More trouble in little Panama

In June, Copwatch mentioned, in passing, that a series of nationwide protests and blockades had taken place in COP10 host country, Panama, recently. Cost-of-living concerns, mistrust of government officials, poverty, inequality and corruption have led to much discontent.

The upcoming arrival of 1200 delegates for the WHO’s conference in November is not likely to lighten the mood. Panamanian news outlet, TVN Noticias, has broken a story on Instagram which must feel like a slap in the face for the country’s struggling citizens. 

“In the midst of a crisis due to the shortage of medicines, medical supplies and hospital structures in poor condition, the Ministry of Health (Minsa) published on the Panama Compra portal a tender for $4,881,732.20 for the organization of a conference against tobacco.”

You can guess what’s coming next. 

“According to the publication made on the portal, this is an exceptional online listing procedure for hiring a company for the organization of the Tenth Conference of the Parties of the World Health Organization for tobacco control.”

It is unclear what is included in the funding, but over $4,000 per delegate sounds steep, perhaps they all receive 24 carat gold-plated invitations. Accordingly, some are more than unhappy that their taxes are being spent so lavishly on a junket for highly-paid civil servants to jaw about tobacco and nicotine. 

“My God, with half of that money” complains Medical Director, Fernando Castaneda to La Prensa Panamá, “we can buy incubators for newborns, thousands of medicines, supplies, and equipment to replace all the damaged ones we have.”

One must presume that Dr Castaneda feels strongly that Panama has its priorities somewhat skewed and that medical equipment is more important than trying to ban nicotine pouches. He has obviously not considered the pride and boost to self-esteem the Panamanian public will derive from hosting a conference that almost no-one knows is taking place and which is held behind closed doors.