Letters Supporting Reasonable Fees
 Sent to the President of Panama, the Autoridad de Canal de Panama, and others

From: Ron Holback [mailto:toucan@worldcruiser.ws]
Sent: Thursday, March 01, 2001 16:49
To: ofasin@presidencia.gob.pa
Cc: commodore@pmbc.ws; aaleman@pancanal.com; arubinoff@prensa.com; director-critica@epasa.com; director-epa@epasa.com; info@pancanal.com; mr@pancanal.com; mrtd@pancanal.com; sdigital@elsiglo.com; staff@wn.com
Subject: Panama Canal Moorage Fees

An open letter to the Government of the Republic of Panama and the Autoridad de Canal de Panama.
I am dismayed at the recent implenmatation of moorage fees for small boats transiting the Panama Canal. The canal makes more than enough money to pay for itself and still provide a tidy profit to the Republic of Panama. Each seperate department does not need to be a money maker as long as the overall operation is successful, so the increase in fees to small boaters simply perpetuates the image of greed and selfishness that the international community has worried about and kept a careful eye on. Please be aware that people as far away as I am here in Japan show a strong interest in the goings on of the Canal and keep in touch with the business of the Autoridad de Canal. Please consider repealing the moorage fees to small boats as a gesture to the world that you're able to run the Canal in a  manner which shows compassion and understanding, along with keeping an eye on the bottom line. There's more at stake than simply making money in the operation of the Canal, there's also dignity, and your reputation. As an example examine the problems of President Clinton; in spite of all the good he's done for the economy of the world he's going to be remembered for his shortcomings and I wish much better for the legacy of the current adminstration of the both the Republic of Panama and the Autoridad de Canal de Panama. Please remember that there are more important things to leave your kids than money; give them pride in the integrity with which you comport yourself and run your country, then you'll have done something really worthwhile. Although a United States citizen I still realize that North Americans are not perfect and should not be telling you how to run your country, so it's as a fellow citizen of the world that I ask you to take a close look at your actions and understand how history will view them.  
Sincerely, Ron Holback

From: Don Parker [ddintl@annapolis.net]
Sent: Friday, March 09, 2001 13:40
To: aaleman@pancanal.com; ofasin@presidencia.gob.pa; mr@pancanal.com;
Subject: News of Panama's punishment of touring sailboaters is

Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of we 'yankee baby boomers' are either now retiring or will very soon. Because of the region's beauty & climate, many, many of us are studying Latin America to understand which potential retirement communities will prove friendly, safe and least likely to economically prey upon us in our golden years. Recently,however, Panama seems to be losing its viability as a possible retirement haven.

Those of us who enjoy pleasure boating have been hearing more and more about Panama's inhospitable and seemingly predatory policies toward cruising boaters - the latest being the sad story of unfortunate Franz Schötz. These stories are circulating among several 'Internet advisory sites' directed toward: retirees, boaters, campers, eco-tourists, worldtravelers, etc. Unfortunately, this publicity is painting a picture of Panama being the 'Banana Republic' type of place that is often joked about (i.e. a country administered by crass, greedy bureaucrats where graft, corruption, bribery, theft, and influence peddling are the accepted way of life). Sadly, this is opposite from the warm friendly image of Panama my family always envisioned, based on stories from friends who lived and worked there over the years. 

While the vast majority of us have no aspiration to sail our little boats through the canal, many do intend to thoroughly tour and spend our pension dollars in the general vicinity. As a consequence of your reported policies toward, and unfair taxation of, vulnerable small private boaters, we are coming to fear Panama as a very undesirable place to visit. Exactly the opposite of places that are actively soliciting us to buy retirement villas, bring our boats & RVs, and enjoy the weather, hospitality and economical cost-of-living - places like Belize, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and, in ever increasing degrees, Cuba.

The wars, international business and exploding tourism of the last fifty years have popularized world travel to the point that most of my fellow workers in a multinational electronics company, regardless of their nationality, are addicted to world touring. Our employees from Germany are especially fond of renting large Recreational Vehicles (RVs) and land touring the U.S & Mexico. Some have told me that they would like to drive south beyond Mexico and tour Central and South America, but they wonder about hospitality, safety and privateering. People from our French and Spanish offices tend to be boaters and often come to the Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico to vacation aboard rented boats, but most fear venturing south of Mexico. After an International Electronics Congress in San Jose Costa Rica, several people from our Bangkok and New Delhi offices pooled their money to charter a crewed 62' power boat for a five day vacation and tour of that country's west coast. They enjoyed it so much that they planned to come back in the future to further explore Central America. Despite their appetites to see the region, I am certain that this sort of negative publicity will concern and dissuade my global compatriots from visiting Panama.

The legendary retirement and/or vacation places, like the southern coasts of France & Spain; southern Thailand; the Greek Islands; Polynesia and such, built their reputations by nurturing individual visitors; thereby fueling worldwide discussions of the inexpensive, affectionate atmosphere they offered to unimportant travelers regardless of how they treated a cruise ship full of money. Pockets within Latin America seem to appreciate this and are preparing to similarly profit from the huge, imminent retirement of the world's post WW2 baby boomers. Panama will not automatically blossom as portions of Latin America evolve into similar world class communities. It could become famous as the bridge under which lives the mean old troll we learned of in children's tales. On behalf of my hundreds of friends and acquaintances who must decide how they will view Panama, I wish you the best of luck in adopting policies that will cause every visitor to praise your hospitality, fairness and honor. And, on behalf of my many friends and comrades who have sold all of their worldly possessions in order to finance a small boat on which they may be trying to tour the world on a very tight budget, I pray that you come to see them not as an inconvenience, or target of opportunity, but as prospective ambassadors of your friendship and goodwill toward all people. Because such individual reports of personal treatment are obviously much more highly valued than advertising propaganda.

Donald Parker
Vice President Marketing (now retiring)
Washington DC USA