The general election in Panama is taking place soon, May 4th (according to Google), so the amount of promotions that the political parties are doing has increased. Since I first arrived here, I saw that there’s more of it here than in England, even when there are no elections, for example some houses have flags and/or posters on them with the name/logo of a politician or political party, and I’m 99% sure these were given to the residents for free by the party.
I first noticed the increase in promotions about a month ago, when giant posters (I think they might be called billboards in American English) were put up on the streets with the names, faces and slogans of some politicians. This was kind of normal to me because, although the posters here are way bigger, I’m used to seeing posters of local MPs around the towns in England before the local elections.
Little did I know, they were not about to stop at the posters. At Carnival, there was a lot of Navarro merchandise being given out. (Navarro is running for president of the PRD party, according to Google). By the end of the day, half the Carnival population was wearing a Navarro t-shirt, using a Navarro bandana on their head, walking with a Navarro water-bottle hanging from their neck, wearing a Navarro cap, or using a Navarro waterproof shoulder-bag to put their phone etc in to keep their phone etc in. I’m not sure if the other parties were doing any promotions during these days. If they were, it wasn’t particularly noticeable.
Again, the promotion wasn’t going to stop here. There are a few annoying cars decorated with the candidates’ faces etc that drive around (normally passing my house when I’m trying to have a nap), blasting out music and speaking through a loudspeaker (I’m guessing about their political party but I don’t know because I don’t listen). This one was parked outside my house earlier:
Anyway, surprise surprise, the promotion didn’t stop there. The other day I noticed a big hand-painted banner hanging between 2 trees (they always hand-paint the event banners that go in the park and always tie them between 2 trees), saying something about Navarro and something about a concert in Barco Hundido bar with free entry for everyone. I was a bit confused at first about why Navarro’s name was on a banner for a reggaeton poster, but then I realised that maybe he was paying for it (hence the free entry) as part of his promotions.
Also the other day in the sports hall there was a basketball tournament with 4 teams (3 from Isla Colon and 1 from Bastimentos), and their shorts and vests were sponsored by Mario Miller, another political guy (with his name/logo on the front and back of the vests). I found it quite funny because one of the teams called themselves the Lakers (as in the LA Lakers NBA team), and so Navarro had printed their shirts with the real Lakers logo on the front. I’m pretty sure this is completely illegal because he definitely didn’t pay the Lakers to use their logo. Obviously the Lakers would never find out, or care, but the fact that a presidential guy did something illegal is quite ironic/funny in my opinion.
When my Panamanian friend Sol was looking at the flyer for the event on Facebook, which you can see below, she said his hat and scarf have the colours of Navarro’s logo or slogan or something, so it was definitely being paid for by Navarro:
I’m going to the concert tonight and I’ll be interested to see whether Navarro is actually mentioned at all or whether the promotion is purely the fact that he paid for the concert and everyone knows that so will supposedly like him more.
I’m guessing the political promotions will keep increasing in the run up to the elections, but personally I think it’s all very silly. Firstly, I haven’t heard anyone talk about politicians or whose policies they approve of etc, EVER, and I’ve been here for 6 months. I’ve heard some negative things about corruption etc being said about Panamanian politicians in general, but NO ONE seems to care about who is in power (or maybe it’s just not talked about). If this is the case, and people don’t know/care about the political parties, then surely the people need to be informed about what each party DOES so that they can form an opinion. Putting on concerts is not going to achieve this.
Secondly, although the money they spend on promotion probably isn’t loads if we’re looking at the total money that they have, but it’s still money, and Panama is a developing country with a lack of sufficient health and education services, so I don’t think free t-shirts during carnival should be a priority for the political people. I understand that the candidates aren’t running the country right now, but that shouldn’t stop them doing something useful if they have a “spare” budget for promotion. Rather than put on a concert they could provide something for the Bocas hospital. I’m sure this would get in the newspaper or on Facebook, so people would still know and it would still be useful for their publicity, but it would also be helping the community and not wasting money.