Prison on Friday, August 8 says a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

According to family and fellow inmates of Dr Arthur Porter prison officers inexplicably opened fire with shotguns and tear gas during a routine search of overcrowded Cellblock 6 of the notorious La Joya prison said the CBC on Thursday, August 14.

Dr. Porter, former executive director of the McGill University Health Centre and a former head of Canada’s spy watchdog agency, has been languishing in that section of the prison reserved for foreign nationals ever since his arrest May 27, 2013 at the airport in Panama City on an international warrant. He is fighting a request by Quebec police for his extradition back to Canada for his alleged role in one of the largest frauds in Canadian history.

“He was shot in the face with tear gas, and then he tried to crawl to the stairs to escape, and he got trampled on, which damaged his leg, and then he lost consciousness,” Gemma Porter, the eldest of Porter’s four daughters, told CBC News.

It marks the first time a member of the Porter family has spoken publicly about the arrest and incarceration of Porter, a member of Canada’s Privy Council, who says he has been fighting lung cancer since the fall of 2012.

CBC News reached another prisoner in Cellblock 6, Leo Morgan, who confirmed the account.

“When a riot breaks out, it’s mayhem,” said Morgan, 56, from Birmingham, England, who has been stuck in the prison for 10 years without being sentenced for money laundering. “They shot 80 grenade canisters of tear gas, and everybody is running. Of course you’re trying to breathe, vomiting, your eyes are running … you’re doing everything. When it was going on, people are looking to save their own lives.
Dr. Arthur Porter was injured last Friday during a prison riot at La Joya prison, reputed to be one of the 10 worst prisons in the world. He has been incarcerated there for 15 months without a hearing while fighting extradition to Canada. (CBC)

“(Porter) was passed out on the floor, everybody running over him, and they just picked him up and dragged him out and left him on the field. When there was a lull, people shot and people bleeding, we checked him out. We could not get A pulse and we couldn’t get any signs of breathing. We’re not trained doctors.”

Morgan is a spokesman for the 506 foreign prisoners squeezed into the 180-bed Cellblock 6, where he says they have no access to water, no exercise time, and have to endure bad food and are forced to sleep on the floor in and around the toilets due to overcrowding. He was planning to meet with representatives of foreign embassies today, but he didn’t believe anyone from Canada was attending.

“I’ve seen more than 59 people die in 10 years I’ve been here,” he told CBC News, explaining that most of the people are there as a result of the U.S. war on drugs. “They die of natural causes, they’re shot, knifed, there’s heart attacks, suicide, AIDS. I’ve seen someone stabbed 17 times and live, and someone punched once in the heart and he’s dead.

“I can’t tell you the worst of it, it’s the smells – urine, vomit, blood. The blood smell when they kill someone it’s most powerful.”

FEARED FOR LIFE
A spokesperson for Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs did not confirm whether any Canadian official attended today’s meeting. In an email earlier this week, spokesperson Béatrice Fénelon wrote: “We are aware that riots took place in La Joya prison in Panama. At this time, we have not received any information that Canadians were affected in these riots. Canadian consular officials stand ready to provide assistance, as required.”

Porter, who is in email contact with his daughters, told them that when he regained consciousness on Friday he had blurred vision and a severe limp, but feared for his life as prisoners had taken over the cellblock.

However, Panamanian officials told CBC that order was restored at the prison later that day.

“It’s one thing thinking every day about his health, how long does he have, he’s already beaten the odds for so long,” Gemma Porter told CBC News. “And then on top of it to get news like that. Not just cancer, not just unclean, unsanitary conditions, it’s being shot at with (shotguns) and tear gas, that I have to worry about.

“That might be the reason he dies. It’s terrifying.”

A CANADIAN man at the center of an alleged $22.5 million bribery and kickback scandal involving Montreal’s McGill University Hospital was trampled during a violent prison riot in La Joya Prison on Friday, August 8 says a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

According to family and fellow inmates of Dr Arthur Porter prison officers inexplicably opened fire with shotguns and tear gas during a routine search of overcrowded Cellblock 6 of the notorious La Joya prison said the CBC on Thursday, August 14.

Dr. Porter, former executive director of the McGill University Health Centre and a former head of Canada’s spy watchdog agency, has been languishing in that section of the prison reserved for foreign nationals ever since his arrest May 27, 2013 at the airport in Panama City on an international warrant. He is fighting a request by Quebec police for his extradition back to Canada for his alleged role in one of the largest frauds in Canadian history.

“He was shot in the face with tear gas, and then he tried to crawl to the stairs to escape, and he got trampled on, which damaged his leg, and then he lost consciousness,” Gemma Porter, the eldest of Porter’s four daughters, told CBC News.

It marks the first time a member of the Porter family has spoken publicly about the arrest and incarceration of Porter, a member of Canada’s Privy Council, who says he has been fighting lung cancer since the fall of 2012.

CBC News reached another prisoner in Cellblock 6, Leo Morgan, who confirmed the account.

“When a riot breaks out, it’s mayhem,” said Morgan, 56, from Birmingham, England, who has been stuck in the prison for 10 years without being sentenced for money laundering. “They shot 80 grenade canisters of tear gas, and everybody is running. Of course you’re trying to breathe, vomiting, your eyes are running … you’re doing everything. When it was going on, people are looking to save their own lives.
WORLD’S WORST PRISONS
Dr. Arthur Porter was injured last Friday during a prison riot at La Joya prison, reputed to be one of the 10 worst prisons in the world. He has been incarcerated there for 15 months without a hearing while fighting extradition to Canada. (CBC)

“(Porter) was passed out on the floor, everybody running over him, and they just picked him up and dragged him out and left him on the field. When there was a lull, people shot and people bleeding, we checked him out. We could not get A pulse and we couldn’t get any signs of breathing. We’re not trained doctors.”

Morgan is a spokesman for the 506 foreign prisoners squeezed into the 180-bed Cellblock 6, where he says they have no access to water, no exercise time, and have to endure bad food and are forced to sleep on the floor in and around the toilets due to overcrowding. He was planning to meet with representatives of foreign embassies today, but he didn’t believe anyone from Canada was attending.

“I’ve seen more than 59 people die in 10 years I’ve been here,” he told CBC News, explaining that most of the people are there as a result of the U.S. war on drugs. “They die of natural causes, they’re shot, knifed, there’s heart attacks, suicide, AIDS. I’ve seen someone stabbed 17 times and live, and someone punched once in the heart and he’s dead.

“I can’t tell you the worst of it, it’s the smells – urine, vomit, blood. The blood smell when they kill someone it’s most powerful.”

FEARED FOR LIFE
A spokesperson for Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs did not confirm whether any Canadian official attended today’s meeting. In an email earlier this week, spokesperson Béatrice Fénelon wrote: “We are aware that riots took place in La Joya prison in Panama. At this time, we have not received any information that Canadians were affected in these riots. Canadian consular officials stand ready to provide assistance, as required.”

Porter, who is in email contact with his daughters, told them that when he regained consciousness on Friday he had blurred vision and a severe limp, but feared for his life as prisoners had taken over the cellblock.

However, Panamanian officials told CBC that order was restored at the prison later that day.

“It’s one thing thinking every day about his health, how long does he have, he’s already beaten the odds for so long,” Gemma Porter told CBC News. “And then on top of it to get news like that. Not just cancer, not just unclean, unsanitary conditions, it’s being shot at with (shotguns) and tear gas, that I have to worry about.

“That might be the reason he dies. It’s terrifying.” [NEWSROOM PANAMA]

No low-level, indigent criminal, Porter, according to Wikipedia …

Arthur T. Porter IV, PC, (born in 1956 in Freetown, Sierra Leone) is a Canadian physician.

In February 2004, Porter was appointed Director General and CEO of the McGill University Health Centre in Montréal, Canada, one of Canada’s largest academic health centres.

He also served as Chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee of Canada which reviews the activities of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Canada’s spy agency. He was appointed to the position by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper on September 3, 2008, and along with that appointment, was made a Privy Councillor.

He was succeeded as Chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee by Chuck Strahl.

On May 27, 2013 he was arrested in Panama on fraud charges connected to one of Canada’s biggest health-care scandals. He claimed no wrongdoing. More than a year later, while still in prison, he filed a $150 million lawsuit against the Republic of Panama, claiming damages incurred from his arrest and imprisonment in the country.

That suit cites Panamanian Law 2502 which states that if a person being sought on extradition does not face a hearing within 60 days of their detention, they are to be freed.

He also complained to the United Nations that his human rights had been violated.

As of July 8 2014, Porter was still under arrest in Panama awaiting extradition to Canada

It probably wasn’t that difficult to get comment from other prisoners since many have cell phones … in prison! … and just about any other contraband you can think of.

So what does this have to do with people who are thinking of moving to Panama as expats … normal, ordinary, law-abiding folks dreaming of beaches and rainbows? Probably nothing … but, as my expat friend from Alaska, “Soup” Campbell says, “When you come to Panama leave your expectations at the border.” Paradise? Yes! Different? Yes!

It’s not just Panama …

Jackie Lange’s Panama Relocation Tours recently reposted an article by Marcella Estrada in PANAM POST entitled “Tough-on-Everything Criminal Code Imposes Chill on Ecuador” that is well-worth reading, even if Ecuador isn’t on your list for consideration.  It’s just another caution about moving abroad: check it out … thoroughly!  Don’t just go off half-cocked …

Seventy-seven additional felonies will take Ecuadorians straight to prison, according to the new Organic Criminal Code. The law came into effect this week, and its 730 articles have civil libertarians warning that it will become another tool for the state to expand its interventionist reach, with heavy punitive powers.

If that sounds familiar, like US interpretation of the so-called “Patriot Act” … just remember, “Sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.”

Happy 100th Canal de Panama!

We live in a throw-away society. How long does your toaster work? How long do you keep any electronic device? Use it … works a while then quits, and you throw it away. Yet here is this engineering marvel that stunned the world when it opened 100 years ago today, and it is still working 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It has survived wars, invasions, dictators and still works as designed bringing the world together! Amazing! Happy Anniversary Canal de Panama!

Now …

August 14, 1914

[1913 is the date of construction of the control house - the first transit was 1914]

Panama Canal 100th Anniversary Photo Alblum

A snake in my blanket! No s*#*!!

Well, that was a first!

Yes we have snakes in Panama, about 127 species only 20 or so of which are poisonous, however a few of those are amongst the most deadly.  So we live with snakes.  Once in a while we see one on our finca.  I’m happy to have most of them since they feed mostly on pests.  We even have one, we’ve seen him, a big, long black snake, but I don’t want anything to happen to it because it’s favorite snack is baby fed de lance, the very poisonous snakes.  So we are “snake friendly” for most snakes.  But if they endanger our workers, our workers kids who run around like all Indigenous kids in their bare feet, or can potentially harm us or our dogs … machete time!

Around my finca you watch where you step, which is very good advice since I have three big dogs who are always leaving “gifts” around!

So today, it’s 4 pm.  I’ve been working hard all day on a ship lecture that includes St. Martin, Virgin Gorda and Puero Rico … all in one 60-minute talk!  It’s a challenge, but it is a port intensive cruise with little time at sea for lectures, so I have to pack a lot in.  4 pm.  Nikki made me a delicious cafe mocha out of our own, home grown coffee, with some “extra flavoring” thrown in.  [Little Kaluha, Anejo Rum, and Contreau - try it!]  The fog is rolling in, so I decided to lay down in the hammock and read a book.

I’m getting comfortable on the hammock, and since it’s a little chilly take the throw blanket that’s always on the hammock and was my mother’s, and go to throw it open over myself … and out drops a two foot, pencil thin, squirming snake, right on my chest!  You’d be surprised how fast I can move, and so was the snake!  I start yelling for Nikki and Milton, the guy from next door whom we’ve known since he was nine and is cleaning our cars.

This guy is skinny, the snake, not Milton, but he has a big, almost lance-shaped head ["fer de lance"] is brownish, so Milton fearlessly smashes it’s head while Nikki fends off three very curious mutts.  This is the time for action!  We’ll identify the sucker later, and if he’s a “friendly” and not a “hostile” … well “Que lastima!”

Near as we can figure, and the consensus now of Indigenous opinion he is a “Chunk-headed” snake, actually more thick-headed to have gotten in my blanket.

Being so thin and bearing little weight, the Brown Blunt-headed Snake can move through branches and twigs without causing any movement. The triangular shape to the body and the large dorsal scales allow it to reach out a third of its body length from the branch supporting it. It has that wonderful forked tongue, which is an acute sense organ designed to detect parts per million of scent particles in the air. It also has those two huge eyes which cover a large percentage of the head. They face forward and can give a sense of depth perception, essential for the accuracy of a lightning quick strike that will follow. The unfortunate victim is snatched in its comatose state from the leaf, wrapped in a serpentine half-nelson, constricted and consumed whole before it even knew what hit it.

The eyes of the snake bear some further scrutiny if only to appreciate the cryptic coloration that along with the markings of the snake’s body serve to blend it perfectly into the background. It now becomes invisible to both its predators and prey. [Philip's Blog Philip's travel and nature experiences]

But needless to say it was a surprising first! Never-the-less another interesting creature.