Construir castillos caros no es la respuesta: James Cavallaro, María Luisa Romero y Clara Long

Posted in Behind Bars in Panama on May 24, 2015 by doingtimeabroad

Construir castillos caros no es la respuesta: James Cavallaro, María Luisa Romero y Clara Long.

http://m.prensa.com/impresa/opinion/Construir-Cavallaro-Luisa-Romero-Clara_0_3684381629.html

The Revolving Lives Of Prisoners; What we do with TIME which we barely have. 

Posted in Behind Bars in Panama on April 5, 2015 by doingtimeabroad

There comes a moment in history when ignorance is no longer a forgivable offence…… A moment when only wisdom has the power to absolve.

TIME: the one commodity that controls every others, to a prisoner time is of utmost importance; it determines everything around him, his life is lived in a time capsule, he waits on time for freedom, for his survival, even for his ultimate demise if he’s unlucky. Time, we wished and hoped we can control it, twist and turn it around as we want, but time past can’t be undone. We live to look forward to time in the future and how our use of time will determine our time tomorrow.

“Don’t go chasing waterfalls, stick to the rivers and the lakes that you used to. I know you gonna have it your way or nothing at all. But I think you are moving too fast.” – TLC (lyrics #Waterfalls)

But then, if we don’t go chasing waterfalls, how do we grow and do we live all our lives dreaming. But some waterfalls are like ‘building castle in the air’ and daydreaming.

Sat, 21 March 2015

Woke up exactly at 8am, being my day to clean and wash the cell, I might be doing it alone as the young lad hasn’t been dependable lately; one can’t rely on him. Moreover, it’s better for me as I won’t be working out today; this would be my Saturday’s workout ;-)

Started with a cup of strong black coffee with cinnamon, fuelled and fired me through as swept, wash and scrubbed the floor and walls of the cell. Emptied one of the large blue tank, washed it inside-out ;-), did something the lads rarely do; it will take time to round up, but I want to be satisfied with my work ;-) and they don’t like the waiting.

Took down my fan, also to be cleaned and washed, washed the walls of our shower room, which was yellowish-black; the lads rarely do it, they are always in a hurry to finish and get on with gossiping ;-)

Finished and had a proper shower, then came the little lad with his mouth that doesn’t shut up for a second; he tried saying something sarcastically to me, but launched at him before he could utter any words. That sent him flipping ;-), told him not to be a pu**y as they ‘all’ love talking behind another’s back, not man enough to talk to their faces. That sent him out! And better for my peace as it’s been me and my music all morning and with a little help from the old lad who is still living in dreamland; still doesn’t believe his being here is real. He’s always asking me, how I managed to get on all this years; and I always told him ‘trust your mojo’ ;-), accept what you can’t change, change what you can or change your attitude to adapt and adopt to your new world, then will you survived the odds of survival in #Prison. The old lad loves helping out, but the lads doesn’t like him helping, he’s a nice catholic faithful and the only one who truly washes the toilet and bathroom properly.

For the first time my pharmacist-cellmate cooked something else other than rice. Knackered from the cleaning, couldn’t and didn’t want to do anything else; my grocer-mate bought a pound of beef. My pharmacist-cellmate had to cook both rice and the beef; but I guided him through the beef process ;-) using my prized frying pan, which I don’t want them to use as they kept using metals on it destroying the teflon coating ;-)

Added my broccoli to the meat; black pepper and salt and beef season and that was it. A pal upstairs sent me chicken soup; pipping hot, something I needed, ate the soup and afterwards had my rice and beef. Wasn’t bad, the first time my pharmacist-cellmate cooked; he usually buy food from the different chefs cooking and selling in different cells in the pavilion. He also get fortnightly visit from his missus and also enjoys conjugal visit from her, the latter which causes many to envy him ;-), hard for prisoners to have a life of theirs, want to live others when theirs is yet to be lived ;-)

Bloody hot today, well, enough ice in yesterday, should be enough to take us through the day, and there won’t be any tomorrow (Sunday), too bad!

My young cellmate took to the top of the cell, drinking with music blasting from our makeshift sound system, at least it does amplifiers the music from our phones ;-), problem within him and some of his folks; bound to repeat one song over and over again and it’s always Leonel Sawasky (a black Colombian vallenatoe singer); vallenatoe, apparently is Colombian folk music and goes well with aguardiente (liquor flavour with aniseed; and I have tried few here, taste like the french Pernod).

Their choices of music aren’t wide like those of most people; vallenatoe, vallenatoe and more of it and some salsa….then added flavour Mexico with música norteñas ;-). Have learned so much about music of Latino America and I do like quite a lot; I even have a large collections of quality music more than them ;-) thanks to torrents sites.

It’s gonna be a very long noisy night today, only hope he get drunk quickly and fall asleep as that what he does when he’s drunk ;-)

Decided to catch an hour of power nap, ended up with more than hour; woke up rejuvenated.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

My real day of rest, behind bars, one can never have be at rest; but you could be at peace of mind despite the turmoil around you.

Our lives is lived on the edge with anticipation of something that will, could or might happen at any moment; raised voices in arguments of card or board games could turn into something nasty and bloody. A gay and jolly drinking sessions with ‘supposedly mates’ could turn into a free fight for all after alcohol has done its magic; bringing out old wounds. Thus, if these doesn’t happen within 24hrs, then it could be the cops paying us an impromptu visit; Search!, then our hearts are hanging in our throats as none knows what he will lose.

No matter the situation, I try to give myself the calmness I desire; taking my mind out of the situation around me and live my life the way I want to, not the way prison will conditioned me to live.

Like all Sundays, it’s off from the weights and anything exercise, well the only exercise today might be talking, eating, sleeping and my hands working my phone’s keypad ;-)

Spent the day virtually in and around my cell, my close pals are my training mates and we are all connected on social media, thus, we stay in touch there; personally, I hate going to other people’s cells, as not everyone in the cell might be ok with such visit. I’ve made my bunk very comfortable for me and I’m ok with it, thus, I spend my lazy time sitting or lying on it or standing around the cell.

Mon 23, March 2015

Having gone to bed early last night, woke up around 2am, got online briefly, tried sleeping, couldn’t, but finally slept around 4ish and up around 8ish. Around 9am, the whistle went off as the door was thrown opened for an hour or two of patio outside in the yard; the dry season has brought serious drought to panama and has also affected our patch of green field. The grasses are all dried up exposing stones which can be very dangerous, but doesn’t deterred the lads from playing football.

Made a cup of coffee and took a bar of mix trail (honey ‘n oats), and a pack of raisins; enough to fuel my exercise today. Went outside, went through some stretching and yoga routines, been working on Hindu push-ups; gives me a good stretch ;-)

Worked with the monkey bars; hitting inverted rows, dips and also pull-ups. Did some brisk walking, can’t run long lapses as my back hurts on each impact my feet makes with the ground. But, doing enough #HIIT to work my cardio as well, kept me pumping and shredded ;-)

Within two hours, it was all over, the whistle went off, everyone was hauled back inside to our battery cage like caged chickens in an industrial poultry complex; back to our monotonous and sedentary life, the prisoner life.

Straight into the weight room which is also a multipurpose hall; serves as everything for anything or any group activities in the pavilion and also a grand cell for those without spaces in the overcrowded cells in the main building.

Being Monday, the lads knows nothing other than #Chest; hard to change routines, many are working out for the first time in their life here and most are doing it because their friends are doing it.

The gym was packed to the brim, but we waited until we got our turns and started intensively. Added triceps and core routines to fill up the wait time as the group is growing seriously large; we were about seven and I can’t send anyone away.

Finished exhausted just on the nick of time before lunch was wheeled in; half-cooked rice, lentils (will go for it) and greasy pig parts; ain’t going for this!

Inside, enough water came today, all the tanks were filled up; yesterday, sunday, there wasn’t any water in the pavilion, and it got many dipped into their reserves. My cell managed to scaled through the day without anyone dipping into their reserves, but at the end of the day, all tanks were empty except those used in the kitchen. Glad our water problem is gradually taking a place behind us, but doesn’t restore my fait in the prison system yet. It could happen any day ;-) water crisis!

The lads cooked rice and sardine sauce, but went for lentils and the last of my expensive pumpkin I cooked earlier in the morning.  Ate some raisins, and downed an ample amount of cold gatorade ;-)

For dinner my grocer-mate bought half grilled chicken, they had theirs with rice and mine with my pumpkin ;-)

Had a brief late afternoon nap, needed and refreshed. Another shower as it’s grilling hot, it’s almost drought in Panama as there hasn’t been rainfall in a very long while. Hope it rains now! We need it badly, friggin hot, sitting on the passage, I could feel the heat of people as they walk by, and also the stench of their bodies; some aren’t bothered buying deodorants, as the money is better off buying rolls of joint or a line of dope! It’s all about priorities, and prisoners do have theirs ;-)

Decided to hit my bunk early, say around midnight ;-), but ended up reading till nature called to ZzzzzzzLAND!

Tues 24, March 2015

Woke up early, but waited for the lads to round up with their morning rituals, which took a while as those upstairs came down early to use the loo; what on God’s own earth are these lads eating? Probably their system is adjusting to the prison system; store nothing inside, whatever one’s eat, goes out asap ;-)

Finally got my turn and did what I have to do, a cup of green tea and cinnamon got me ready, watery oatmeal came on the breakfast cart; took a cup and mixed it with my dry oats, added a tablespoon of peanut butter and a pack of raisins. That’s enough to fuel my workout of the day today. Brewed strong coffee, added a teaspoon of powdered cinnamon, my preworkout drink, I feel the surge of energy and strength each time I sip some of this, and the lads also noticed the changes in my workouts; like duracell, when others are dropping, it’s then I’m getting recharged, some think I’m juicing, but they know better ;-) it’s all natural!

The gym was packed, but we waited and got all we need for a proper back and biceps routines. Since, my gym group is growing with each day, decided to use the wait-time for other routines, and crossfit routines or #HIIT is the best to keep up with the tempo. With two other lads we got drilled with Olympic lifts and body-weight routines.

Finished and went outside for minutes of brisk-walking and body-weight routines on the monkey bars behind the pavilion. Enjoyed the sun and cool afternoon breeze, much better than our recycled air, which breathe and wallow inside the pavilion.

Finally done and in, the lads cooked their usual food; rice cooked in oil, which I always pass, if I want rice, I’d rather go for the prison rice as it’s cooked without oil. Had cold cereal for my postworkout meal and afterwards beans and boiled eggs from today’s breakfast for lunch. Dinner was salad (mix ‘n match), late in the evening a bowl of oats was enough to send me to bed.

Signal has been terrible lately, but still manage to keep my online presence active with the social media ;-)

Lately, haven’t been doing much of late night browsing as I rarely get my afternoon nap, need the night rest to recuperate for the next day’s workout.

Seen lot of new faces around in the pavilion, and they aren’t from other pavilions, but here; thus, our population is growing on every Tuesday and Friday as those are the days we receive newbies. Though, most will come in looking timid and haggard after spending rough days at the transitional jail; every prisoner’s nightmares. Soon, they will be all refreshed, adapted and adopt to our lifestyles or to their new life behind bars. For some, it’s not the first time, but still, finding their feet on the ground will take a while, but always with help of their compatriots who are always willing to help.  And also ‘help’ by using them as foot-soldiers to hawk their wares for certain percentage ;-), have seen some new inmates who bare spend a day or two in the pavilion hawking all sorts of things around; flipflops, meats, nicked powder milk from the kitchen, foods (mostly fried ones), mobile phones accessories, weeds, clothes and anything else that a prisoner believes he needs to make his life a little comfortable on the inside. The most gets on the lottery wagon; numbers are sold from 0-100, where a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place wins a certain amount of money or whatever they have on for the winning prize; which could range from money to a box of groceries (the latter which some of my compatriots does with their toiletries), it could also be a bottle of whiskey or aguardiente or any other liquor. The lottery system works along with panama national lottery; the last two numbers are picked as the winning numbers; thus, whatever last two numbers comes up on the national lottery, whoever picked that number wins. Smart idea to make money and also to lose; but hardly does anyone loses as you can cancel it if you haven’t made enough money ;-), there’s also betting with football and boxing matches, that really sends the thrills amongst the lads ;-) . Well, despite being slammed away and hoped to be turned in hermits, we are still men, and men will always do what men does; wager, drink, brawls, try to get laid after some lines of white and too-much liquor and also gossip ;-) ‘walls have ears’

Retired to my small-big world; my bunk which some inmates think is rich compared to their austere and dirty bunks; they are just dirty lads who believes having a beautiful haircut and dressing is all.

Wed, 25 March 2015

School has resumed this week, and it’s likely I will be called up today, unless something happens that will cause zero-movement; anything can happen in prison at any time and to anybody.

Got up with two things in mind; school and workout, the first comes up, then the second will be call off, as I won’t be able to make it to the gym after school as school closes by noon and gym by 1pm.

Rushed through my morning rituals and made a cup of tea, while I downed bowl of cold oats with peanut butter. Then the names were called, about twelve of us; dressed up, took my books and my cup of tea outside, but have to wait for another 30 minutes for some dope heads who wouldn’t come out on time; wondering what they are doing.

The 2 minutes to 5 minutes walk upstairs could take a lifetime if the locals are up to their nastiness or the lazy-ass cop mounting the extra security door is busy snorting or running his personal business outside prison business ;-). But we made today’s walk around 10 minutes after waiting for the cop to open his door; who knows where he went to and what he was doing away from his assigned post ;-)

At school, new class and new level; higher than last year’s, but with same dope head locals, always edgy and on the verge of doing something out of the ordinary, but always trying to contain themselves as they need time reduction from going to school or working. Lucky to be in school, they won’t want to mess that chance up ;-)

School was brief, and also bored; guess they curriculum was meant for the locals as the teachers thinks panama is all that. Everything is about how good panama, but they won’t teach or talk about the corruption that is tearing the country apart and the thirteen women murdered so far this year and all the unsolved murders happening every weekend; beautiful, isn’t!

Back in, showered and ate the lentils soup that came on the lunch cart, wasn’t bad after I added some spice to mine. One of the pastors approached me, asking if I will buy cabbages (probably nicked from the kitchen), supposed to be in our salad, which we only get sliced uncured onions, which bring tears to one’s eyes when chewing ;-)

Took a power nap, and woke up waiting for our weekly headcount….. 16:35:30

What a hectic day, despite not working out today. The cops did worked us all up today, the came around 5pm for our weekly headcount, which will last into the night as they made error during the first count. Everyone was counted and sent in, quickly ate my dinner; last of my boiled yam with tuna sauce (of course, nicked pack of tuna from the kitchen sold to me by the locals). Then the call for another round of count and this time, it will be cell by cell. Friggin beggars belief that the prison system can’t just get the numbers of prisoners it’s holding right :(

The cops always come up with outdated list, missing some names, my sixth year here and there’s been a list without my name ;-), why don’t they make such error and send me home ;-)

Well, decided to leave my chair as I want to use the opportunity to do some some yoga stretches; and I did it under the cool evening breeze ;-)

The count went on till around 8pm when they satisfied that none has gone awol or there’s been a #PrisonBreak ;-), well, if there’s any missing, it’s always the cops who does the job, as no inmate can leave without settling with them; #PrisonBiz ;-)

The pavilion is still hot as it’s been all the previous days and still no sign of rainfall; hope it rain soon. Anyway, with enough water and water crisis behind us, one can afford to shower as many times as he wants; some of the lads won’t take that lightly ;-)

Taking my second shower now, but first thing first, gotta drink my green tea ;-), will be tucking in early tonight, if I can though!

Thurs, 26 March 2015

Woke up early as I slept early last night. ;-), went for a cup of strong black coffee as I need a preworkout surge before an early workout today. A bowl of cold oats + peanut butter + raisins served as power breakfast. Left with the cup of coffee with a pinch of cinnamon to the gym and to the surprise of the early birds ;-)

Set up what I could find and get started with shoulders and full arms routines; missed yesterday’s workout as I went to school. Thirty minutes into my workout, my team mates came in, one after the other and we’re surprised to see me sweating ;-)

We went on to have a heart-pumping workout, I introduced them to Olympic lifting which I have been practising for a while now; we went into #crossfit workout of the day, three routines which got them torn in pieces and shattered, but also rewarding as they felt good ;-)

The cop on duty wouldn’t let us out, thus, the gym was full, but we managed to squeezed ourselves into tiny spots as we hit our routines. Prison has taught us how to value and use tiny spaces, no matter how large you are, you are forced to occupy whatever spot you find yourself in.

Back in, had my postworkout meal and lunch of rice and tuna (both from yesterday),  trying not to waste food as most does here; especially when they food are what I need. Showered and took a nap which my body really need.

When I woke up it was around 6pm, didn’t hear or read from schat after our early morning chat, pray she is fine. She later messaged that she fell asleep; got me worried, the world is becoming mucho locos :(

My grocer-mate cellmate who is so lazy about running his business has gotten an apprentice who sits around all day helping, so he can have time to nap or play dominoes or other games ;-). I thought he would have used the time to go out like other old inmates and have some early morning walk and stretch his old joints; but he’s too lazy and has grown real fat since he came here. We always tease him about his porn-addiction and sedentary lifestyle, but I guess, that’s what keeps him happy, thus, he aren’t ready to give them up.

Couple of days ago he ordered smoked pork, what the lad brought him and another inmate today was way expensive; tagged price was $8, thus, he will be paying $16, with that amount we can buy three pounds of proper beef (well, prison-proper —– I meant) .

Cooking, lately is done by me or the boxer-cellmate, while the pharmacist-cellmate does rice as he can’t cook sauce or stew ;-), well, I try not to eat what others cooked as I don’t know how thy go about their cooking.

Decided to make patacones (one of the good things after bachata and merengue from Domincan Republic) with stew using part of the smoked pork; wasn’t bad for dinner ;-)

Went early to bed and was still worried over not hearing from schat; until I got her message late, then I slept peacefully but never deep; but then,n this is prison where anything and something can happen and at anytime and to anybody as we are already in the wrong place and at the wrong time! Never a right time to be in prison; well, maybe there’s, stopping a bad person before he does something hurtful and terrible!

Fri, 27 March 2015

Woke up very early, thanks to my noisy cellmates :(

#TGIF and it’s #Weekend, love weekend as it’s time to rest and recuperate, but also loathes it as I miss workout ;-). It’s Friday and just occurred to me, the catholic priest will be coming for Friday’s mass with the faithfuls ;-)

Hurried through a cold cereal breakfast, armed with a cup of strong black coffee (has become my preworkout fuel), took my push-ups woods, a towel for the floor and a napkin (apparently, cut a towel into four pieces to use as handkerchiefs, bloody hot here). Met some lads working chest; joined them after a brief warm ups and stretching. Started light with high reps and then went heavy till 255lbs for a 3 sets of 8-10 reps. Then came the faithfuls with their chairs. Used another 15 minutes to pull through some intensive routines before I called it off. Went outside to finished my workout under the sun; something I needed, cool breeze despite the blazing sun. The priest later came, but late, meaning, there won’t be workout after the service. Glad I went out early and also continued outside, where we pulled through some cruelly routines #Crossfit ;-)

Having cooked our lunch earlier before I left for my early workout; last of our smoked pork, or whatever they smoked and packed ;-). Had that for lunch and as my postworkout meal ;-)

Showered and did my little laundry; have to wash my gym clothes every day after workout, some lads just keep on using theirs until someone tells them, they need to get them washed ;-)

Unlike Fridays here; a bit quiet all evening; the main tavern is closed; seems the lads been doing business on credit, no capital to get started again. Hope they learn the naked true about prison business; don’t deal on credit. But they are easily fooled; pay once, twice and then you are cedit worthy ;-)

My compatriots aren’t happy with our consul as we had expected her this week, but she didn’t show up; well, I’m used to waiting and hoping, and I also know what to do with those waiting-time – make good use and make myself useful. And I have learned never to hope on ‘men’ and even ‘women'; there can be disappointment and it can hurt real bad. But, my compatriots are yet to learn, even after all these years behind bars :(

Went for an early night as signal is not helping tonight; made the night boring!

Some reading before nature took hold of me ;-)

Sat, 28 March 2015

Another early day; weekly cleaning and washing of the cell. The little lousy-loud young lad will be cleaning. Was up before 7am, finished before he got up, got my stuffs out and brewed me a strong black coffee for the day; dressed up for an early workout as hanging around can and will definitely breed contempt, better I’m far from sight – ‘out of sight, is out of mind’…. well, not all the time with prisoners, as out of sight could be time to gossip about you ;-) ‘what prison does to men’ – very, very sad situation :(

The gym hall which serves as everything was been washed; also the weights storage room was washed. I doubt if the lads will want us to train today as they would want to get back to sleep.

The cop wouldn’t allow us out either as today is our patio which they promised will be soon; which wasn’t. Was able to get about my workout in a spot; burpees, push-ups, rope-jump, pull-ups on our welded bar, triceps and biceps, even added shoulders, lunges and just about everything to make me feel very very good ;-)

Had one of my best workout without weights, and that was enough for the day and week. Called it off; and got in.

My pharmacist-cellmate has cooked a pot of rice, earlier I had ordred 2lbs of lean steak ;-), rushed through the cooking, ate and served others. Then, showered. Then, the door was open for an hour or two outside; many went out, but decided to stay back as I’m done for the day and week.

Later took a nap; one of the best as my pharmacist-cellmate switched off the cell’s main light; which helped me with my sleep. Woke up strong and also starving ;-) had some rice and bled of green tea and fresh mint leaves tea. Not bad!

My cellmate who doesn’t mix well with alcohol decided to drink tonight; it’s gonna be a long night for us. Several cells are also in the mood tonight; probably they are celebrating Monday’s visit which will be family visit, when kids are allowed in. They are probably drinking in celebration as they will be spending some moments with their children. Beautiful, something I long for :(

22:39:41 the drinking party has moved to the front of the cell; but my mate keep coming to engaged me in lazy-lousy talks. But, another cellmate has just sent us out of the cell; lad is having a shyte, and when he does, nobody stays in the cell, he always blame it on his diabetes. Lad is lucky, as he works out; but actually spend most of his time in the gym talking, and that’s they think that keeps him going. He’s always talking, sometimes tells me stuffs he has repeated over and over to me, nice though, when I need someone to talk to ;-)

Saturday night, few are drinking around different cells, but most are tired of all week-long partying. But, my drunk cellmate is so wasted that he fell asleep with a cup half-full of #Moonshine; it actually taste like proper beer, how the lads does it, got no idea; but I still prefer my wine, which I haven’t made in a very long while now. Some of my core ingredients hasn’t been in for a long while; ginger and grapes ;-)

It’s gonna be a long night as my drunk cellmate will be up and about vomiting all he’s been drinking all day; problem with the lad, doesn’t eat well, but loves drinking.

Sun, 29 March 2015

#Sunday, it’s palm sunday today and easter is around the corner ;-), always wanted to sleep longer on Sundays, but once the lot of the lads are up, sleeping longer is out of the question; then the noises awakes also :(

Began the day easy with a cup of green tea and cinnamon tea; cinnamon has become my new sugar, use it for my tea, coffee and cereals and even in my protein shake – when I have one ;-)

The lads are always hungry and wanting to eat something in the morning; but rarely go for something healthy. That has turned me to the dietician and nutritionist in the cell, as I lecture my cellmates on food and what is best for them, especially the aging ones, whose waistlines has been growing since the dropped in and out of sedentary lifestyle :-)

With trying to eat healthy which is very hard here, I’m always telling them to take some time out for walks and stretching of their aged muscles and joints. Hope they do!

The day started well, but everything turned sour and sore as it turns out there is and won’t be water today; we are likely going to dip into our reserves. And to add salt into injury; there’s no ice either in the pavilion and it’s grilling hot inside, not even my massive fan is useful at this moment :(

Left with me alone; everything could be taken (well, everything has been taken, as nothing is left after a man’s freedom has been taken away from him), but leave me with a bag of ice cubes each day, will friggin calm my nerves ;-)

There’s nothing like room temperature here, water in gallons are all below boiling point temperature. Drinking them without ice is like drinking lukewarm water ;-)

I managed to organised what water we have left; filled up the kitchen tanks, and empty whatever tanks we have left into the big blue tanks and sent out instructions that we are on half-tanks today, meaning, anyone taking shower will be using half tank of water instead of a full tank. I believed I was understood, as it was well implemented, most showered twice and I did twice also.

One way to keep oneself cool under the heat is avoiding unnecessary contacts; the pavilion is overcrowded, that one can’t avoid constant contact with others. They are either talking or breathing into your face; imagine the amount of stench one lives with here. But staying in my cell keeps me at arm’s length and far from unnecessary contacts. At some moment, the cell is empty, even my grocer-mate, who now has an apprentice now goes out to place dominoes or whatever board games he chooses; apparently, that’s his form of exercise ;-)

Lately, the lads from pavilion eight has been trooping in here to visit their “Paisanos” and “Primos”, all it cost them is a bottle of soft drinks to the cops on duty. But our lads going to their pavilion, aren’t going there to talk or chat with them; but for another bodily servive or bodily modifications ;-)

The trend has been on since  a lad who did time in US prison was hauled into pavilion eight for whatever crime he committed in panama. While in the US prison, the lad learned something that will become a constant source of income while in prison here; the art and act of body modifications.

He is a tattoo artist and also does some other body enhancement, the latter which has drawn nearly everyone to him ;-)

From words around in my pavilion, quite a lot of inmates are so proud of his handiwork, and few, as I heard have tried it here with our one and willing subject; our reina de la noche (the queen of the night)! Left me wondering who enjoyed the game as she has no clit ;-)

The lad’s service is explicit and pragmatic; works on the mojo of his clients (hummmmm! How many mojos has he been handling since his incarceration and since he started this crude ingenious business)

Business idea; insert pearl into the skin of the penis of his clients, since there’s no pearl here, he does it with dominoes that has been cut, shaped and moulded round as a pearl.

According to testimonials from many of his clients who are now free; the stuff seems to be working wonders in their quest of getting laid. As every good testimonial does, brings prospective clients to the yard; loads are trooping to him to get pearled ;-)

Was surprised when I learnt that my porn-addicted old cellmate has gotten three inserted in his old mojo; lad doesn’t want to retire his machine ;-)

My drunk cellmate also has one done, the young lad who will be released in couple of months from now, has also gotten himself fixed. The first to get his done was my boxer-cellmate along with others. Pearl-in-the-dick has become the trend in the pavilions and amongst inmates now; a returning lad, who’s also my namesake was taken over there by the young lad and also got fixed. The problem is, he doesn’t know when he will be walking out of here; the first time, his lawyers did some magic and he walked away, hope the lawyer will repeat that same magic now as he is in dire need of it; so he can get to try his now sex toy ;-)

We are doing whatever makes us happy and while away our time here; so everyone will always have something to do.

And for the rest of sunday, nothing special happening, apart for what is normal to us; gaming, gambling, rolling and puffing, lining and snorting, drinking and roaring like lions or cubs that most are ;-)

Had a late shower before retiring to my bunk with a cup of water beside me as I tend to drink at night ;-)

Mon, 30 March 2015

Up to use the loo and that was it; water on stove for coffee, will need that today as I will be hitting the gym early. Want to train early today as I and my compatriots are expecting our consul today; the consul visit is supposed to be once in every three months, well, if she shows up today, she kept to her words, if not, there’s still Tuesday ;-)

The visit used to be once every month, but due to the austerity measures implemented back home in The Netherlands, everything has been streamlined, we don’t get as much as we used to, several embassies were closed and workforce streamed; but more jobs.

Had leftover rice and tuna for breakfast, will need enough strength today in the gym. Coffee was black and thick with cinnamon, later took some to the gym.

Visit list was called out and the lads filed out for an hour or more today as it’s family visit; two kids are allowed in with an adult. It’s one moment most of us misses, no families or loved ones around, but thank God for smartphones and internet connection; has kept and brought our relationships very close. We can have real time communication with our loved ones. In the past we were blessed to be able to use video chats, but since the mobile signal jammers were set up after the bloody North Korean sailors were hauled in here; video chats has become history.

With instant messaging, I’m constantly in contact with my family and friends , communication is made very easy and time also passes by rapidly. And with internet; my education continued, all I always want is a good phone with supersonic processing power, and what I have now does the job I need now. I have downloaded ebooks, magazines, articles, audiobooks, magazines (don’t miss out on my favourites), and every newly released songs too ;-). All these has helped me make good use of my time and also help me become very useful with myself. And it clearly shows that with access to books, internet and proper resources in prisons, prisoners can continue with their lives and not live in a time-capsule or vacuum, that, after incarceration, they don’t even know what year it is; thanks to American prison systems ;-)

Meanwhile, while the lads were out for today’s visit, the gym was virtually empty; the few of us there, made good use of the space and all we can put together for our workouts. I did basically Olympic lifts today, rounded up with biceps, abs and loads of bodyweight cardio routines; was well worth my time ;-)

The lads came back with tons of foods, enough food to feed an army ;-), seems what really keeps us going is “Food”, the lads don’t play with their foods.

Back in the cell, water finally came today; enough to fill everything, got me filling up empty bowls and pots ;-)

The lads cooked shrimps and boiled cassava brought in from today’s visit. Decided to go for the last of my rice and tuna and bit of the shrimps, passed the cassava. Black eye peas came for lunch, got a bowlful which will serve as my dinner with hard boiled eggs from today’s breakfast.

And my consul didn’t show up today, she has left the lads in limbo as they are broke and some are in debts; they are likely going to flog all she will be bringing in order to pay up their debts. Hope she comes tomorrow, and if she doesn’t show up, then, it will be next week, after the #EasterBreak :( then the visit is no longer every three months??

Took a long nap after lunch, drank gallons of water today; still hot and sticky! One thing I found out; since I stopped drinking the prison water, my cough has also stopped. Reminds me of an article I read online; about former inmates who sued the prison authorities because of infections they had from drinking from the prison water system. It was stated that the water supplied to the prison is processed from a water plant in Chepo (a little town right outside the prison entrance gate), and the water gets very poor treatment, remnants of faeces and harmful bacteria were found in the prison water system. Mineral water are sold here, but how many of us can afford them on a regular basis? I have just two options; buy mineral water when I have money or boil the prison water before drinking. Whatever is preventable is worth preventing ;-)

After my short nap late this afternoon, up and brewed a cup of green tea, infused with aniseed tea; refreshing ;-)

22:11:00  – my cellmate who’s been drinking all weekend is now going through his demons of hangover; vomiting, hope he cleans the toilet when done. Lad can’t handle the bottle, and can’t figgin resist the damn thing either. Little does he and others know; the greatest battle for a man is the battle against “self”…. if you can fight and overcome those little urges, build up a strong resilience and willpower, you can learn to say “NO” and “YES” at the appropriate time!

Finally, pray signal will be on my side as I want to get his publish tonight ;-)

“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis” – “In dangerous times, there is no greater than inaction”

Don’t get stuck with the thing that ruins your day. Smile and be happy. Life is too short to be wasted on negative thinking. #prisonexperience #survivingprison

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” – Michael Jordan

The ambiguities of prison incarceration; double lives of prisoners.

Posted in Behind Bars in Panama on March 21, 2015 by doingtimeabroad

The ambiguities of prison incarceration; double lives of prisoners.

If we do good because we hope for reward and fear of punishment. Then, we are a sorry bunch of people indeed…… An intelligent person doesn’t need the promise of heaven to do good! #PrisonExperience

Saturday, 7 March 2015 18:34:46

The ambiguities of incarceration:

Anything can land a man into prison to spend time with shoal of humans of all sorts. In this part of the world, you don’t necessarily have to be a criminal to find yourself in prison; being at the wrong/right place at the wrong time can land one automatically into prison. And on the inside, one’s ordeals has just began, a lengthy process that can become indefinite has been set in motion. If you are unlucky, you could be thrown in and forgotten by the authorities who threw you in.

To the normal thinking humans, prisons are supposed to be a place to punished and correct wrongdoings. But, to the authorities, it’s simply a place to punish wrongdoings and let the prisoners rehabilitate themselves if they want. While to some of the incarcerated, it’s a place where life goes on, but in a different sphere.

Being locked up in #Panama has thought me the ambiguities of life behind bars; I have learned to see, feel and experience incarceration in two different views. You are severely punished for whatever crime you committed or suspected to have committed. But then, you can turn it around to you benefit or lose it entirely and allow the prison experience destroy you.

Interpretation of laws in some countries can be archaic and outrageous; people are hauled into prisons without evidence and trials. But then, once you are on the side of the bars, your voice is silenced forever. And forever could literally become forever as inmates were left here without interrogations, trials for years as they had no money to hire lawyers. Panama’s legal aid lawyers are a miss for any prisoner who doesn’t have money to fuel their cars or charged their telephone; they always demand something.

Hauled in, one is left to his own fate and destiny; and the final destination can be inside the walls of that prison as it has been for many who never walked out of here alive but wheeled out either in our wheelbarrows or carried out in black bodybags.

Thus, once inside, your survival, your fate and destiny lies in your hands; how soon you can adapt and adopt to live on the inside, and one which many have failed to realised!

Once inside, and from my experience here; prepare for the unknown, failure to prepare will likely caused some ills; breakdown, physical and emotional scars and can even caused death!

In prison your life can be falling apart around you and everything’s still fine with you….strange things #Hun! (hyperbolical). When everything around you, what you have to do and life becomes monotonous, you begin to feel the monotony and start losing control of the circumstances. It’s then you know you are F**KED!

Managed to publish a blog that took a while to complete, I’m probably becoming lazy;-) tweeting more, but still writing as it keeps me busy and also allows me play with words as they play with our fates.

Saturdays are my dreaded days as I’m always thinking of sleeping a bit longer, but have to wake up before 8am for the general cleaning and washing of the cell. Some cells actually do theirs daily; so much time in their hands, nothing to gossip about ;-). Reminds me of a lad next door; sweeps the passage in front of his cell and mine every afternoon, despite the fact that it’s been swept by the workers (prisoners doing community services for time reduction). I opted for school, at least get to brush up my español ;-) ….lately, there are two teams sweeping the passages and changing the bin bags; first team works around 4/5am and the second team around 2pm. The problem is, there is no specific work programme from the government for inmates to do for rehabilitation or time reduction, thus we have to come up with something… ingeniously prisoners ;-)

Ours, we stick to daily washing of the toilet and shower corners in the cell. While the general cleaning and washing of the cell is done on saturday morning, and that is, when there there’s water or if the person is not sleeping out his hangover ;-) , it involves taking out everything on the floor outside and it’s  done every saturday by 8am upwards.

Some Saturdays, instead of sitting and wait for them to finish, I might decide to hit the gym or outside, if the cop will let me for a dose of cardio or an all-body workouts.

Today decided to wait, as I planned taking an early shower and back to sleep. Didn’t worked as planned, when they finished. Had two cups of coffee with cinnamon; cinnamon had now become my sugar ;-).

Back in, things in their places, had to cook our lunch; beef stew, while another boiled rice. Our electric cooker has finally packed up after five years in service; we really used our money’s worth ;-), most who bought theirs same time with us, have gone on to buy two or three more. I’ve always tried to be strict with its usage, even the glass cover is still intact. Like everything in prison, after losing its primary purposes and functions, it’s still valuable and useful for other purposes; there are two holes in the pan and the heating element is broken. But we can fiix it and turn it into an oven ;-). Buy new element, make a stove and place the pan on it to back bread, cakes or any type of dry pastries; necessity, they say is the mother of all invention!

My mate who just returned from hospital after two months in admission (lucky chap, though money talked and lawyer worked), for type 2 diabetes and other ills that comes with age and unhealthy lifestyle. He’s back with his workout routines, that’s one thing that really helped him, back in his active years, he was very sportive, and has been keeping that up. Others with his type of his are having serious complications as they are too lazy to move around. A Chinese inmate who was here, spent months in admission for diabetes also, finally released, died from complications from the diabetes upon release. One can live with any ills if you only know how to live around it and keep it under control.

Spent most part of the day in the cell, very hot, and the place is congested; that we are breathing each other exhaled air! Pathetic!

Another lad is back for the third time, each time he leaves, he goes home toned and muscular, but when he comes back; added extra ton of fat. He now look three times what he was when he left here. He promised to join my training group ;-), he’s welcome, apparently, he’s my namesake, but spelt in the spanish way ;-)

One of the lasses from pavilion two has been coming around; well not for fleshy community services, but to fix some of the lads hair. Once she walks in, the atmosphere in the pavilion becomes charged with some new energy, catcalling, with the lads popping in to see where she is going to; if the cell has curtains or not ;-). I guess, most are tired with our only shemale who has been getting all the attention here. The ladee from pavilion two just love the atmosphere and the way she is been treated by some of her secret or rather openly admirers ;-)

Some do go as far as offering her sodas and I believe in return gets her phone number for nightly chats and trading of photos; one’s life can be falling apart, but everything around you seems perfectly ok #PrisonExperience

Another young lad, who’s stumbled into the world of cyber sex and internet porns, barely understand what he’s up to, brought his phone to show me his new-found online love. Well, upon going through and what was before me on the display picture was a naked lady with part of her face cut off; all the messages that he has received from her were in either Indonesian or Thai languages, but the lad believes all the messages were for him. He actually sent her or him (whoever was behind the number on whatsapp) pictures of his little wiener (being a little fella) ;-)

Couldn’t help but laugh myself to tears, he’s not alone in such folly, most lads here are sending pictures of their whatever to ‘supposedly to be women’ they meet online. Quite a lot could be done with our smartphones, but we rather indulge with what will keep us happy and satisfied with them ;-)

Well, it’s all about doing and passing time! Whatever that will keep you going and take you through each day, so long it doesn’t hurt the next man. Just do it ;-)

Being saturday, had expected another round of weekend fiestas, but it was quiet until later in the evening when some lads just couldn’t hold their peace any longer, music and bottles or cups of liquor and cervezas were let loose. The lads had their full, but kept it low and quiet, had to hit my bed early as I was knackered, didn’t get to nap during the day.

Was in bed around 11pm or a bit later.

Sunday 8 March 2015

Got up several times to use the loo, drank too much of liquids yesterday; water, tea, fruit juice, and coffee. Lately, it’s been pretty hard on me; chest pain and irregular heart beat at night. Spoke with my consul about it and I need to see a doctor urgently to know the state of me health. After doing several research online, doesn’t look like something I should be smiling about. But then, what can I do; self-medicating is all I’m on now. The locals are selling all sorts of medicines nicked or what they were given at the clinin here; went through them and found some useful ones, spoke with Doc about them, advised me on usage, been taking them and seems to be helping. Some of lads buy whatever is sold without prior knowledge of what they are buying or finding out what they are buying and about taking!

Surviving prison in panama entails so much, not just being free from violence, one’s health is very vital and that’s the more reason I stick to my daily workout routines, and also trying to lead a ‘healthy lifestyle’.

Started the day with healthy breakfast; pancakes with hard boiled eggs from yesterday’s breakfast; the eggs were from next cell, the lads there barely eat eggs, sometimes my cellmates eat theirs, sometimes they just leave it. Made enough pancakes for all eccept the two who are eating on their own; they prefer buying cooked food from the many food vendors in the pavilion. Food; that’s one thing prisoners don’t joke with, you can take their freedom away, but don’t take away their food ;-).

Cooked our lunch also, sometimes I prefer cooking than have my gay cellmate cook, well, I don’t eat whatever he cooks; lad is very dirty. Saw him once wiped his nose with bare hand and cleaned it on his shirt, and went on cooking. I rather eat the prison food, which I don’t know how they’re prepared than eat the rubbish that I’m seeing right in front of me.

When he cooks, he dumps everything into the pot at the same time, and at the end, vegetables are all black and uses lot of salt, well, they all eat lots of salt and sugar.

Cooked beef stew; with just enough beef for four people, added the last of my chicken thigh from yesterday. Whoever wants to eat will have to fry eggs and have it with the sauce and rice!

Meanwhile and elsewhere in the pavilion, serious party has been going on since morning. A lad marking his birthday had his friends by and they turned the whole place white with baking flour (latin American tradition of bathing the celebrant with flour or talcum powder). Litres after litres of our locally brews; beer and liquor consumed. The lads seems to be extremely well-to-do; tomorrow will come with its hangover ;-)

My gay cellmate’s dealer/pharmacist isn’t hiding his business with my cellmate; he flaunts his business like others selling phone recharge cards, marihuana, clothes, shoes, food and whatsoever is sold here. But, the funny thing about him, he doesn’t shout or scream out until he’s in front of my cell. Then we hear him scream out “Si Hay Perico” (Yes, there’s crack).

It was the same crack that landed my gay cellmate in the slammer, and the same crack is ruining him gradually. He prefers that to eating healthy; and the drugs seems to make him a sort of kind gentle fella. Doesn’t trouble nobody, he sort of make the lads happy when he’s drunk, thus, he’s much needed wherever there’s moonshine.

We also have our unwritten rules in the cell; he must not do drugs in the cell and if during our impromptu search, cops happened to find wraps of coke, he should own up and tell them, they are his! Period and case close!

I have seen lads do extra time for flimsy ounces of weed and coke! With our liquor, they are taken away and thrown out, no punishment or extra time!

Elsewhere in the pavilion, a Turkish inmate, guess the only supposedly Muslim in the pavilion, though doesn’t seems to be practising his faith like many so-called Christians here. Well, there’s a Jordanian who is back for the second time after six to seven months in the immigration waiting for Ecuador to pick him on extradition, and panamá won’t release him as Ecuador didn’t come for him.

This Turkish once timid when he newly came, is now becoming extremely weird; lad is dealing dope, and also snorting it. Too bad, that think will f**k him up. Prison can make and unmake some people, depends on how you see it. It can really f**k people up!

Lad was kicked out of his cell by his cellmates, after repeatedly seen snorting and walking around the cell looking friggin f**ked up; lad got his mates up most nights as they are too scare to sleep with him under the influence of his products. On different occasions, he’s also been caught shagging our shemale in his bunk; but that is something I won’t believe, as our pavilion is an open-plan pavilion with cells that no secret is a secret.

There’s no hidden place to do anything without being seen, well, some still managed to steal modem from routers without being seen; well, that was a group coordinated job. Like our shemale nightly job; well coordinated with our vampire whom I haven’t seen in days, down with food poisoning, and having serious bouts of diarrhoea, lads needs medication ASAP!

He arranges clients for our shemale and also the spot; dark corners (alleyways) in the passage is always their shagging or business spot. While she is at work, busy satisfying her client, our vampire does the watching for any incoming intruders, sometimes, inmates have walked into them, but as with everything here; friggin mind your business—– they just walk past —- see but don’t tell. And that’s every prisoners problem; they see and can’t friggin keep their mouths shut, they love to gossip as there aren’t much to do or talk about positively ;-)

Back to Turkish, his mates decided to kicked him out of the cell. Thus, he’s now floating around, but end up sleeping on top of the cell every night. His mates are too scared to have him inside the cell. Such is our lives here; abide with our simple uncomplicated unwritten rules and you can spend years here without problems.

People are doing dopes daily, but also contained themselves and their cellmates get along with them without problems. Like in my cell, we all know that our little gay-cellmate has graduated from snorting to puffing cracks, and it’s wounding him seriously; losing weights, gambling excessively, and I have never seen him sleep around midnight; always around 2am to 4am every night. Despite his lifestyle; though we’ve tried talking him out and doesn’t work, we’ve learned to live with him the way he is.

It’s the prison responsibility to punished, correct and rehabilitate prisoners. But in panama and even in most developed or first world countries, prisoners are left to correct their wrongdoings and rehabilitate themselves; addicts are left to their own vice, continue or kick it. At the end it’s all about self-control, self-discipline, self-raising, self-rehabilitation and self-redemption.

Most that I have seen here, tried the church, which didn’t help, as they still kept up and on with the hidden lifestyles they are trying to drop. Others tried withdrawal methods, but sooner than they thought they will endure, they were back in the game. There’s just gotta be a way out and that way is #Willpower and #SelfDiscipline, and those are two lacking virtues here! As for patience, we’ve all learned to cultivate it, even those who never believe in it before are now champion of it; lawyers and the system has thought everyone of us how to be patient ;-). Everything in prison revolves around it and money of course; patience is what prison gangs thrives on, patience is the lawyer delay tactics after collecting large sum of money from inmates. Patience is everything! And then hope crowns them all!

Monday 9 March 2015

Monday; woke up to a new day and brand new week with so much to face, overcome and to do, most importantly with uncertainties and circumstances that could be beyond my control. But then, like every other circumstances that has come and gone, I will alway find my way around them.

As others went through their morning rituals, I waited in my bed, finally got up to get about wiith mine. My boxer-cellmate has set up the beans I left in water overnight on the stove. Quickly boil water for my morning tea; green tea and cinnamon ;-)

Had cold oats with peanut butter and raisins, enough to fuel me through my excruciating chest workout today.

Late to the gym as I have to round up with the beans, can’t leave it for the lads as they always tend to forget and allow things to get burnt.

The gym was semi-packed, few were outside walking and talking. My training mates were already on Inclined and declined chest routines. Had to set up a set of dumbbells before I got into my warm up routines. The group was way too large, thought I won’t have a good workout, but quickly set up other things to do while they take turns; inclined push-ups, triceps with dumbbells, planks and hanging leg raise. Well, just did about anything to keep me up as we were 8 working out together. Managed to pull through the workout and finish with flatbench and pullover.

Went outside, the sun was blazingly hot, bit windy, though our patches of grass have all turned brown due to drought that has hit panama or probably due to the dry season. Enjoyed the weather as I went about body-weight routines, yoga stretches, worked on the monkey bars behind the building; dips and inverted rows. Finally called it day and in to my postworkout meal of beans; filling and nutritious, added two fried eggs to it, not bad after a cruelly workout. Others had beans and rice which they cooked while I was outside.

After shower and washing my clothes; something I do after each workout, and there are inmates using same clothes everyday to the gym unwashed. Can’t stand such, but then, it’s their lives and this is prison; all man to himself!

We had an impromptu meeting in the cell; and it came up all because of Turkish, the new lad hanging out with our shemale and who’s now kicked out of his cell by his cellmates.

One of the old lads in my cell; also new! Wanted to switch bed/cell with Turkish, as his cellmates gave him the option of either selling his bed or switching it with someone else. And the old lad in my cell, having a friend in that cell, wanted to switch. Me, being the oldest or longstanding inmate in my cell objected to that idea; telling him, I can’t afford to live with a dope dealer, who, not only sells but also uses his products. The using part, was what got Turkish mates scared and threw him out. Told them, the little gay, who lives with us; as we all know uses, but doesn’t do anything in the cell, and I have learned to live around him; doesn’t cook for me, when I cook, I offer him if I want to as I’m not obligated to serve anyone here.

As we all talked, he gave his reasons; being that the gay lad is very dirty, and uses his ladder (he sleeps in a makeshift bed, which is accessed by a ladder, welded to the bed frame), and the gay lad sleeps in a hammock, hanging up high in the middle of the cell. The old lad talked of many instances the young lad has hidden toilet papers filled with phlegm in the corners of the ladder and also wipes his nose with hands and climbs his ladder; several times he has woken up to touching phlegm on the ladder..yuuuuuks! ;-)

We ended the meeting, agreed that Turkish ain’t moving in here; the devil you know, is better than the angel you don’t know! And we reminded our gay cellmate, whatever he does outside the cell, stays outside, we want him to be clean and kept to personal hygiene; no more stocking of food for days until they got rotten, and he has to wash his hand after using the loo; can’t believe there are still adults who don’t know they have to wash their hands after taking a shyte. Pathetic!

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Day 2 into our silent hunger strike protest and I believe it might be the last as we are running out of what keeps us going; FOOD!

The convenience stores dotting several cells and corners of the pavilion are running out of essential commodities; rice, beans, lentils, canned sardines, sugar and most importantly ICE! Without ice, sodas and all sort of drinks can’t be sold and for me, without ice it’s gonna be like a second hell here, need ice to drink my water and need it more after workout.

I’m up for the day as the lads are busy with whatever keeps them busy. There’s always something to gossip about; on the table now is the political scandals rocking #Panama and ex president Martinelli’s cronies or crooks. Some of them are already on the inside, ex supreme court #MoncadaLuna has been sentenced to five years imprisonment and as fate would have it, he’s doing his time beside Panama’s former strongman General Noriega. Apparently, under Panama’s constitution, Noriega would have been free after the French sent him to Panama because of his age (prisoners above 65 could be allowed to do time at home instead of being locked in prison).

It was the same now-jailed ex supreme Court judge #MoncadaLuna who signed that Noriega be locked up. And now, who laughs last ;-) ;-) ;-)…… guess, the old General will be laughing like Kojack ;-)

Went outside as the door was still open today; had an excruciating all-body workout, and enjoyed the warmth of the sun, which many were running from. We don’t get much of it as we spend most of our days locked in.

Back inside, heard there won’t be ice today; and it’s bloody hot inside. Drank enough water to cool my organs ;-) and spent about an hour in the shower. Would have murdered a cool bath or a swim in the pool now. But then, I’m thankful that we have enough water; made use of two tanks.

Had a quick lunch and tucked in for a much quicker nap; friggin knackered like a tired and worn-out horse. Needed the sleep as it’s too hot in the pavilion, and the pavilion itself is alive with sea of humans; each a walking dynamite with whatever they are breathing out.

Like always, my days are spent in the comfort of my cell and later at night in front of the cell, sitting right under my router for better signal reception.

Thursday 12 March 2015

Up and rushed through my rituals; since I always sleep late, I always wake up around 6am to use the loo and then back for an hour or two of sleep; well, doesn’t work all the time, noise! Sometimes, just lying back, meditating and pondering the affairs of the day helps me prepare mentally for the day and what will come; though some could be beyond my control, but I do give in my best to get it under control.

Pot of water for tea; discarding the one my mate boiled earlier, always use fresh water for my tea! Had a oats-honey bars with peanut butter with my tea; green and cinnamon tea! And then coffee for my preworkout ;-)

Hit the gym; bit scanty, my group hitting back today, but decided to join a lad on the squat rack; got my knee bandages, went hard with the lad. Thanks to recent articles I read online, I think I can handle squat despite my backache. But always careful!

Was almost done when my training mates came out; got them into their routines while I rounded up with squats. Joined them and we went through out routines. Then introduced them into a new type of workout I have been reading and studying for weeks now; #BarbellComplexes! After studying and secretly practising, I believe it’s what the lads need to get them off their plateaus ;-)

Took them through five routines, excruciating and got them panting; but only 4 reps of each each routine. They liked it and looking forward to starting the routine on Monday; Oh! Monday happens to be our visit day, hope not of all them going out! Then I might have to workout alone!

Rounded up with abs and back in; peanut butter and cereals as my postworkout meal. In the cell, our stove is giving us issues, being the oldest in the cell, the lads expect me to do everything. But decided to turn a deaf ear to them as they discussed and kept each other silence on the stove issue.

A nap was all I needed to refreshed my knackered body; took an hour nap, woke up when the lads serving dinner couldn’t help screaming “Comida”! Nothing on the cart looked edible to me, to others, they will make a feast of all that came on the cart. My mate got me slices of onions and tomatoes and they called it “Salad”, the onions was not cured; very raw! Hard it with eggs from breakfast, after I worked on it! And that was my dinner!

Stayed up a bit late, until someone kept sneezing and coughing and sending spittle over my body, had to get and clean myself; too bad as someone have to teach them how to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze! :(

Cell next door; an ex boxer, a former world champion is drinking with his buddies; music is vallenatoe and anything latino; well not spanish as I didn’t hear any spanish music from Spain ;-)

Panama being home to one or two of the world’s boxing federation does have a handful of world champions and few have earned some prison time added to their titles. One was with us in Renacer and had #DonKing paid him a visit; that visit spurred the lad’s released, after the visit, he was reformed and rehabilitated ;-) released and sent back to his gangs who came to welcome him in their thousands.

Others weren’t fortunate to be sent to renacer; the Five stars of panama prison according to ex presidente Martinelli, who will be cooling his ass there soon; some of mates are there and others in the new prison “They” inaugurated!

We happened to have one here and lad drinks like a fish, but doesn’t miss his training; his got couple of lads he trains with and he’s really doing a good job with the lads. He once knockout another inmate who was too full of himself ;-), the video has gone viral amongst inmates, and I believe it’s spread throughout the prison system ;-).

I left them to their music as they drank all night, but finally cut it off before I slept!

Friday 13 March 2015

#TGIF and also #Weekend, woke up early, but got loads to do in the way of preparing my meals ;-), can’t rely on the prison food to supply the needed nutrients ;-).

Waited as the lads went through their morning rituals, dressed up for the day; for the gym ;-)

Breakfast came; bread buns and a cloudy water, they say is coffee and milk but taste like roasted brown beans. This is prison, anything can pass as food, so long you stay alive after nibbling on that anything ;-).

Had planned of having boiled broccoli and fried eggs, but thought of my postworkout meal; prepared the broccoli and green pepper and left them for later. Had two round bread with peanut butter and a cup of the coffee thing; added cinnamon to mine. The lads can’t friggin understand why I always add cinnamon to my coffee ;-)

Also set a pot of brown beans on the stove; soaked it since 8pm last night. Taking easy with beans now, since I read an article about beans, but won’t stop me from eating them; but have to cook them probably.

Too late for the gym as our time slot is taken by the catholic church; having a Friday mass. The priest, as I heard is on his way to the pavilion. And the catholics here are the most faithful crooks around; pretty fatal lad, vicious with mouths like Lions ;-). I love prisoners who are religious; they tend to make you want to believe, but at the end, fooling themselves. I have learn to keep my faith to me and in my heart and practice the golden rule “Love thy neighbour as thyself”…. faithful in that, you won’t nick your neighbour modem, money, weed, coke, onions, and you won’t snitched (well, they snitch part needs a second thougt)! :-). The lads, got bible in their hands and blades in their pants; the locals can play football with long blades in their pants. That got me wondering how they run, tackles and dribbles with that sharp object in their pants and closed to their weiners? ;-) ….. practice makes perfect…. professionals!

Hustle my way outside, only for the cops to ordered everyone back in as the Ladees in Pavilion 2 were having patio; ladies recreation ;-), loads of them, maybe a trailer load of them were dumped there; natives Indians, gigantic ones, and very fat ones and a skinny who’s proobably snort-sleeping; lad friggin look like he’s been vacuumed dry ;-)

We talked the cop into letting us for another 10mins, for the next 15/20mins before he came back, I had one of my best workout, ignoring santa claus “the only sikh in the village”; dude kept bugging me with how good his sikh brothers are; best soldiers in the world, best scientists and blablablabla… I got him mad… when I told him, ” doubt if they are the best in bed” ;-). Just wanted him to leave me alone to my time-crunched workout. Fact is, like many people, he needs someone to talk to; but, as I have come to understand, he’s mental; talks absolute rubbish or basura as the latinos will say. As I good prisoner that I want to be; I always lend him my ears, but he always pushes me to the edge when he gets into his religio and how they are the best; forgettin how Sikhs were slicing each other in India and inside one of their temples couple of months ago, when religion became politicalised! I actually read that news! He doesn’t like my wits; too cheeky for him to fool. He tells the lads he’s a programmer ;-), did asked him if he programs coke? ;-)

Good workout, but still feeling the surge of energy as I want more; inside, beans still cooking and the lads engaged with the news; helping the newscasters finished their stories; something gotta keep everyone busy!

Finally, the priest rounded up around 11:40am, rushed in, setting up flatbench, and the incline bench; got my mates to set up and get started. We went on to have one of our best chest workout in less than one hour. During my pause, hit my abs and triceps. We were done before 1pm for next group; handballers!

Panting and inside, ice finally came in, got a cup and down a cup of gatorade; bought a pot of 2kg for $25 :( bloody expensive!

Three light fried eggs and broccoli and a handful of rice from the prison lunch cart was my postworkout meal; broccoli is bloody expensive, the sellers won’t even eat it. I’d asked him if he doesn’t eat it, lad said, it’s too expensive for him. But, he’s friggin selling it ;-)

Lots of water, showered and washed my gym clothing. All our tanks filled, thus, there will be general cleaning and washing of the cell tomorrow.

Decided to take a nap; slept well, about 2 hours! Got me refreshed and rejuvenated. But woke up starving and also missed the prison dinner; I’m always on the lookout for healthy options on the cart; well, that’s, if there’s any!

When I came in from the gym; my grocer-mate has bought 2lbs of beef (very old beef), marinated them before napping; one to be cooked today and the other tomorrow. My boxer-cellmate doesn’t eat with us anymore, just the two of us; saves money!

Decided to make patacones and prepared the meat like a cowboy; onions, buffalo sauce, black pepper and garlic. Wasn’t bad with the dip I made. Dinner served and eaten; downed mine with a cocktail of grape juice and a shot of my liquor ;-). Good food deserves a good drink ;-)

Cell next door; the lads are going back in time with their choice of music, probably to when one of them got slammed. He probably will call them #OldSchool, but I will call him “Stock-in-time”, he’s friggin living in a time capsule or vacuum. There are better music and good music for people like us and in our situation now; if only they know they power of Torrents ;-)

And Gringo #ElLoco who’s in for supposedly molesting under age girls has suddenly become very very religious; not missing out in any of the two churches, well, santa claus does same; but only when there’s food and drinks ;-) #ReligiousPrisoners

Gringo, is definitely loco; he barely sleeps, sees visions and talks of heaven; old soldier, Vietnam veteran, one, I believe America has forgotten because of the nature of his crime in panama; crime that was never proven that he committed. Too bad! But at this stage of his life after surviving a bout of tuberculosis, he’s become very religious and also very frail! But doesn’t stop him from puffing joints with his Jamaican pals who are siphoning him off his little pension or whatever money he gets from uncle sam as a disabled veteran.

00:20:07 on Saturday 14 March 2015

Not noisy as it used to be on a typical Friday; probably the lads are on reflection mood tonight; reflecting and lamenting silently about life and what it has thrown at them.

Reminds of the lad that hung himself in pavilion8; he literally made our silent and nonviolent hunger strike a bit meaningful as it came on the news. Lad called home, a man picked up, knew his missus his caning another; he freaked out and hung himself, which wouldn’t stop his missus from canning the other man. Wrong move!

We develop strength from adversities and trials, prisontime should toughen one resolve about life; but some men will always remain ‘weaklings’ no matter how long they spend behind bars.

The water hole on our side of the pavilion seems to be opened, but a bit too late, wondering how many people will be binging tonight. Both sides of the pavilion has gotten a watering hole and both serves inmates from either sides; as many seems to patronised their compatriots. One is a mexicano and the other a Colombiano; both has got their faithful clients; mostly on credits. I prefer the mexicano, lad was first in the business and does pretty well; but can’t tell of the water he uses! Don’t indulge like most; occasionally to celebrate with schat when it calls for ;-)

00:29:07 The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony playing in my earphones; one song that has kept me going!

“But I’m here in my mold, I am here in my mold. But I’m a million different people from one day to the next….I can’t change my mold, no no…. Well I’ve never prayed but tonight I’m on my knees, I need to hear some sounds that recognise the pain in me…..

Better than what my mate next door are listening to; ice ice baby! ;-) they are stuck in time — when they got nicked, little do they know, music has evolved and changed; well more of copycats now, hardly any originals.

Just read of a judge awarding Marvin Gaye estate millions from William Pharell and Robin Thicke after they nicked Gaye’s music into their Bluured Lines hit! Good music, but loads of plagiarism these days!

Well, it seems the lads at the watering hole are up and about, and in for business tonight; I was wrong, as there won’t be any drinking tonight. Hope they keep it low and quiet.. a bit!

And I decided to leave whoever is up and about at this time to my bunk; run through another shower before hitting my bunk. Thanking God for a great day and more great days to come.

Saturday 14 March 2015

Wanted to sleep without being disturbed, but got up around 7:30am to use the loo and decided to get ready for today’s cleaning. Needed a cold drink today as I was sweating; the cough is not doing me good. Painful at night and thick dark phlegm in the morning, and always leaving me dehydrated at night. Need to check what is going on inside of me. Our lives is all based on faith, so if anything happens, it’s faith and fate at work; we blame God.

The cleaning was swift, all things back to their spots. Run through a cold shower, what will be the first of fours showers today; still sweating, constantly have to sit under the fan or I’m drenched in sweat.

The lads sleeping in the gym hall are making working out for the early trainers difficult; they slept till 9am today. Bloody lazy prisoners; wouldn’t blame them, but the system which made everyone lazy. There’s no organised routines for the lads, thus, everyone lives and does as he pleases, it’s a jungle for all.

Had a cold cereal breakfast and back to bed, day off from workout. Heard the whistle went off as the door was thrown open for an hour outside. Gave me the opportunity to sleep longer as many went out and less noisy inside the pavilion. Slept through until they all came back with their noises. From bed to another shower, second today.

Cooked the last of the meat we bought yesterday with broccoli and boiled ripe plantain, wasn’t bad for lunch/dinner! Whatever we cook for lunch, sometimes end up as our dinner.

After cooking and eating, went around to see my compatriot who had a message from our consul. Spent time in the gym hall, which was fully packed with inmates playing board games; apparently, there’s a tournament going on and the lads are dead serious about it. I heard the winners will go to their cells with $400, 2nd place $200 and 3rd takes $100! And the lads aren’t joking about the paquete tournament. Sometimes it does get very hot with heated argument and once or twice, punches were thrown, but others intervened and saved the day.

Back in the cell, quickly rushed in for another shower, my 3rd today and the final one will come late in the evening before bedtime ;-)

It’s weekend, not even prisoners are left out on what happens in weekend; the lads are busy keeping themselves very busy with whatever keeps a prisoner busy. The Mexicans up on the passage are drinking with their Ranchera and Corridor narco music, others are flicking their lighters as they puff on their joints. The Chinese seems to be big dealers in marihuana in the pavilion, not only do they sell, they smoke more than anybody else in the pavilion, they always in a state of high and stoned ;-) . Beautiful thing about them, their packaging is the best, plastic bags are used and the weed are vacuum-paced like sachets of drugs, well, it’s also drugs but a different one.

Sunday 15 March 2015

Woke up feeling much better, an early shower and a large cup of coffee with cinnamon got me on a the right standing and mood. Did my laundries today; washing my bedsheets, clothes, which got my sweating. That’s one thing many of my fellow lazy prisoners here don’t know; doing daily chores adds up to one’s general wellbeing. They don’t workout daily as most of us do, they pay others to even do their laundries, buy cooked food and grow their waistlines; I know many lads who were hauled in here, looking like death, but today, the clothes they wore when they got in won’t fit them as they are all obese and rounded ;-) ,even in prison, there are many who are leading a sedentary lifestyle, aren’t bothered to move around, well, someday, they will be moved probably in our improvised ambulance; wheelbarrows ;-)

After my laundries and shower; I definitely know, I have just had a mini workout. Which got me ;-), drenched in sweat and my heart racing, now time to munch something.

Had yesterday’s leftover rice with poached eggs, thank God, eggs are back; my major source of protein. Made it a bit spicy and hot!

Being sunday, the churches; catholic and evangelical are having services today. It baffled me when I find out that both churches are warring each other, just like everything about prisons; prison gangs, dealers, grocers, distillers, and just about everything here is at war with each others. Some silently, like the churches and others to be heard, like the gangs who are popping each others when they have or need to or when they are bored from not popping ;-)

The two denominations in the pavilion don’t share anything in common; the catholic has got their PA system, chairs and even a pulpit of theirs and wouldn’t share it with the evangelicals, who also have theirs with complete sets of musical instruments; drum sets, guitars, conga drums, and massive amplifiers and speakers; bad blood!

The churches outside are ready and willing to invest money in buying the state-of-art equipment for the prisoners to run churches inside, but nobody is thinking about rehabilitating these bunch of wastelands! Everyone becomes born-again on the inside, get time reduction and have an early release, but not prepared for what awaits him outside. In no time are they back inside, and back to the bible hours! It’s lovely, but ironically a vicious circle that I doubt will ever be broken.

Personally, a prisoner is sent in to be punished and rehabilitated; punishment part is well done, though not many feel that they are being punished as some are leaving far better than they used to live on the outside; No bills!

And the rehabilitated part is throwing religion at the lads; once the authorities sees them with bijles , they also believe like the inmates themselves believes, “they are transformed”. Once outside, the bible won’t feed them, they are back to their routines and then nicked again and back in….and there goes the weasel again ;-) and the never-ending vicious circle – the snake trying eat up its tail!

Wanted to nap and sleep but couldn’t as one of the young lads (apparently, a member the largest family here) brought his uncle and paisanos into the cell for what will become an all-day and all-night drinking session with loud music.

They drank till very late at night, until my not-so-good-with-alcohol cellmate joined them, they drank and chattered till around 2am. Then, my cellmate had a little too much and began babbling of how much money he has, telling another; that people from his village are poor, the lads didn’t like it (well, that’s what happen when alcohol takes control of a man and he loses his damn mojo and when one lives in a close-knit village or community where everyone is hitting on each other’s wives ;-)

The other lad told him, he doesn’t have no money, he buys food on credit; it was about getting hot. Had to call for peace and thank God for the fracas as it led to the end of the drinking party ;-)

Finally slumped into my bunk, but the young lad who hosted his uncle and others kept up with loud music, but nature called him in his drunken state; slept with his bunk light on. I wanted to climbed up and switch his light off as it disturbed me, but was damn too knackered.

I finally turned off my music to get a much-needed sleep at around 3am! Not a good one!

Monday 16 March 2015

Most morning I try to sleep longer, but can’t as the noise becomes unbearable when most of the pavilion are up.

Up for the day and set up a pot of water for green tea. Went through my morning rituals and breakfast of cold cereal with peanut butter and raisins. It’s visit day today, many will be going out to restocked their groceries and whatever could be smuggled in by spouses or family members. Many inmates, mostly amongst the local, run businesses on the inside to sustain their families; legal or illegal; according to a mate, nothing is legal once done inside a prison ;-)

While others went out, I hit the gym; knowing I might be working out alone today as some of my training mates will be out on visit.

The gym was scanty, enough materials to be used and not much hassles with those around.

Started the week with proper squat; having read a lot on form and techniques, I was ready to work around my sore lower back. And, that’s exactly what I did, had a very good workout and alone. Rounded up with Romanian deadlift and lunges. Then added pull-ups to my Monday’s routine which got me pumping.

The lads were back, with so much food to feed the overpopulated, overcrowded pavilion, but as we are humans and humans are greedy; most won’t be sharing nada.

Three of my mates went up and back with enough food to take us through days; wouldn’t stop me from scavenging on the prison food whenever it comes for healthy options (well, not much to choose from, not like it’s a figgin buffet. Sometimes I do feast on beans and lentils).

Inside, the cell was bubbling with life; stories from the visit, who had a new female visitor, whose lady is fat, tall or short and how some were kissing; f**k! Men does gossip, if given time and nothing to do ;-). It all helps with time!

The news was on as #Panama still battles the corruption scandals from the previous government of Ricardo Martinelli who’s presumably on self-exile, as his team of corrupt officials are all nicked and one supreme Court judge #MoncadaLuna is roasting his sorry ass next to #TheGeneral, Noriega himself ;-) #ElMachete

The prison lunch came; took enough black eye beans and salad which I have to wash before eating with the hard boiled eggs from today’s breakfast; drizzle olive oil, ground chilies, oregano and basil on it and that was a good postworkout meal. My boxer-cellmate prepared white rice and shrimps in coconut sauce; took the sauce which I will later eat with my beans.

Had a good shower and did my laundry, needed lot of ice for something cold; welch’s grape juice was ok to quench the fire and heat in me.

My porn-addicted cellmate (seems every prisoner is addicted to porn), had deleted all his prized and precious photos of his many women from huis phone. Called me to help recover them; helped, as he hasn’t refresh or cleaned his system. And he offered me a can of alcohol-free malt drink ;-) for a job well done and he will be having enough naked women to wank in his dark bunk ;-)

A lot and enough being hawked around; slippers, clothes (mostly boxers, Colombia football jerseys) cornflakes, even chicken nicked from the kitchen was on sale at a very cheap price ;-), the lad selling the chickens probably has a bad day as there is a lot food today, but there are people that will buy the chickens; food probably keeps prisoners locked up and shut up ;-), at least we’ve been deprived of sex and beer ;-), and we are still functioning, but if our food stops coming; then there will be war!

On television; female prisoners at the female prisoner in the city are protesting over an outbreak of #Tuberculosis. Lately, having read of drug-resistance strain of the disease, it scares the heck out of me and it did freak the city as many commented about it; the government should move quickly and contain the outbreak before it becomes a national crisis.

From the news, few inmates were infected and they didn’t get proper medical attention, and it has spread to a few others. This is what scares me most here; when we had our outbreak, it was within a cell, and then #ElGringo Loco (an American Vietnam veteran) who is next cell to mine also got infected; was hospitalised for few months and later brought back. He looked haggard and still look that way. Now puffs weed to help with pains that comes with age, lad is 60+ but look 80+; prison is doing him real hard and bad.

Need some magazines, glad signal is a bit better; set up few downloads; #TheEconomist #TIME #PlayboyNL #MensFitness #MensHealth #Nuts #Psychology and other current mags, enough to keep me busy apart from novels. At least, reading something current and educative keeps one abreast with world’s current affairs. Thank God that even corruption in prison affords us privileges of owning smartphones. Would’ve been something else without phones here; war!

Back home, schat and the kids are doing great; pretty busy as she juggles daily activities alone. She is a strong lady, my superwoman. Rarely talk with my kids, but we chat, voice calls is not something I want to (occasionally, well), but on daily basics, I can’t stand their questions; ‘when are you coming home’ and hearing that from them always set me back into thinking mode. Glad I can manage through my difficulties! Most do go through breakdowns and some never recover from it.

Strength always come from deep within oneself and never from what we see around; though what we see around spurs the inside to build that needed strength in order to overcome those external vices!

Tues 17 March 2015

Having slept early, woke up around 2am and stayed up till 4am; gave me the chance for a lengthy chat with schat and the kids as they prepared for school.

Finally got up around 8am, as others were up and noisily about their morning rituals. A cup of green tea and cinnamon got me fired up for the day. Breakfast was boiled eggs and beans from yesterday’s dinner ;-), enough energy for the day’s workout.

Set my body ready with a cup of strong coffee as I made my way to the gym. My team were all there, as usual, waiting for me to hustle for weights and that’s what I did. I’ve found out, the problem with most prisoners is communication; whatever they are on have destroyed their ability to hold normal conversation or sense of empathy with others. There’s no time to negotiate; well, criminals don’t negotiate, they just steal ;-)

Talked my way through and gathered enough weights to get us started, also trained with another group as they had good weights on their dumbbells; something the lads here are not used to. Some will rather wait for hours until that group finishes and they begin training.

We went through our routines swiftly and everyone enjoyed the workout. Though I stayed back to add some finishing touches to my abs ;-)

Back in the cell, meats from Monday’s visit were used to prepared our lunch. It’s likely going to last us through Thursday, then we are back to buying whatever is nicked from the kitchen.

The news was on and the major headlines was the corruption scandal rocking panama at the moment, one that has gotten the ex president to impose self exile on himself; he left trotting around the globe, and finally got stock in florida; at least there’s Panama City in Florida, so if he goes there and rent or buy a condo, he will feel at home ;-)

The other news which wouldn’t be long on air, is the #Tuberculosis outbreak in the female prison; and that has come on air because the female prison is in the city. If the prison was bungled up in the jungle like ours, nobody will hear of their tuberculosis plaque.

As of today, there’s been three infections amongst the female prisoners. Trust women, pretty scared to death, they took to a very loud protest, phone calls were made from inside to media houses and relayed live on air. Television crews were on the streets getting public opinions from scared population who believes tuberculosis is the worst of all diseases.

Meanwhile, there’s been several outbreaks in our pavilion and a lot more amongst the local male population and I doubt if anybody other than families and fellow inmates knew about it. The authorities do their best to brush everything about prisoners under the carpet, so that the public would never know how inefficient they are at running an overcrowded  prison system with over fifteen thousands inmates in a country with population less than four million inhabitants. While neighbouring Costa Rica which has a population of…… has about three millions incarcerated #FoodForThought. Panama, America partner and also partner is locking up!

For the rest of the day; spent time reading saved articles on sport science and browse through news from around the world. And also kept my alertness high as we heard of movements upstairs. Hope nothing happened.

For dinner, made tortilla, filled it with onions, green peppers and fresh parsley and ate it with massive turkey wing my American training partner gave me yesterday after his visit. Shared it with my mates and also the lad who gave it to me. For my mates that was not food, but for me, more than enough.

Since I didn’t nap today, had to hit my bed around midnight; but ended reading till nature called ;-)

Wed 18 March 2015

Being my day to clean, got up early; well at my time around 7:30am. Water on the stove for coffee; every little helps ;-)

Done with cleaning, had breakfast of Fish and a bread bun (fish my mates ate around 11pm, saved mine for today), that was enough for today’s workout! Down it with a cup of coffee + cinnamon and a pack of raisins. With that, I’m ready for today’s back/bicep/legs routine ;-). Hope my team mates are ready also! Most don’t do breakfast before hitting weights, tired of telling them the importance of breakfast and especially if you working out like we do; #HIIT #Hardcore ;-)

The gym was packed, but we got enough to start straight into our routines. Had a brief verbal row with a lad who does million crunches every day, juices at night, eats chicharrones and all sort exotic fatty meals believing he will grow six pack. He was on his sit-ups crunches, but used weights to keep the chair stabled that he had his feet under. Told him, we needed the weights for our dumbbells, and he responded that he’s using them. Told him, you aren’t using them, and you can always get someone to sit on the chair while you do your friggin sit-ups; I guess that was his enlightenment-moment ;-), suddenly, he saw the light, and I was probably his yogi at that moment, friggin dullards.

Sometimes it baffles me, how ingenious prisoners can be; seen some coming up exercises routines that doesn’t do anything but punishing whoever is stupid enough to do them. I’m always happy when I don’t seen them next day in the gym as they are out with pains ;-)

Well, explained to the lad ‘why we need to share’, from his behaviour, I know he’s the type of crook who double-crosses his #CrimeMates ;-)

Glad we didn’t need to go physical over friggin weights, and that’s one more reason I’m trying to get my own weights; mostly kettlebells!

Haven’t been outside this week; the cop on duty is a bit weird and acting a bit strict. But, if I really want to go out, then, I have to be up and out by 7:30am…. meaning I have to sleep very early 10pm ;-) imposibilidad!

Back in the cell, rice was cooked and stew made with meats from monday’s visit; from what is left, we will be having the last on Thursday. Had a cupful of rice and a drumstick, picked up some salads from the lunch cart and my lunch and postworkout meal was ok!

Water came, had to fill up the tanks, enough water for the day; tomorrow will take care of itself! Our water crisis is temporarily behind us, but doesn’t mean I will do away with my reserves; they are there as anything can happen at any time.

It’s our weekly headcount today, wanted to nap, but can’t as I wouldn’t want to be woken with a bang if anything happens; impromptu search!

The cops came very late today, maybe they were also watching #ChampionsLeague match, how Manchester City f**ked up big time and gave Barça the win ;-), had wanted Manchester City to win and shut the bunch of Barça fans here for good; apparently, they are the most!

And the cops decided to do the counts by calling names; back to school! Took ages as they called through the almost 600 inmates packed in a pavilion that was built for 216 inmates; good economics — the economics of prison and how to run it efficiently ;-) and they are doing it by keeping us calmed with corruption, getting us all we want, but for a fee!

Having fried ripe plantains with omelette for dinner ;-)

News is on, so far so bad…. 13 women have been murdered so far this year and it’s just the third month of the year. It beggars belief that a country with such a strong tie to the US; uses America’s own currency #Dollar as its national currency is tearing apart, and America is turning her eyes away ;-) good governance or politics of business ;-)

The above is just the numbers of women murdered in Panama within the first three months of 2015, who knows where the figure stand when those of men and children are added? And Obama will be here in April ;-)

Ex President Martinelli is still whiling away in Florida while his ministers are been grilled over corruption during their tenures as government ministers, some are already inside while investigation goes on ;-) Enemigos Politico!

Seems, I will try and get an early sleep tonight and I mean early like 10/11pm, not bad if I can do that! After working my ass off, tried and eat ‘good’, I need some proper sleep! And the night sleep is the only time one can sleep without fear of search as no stupid cops will come storming prisoners in the wee hours of the night; they wouldn’t want the real episode of #PrisonBreak #Panama ;-)

Thurs 19 March 2015

Went to bed last night with strong migraines, took aspirin, but it continued when I woke up; woke up around 2am and was up till 5am, back to sleep till 9am! Actually, it’s my gay cellmate who got me up with his stong cough; the cough that almost everyone in the pavilion now have. At night, it’s like a sea with toads croaking all night, but his is terrible, he’s losing weight rapidly and barely sleeps as he spend all night playing paquet with his mates and does whatever he does in the dead of the night. Don’t like it when things are like this.

Decided to take today off from workout and have a quick recovery.

A cup of green tea and cinnamon got me set up for the day as others went about their morning rituals. Decided to cook the last of our meats from Monday’s visit, it sure did last us. Made curry with pumpkin, my pharmacist-cellmate mate boiled the rice, wasn’t bad as we all ate exception of two who buys food from outside.

Intel and facts coming from pavilion eight where a Costa Rican was said to have committed suicide “Hung himself”. Facts are coming out that the lad was murdered with the silent killer “Poison”; and that was what we heard on news, I guess after autopsy was done. But the lads in the pavilion insisted he hung himself; but then, if he hung himself, then someone helped into his bed, as he was found in a sleeping position in his bed.

Pieces of the jigsaws are coming together, but doubt if they will get his killer. From intel, the lad was probably in business with fellow #Prisoners and something must have gone wrong on his part. Like most businesses on the inside, if hard to control things outside whenn you can’t even control things happening within and around you on the inside. And that’s the problem with most prisoners; they barely understand what it meant to be locked up. Upon #Lockup #incarceration you are indefinitely deprived of every rights and you ceased to function like a normal human, well, if you were one before lockup ;-)

But many get caught up with the promises of money and invisibility as businesses are done behind bars; but tend to forget that whoever they are dealing with has got hands like octopus and the underground network is highly connected. People can be bought over with money and help carry out acts ;-)

That may have been the case of the lad; his cellmates who were living from hands to mouth and probably on the prison food are now cooking and living larger than life on the inside!

One way to learn and acquire knowledge behind bars is to learn from what goes around within and without; don’t wait till it happen to you. Tapped from others experiences, evaluate and apply them to how I live.

Whatever killed the lad; hope in the next life, he will know that, so many things we believe are within our control are actually beyond and outside our control, when you thought you had them, then its vanishes like vapour!

Meanwhile, a local inmate whom I learnt is doing a 27 years sentence; lives and dines with the cops went berserk, destroying all the video conferencing equipment. The lad had had many attempts on his life; from #PrisonGangs and also from self inflicted wounds which he still bears the scars; physically and emotionally. He was once poured with hot oil, survived, stabbed several times and survived; his arms look alien compared to normal arms. And he was seriously depressed, moreover he was a loner, always alone flipping through pages of bible which reads every now and then, but doubt if he understands what he’s reading.

The prison system is failing mentally sick inmates; there’s no proper care, counselling or whatsoever available to anyone. You survived your demons or you allow them to take you away; peacefully or violently.

With that, I should get this blog update online!

Hope the rest of the day continues peacefully as it’s almost weekend ;-)

“If you wait until all the lights are green, you will never get started on your trip.” ~ Zig Zigler

“A power over a man’s subsistence amounts to a power of his will,” – Alexander Hamilton (Federalist Papers)

Sixth Christmas and New year in the Joint! And journeying into the sixth year of incarceration.

Posted in Behind Bars in Panama on March 1, 2015 by doingtimeabroad

“Man cannot remake himself without suffering, for he is both the marble and the sculptor.” – Dr. Alexis Carrel #LifeExperience #Changes 

20:22:39 Sat, 3 Jan 2015 
Chaos was the natural law of the universe. Indifference was the engine of entropy. Man’s apathy was the fertile ground in which the dark spirits tended their seeds. Darkness feeds on apathy……. and conviction is our most potent antidote.  Perhaps the truth is not learned by us, but rather, the truth is re-called, remembered, recognised… as that which is already inside us.

My sixth Christmas and New year in the joint, came and gone. It hasn’t been an easy sail, a rough one which has given me strength to maneuver the rough sea and tough waves as they come daily. I guess life’s ordeals either makes or breaks one, and I refused to be broken by this one-time bitter experience, instead, I’m using it to build a very strong resolve and principle to guide me here and my post-prison life; what doesn’t kill you, make you stronger. 

The transition from 2014 to 2015 went smoothly despite all the intels of impending search by cops. It was relatively quiet and peaceful, well can’t say much about the local inmates who are like dormant and sleeping volcanoes waiting to explode at any moment. And that’s exactly what happened; the new director with his new team, set up military style rules to seal up all loopholes and stopped things from coming, not even our Christmas or New year’s food were allowed in. But whatever he put place to secure the prison perimeters were humans, and as all humans, they have wants and needs; money exchanged hands, blind eye turned, goods and good stuffs were allowed in, along the good stuffs are also the bad ones. It was one of the most meagre Christmas season since my incarceration, but it went down well as we improvised as we always do. Glad there was visit on the week of Christmas, thus, enough meats which I controlled and took us through Christmas day. Others did get to buy special-smuggled in turkeys and hams; and also at special over-the-top prices ;-) 

Despite the noises made by the cops and all those involved in running the prisons on security and weeding the prisons system of all type of corruptions, loads of booze and whatever needed to keep the lads in check and happy flowed in like water through a broken dam’s wall. Somebody need those things, and someone gotta buy gifts for his kids, those business continues as usual.  

Many like me celebrated Christmas on a very low profile; no elaborate dining or special drinks, we just improvised on whatever we could lay our hands on. Others with proper contact had turkeys, ham brought in. I was fortunate enough to buy a Christmas fruit cake which we ate on the 25th evening, had mine with custard pudding ;-) 

Though we had some meats leftovers from the visit that was on Monday; days before Christmas, since I was cooking, I was able to managed the meats and used the last pieces for a Christmas sauce with white rice. Served it purposes very well, others weren’t that fortunate and the prison food was absolute rubbish; in the past, we used to get pork chops (Chuletas) on Christmas and New year’s day, but not anymore since a Colombia firm was given contract to feed prisoners; apparently, they are feeding, but fats, carbs and rubbish which in most cases sends inmates to toilet with diarrhoea. 

Since cops and wardens were arrested on the run up to Christmas with lot of money, getting money in has been very hard, though many still find a way. But it left me broke and dependent or fallen as I went on credit. Couldn’t brew wine from welch’s grape juice, but decided to fix a tank of mash for a gallon of liquor. My mates has about twelve tanks full of mashes which were all distilled within three days; three or four tanks a night, and they also did mine. Had to infused mine during the distillation process with spices to give it a different taste and flavour. And finally infused the final product with extra spices to make it into dry gin. My end product wasn’t that bad, much better than what the lads are drinking; pure and straight as it’s distilled. 

Sun, 4 Jan 2015
Being our rest day, though some crazy ones can decide to make it noisy by hitting the botttle. Having slept a bit late, decided to just lie back as other went about their morning rituals, it’s so funny how we live; my mates tends to sleep until they hear the first man wakes up and then everyone began their day; as always, I always sit back or simply lie, watch and wait for them to round up before I take my turn, whereas they just stood behind eacch other hurrying the man infront without uttering a word. It will take a while for them to learn that mornings aren’t the right time to step on someone’s toes ;-) 

The went quietly for me; spent my time deep into the novel I just picked up, after I finished writing an article for mmy facebook page ;-) 

In-between reading, kept up with the world through my smartphone, quite a lot is happening and they are happening pretty fast, for someone locked away without access to technology as we do, he will be sturned upon re-entering into society on how far the world has gone and what he has missed by the time he spent in his time-capsule or vacuum.  This brings into mind; for proper rehabilitation and resocialisation of inmates, such process should start the moment one is incarcerated. But, in most cases, the authorities wait till time is done, then they start with such process, then, it’s too late to undo what incarceration has done; the scar! 

Having access to medium like our smartphones with internet access, one can keep up with world’s event, be in the now and access to educational materials which are enormous in the www! 

Despite our inhumane conditions, we are blessed that corruption here affords us the luxury of owning phones along with other undesirables. For some of us, the phone is a tool, a weapon and it has become one with us; most spend their day with heads bowed to the screens of their phones, tablets or laptops. Whatever they do with them, is left for them, as for me, I know the countless benefits of owning a smartphone with internet access in prison; faraway from my loved ones and with desire to learn new things. So far, so good, each phone I have owned here has really served their purposes. 

Mon, 5 Jan 2015 
The gym has been closed as the lads sleeping in the hall wouldn’t want to pack up and give us access to train. Thank God, the cop on duty throughout the holiday period wasn’t a difficult one, as he allowed us to train outside in the field. Well, he did it as he knows one good turn deserves another;  he will be going home smiling with his pocket stufffed with money from inmates for being nice to us. Any cop on duty that proves stubborn always go home empty-handed ;-) 

The early group took the gym first and my group later called in around 10am, was thinking of an all-body #HIIT workout, but the lads just love chest, thus, they got all the stuffs ready. We went on to have a good chest and triceps workout. Being a visit day, and which was a quick one, one of my mate was able to join us after his visit, together we had a good workout; mixing cardio, abs with weights as we wait for turns. It was a good way to begin the year, while others were still drinking or sleeping over their hangovers from incessant revelling.

Being our visit, we will get to eat proper street-cooked or home-cooked food, not our prison type. 

Two of my cellmates went up and back with loads of things I wouldn’t ask anybody visiting me to bring for me; biscuits (sugary, would rather asked for rice cakes, or oats cookies or rye bread), uncooked rice (sells pretty cheap here, one can also buy from the locals who nicked from the kitchen….very cheap), vegetable oil, when one can bring in olive oil, white bread (would’ve preferred whole wheat), fried pork skin (what on earth will one want to pile up unhealthy fats, when he could get healthy steak; lean cut). Well, it just shows how unhealthy they eat back home. But then, what can I say, as I’m not the one buying; I did pass some of the meats. Can’t afford to spoil all my hard-earned workouts by eating something I know is unhealthy.  

Anyway, we did have a good meal, added raw carrots to my meal as my mates rarely cook with vegetables; can’t friggin believe that people who live right in the jungle of amazon and with vegetation all around them, don’t friggin know how to eat vegetables. I will friggin eat grasses if they weren’t any here ;-) 

They rather prefer fried fishes or meats, fried onions and add some colouring, and top that on top of oil-fried rice (also half-cooked like the prison rice). That’s what I call a recipe to bomba, as the rice later ferments in their belly and going to toilet later on becomes suicidal ;-) 

Tues, 6 Jan 2015 
Woke up and very eager to storm the gym as I really missed the feel of irons ;-), went through my morning rituals, one of my cellmates who went upstairs yesterday for the visit is cooking; thus, wouldn’t worry about my postworkout meal ;-) 

Decided to hit back and biceps, went #HIIT and hardcore, didn’t spent much time as the door was kept open for those wanting to train outside. Went outside, did some stretching, sprint and yoga poses. Enjoyed the warmth of the afternoon sun. Sometimes we need that, thus, every little opportunity, one has to make use of it. 

After my badass workout today, sitting in the cell for a quick postworkout meal; 
Fight in the passage, lucho and lingote

Wed, 14 Jan 2015 
Making more presence on twitter than here, not that there aren’t interesting tales breakin up amongst us; we are tales and stories ourselves, we make things happen just like each day happens with its uncertainties.  

Lately I have been gradually doing all-night browsing, and barely get enough nap during the day; friggin noisy and it’s as hot as hell, well, that’s if there’s another hell after #Lockup. This is inferno and hell at its core, some will go to bed praying they don’t wake up to the next day with its ordeals, others will become masters of their souls and attempt to prove that by taking their lives by all means. This sort of hell is not for the faint hearted, but for those who knew what and why they are here and what they will achieve at the end if they remain to the end ‘of their prison time’. 

Our weekly census day; some prison does it daily, but our cops are too lazy to walk around the pavilions and make daily census as prisoner’s population is growing at the same rate as the country’s population, who knows, it might even be higher as the country is about 3.5 M inhabitants and prisoners population about 15000 inmates locked in overcrowded prison cells all over the country old depleted prisons. Most countries in Latin America are trying to reduce their prisoner’s population and numbers in their prison cells, but Panama is not ready for that now. They are still busy building up numbers as it matters most to them; money from donor countries. 

Back to my day, I think I slept for about 4 hours or less, not good for my health, but then what can I do? Nada! 

The noise by my cellmates woke me and had to use the loo around 7:30am, back to my bunk, thinking I can get an hour more of nap, nothing came forth as I tried every trick in the books to get my eyes close, gave up and had to wait for the lads to round up with their morning rituals before I get down with mine. It’s annoying having someone behind you hurrying you up, thus, my waiting for them to round up before I get down and about. 

Rushed through a breakfast of two fried eggs on bread and a cup of green tea. And got me ready for today’s workout; after sending some old tweets and setting up my phone to download some files. Apparently I found some old and the latest edition of #CharlieHebdo, would be nice to have a copy of that history in my hands, despite being digital, it’s still worth it. Set all my downloads and stuck the phone behind my mate’s grocery store ;-) nice spot for good signal reception. Some nights, when I have important things to download, I do leave the phone there overnight, but far from the reach of our night cowboys ;-) . When I came in from gym, some of the downloads were through, others were still busy.  

Left for the gym which was full to the brim with inmates doing whatever they feel like doing. Most are always doing the same task day in and day out; don’t they get bored of this monotonous routine, like my cellmate who does back almost everyday and only with the pull-down cable ;-) 

I try keeping the lads with me guessing as to what I might be churning out next; we keep a format for two or three weeks and then we change to something else, that kills boredom. I have seen many take timeout as they got bored of doing the same thing every day. Probably they are burnt out ;-) 

We got into our today’s routine; back and biceps, did shoulder yesterday. Started with normal warm up and then went straight to military press and finished all the heavy duty routines before hitting the delts with isolation workouts. We combines abs and incorporated a #HIIT format of workout to our routine; to save time and acts as our cardio as we weren’t going outside for special cardio. 

Vr 30 Jan. 2015 
22:55:05  in an hour or so, January will be over, there comes February, and the rest of the year will be rolling in adding to our #PrisonTime. Time does flies, but when one is occupied with keeping time and tiempo, then, time does the snail-race ;-) 

The old man in my cell, still can’t understand how we are surviving prison, he had to put me up tonight with another mate as his subject of discussion; apparently, he told me. That he was wondering how I have survived so far; told him, he should learn to accept the reality of where he is, learn to live in the moment #CarpeDiem, seize the moment; toma el día, seize every opportunity available and don’t live in the past, but never forget the past as without it, there won’t be the present and the future! 

The lad is far older than me, but occasionally comes to me for advice, which I gladly give him for free ;-), he does know nothing is free in this #Lockup, not even our freedom, upon completion of one’s time, an inmate is still require to pay the sleazy fat and lazy ladies upstairs to get the paperwork done and also pay cops to take one out to immigration; now you know what I’m talking about. If an inmate is kind to you, he is, because he knows you have something he wants from you, it’s always favour for favour. Nobody comes to you, means you are of no use to anyone ;-) 

It’s been a wonderful ride so far this year, no news from Den Haag through the embassy. Thus, we are on the wait, till whenever something comes out; if nothing happen, then we are left to finish our time, which is what most of us are gearing up for. 

I have been keeping myself busy like I have always done for the five years plus I’m here; daily workouts, reading, writing, tweeting and downloading anything and everything useful and important I could download online ;-) 

My fitness has been paying off as many joined my group and more wants to join, since the beginning of the year, the number has been increasing as more inmates are looking for proper fitness group ;-) 

Sat, 31 Jan. 2015 

Slept early last night, but woke up around 3am to use the loo and eventually got online, stayed up till 5am. Being saturday, and our general cleaning and washing day, the lads were about moving tanks when our alarm system went off. As always, the commotion and organised chaos was enough to get us moving, everyone to their hiding spot and stashes. Phones and whatsoever that’s is illegal were stashed and hidden away from prying eyes of cops who were taking their time to get in. 

The first set of inmates who went out were stripped down to their nudity and thoroughly search, told to squat as cops checked their behind for thing held-up down-under ;-) and they were all cuffed with plastics bands, which was later removed; friggin inhumane. 

When I finally went out, I was told to return my little bag containing my peripherals; blood pressure monitor, USB sticks of my early writings when I was at El Renacer and had access to computers. Finally out, stripped search, but a bit lessen and I made a terrible mistake by not taking my bag again as many went out with theirs; bags and containers with medication and other personal hygiene stuffs. 

Outside, we waited for hours as the cops and their dogs went plundering, searching, seizing and nicking tiny stuffs that couldn’t be reported. Our shemale refused being stripped search, she was sent in to change into something more appropriate and easier for the cops to search without getting to stripe down ;-), too bad as the lads didn’t get to see what they were waiting to see ;-) 

Lots of personal items were taken during the search, my usb sticks and a universal adaptor, had to fight tooth and nail and finally got the adaptor sent back, but he usb sticks were gone for good. 

February 2015 

Spending more time tweeting and preoccupied with other issues, with little time left for my blog entries. 

The year started roughly, guess very rare to see anything good behind the walls of any prison; everything has a gloomily look, our faces and even the food, probably the only things that are happy and contented being here are our cats, as they have no knowledge of what the outside world look like outside the high-wire fences of the centre. 

Surviving prison depends on so many factors, of which few are personal; speed of adapting and adopting to the norms of life behind bars. Other factors are external ones which in most cases are beyond one’s own control. Going into my sixth year has seen me lived through all sort ills and provocation which many has failed to overcome. It takes a strong resilient willpower to wake up each day knowing where you are and what can happen at any moment of the day. 

I’m glad, the pressure of life here couldn’t bend me or reduce me to something else that I wouldn’t want to be; instead, it’s made me stronger and brought out a different man from the old me. With so much time in my hand, I have been able to advanced my quest for knowledge; reading and studying into diverse fields, and been able to use my knowledge to positively influence others. And also used my wits to avoid any negativity that should come my way. 

Meanwhile, our conditions hasn’t improved from what it has always been. Instead, with each new direction in place, newer and stricter rules are set in place to make life harder for us. Fruits and certain vegetables are no longer allowed inside the system, they have to be smuggled in like guns, drugs and knives. I have seen more pouches of marijuana and wraps of coke than I would see of fruits. Fruits and any healthy aren’t profitable, thus, those running the show won’t want trade in them. Notwithstanding, one definitely have to survive the odds. We wheel and deal through each day and survive the day, looking forward to the next day. 

This year has brought some good news with it, back home in The Netherlands, the government approved new #WOTS, repatriation plan for Dutch detainees in some Latin American countries went became effective as of 1st of January, from all I know, those with few months left into their sentences might not be elegible and my predicament with the Dutch law has always been their insisting that I’m not elegible due to the fact; at the time of my incarceration, I have written out of The Netherlands. Notwithstanding, wouldn’t mind giving it another shot, if I’m refused, then, I have to finish my time here in panama. 

Little did we know, one of our compatriots was busy with his repatriation process; apparently, he was the other Dutch detainee that got a lengthy sentence as me. In secrecy he went through the process, even at a time I asked him what he went upstairs for after his name was called; lied through his teeth, that he has liver problem; don’t wish him any ill, hope he sure knows how powerful words could be ;-) 

When he was called out to be repatriated, he left another Dutch inmate in limbo, and many Colombians he owed money; which led to them rushing over his scanty properties if there was any. But the handicapped Dutch fella, just couldn’t know what to make of it; how his buddy treated him. He was left with the crumbs after the Colombians had taken everything that really matters; fan, television, telephone.  

One pained me most; he would arranged for the handicapped Dutch inmate to move into his cell and his bunk, since the fella sleeps on the floor of the gym; cold and rough. Lad can’t keep his personal stuffs around there as the young lads will steal from him; apparently, that’s how, my repatriated used up his money, he had always kept money with him, and the lad used them promising to pay back; and never did. 

Back to life here, kept doing what I have been doing to stay strong mentally and physically; daily workouts, reading, writing and trying to eat as much healthy stuffs as I can. No sugar and less processed carbs, feast more on lentils and beans which we have in abundance here and the locals inmates are keeping the smuggle line flooded with such from the kitchen; daily, tanks of rice, beans, milk, and sometimes mixed vegetables are brought in my the locals and are hawked around by their inside contacts at a price better than buying them here. 

Lately, I was able to buy two large packs of tuna, not a bad bargain, considering my workout goals and the need for protein ;-) , I also have a tank full of brown beans, which takes forever to finish. Whenever I want rice; mostly after my workouts, I always dip into the lunch cart and get a portion.  

Planned buying a tank of oats, but would love to share it with someone, for now, none is keen about oats, they rather stick to rice ;-) 

On the other side of events making news in the centre; #PrisonViolence seems to be part of the locals, no day goes by without incidents ending with blood drawn or life taken. Within us, our unwritten rules has been able to hold and keep us in check, though there has been occasions when punches are thrown, but never went bloody as it does amongst the locals. After years here, something still baffles me; prisoners just love seeing each other fight themselves, whenever there’s a fight, majorities will like to see the fight continued with only a handful of us, calling or trying to put a stop to it. Well, I think it’s the kick and gush of testosterone running through us and nowhere to channel those energy to ;-) 

Being locked up doesn’t stop the lads from living their lives the way they deemed fit. Drinking sessions has not changed, so long the distillers are willing to deal on credit, the buyers will always go for one more bottle, different types of weed/joint are showing up in the pavilion, with a little pouch of dried grass going up to $100, and someone will cough out that amount for his pleasure. Most will buy, repacked and sell in tiny portions to our incessant users who are sometimes 24/7 stoned. They don’t like to see themselves different, other the stoned look. Lately, there’s been the milk scam; the locals figured a way of milking us dry, they get the powder milk and mix them with white baking flour. I guess, we will fall back to buying the expensive version of powder milk from the pavilion’s groceries. 

With corruption giving us the chances to own all types of technology that money can buy (adding the cost of bringing them inside the pavilion, or the cop’s fee), and adding time which many just can’t figure out what to do with it, well,  sometimes they get to figure out, but then, it’s too late to redeem the lost ones. 

Without technology on the inside, I would have been living in the real dark age; #Lockup away from the outside world, away from sources of knowledge and the worst of all, away from my family and loved ones whom my strength has come from. Access to technology and all it offers has been more of a blessing to me and the few ones who knows what to do with it. 

Few lads are sourcing workout videos and routines from YouTube channels, new supplements from different sport nutrition websites. And most part of us are up to date with news from our different countries through our smartphones. Mobile signal has been blocked with industrial signal jammers, but we found a way around getting signal. It’s difficult, but we still get around the jammers. Making mobile phone calls requires patience; one virtue we have in abundance behind this concrete walls of ours ;-). One has to wait hours, dialling and redialling until connected. 

Along the positive influence from the use of smartphones and internet access, comes also the negative part, which seems to be turning many into porn addicts. Internet porn addiction has become one of our biggest woes here, some inmates will spend hours online, downloading porn video clips, naked photos of women, or have their friends sent some over. Others with several women or hired ladies had opportune to receive all sorts of pictures and videos, which helps the lads fulfil part of the manly duties; but through wanking. 

I have set up many twitter accounts for many here, but later found out they needed it to follow different porn twitter handles; where naked pictures of women are posted. Some can spend hours on these, others are also busy with facebook, trying to add friends of friends, people they don’t have any initial meeting or acquaintances, and this has caused many had their facebook account blocked; and back to me to help restore their accounts ;-).  

A young lad who has been here for few months jumped on the bandwagon, got few BBM Pins on his phone and numbers on whatsapp and they are porn contacts. The profile pictures are changed everyday, and some send messages requesting for phone top ups in exchange for a naked picture. Couldn’t help laughing when I read some of them as some were in English, others were in Thai and another in Indonesian. What surprised me! Was seeing photos of his little weiner on most of the convoy; lad is a tiny fella, and he friggin sent his little man to them, not knowing, those people behind the numbers and pins could be men and they are always men. There was lad who did that business here, scamming men with pictures of women, and it did paid him well; got few hundreds sent to him through western union;-)

I tried telling the lil fella, that all the messages I saw in his phone were nothing personal; whoever was sending the messages was broadcasting it to all their contacts. But the lad is not convinced, had to leave him to what makes him happy and keeps him going, or else he might fall apart someday ;-) 

Anything thing that is becoming rampant in the centre is robbery; used to be more within and amongst the locals, but it’s spreading into our wings as our unwritten laws are seemingly becoming weaker. Inmates who broke these laws are never punished since they have contacts amongst the ruling council; petty thievery is on the increase, and soon it will become something like the locals in here; jungle where everyone is above the law! 

The latest incident involved one the loudest lads here, together with his gangs of night trawlers, they stole a friend’s modem; and modem is like diamond here, without it, there’s no signal. The lad later sold the modem, but as things would be, my mate has marked his modem, pictures of the serial numbers were taken and saved. When the modem was found, the inmate who bought it, was ready to return it, but wanted $120 which he paid for the modem. The case was later resolved in secrecy or behind closed doors as they were too many supposedly ‘high profile inmates’ in the pavilion that were involved in the petty crime and transaction of a modem ;-) friggin criminals!  I might be slammed up behind bars, but won’t stopped that low to nick a modem or anything at all. But these lads, they are like dogs that has gone back to its vomit; friggin no shame or whatsoever. Well, there’s never any honour among criminals! 

While my mates here are stealing modem, which on the outside is less than 10 bucks, the locals are doing break-in and robbing right under the noses of armed cops. 

Panama carnaval was barely over, and life returned to the centre on Tuesday, the 24th of Feb. The large grocery store under the admin building which was closed throughout the carnival was opened for business on that Tuesday. We placed our orders through our different grocery-runners who buys from upstairs and sell to us little interest. 

On the night of Tuesday 24th February and Wednesday, the 25th,  there was a ‘break-in’ into the grocery and the ‘supposedly thieves’ made away with a large sum of money, from all the intels and prison rumours coming in, we heard it was between $10,000 and $14,000 that was nicked in this #PrisonHeist. On hearing this, nobody would believe how inmates would break out from their cells, break into concrete walls or unlocked locks which cops would never forget locking and enter into the store and made away with such amount of money. Moreover, if I could break out of my cell, damn me if I’m not on my way for a new series of #PrisonBreak ;-), but not the locals; very comfortable on the inside than on the outside. Free food, free bunk or hammock, even those sleeping on the floor are just ok with it. And free occasionally rape of new young inmates. Talking of rape, just like it’s happening in the united of America, it’s also happening here; despite containing all the transvestites in one pavilion, there is still rape going on amongst and within the local inmate population. During the Christmas and the new year period; we heard of about three cases of forced sexual encounters amongst the locals. Such cases are nothing for the authorities, nothing was done about it. 

It also happened in our pavilion during the Christmas period; our shemale was invited to a den with young lads, they drank, smoked, and snorted all night and then the time came to relax and she wasn’t willing. We heard she was forced to do something and keep the lads happy and relaxed. After that incident she wouldn’t come out of her cell for days, as we heard she bruised and sore all over and behind. Guess it’s her fault for being the only one with DD cups on her chest, well, some men are growing men boobs also; growing fat, less testosterone, and their bodies producing more of female hormones. But the lads still prefer that of our Reina as she is willing to be touched and also ready to take the extra length ;-) 

Santa Claus, the only Sikh in the village is very busy with his vegetable garden, but the lads won’t let him enjoy the fruits of his labour; his crops are dug up before he gets to do it. Lately, a prized ginger was dug up while he was napping on the edge of the garden. And a Jamaican who has spent a fortune ‘trying’ to fight an extradition request from Switzerland has just invaded his garden and seized part of the garden with all he planted. I spoke with one of the Jamaicans, and he said, it was a Jamaican who started working on the garden; on that he’s right. It was a wacko-psycho Jamaican who believed he was an adviser to Tony Blair, he could fly an aeroplane and he doesn’t need modern medicine; but always the first to line up for clinic visitation ;-)…. he was the first farmer here. He abandoned the job when he took to the bottles, damn our moonshine, a little is good and will do no harm, but if you allow it to take hold of you, it will waste you and turn you inside out. The lad is always getting a little from my distillers mate, glad he finally left after doing about seven years here. But he left incomplete as he head is messed up with all the shyte he believes in. 

Vr 27 Feb. 2015 

Earlier today, my handicapped compatriot handed me a handwritten letter which he wants me to email to a group back in The Netherlands to help with his case. It’s terrible here, and more harder and horrible for one who is handicapped. And the lad is gradually losing his sights, couldn’t see me in the cell from where he was standing. Our repatriated compatriot did very bad, leaving without arranging for the old lad to take over his bunk. And also scaming him and others off their money before leaving. Hope they don’t see him in this life again, wouldn’t be a nice #PrisonReunion 
If they ever meet again.  

It’s been a busy day for me, missed the gym as I was up all morning and had to cook a type of beans that takes forever to cook before leaving for today’s workout. Only to find out the catholic church were having a Friday’s mass. Pleaded with the cop who allowed me and others outside, had a good workout under the warmth of the sun, enjoyed the cool breeze and savoured the moment as it won’t be for long. The church was over when we got in, but with little time left, nothing could be done inside. 

Back in, food was ready, went for just beans and pumpkin which I cooked before leaving for gym; lately I have to cook my postworkout/lunch meals before leaving for gym.  Enough for my postworkout meal. Others had theirs with their oiled rice, don’t understand their food ;-) , any normal thinking person in our condition will be counting calories and watchful of whatever he eats, but not my fellow inmates. There are certain food one shouldn’t even think of; deep fried pork skin chicharrón,  and their cuisine revolves around fried and processed foods. We might not have the choice or luxury of choosing what we eat. Sometimes, plain lentils or beans does come on the cart, many ignored and indulge in the half-cooked rice. And we fortunate to have the locals steal from the kitchen and sell to us almost anything that is nickable ;-) meats, rice, beans, black-eye peas, milk, oats, packed tunas and even knives ;-).  

Today’s Friday was unlike others, it’s was graveyard-quiet in the pavilion, our beer tavern was shut, I believe their brew/mash is not ready to be sampled. Though others were doing their things, but keeping a low profile as not to disturb others, if everyone should be doing like them, it will be a very peaceful place here. But then, we are prisoners, and prisoners are very difficult misunderstood ones; most are walking volcanoes, waiting to erupt at any little upset. 

Have placed an order for a new battery for my phone; can’t use the phone without keeping it plugged, the battery doesn’t last an hour or two after fully changed. There’s just one lad with contact to bring in things and he’s very expensive. The cost of getting the battery and getting it would be enough to buy a simple phone, we pay through our teeth for everything that is of importance to the one in need. 

Took my third shower around 1am (saturday morning), it’s so hot that some might be sleeping sans clothes, took a while before nature took me from the reality into the dream world. 

Saturday, 28 February 2015 
Being our general cleaning day, had to wake up early and set my stuffs so the lad cleaning can get on with his work. The washing and cleaning went pretty fast; we try to stay clean, but our #1 problem is personal hygiene, not too many have a clue what personal hygiene is all about. And this has got me always lecturing my cellmates on personal hygiene; when I found out that my pharmacist-cellmate doesn’t wash his hands after using the loo, couldn’t hide it, told it to his face. Hope he does wash his hands now ;-) 

Decided to hit the gym while others were busy in the cell with whatever they have to do to keep them looking busy and occupied.  

The gym hall was washed and cleaned; since inmates who couldn’t find space in the cells or on top of the cells or build extra beds on top of our toilets sleeps on the floor of the gym hall, they have to keep it clean. They don’t just sleep there, they live there; the hall is now divided into two parts. One part serves as a multi-purpose hall; both catholic and evangelical church services are held there, the gym works there from Monday to saturday, handball, basketball and indoor football sessions are held inside that small part of the gym hall. 

In diversity we have learned to accept each other, adapt and adopt to different type of life in prison. At first everything seem impossible, but with time, like they say “with time, everything takes shape and gets in place”, with time, everyone of us learn to live a new life on the inside; living by prison code of conduct and practice (the latter, which is cunningly by nature was probably acquired from outside ;-)). 

Had a very good workout today as many didn’t show up; focused more on Olympic lifts and then worked through an all-body routine. My training partners joined me, and we rounded our week on a very good note. Usually, Saturday and Sunday are our day off, but couldn’t resist today as we missed out yesterday because of the impromptu catholic mass that started during our workout time slot. 

Back in, the lads had rice like always, and beans from yesterday was still there, was too wasted to go those. Made cold cereals + peanut butter + cinnamon + raisins and that was what my body craved for then. Enough water to shower and wash my gym wears, wanted to clean and oil my fan, but was too knackered to do that today. I guess, that will be my task tomorrow sunday (1st of March 2015)

After shower, was lucky to get some ice as there was no ice today, enough to keep me cool, blood hot! 

A quick nap early in the evening was what I needed to recuperate a bit from the workout. Woke up around 8pm drench in sweat, had to rushed through another shower. 

Another quiet night, likely the taps are all dried out, shows how the lads can drink. Well, with nothing to do and not much is offered, someone gotta get busy keeping mind and body together ;-) 

Knowledge is a tool, and like all tools, its impact is in the hands of the user. 

Sometimes a change of perspective is all it takes to see the light. And that little change could be from one’s point of view; quite a lot can be seen through the iron bars of prisons, either behind or from outside. 

Like tattoos over scars to cover up a reminder of an accident, one has to develop personal power and take back control of his/her life after setbacks.  

“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” – Albert Pike

Panama: Spy vs. Spy Stuff

Posted in Behind Bars in Panama on March 1, 2015 by doingtimeabroad

Panama: Spy vs. Spy stuff

Martinelli’s electronic skullduggery — the stuff of both madcap comedy and frightening drama

by Eric Jackson 
 

“Believe me, I do have the files and histories of all, everyone in this country. I know what everyone has done and has not done.” – Ricardo Martinelli to Cambio Democratico legislators-elect (May 12, 2014)

“I don’t have time to be listening to foolishness. In this country if you want to know something you don’t have to do anything more than go to a restaurant or read the newspaper gossip columns.” – Ricardo Martinelli in his newspaper El Panama America (December 9, 2014)

Separately, DEA chief met with new Consejo head Alfaro on September 16. Alfaro told DEA chief, “I know why you are here. I made some changes and I am not going to change them.” Alfaro said he had orders from the president to find out who “was sleeping with his wife.” At the same time, he wanted to make sure he and the president were “covered” and that someone else would be responsible if something bad happened. – Former US Ambassador Barbara Stephenson, September 18, 2009 cable to Washington
made public by WikiLeaks 

[Martinelli’s intelligence chief Olmedo] Alfaro is increasingly open about his agenda to replace US law enforcement and security support with Israelis.
US diplomat David Gilmour
February 9, 2010 cable to Washington 
made public by WikiLeaks 

Cuban cartoonist Antonio Prohias proved insufferably subversive to Fidel Castro, who had him forced out as president of the Cuban Cartoonists Association, ordered his work censored and left him unemployed. Emigrating to New York, Prohias worked in a a garment factory by day and built a cartoon archive to show to potential employers by night. The result was the legendary Spy vs. Spy cartoon series in Mad magazine. The subversive effect of his work in the US culture began to manifest itself when much of a generation that laughed at the zany if often deadly maneuvers and counter-maneuvers of the otherwise indistinguishable black and white spies came out of the experience with jaded attitudes about the Cold War. That sensibility added fuel to fires of protest against the Vietnam War. The legendarily stingy management at Mad still jealously guards the residual rights to Spy vs. Spy and its characters. But might they be tempted to lease the rights for an animated silver screen feature based on the tale of Ricardo Martinelli’s electronic espionage operation? While people have every right to be incensed about the wholesale violation of the rights of many individuals and organizations inherent in this spying and while we don’t now and may never know the whole story, what is currently known and what is likely to be confirmed suggests madcap comedy.

How seriously can people take an administration whose spymaster informs the DEA station chief that a president with notorious mistresses on the side intends to use the apparatus of state to monitor the first lady’s suspected sexual affairs? How seriously can Panamanian voters take a spy operation that recorded an argument between a husband and wife and made a YouTube political attack video of it? (As it turned out, seriously enough to elect the wife to the legislature.)

However, over the course of Ricardo Martinelli’s administration some impressive capabilities were acquired, others were at least sought and we are only beginning to learn how these powers were abused. Martinelli first demanded that the DEA’s wiretap capability on loan to Panama’s National Security Council be lent for use in his personal political vendettas. When the Americans balked, Martinelli used that and a kidnapping plot hoax that he either created or trumped up into something it wasn’t as an excuse to dismiss his US security advisers and bring in an Israeli government-promoted mercenary company of former Shin Bet officers, MLM Protection to train and manage his bodyguards and run his electronic spy operation. In 2010, through MLM Protection, the Martinelli administration bought an array of surveillance equipment from an Israeli manufacturer. Later, just a few months before the May 2014 elections, the Martinelli administration bought an upgrade.

The name of the manufacturer is the secretive Israeli electronics company Nunvav, and at least part of the equipment sold was the PC Surveillance System. The company, whose name derives from a symbolic Hebrew contraction of “righteous one” and “faithful one,” denies ever having dealt with the Panamanian company, but then it does sell its products through third parties. In this case the one known intermediary was MLM Protection. There may have been others.

While Nunvav denies any direct dealings with the Panamanian government, it claims that it has the ability to locate the paraphernalia it makes wherever in the world it may be. The Varela administration says that the surveillance hardware is missing, and Nunvav says that it needs to see something akin to a search warrant before it helps the Panamanian government find it. The extent of any Israeli or corporate assistance, or that of other advanced foreign investigators, could be important if there is to be a thorough investigation of this matter. Electronic intrusions into databases, computers and telephone systems tend to leave behind tell-tale records of when they happened and any keystrokes involved in the intrusion. There are programs used to hide such electronic footprints but if the counter-intelligence is sophisticated enough — especially if the investigator possesses the suspect machine — those digital masks can identify the particular intrusive device. It would be expensive and it would require international cooperation, but Ricardo Martinelli’s electronic surveillance trail can probably be reconstructed with a fair amount of precision.

La Prensa, citing an unidentified source, claims that the Panamanian government paid more than six times the market value of the equipment. Given a pattern demonstrated in many other Martinelli administration contracts, it should be reasonably suspected that part of the overcharge was siphoned back to Ricardo Martinelli or some person or entity in his entourage in the form of a “consulting fee” or some other euphemism for a kickback. However, it is also reported that MLM trained at least five Panamanians — only four of whom have been identified — to use the equipment and this training may have contributed to the price.

The paper trail is fragmentary at the moment, but it is known that the first spy equipment purchase contract was made through the old Social Investment Fund (the predecessor of today, National Assistance Program or PAN) in 2010. The signers of the resolution approving that contract included then fund director Giacomo Tamburelli, Minister of the Presidency Jimmy Papadimitriu, Vice Minister of Education Mirna de Crespo and Vice Minister of Social Development Marta Susana de Varela.

This equipment was used against Panamanian political figures, including current President Juan Carlos Varela, who at the time it was first acquired was formally allied with Martinelli. La Estrella’s Adelita de Coriat further reports that this spy equipment was turned on other governments, including the embassies of Spain, Italy and the United States, and on the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

US Embassy cables released by WikiLeaks showed a strong American aversion to the Israeli presence on the Panamanian security scene. Are we to presume that the United States was later caught unaware of this eavesdropping? That’s unlikely. Are we to imagine that the United States was shocked by Israeli spying on US operations in Panama? Consider that in the Noriega era the Mossad organized the Special Anti-Terrorist Unit, a dictatorship death squad that during the 1989 invasion abducted and killed two Americans who may or may not have been intelligence operatives. Consider that a key member of Martinelli’s inner circle, Tourism Minister Salomón Shamah, had already been denied a US visa based on DEA suspicions of his ties with Colombia’s drug cartels and paramilitary death squads. Consider the many cases of Israeli spies caught working against the United States over the years. Consider that not long after Martinelli left office, it was revealed in Der Spiegel that the Israelis had tapped into US Secretary of State John Kerry’s telephone calls. Surely the Americans knew that Martinelli was spying on them, had a dossier with a psychological profile of the man and had counter-intelligence operatives working to manage or counter the spying efforts. Consider that Papadimitriu is a dual US-Panamanian citizen with an American career as a Republican political operative to be destroyed were he covertly a part of a spy operation against the United States. Martinelli may have thought that he was pulling a fast one, but the Americans surely knew. It may be the stuff of spy thrillers, but whole scenario is probably far more conducive to comedy.

There is a partial code of silence of those involved — Tamburelli and Papadimitriu being notable exceptions — but some of the Panamanian security officials who might be presumed to have known all about the surveillance plead ignorance and they might not be lying. It appears that Martinelli organized the surveillance effort into a separate team personally loyal to himself and not showing in known Panamanian government documents. Nobody on this team has made any public declarations about it and some members are known to be unavailable to the government, even for the purpose of declining comment.

So what capabilities did Martinelli’s secret team, whose principal equipment could fit into a a backpack, possess? They could intercept land line and cellular telephones, including text messages. They could read people’s email and other Internet communications. They could not only use cell phones to locate the people carrying them, they could unbeknownst to their carriers turn the devices into live microphones that capture all nearby sounds, including private conversations. From the street they could aim directional microphones at walls or windows and listen to conversations within buildings. They could plant surveillance or destructive viruses in people’s computers. To the extent that Panamanians, whose culture prizes privacy, find out about specific tactics aimed against themselves we may see the emergence of real anger.

There is, however, an at least partially known context. Legally confidential Electoral Tribunal and Social Security Fund databases were mined and their contents used in a campaign database for Ricardo Martinelli’s proxy presidential re-election campaign. The bid specifications for Martinelli’s “free Internet for all” program — never fully implemented — included the president’s ability to block access to or manipulate the download speeds of specific websites and keep track of individuals’ and businesses’ Internet usage. The man went in front of international bodies and advocated various forms of Internet censorship.

There is also a prospective context. If President Varela keeps to his timetable and begins a process of convening a constitutional convention in the middle of 2015, that means that continuing revelations about Ricardo Martinelli’s surveillance operations will be part of the backdrop. Given Panama’s traditional values, it ought to inject the subject of privacy into the constitutional debate.

[Editor’s note: In the quotations at the top of this story there is a demeaning reference to former First Lady Marta Linares de Martinelli. It’s a creepy suggestion to make about any woman and its publication shatters the traditional deference given to first ladies in Panama. However, in the first place The Panama News in no way vouches for the underlying truth of the reported statements of Martinelli’s former spymaster Olmedo Alfaro — it’s just an illustration of the sort of thinking to which all Panamanians were subjected. Second, Marta Linares de Martinelli presented herself to the nation as a vice presidential candidate who would not only have prolonged those abuses but used abusive intrusions into confidential databases as part of her campaign. As far as The Panama News is concerned she by that course of action forfeited the customary deference for first ladies.]

Source:

https://m.facebook.com/notes/10152964968311726/

Panama, Martinelli And The Wiretapegate Scandal

Posted in Behind Bars in Panama on February 3, 2015 by doingtimeabroad

Panama’s ex-president’s hunger for gossip at center of wiretap probe

BY TIM JOHNSON,
MCCLATCHY FOREIGN STAFF

January 28, 2015

PANAMA CITY — When the United States rejected former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli’s request for spying equipment to eavesdrop, U.S. diplomats feared, on his political enemies, the former supermarket baron turned to another source: Israel.

Now scores of Panama’s political and social elite are learning that the eavesdropping program that Martinelli’s security team set in place sprawled into the most private aspects of their lives – including their bedrooms. Rather than national security, what appears to have driven the wiretapping was a surfeit of the seven deadly sins, particularly greed, pride, lust and envy.

Nearly every day, targets of the wiretapping march to the prosecutors’ office to see what their dossiers contain, often emerging in distress. Martinelli, who left office in July, is facing a rising tide of outrage not only over the wiretapping, but also over reports of vast corruption. His personal secretary has left the country. The eavesdropping equipment has vanished.

“Martinelli was obsessed with knowing what everybody was gossiping or saying about him,” said Álvaro Alemán Healy, the Cabinet chief for the current president, Juan Carlos Varela. “He used to brag that he had a file or dossier on everybody who is important here in Panama.”

Martinelli’s request for U.S. assistance in setting up such a program – and the U.S. rejection – has been known for years; it was detailed in one of the tens of thousands of State Department cables made public by WikiLeaks.

But new details of what happened after that rejection are just now emerging, and Panama is shocked.

A few days ago, prosecutors summoned legislator José Luis Varela, the current president’s brother, to review a partial dossier of emails and transcriptions of conversations that government snoops had culled from him and his family. Among them was an email his wife had sent to one of his grown sons.

“It said things like, ‘You never finished university, you’re sleeping too much and you don’t have a goal in life,’” Varela recalled.

Wiretapping scandals are not new in Latin America, even under democratically elected governments. Colombia was rocked by a tapping scandal in 2008 that eventually led to the dissolution of its domestic investigative agency. Around the same period, reports of wiretapping under Peru’s then-president, Alberto Fujimori, were partly responsible for his eventual jailing.

Alemán said the government believes Martinelli’s security team kept active wiretaps on “between 150 to 175 people,” among them the Roman Catholic archbishop of Panama, opposition political leaders, rival business tycoons, supreme court judges, U.S. Embassy personnel, his own Cabinet members and even the woman identified publicly as his mistress.

Some of the targets say they long suspected that Martinelli’s security team spied on them, but they voice abhorrence at new details of the surveillance that have emerged in recent weeks.

“What shames me about this is how they used this information to destroy families, harm marriages, obtain business, hurt rival business, and even affect diplomatic relations,” said Miguel Antonio Bernal, a law professor and human rights activist who has filed a criminal complaint against Martinelli over the wiretapping.

When Martinelli first approached U.S. diplomats about helping him with wiretapping, he asked them to expand a U.S. program aimed at suspected drug traffickers, known as Matador, according to multiple secret U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in late 2010. When U.S. diplomats noted that U.S. and Panamanian law forbade such wiretapping, Martinelli turned to Israel, purchasing a $14 million package from MLM Protection Ltd., which offers “cutting edge, customized security solutions.”

Two of Martinelli’s former top security chiefs, Alejandro Garuz and Gustavo Pérez, were detained earlier this month in the wiretapping scandal, while two other security technicians are fugitives. An employee of the National Security Council has cooperated with prosecutors and is now under protection, apparently overseas.

“Former President Martinelli has no relation to these supposed events,” a spokesman, Luis Eduardo Camacho, said in a brief telephone interview.

Once Martinelli left office, Alemán said, “the (wiretapping) equipment disappeared. It’s not here. We don’t know if it’s been taken out of Panama.”

The Israeli equipment offered sophisticated capabilities to the Panamanian snoopers, allowing not only the monitoring of cell and fixed-line telephone calls and emails but also Whatsapp and Blackberry texts. Moreover, the techs could burrow into hard drives and extract data and video, and remotely activate functions. They could also detect signals of nearby cellphones to determine who might be meeting.

“They can turn on the video (function) of your cellphone when it is resting on a table, and can turn on the microphone to hear who you are meeting with,” Bernal said.

Among the victims angriest about the surveillance is Zulay Rodríguez, a 43-year-old lawyer and legislator from the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party.

“They stole a video of my husband and me – intimate,” Rodríguez said. “They use a technology that lets them take intimate scenes inside your bedroom.”

Unlike many of those affected by the domestic spying, Rodríguez found out about the video not from the boxes of files and printouts and hard drives at the prosecutors’ office, but from officials close to Martinelli long before he left office.

“They called me to threaten and say they had the video,” Rodríguez said.

Rodríguez believed them, because cellphone conversations that she’d had with her husband while they were in a period of difficulties had been tapped and uploaded to YouTube earlier in the Martinelli administration to embarrass her.

Rodríguez said prosecutors told her they have only a fraction – 20 percent – of the material captured by the National Security Council spies. Most of it was carted away when Martinelli’s handpicked candidate lost the presidential election in an upset last year, but the team overlooked a hard drive.

When Rodríguez went into the prosecutors’ office to peruse the dossier gathered on her earlier this month, she found a stack of material.

“They had transcripts of conversations I had with my family, my father, with party leaders, with activists,” she said.

Rodríguez has joined Bernal and many others in demanding that the former National Security Council members and Martinelli face criminal trial.

Panama, a nation of less than 4 million, has a small ruling elite, and many power brokers socialized with Martinelli even as they learned of his propensity to regale them with outrageous details of others’ personal lives, relishing the most intimate “information.”

“He wants to know who is screwing whom,” Alemán said.

Party leaders and legislators took action to protect sensitive discussions.

“When politicians would meet, it was almost like a ritual. They would leave their cellphones outside the room,” said Guido A. Rodríguez, a former editor of the Panama America newspaper who is now a prosecutor overseeing the auditing of public accounts.

“There was almost a collective paranoia,” he added.

Even the most innocuous incident could unleash the talents of the spy team.

One politician recalled that he’d been at a social event with Martinelli and his mistress. When he raised his phone to snap a photo, the two raised their middle fingers at the camera.

“I sent (the photo) to him. He told me his people erased it from my phone,” said the politician, who asked not to be publicly linked to the incident.

Source:
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2015/01/28/254716/panamas-ex-presidents-hunger-for.html
Email: tjohnson@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @timjohnson4

Wikileaks: Dim view of Panama president Obama will meet

TIM JOHNSON,
MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS

April 26, 2011

WASHINGTON — Ah, to be a fly on the Oval Office wall Thursday as President Barack Obama meets with Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, the subject of a series of State Department cables that WikiLeaks obtained and passed to McClatchy.

The cables aren’t kind to Martinelli. They describe him as a man of “limited attention span” who “makes strong impulsive decisions with minimal information.” They cast him as vindictive, authoritarian, fixated on spying on his political foes and contemptuous of checks on what one cable calls his “hyper-presidency.”

If diplomacy is the art of discretion and subtlety, these cables miss the mark. But they lay out the contours of an often-abrasive relationship between then-U.S. Ambassador to Panama Barbara J. Stephenson and Martinelli, a University of Arkansas graduate and self-made millionaire who took office July 1, 2009.

Martinelli, who founded Panama’s Super 99 supermarket chain, cast himself as a right-of-center counterweight in Latin America to Hugo Chavez, the radical Venezuelan leader. Martinelli’s isthmus nation, which occupies a choke point at the center of the Americas, is a global transit point for commerce. Two-thirds of the ships that cross the isthmus are either going to or coming from the United States.

Roughhouse skirmishes between Martinelli and Stephenson began days after his inauguration, and the cables peel back the issues at stake.

Stephenson sent a cable to Washington relating how Martinelli sent her “a cryptic BlackBerry message that said, ‘I need help with tapping phones.’ ” In follow-up meetings, Martinelli and his aides demanded that a U.S.-designed wiretap program to catch drug traffickers be expanded to target his domestic political foes, a move that was illegal under Panamanian and U.S. law. He threatened to reduce counter-narcotics cooperation if Washington “did not help him on wiretaps.”

Martinelli’s chief security aide, Olmedo Alfaro, confided to a U.S. counter-all drug agent that the president had an ulterior motive.

“Alfaro said he had orders from the president to find out who ‘was sleeping with his wife,’ ” Stephenson cabled Washington.

By the second week of the Martinelli administration, Stephenson alerted superiors in Washington to what she called a hardball style that was “almost certain to spell trouble for Panama’s democratic institutions.” It was a message that would grow stronger in the cables well into 2010.

A month later, in another cable marked secret, she noted “an attitude of suspicion and vindictiveness” and an aggressive style designed “to push the limit to get what he wants” even at the cost of alienating the United States.

“His penchant for bullying and blackmail may have led him to supermarket stardom but is hardly statesmanlike,” she wrote.

In later months, she’d inform the State Department of Martinelli’s efforts to install two “cronies” on Panama’s Supreme Court, replace an attorney general whom he couldn’t control and send tax auditors after businessmen who were friendly to the political opposition.

Yet Martinelli and his top security aide were still focused on gaining control of the wiretap unit, which employed only U.S.-vetted Panamanians listening in on some 200 cellular phone lines linked to suspected organized crime figures and Colombian guerrillas in camps in the remote jungles of Panama’s Darien Gap.

Another secret cable signed by Stephenson describes Martinelli and Alfaro as “consumed with plots and threats both real and imagined,” focusing on Martinelli’s “obsessive concern with being the target of a kidnapping.”

Even as Stephenson shifted Panama’s focus to broader security concerns, she found herself reminding Washington of imbalances in the relationship.

“Panama’s help is much more crucial to us than it is to Panama,” Stephenson said in a cable from 2008 that emphasized the sweeping nature of Panamanian cooperation. She noted that one-third of all the ships in the world are flagged in Panama, and the nation had ceded the right for U.S. agents to search any of those vessels on the high seas with Panamanian approval, a major concession.

As months passed, distress at the U.S. Embassy over Panama’s disarray on security issues deepened. Much of it focused on cocaine trafficking and the presence of some 200 fighters from the 57th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC in its Spanish initials, a Marxist guerrilla group from Colombia that had moved over the border into the Darien. One cable noted that the FARC had a logistical foothold in Panama City, linking its presence to rising homicides.

Martinelli’s most trusted aide, Jimmy Papadimitriu, admitted to Stephenson the “chaotic state” of the government’s security policy, saying rivals all claimed to have the embassy’s endorsement for pet projects.

“Every one of them thinks he is in charge, and everyone has his own version of what the gringos say,” Stephenson quoted him as telling her.

“That evening,” the cable continued, “the Ambassador received a BlackBerry chat message from the president stating, ‘Get Silver.’ ” — the ringleader of the FARC drug trafficking ring — ” ‘You have my blessing. Need to meet every week.’ ”

It was a green light to go after the 57th Front’s deputy commander, Luis Fernando “Silver” Mora Pestana, a guerrilla chief whom U.S. prosecutors had indicted in a kidnapping-for-ransom case that involved a U.S. citizen.

But launching such a raid involved vast coordination, and U.S. strategy first was to help Panama choke off supplies to Silver’s camp, weakening the rebels. As 2009 neared an end, “Get Silver” was still a dream. That’s when Martinelli dropped a bombshell: He’d given the green light to Colombia to conduct the strike to destroy the rebel camp.

The announcement alarmed the U.S. Embassy. Only a year earlier, Colombia had conducted a cross-border strike into Ecuador to wipe out a FARC encampment, killing a member of the rebel high command and some 20 others. The move sparked emergency sessions of the Organization of American States and angry reactions in Quito and Caracas.

Stephenson told Washington she was “deeply concerned” that a cross-border attack would cause long-term damage to security cooperation with Panama.

“An attack would hand a propaganda victory to Hugo Chavez, who would claim the attack was launched from a U.S. base in Colombia,” she said. It would stir Panamanian mistrust of Colombia and “reinvigorate the anti-American left” in Panama, she added. The resulting outcry would cause Panama to pull in the reins on cooperation.

“President Martinelli’s tendency to glibly say yes to any proposal by a government he sees as an ideological ally adds an additional layer of complexity and unpredictability,” she wrote.

U.S. pressure in Bogota and Panama City appeared to work. The cross-border Christmas raid never took place. “Silver” remains on the lam.

Later that December, Stephenson turned her focus to the “seamy underside” of Panama’s Tocumen International Airport, a conduit for money launderers, among them the president’s second cousin, Ramon Martinelli, who’d been detained a month earlier in Mexico.

Her cable said the smuggling ring “moved up to $30 million per month through Tocumen last year,” adding that the embassy had no information linking the president himself to money laundering.

The matter of his cousin’s arrest in Mexico came up when Martinelli saw Stephenson that month.

“Martinelli said he was satisfied,” Stephenson reported. “If the Mexicans had not arrested him, the GOP” — the government of Panama — “had plans to arrest him. He said Ramon had always been a ‘black sheep’ and was sullying the good Martinelli family name.”

Despite his bruising political style, Martinelli remains highly popular in Panama. A poll this month by the firm Dichter & Neira found that 70.1 percent of his countrymen approve of his leadership.

His only comment on the WikiLeaks cables came last December, after the release of one cable claiming that he’d asked Stephenson to help wiretap his enemies. His statement said that “help in tapping the telephones of politicians was never requested.”

Stephenson ended her stint in Panama in mid-2010. Her State Department superiors clearly thought highly of her work. She’s now the No. 2 diplomat in the U.S. Embassy in London, Washington’s most important posting in Western Europe.

Source and more articles on Panama:
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/04/26/112845/cables-offer-dim-view-of-president.html

Panama: Spy vs. Spy Stuff

Posted in Behind Bars in Panama on February 3, 2015 by doingtimeabroad

Panama: Spy vs. Spy stuff

Martinelli’s electronic skullduggery — the stuff of both madcap comedy and frightening drama

by Eric Jackson 
 

“Believe me, I do have the files and histories of all, everyone in this country. I know what everyone has done and has not done.” – Ricardo Martinelli to Cambio Democratico legislators-elect (May 12, 2014)

“I don’t have time to be listening to foolishness. In this country if you want to know something you don’t have to do anything more than go to a restaurant or read the newspaper gossip columns.” – Ricardo Martinelli in his newspaper El Panama America (December 9, 2014)

Separately, DEA chief met with new Consejo head Alfaro on September 16. Alfaro told DEA chief, “I know why you are here. I made some changes and I am not going to change them.” Alfaro said he had orders from the president to find out who “was sleeping with his wife.” At the same time, he wanted to make sure he and the president were “covered” and that someone else would be responsible if something bad happened. – Former US Ambassador Barbara Stephenson, September 18, 2009 cable to Washington
made public by WikiLeaks 

[Martinelli’s intelligence chief Olmedo] Alfaro is increasingly open about his agenda to replace US law enforcement and security support with Israelis.
US diplomat David Gilmour
February 9, 2010 cable to Washington 
made public by WikiLeaks 

Cuban cartoonist Antonio Prohias proved insufferably subversive to Fidel Castro, who had him forced out as president of the Cuban Cartoonists Association, ordered his work censored and left him unemployed. Emigrating to New York, Prohias worked in a a garment factory by day and built a cartoon archive to show to potential employers by night. The result was the legendary Spy vs. Spy cartoon series in Mad magazine. The subversive effect of his work in the US culture began to manifest itself when much of a generation that laughed at the zany if often deadly maneuvers and counter-maneuvers of the otherwise indistinguishable black and white spies came out of the experience with jaded attitudes about the Cold War. That sensibility added fuel to fires of protest against the Vietnam War. The legendarily stingy management at Mad still jealously guards the residual rights to Spy vs. Spy and its characters. But might they be tempted to lease the rights for an animated silver screen feature based on the tale of Ricardo Martinelli’s electronic espionage operation? While people have every right to be incensed about the wholesale violation of the rights of many individuals and organizations inherent in this spying and while we don’t now and may never know the whole story, what is currently known and what is likely to be confirmed suggests madcap comedy.

How seriously can people take an administration whose spymaster informs the DEA station chief that a president with notorious mistresses on the side intends to use the apparatus of state to monitor the first lady’s suspected sexual affairs? How seriously can Panamanian voters take a spy operation that recorded an argument between a husband and wife and made a YouTube political attack video of it? (As it turned out, seriously enough to elect the wife to the legislature.)

However, over the course of Ricardo Martinelli’s administration some impressive capabilities were acquired, others were at least sought and we are only beginning to learn how these powers were abused. Martinelli first demanded that the DEA’s wiretap capability on loan to Panama’s National Security Council be lent for use in his personal political vendettas. When the Americans balked, Martinelli used that and a kidnapping plot hoax that he either created or trumped up into something it wasn’t as an excuse to dismiss his US security advisers and bring in an Israeli government-promoted mercenary company of former Shin Bet officers, MLM Protection to train and manage his bodyguards and run his electronic spy operation. In 2010, through MLM Protection, the Martinelli administration bought an array of surveillance equipment from an Israeli manufacturer. Later, just a few months before the May 2014 elections, the Martinelli administration bought an upgrade.

The name of the manufacturer is the secretive Israeli electronics company Nunvav, and at least part of the equipment sold was the PC Surveillance System. The company, whose name derives from a symbolic Hebrew contraction of “righteous one” and “faithful one,” denies ever having dealt with the Panamanian company, but then it does sell its products through third parties. In this case the one known intermediary was MLM Protection. There may have been others.

While Nunvav denies any direct dealings with the Panamanian government, it claims that it has the ability to locate the paraphernalia it makes wherever in the world it may be. The Varela administration says that the surveillance hardware is missing, and Nunvav says that it needs to see something akin to a search warrant before it helps the Panamanian government find it. The extent of any Israeli or corporate assistance, or that of other advanced foreign investigators, could be important if there is to be a thorough investigation of this matter. Electronic intrusions into databases, computers and telephone systems tend to leave behind tell-tale records of when they happened and any keystrokes involved in the intrusion. There are programs used to hide such electronic footprints but if the counter-intelligence is sophisticated enough — especially if the investigator possesses the suspect machine — those digital masks can identify the particular intrusive device. It would be expensive and it would require international cooperation, but Ricardo Martinelli’s electronic surveillance trail can probably be reconstructed with a fair amount of precision.

La Prensa, citing an unidentified source, claims that the Panamanian government paid more than six times the market value of the equipment. Given a pattern demonstrated in many other Martinelli administration contracts, it should be reasonably suspected that part of the overcharge was siphoned back to Ricardo Martinelli or some person or entity in his entourage in the form of a “consulting fee” or some other euphemism for a kickback. However, it is also reported that MLM trained at least five Panamanians — only four of whom have been identified — to use the equipment and this training may have contributed to the price.

The paper trail is fragmentary at the moment, but it is known that the first spy equipment purchase contract was made through the old Social Investment Fund (the predecessor of today, National Assistance Program or PAN) in 2010. The signers of the resolution approving that contract included then fund director Giacomo Tamburelli, Minister of the Presidency Jimmy Papadimitriu, Vice Minister of Education Mirna de Crespo and Vice Minister of Social Development Marta Susana de Varela.

This equipment was used against Panamanian political figures, including current President Juan Carlos Varela, who at the time it was first acquired was formally allied with Martinelli. La Estrella’s Adelita de Coriat further reports that this spy equipment was turned on other governments, including the embassies of Spain, Italy and the United States, and on the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

US Embassy cables released by WikiLeaks showed a strong American aversion to the Israeli presence on the Panamanian security scene. Are we to presume that the United States was later caught unaware of this eavesdropping? That’s unlikely. Are we to imagine that the United States was shocked by Israeli spying on US operations in Panama? Consider that in the Noriega era the Mossad organized the Special Anti-Terrorist Unit, a dictatorship death squad that during the 1989 invasion abducted and killed two Americans who may or may not have been intelligence operatives. Consider that a key member of Martinelli’s inner circle, Tourism Minister Salomón Shamah, had already been denied a US visa based on DEA suspicions of his ties with Colombia’s drug cartels and paramilitary death squads. Consider the many cases of Israeli spies caught working against the United States over the years. Consider that not long after Martinelli left office, it was revealed in Der Spiegel that the Israelis had tapped into US Secretary of State John Kerry’s telephone calls. Surely the Americans knew that Martinelli was spying on them, had a dossier with a psychological profile of the man and had counter-intelligence operatives working to manage or counter the spying efforts. Consider that Papadimitriu is a dual US-Panamanian citizen with an American career as a Republican political operative to be destroyed were he covertly a part of a spy operation against the United States. Martinelli may have thought that he was pulling a fast one, but the Americans surely knew. It may be the stuff of spy thrillers, but whole scenario is probably far more conducive to comedy.

There is a partial code of silence of those involved — Tamburelli and Papadimitriu being notable exceptions — but some of the Panamanian security officials who might be presumed to have known all about the surveillance plead ignorance and they might not be lying. It appears that Martinelli organized the surveillance effort into a separate team personally loyal to himself and not showing in known Panamanian government documents. Nobody on this team has made any public declarations about it and some members are known to be unavailable to the government, even for the purpose of declining comment.

So what capabilities did Martinelli’s secret team, whose principal equipment could fit into a a backpack, possess? They could intercept land line and cellular telephones, including text messages. They could read people’s email and other Internet communications. They could not only use cell phones to locate the people carrying them, they could unbeknownst to their carriers turn the devices into live microphones that capture all nearby sounds, including private conversations. From the street they could aim directional microphones at walls or windows and listen to conversations within buildings. They could plant surveillance or destructive viruses in people’s computers. To the extent that Panamanians, whose culture prizes privacy, find out about specific tactics aimed against themselves we may see the emergence of real anger.

There is, however, an at least partially known context. Legally confidential Electoral Tribunal and Social Security Fund databases were mined and their contents used in a campaign database for Ricardo Martinelli’s proxy presidential re-election campaign. The bid specifications for Martinelli’s “free Internet for all” program — never fully implemented — included the president’s ability to block access to or manipulate the download speeds of specific websites and keep track of individuals’ and businesses’ Internet usage. The man went in front of international bodies and advocated various forms of Internet censorship.

There is also a prospective context. If President Varela keeps to his timetable and begins a process of convening a constitutional convention in the middle of 2015, that means that continuing revelations about Ricardo Martinelli’s surveillance operations will be part of the backdrop. Given Panama’s traditional values, it ought to inject the subject of privacy into the constitutional debate.

[Editor’s note: In the quotations at the top of this story there is a demeaning reference to former First Lady Marta Linares de Martinelli. It’s a creepy suggestion to make about any woman and its publication shatters the traditional deference given to first ladies in Panama. However, in the first place The Panama News in no way vouches for the underlying truth of the reported statements of Martinelli’s former spymaster Olmedo Alfaro — it’s just an illustration of the sort of thinking to which all Panamanians were subjected. Second, Marta Linares de Martinelli presented herself to the nation as a vice presidential candidate who would not only have prolonged those abuses but used abusive intrusions into confidential databases as part of her campaign. As far as The Panama News is concerned she by that course of action forfeited the customary deference for first ladies.]

Source:

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