Law enforcement in Panama

Police officers stand guard at the entrance of the Mossack Fonseca law firm office in Panama City

With our 10 years experience living in Panama, we have a few observations of police activities in the country.  As in most third world countries,  one cannot expect the same level or consistency of law enforcement as in most first world countries.  While in Panama they try to replicate procedures and technologies of the USA, it is at best a faint imitation of those proficiencies.

This unlucky young female tourist found out the hard way how inept these agencies can be.  This story is regarding the “Presidential guard”, the supposed elite of Panama, firing blindly at a fleeing taxi who was resisting the police stopping them.  Let’s hope she fully recovers at little cost to her or her family.

This incident reminds us that a majority of the police forces in Panama and other third world countries are some of the lowest paid public workers in the country…meaning they also tend to be the least educated.  Many wear a uniform because it gives them a sense of empowerment way beyond their backgrounds or financial positions.  Having legal use of a gun in a country that heavily prohibits ownership of guns can be a huge ego boost for otherwise very oppressed poor people.

The other problem with this reality is that many police officers take “side jobs” that can sometimes include working FOR the drug cartels or mafias that they otherwise are supposed to be protecting the public FROM.

Our upcoming book on living/working in Panama will highlight a number of stories regarding law enforcement experiences in Panama.  For now, let it suffice to say…tourists and locals alike need to be very careful and show no aggression or disrespect for police in these countries.  Usually, they are the only ones possessing a firearm.


These and many other issues are being addressed in  “The Truth about the Panama Papers”.


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