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Letter

Speaking Out Against Corruption

Ursula Marais, September 1, 2009

Re: Speaking Out Against Corruption

Ursula Marais
Panama City, Panama

People who have protected this land for 20 years are losing everything.

The lack of control and havoc created with the new titling method of beach property in Panama is outrageous. This new law was written for wealthy Panamanian businessmen and politicians to own large tracts of beach properties at $6 per hectare.

President Martin Torrijos passed a law in Panama in April that allows any Panamanian person that has rights of possession to a beach property to get title to the property. The law was supposed to allow peasants that have been living on the beach properties to benefit from a title to their property. The crazy thing is that "rights of possession" means that you have possessed the land for the last six months by living on it, building on it or farming on it.

What this has created is a land war. People are going onto beaches, building a shack, tearing down other peoples shacks, threatening each other and soon will be killing each other in this fight for beach front property.

Companies and wealthy Panamanians are benefiting the most by building shacks on the beach, paying local people to live there, then paying off the local "corigedor" (mayor) to give them a letter stating that they are the rightful owners of the property. With this document you can get Pronat to come and measure the land, and with a few more administrative details you get the land titled. These companies and wealthy Panamanians are then "buying" the land back from these locals who gain small profits and pay the government 25% tax.

President Martinelli's cousin is currently getting a large beach titled in the Veraguas area. He has no right to this beach but has somehow managed to influence government that he does. Alan Beitel, a wealthy Panamanian businessman in the Free Zone, is pushing to get large tracks of beachfront property titled in the Veraguas area. He has allegedly purchased Montosa Island recently.

The injustice to it all is that there are people who bought these beachfront properties from their then rightful owners in the 1990's and before. They filed for title to the land before 2005. But then in 2006 the law was changed and all beach property reverted back to the government.

Now these people who have protected this land for 20 years from logging and other environmental damage are losing everything. What has A.N.A.M. to say about this?

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