Viewing cable 05PANAMA680

05PANAMA6802005-03-24 17:03:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Panama
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A 
REF: STATE 52447 
¶1.  Embassy warmly welcomes Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ), member 
of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence 
(HPSCI), who will visit Panama during April 1-3, 2005. 
Embassy also welcomes committee professional staff member 
Mr. Robert Myhill and former HPSCI staffer Brant Bassett. 
¶2.  Embassy Control Officer for the visit is Political 
Officer Karen Covert, telephones: office (507) 207-7131, 
residence (507) 225-2850, cell (507) 616-3723; fax (507) 207- 
7418; email: 
¶3. Embassy will arrange hotel accommodations at the Marriott 
in Panama City.  Reservation details will be forthcoming via 
¶4. The American Embassy in Panama is located on Avenida 
Balboa and Calles 37 and 38, and the Clayton Building is 
located on Demetrio Basilio Lakas Street (formerly Building 
520, Clayton).  Note:  When taking a taxi to the Embassy, 
please be sure to specify the exact address where you intend 
to go.  If your business is in the Chancery, you should ask 
to be taken to the Avenida Balboa location.  The Consular 
Section, FCS, MGT, PD, and CIS (formerly INS) are located on 
Demetrio Basilio Lakas Street, Clayton.  Taxi drivers have 
sometimes taken our visitors to the Clayton Building when in 
fact they wanted to go to the Chancery.  The Embassy 
telephone number is (Country Code (507) 207-7000 during duty 
hours.  After duty hours, the telephone number is (507) 207- 
¶5. Use taxis for transportation between the Embassy and the 
hotel unless other arrangements are made.  Taxis in Panama 
do not use meters and fares should be agreed upon in 
¶6. U.S. currency is accepted in Panama and major credit 
cards are widely accepted.  However, visitors are warned 
that large denominational bills ($50 and larger) are often 
closely scrutinized or refused due to counterfeiting fears. 
¶7. During the May-to-December rainy season, Panama City 
experiences heavy rain most days, often with brief flooding 
in the streets or walkways.  During the rest of the year, 
rains are less frequent.  The temperature is warm. 
Travelers are advised to pack accordingly. 
¶8. All official USG travelers to Panama should enter on 
passports with appropriate diplomatic or official visas. 
¶9. American visitors or TDYers departing from Tocumen 
International Airport must pay a 20 USD user fee.  However, 
officials accredited to the American Embassy in Panama are 
¶10. Security Assessment:  There is no specific information 
to indicate that criminals or terrorists target official or 
private American travelers to Panama. Criminal statistics 
indicate a steady increase in drug use and related criminal 
activity to include robbery, assault, auto theft, larceny, 
and sexual assault.  The emergence and establishment of 
youth gangs, in specific areas of Panama City and Colon, has 
been noted, yet has not reached the critical levels that it 
has in other countries in Latin America.  Armed violence in 
the high crime areas of metropolitan Panama is not uncommon; 
a curfew enacted for juveniles remains in place.  Police 
checkpoints have become commonplace on weekends in Panama 
City and Colon, checking for everything from drunken driving 
to valid drivers licenses, to searching for weapons.  Based 
upon reported incidents, the high crime areas around Panama 
City are: Chorrillo, Ancon, Curundu, Rio Abajo, Veracruz 
Beach, Panama Viejo, and the Madden Dam overlook.  In 
addition, U.S. citizens should exercise caution when 
visiting the campus of the University of Panama.  Despite 
improved policing and more police officer visibility on the 
streets during business hours, urban crime continues to be a 
problem akin to what one would find in most mid-sized cities 
in the U.S.  The border region of Panama and Colombia, the 
Darien, is unstable - and sometimes violent - due to 
narcotics trafficking and spillover from the Colombian civil 
conflict. The region is not developed and there is no ready 
access.  All travel for official Americans to the area is 
restricted, and travel for pleasure is not allowed.  Advice 
to American travelers:  Exercise good personal security 
practices and always be aware of your surrounding 
environment.  Minimize the amount of cash, credit cards, 
jewelry, and other personal valuables you carry with you and 
avoid going out alone, particularly after dark.  Choose 
restaurants and establishments that have adequate security. 
Radio taxis are safe and recommended.  Contact the RSO to 
report any security-related incident.  For updated security 
information, contact the U.S. Embassy's Consular Section.