Panama papered with money
Panama is a transitory sort of place, a door of sand and rebar where Pacific pressures seek Atlantic relief, South American impetus touches North American markets, and the West Indies just want to finally find the Orient. And my first time there, it was a clanging casino where women with little clothing looked for men who wanted to see them with even less.
The woman I was with had substantially more clothing on, and was just looking to withdraw some cash. (I assure you, we were entirely platonic.) We hoped to be co-passengers on a boat to Colombia, and finding a place for a cash advance in Panama City was harder than you’d think. Our local friend’s advice was to try the casino.
Where do people want money more urgently than in a casino? And where else is there the kind of security that ensures they’ll have money on hand, and that you’ll get to keep it when they give it to you?
While she concentrated on paper forms, I peered at the lifeforms.
In the main room sprawled a crowd of retired, wealthy, and vaguely confused men who looked like they were having fun. But for the withdrawal, we had to go into a higher roller’s room, where the few specimens were quiet, young, and determined to look like movie tough guys. (The lights aren’t that bright, bro, you probably don’t need to wear those thousand-dollar sunglasses. And not much need for a poker face when you’re playing blackjack.) They didn’t look like they were having fun. Too Jason Statham-faced.
“This town is so full of crooks” sighed our local friend. “None of these boys pays taxes. Well, none of these boys work, but their papi’s don’t pay taxes.”
I thought of all the Cayman Island flags I’d seen brazenly displayed on luxury yachts over the years, taunting the taxpayers, and was unsurprised.
“Panama City has long been where corrupt politicians come after they get kicked out of their countries, and they bring their treasuries with them. We’ve got lots of first-class pendejos here.” She added. “But now we get all sorts of shady businessmen too. Okay, ready to go?”
I was, and we did (and the days on the boat were magnificent). But that image, glittering rich people who refuse to pay back to the societies that made them wealthy, came to mind this week when I read about the Panama Papers.
Are they surprising? Not remotely. Are they important, as an opportunity to change this system? Absolutely. I for one am hoping to see something come about from this, beyond forcing the Icelandic Prime Minister to resign.