We took an eight-hour bus ride from Panama City to David. It was a double decker, air-conditioned and comfortable. They played movies, El Perro Bombero and some remake of Dracula Meets Frankenstein (?¡). We stopped in David for the night and took the “school” bus to Boquete. It was packed with people with luggage hanging out the back. I was disappointed there were no chickens.
Riding the bus game me time to observe:
- Panama is about the size and population of West Virginia
- the Panamanian currency is, in fact (like the Bahamas) the U.S. currency. Once I received seven dollars in change. The bills were brand new and sequentially numbered.
- Colombians are rumored to be fueling the high rise building boom with money laundering operations
- there were 40,000 Americans (U.S. personnel) during the Canal days; now there are 19,000 ex-pats
- Canal operations yielded $500 million U.S in profits under US. ownership; the Panamanians segmented the market, raised prices and now yield $1.5 billion
Panama has many significant infrastructure development projects underway:
- $5 billion canal expansion
- $1 billion port expansion
- $300 million road from Panama City to Colon
- $300 million cleaning of Bay of Panama
- $189 million rejuvenate Balboa Avenue
- $405 million reconversion of former U.S. airbase, Fort Howard
Meanwhile, construction workers held a series of protests regarding low wages and high inflation. In Colon, several protesters were shot by police and one died. At another protest, 150 workers were put in jail.