Photo Finish Friday

He fought the law and the law won.

Homeboy about to be disappeared in Panama City

One thing I noticed right away in Panama was the police presence. Some wore blue uniforms like regular cops, some wore green uniforms that looked like army uniforms, and these guys wore black. I asked Guido (pronounced Gee-do, rhymes with Speedo, you Jersey Shore watching people), our guide, and he said these guys in black were roughly equivalent to the Secret Service in the USA, as we were in a market just down the street from the presidential mansion.

The story behind this picture is we were meandering around the square, checking things out. I was right next to two of these officers when two Indian women, from a booth like this one, ran up to them, pointing and screeching wildly. The cops took off at a run and soon collared this dude. Of course I was in hot pursuit, laughing at danger every step of the way. Apparently this guy had stolen from the Indians and made a break for it. He didn’t get far. I’m thinking next door to El Presidente’s crib probably isn’t the smartest place to take a stab at petty theft.

It was quite dramatic as we loitered near and watched the proceedings. At one time there were probably eight or so officers around him. Ultimately they loaded him in this truck and whisked him away. The perp looked . . . troubled. I commented to Julia that “fighting the power” is all well and good until “the power” shows up in fatigues packing assault rifles and freakin’ baseball bats.

The cops around Panama were usually in pairs, mostly in small pickups and on motorcycles. At least one of them always had an assault rifle or shotgun. We saw them everywhere, and we also passed through at least two sections where they were stopping traffic and checking drivers’ papers. I asked Guido about the police presence and why they were so heavily armed. He said back in ’89 when the US invaded Panama to oust Noriega (another one of our glorious military actions — Operation Just Cause — in the name of “democracy” and other things), he armed the citizenry and beseeched them to rise up in his defense. In the aftermath all of those guns ended up in the hands of people who you probably don’t want heavily armed. In addition, many police and military people found themselves unemployed, and the city saw a boom in private security. All that brings us to today, where the authorities find themselves facing criminals with impressive weaponry.


Photo Finish Friday is the brainchild of writer/blogger Leah J. Utas.

5 thoughts on “Photo Finish Friday”

  1. >Whoever believes a picture is worth 1000 words could not explain 1/1000th of what's really going on in this one. It takes a writer…I had a close call in the 1960s outside the presidential palace in a Central American country that shall go unnamed here. Riding in the backseat of a car, I suddenly needed to vomit, and did so by opening the door beside me and puking into the gutter. That drew the attention of armed guards who came running toward us and then waved us on when they saw what was happening. Gave everyone else in the car a mighty scare, while I was oblivious to it all.

  2. >I was in West Africa a few years ago and was pulled over. My wife didn't have her passport on her but I did. We were within eye distance of the hotel but that didn't matter to the police who wanted some money… Well, they got some money.

  3. >Sobering use of the word "disappeared".Whenever my late father had to go to Jamaica, he always made sure never to go to Kingston during an election year.While he was very much respected in the community, I'm not sure that respect would've carried him out of harm's way.

  4. >Its a reminder of what could be possible. I have vivid memories of a bygone era, not far from me. They were times not to be without armed company on those streets, Police? That was the trouble, even they had to be watched and we were there to protect the system? Things were`nt always black or white.

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