Thursday, July 3, 2008


OK, here's the new URL for Living In Potrerillos.  Don't expect perfection--I'll be playing with the new site for a while.

Advance Warning

           I've simply had it with Blogger.  I don't know why all of a sudden it's giving me problems, but if there is candidacy for sainthood for those with no patience, I'm top of THAT list!  I don't want to fool around with it, given other shortcomings.  Right now I'm investigating WordPress out of laziness because Mary uses it for her blog and she can fill me in on any questions I have.

           It appears that I can export all my archives from blogger to WordPress, so that's nice.  But it may be a few days before I'm up and running again.

I hate wasting time.

Price Increases

We eat a fair amount of chicken--it's cheap, we like it, it's healthier than red meat, it's in a good many Panamanian dishes, and Mary makes the most fabulous chicken in the province.  The last is enough to keep chicken high on our menu.  Some weeks ago--say 6 weeks (that warped sense of time again)-- pechuga (chicken breasts) went from $.95/lb to $1.05/lb.  Yesterday, Mary paid $1.29/lb, less for encuentro (leg and thigh joint), but I'm sure it went up proportionally. We buy both, but for some reason, only the price of pechuga sticks in my mind. So, since the beginning of the year, the price of that one item has gone up 37%.  I don't know what El Rey and SuperBaru are selling chicken for at this moment, but when we were paying $1.05, pechuga was selling at El Rey--the most expensive store in David--for $1.49.  I can't imagine what the price is now.  
Beef is strictly for the middle class and higher.  Chicken is the meat protein for most Panamanians, since it's affordable or used to be so for the working class.  Clearly, the working class people won't be able to afford to eat it as much or else they'll switch to the cheaper parts such as alas (wings).  As for the poor--forget it, they're already in deep trouble.
Somewhere I read that the official inflation figure here in Panamá was less than 10%, excepting fuel, of course.  Such official BS flies in the face of what is happening on the food front alone.
Because I haven't had time, I haven't been reading La Prensa daily nor have I been following The Panama News as much as I would like.  However, Eric Jackson has been running a few articles that at least touches on the unrest in the Comarcas, or indigenous homelands, and has briefly mentioned the serious unrest among the poor.While certain increases are not the government's fault, there are other problems that don't make international headlines but are important to the daily lives of the people here that are directly related to the corruption in the government, according to Jackson.  Streets in Panama City, sewers that discharge raw sewage into the streets, the miserable lack of funding to keep up schools, and more.
The Torrijos government is widely considered to be really bad, very corrupt government, with the rich getting richer, thanks to corruption on government contracts (that sound familiar at all?), and the poor getting poorer.  The economy is tanking--in part because of world conditions, without question, but also due to the corruption and indifference of the central government.  
Jackson has said that the only reason that there isn't a more pronounced opposition is that so far, there is no real leader around whom the opposition can coalesce.  I personally think that's hard to do, because there is no good way for an opposition party to get organized and become strong.  For example, Brasil elected its current President, Lula, because the PT, his party, built a solid base, electing representatives and senators, mayors, and--extremely important--governors of the various states.  Here in Panamá, the governors of the provinces are appointed by the president.  It doesn't take much imagination to understand how that weakens opposition organization and strengthens the incentives for corruption.  So, it's much harder to develop a political party within the different provinces.  Labor is somewhat organized but as you can imagine, is concentrated in the major urban areas.  The most powerful union is SUNTRACS, the construction workers union.  There is at least one political party more or less associated with the labor movement, but it's small.
There is also an autonomy movement here in Chiriquí, which certainly has my sympathy.  Chiriquí has tremendous resources which are funneled to the central government and either used in the province of Panamá (Panama City) or stolen.
It's hard to avoid the feeling that Panamá has the very real potential to develop into a powder keg.
An addendum:  Bear with what is working out to be Blogger's inability to take paragraphing commands.  blogger is definitely not the best place to blog--it has some really severe limitations--and today I'm unable to do things that were never a problem in the past.  i've been trying to fix it through the Edit function, but so far....
Not yet used to blogging again, so here's yet another addendum: in today's La Gringa's Blogicito, there is an excellent article about the electricity problem in Honduras. Well worth reading.