The President arrived in Panamà City this Thursday evening for the Seventh Summit of the Americas. It is being held in Panamà City this 10th and 11th. Tonight, Thursday, the 9th, a Reception was held at the Westin Playa Bonita for the Embassy personnel and their families, but not the Embassy local hires or ‘low level’ US employees. The affair was also closed to the Press and all Peace Corps Volunteers.
Currently there are approximately 209 PCVs working in Panamà, and since 1963 over 2,370 had served there as English teachers, environmental health, environmental conservation and in agriculture. My guess is that the Secret Service wanted to control the number of guests, therefore, no PCVs, but given the Secret Service agents behavior of late, I would have thought they might invite the Peace Corps just to ‘hit’ on some of the women.
The Summits of the Americas are institutionalized gatherings of the heads of state and government of the Western Hemisphere where leaders discuss common policy issues, affirm shared values and commit to concerted actions at the national and regional level to address continuing and new challenges faced in the Americas.
The Summit was started under the Clinton Administration. Former President Clinton and Secretary of State Kerry are attending this meeting in Panama, and they were invited to the Westin Playa Bonita tonight.
In 2013 the Summit was held in Cartegena, Colombia where the first group of Volunteers in-country arrived after 30 years, but they weren’t invited either to the Embassy reception. Was is it? Do we eat too much?
The real reason, however, for no invitation I have since been told is because that the US Ambassador in Colombia at the time hated the agency.
This Summit, however, has included a Cuban Delegation. President Obama and the Cuban President Raúl Castro will make their first appearance together since they announced moves to normalize relations. That handshake is sure to be one of the enduring images of the Obama presidency.
The Peace Corps is not entirely without representation at this two-day summit in the capitol. The US Ambassador in Panamà, Jonathan Farrar, has set up tables in three hotels being used by the American staff and asked Bob Arias (Colombia 1964-66) a longtime Response Corps Volunteer, who lives in Panamà to manage the tables.
Having lived in this region as a Response Corp Volunteer, Arias is something of a marketing specialist for the Emberà tribe of the Darien peninsula, located deep in the jungle and he gives his assistance to generate income for the tribe by working with 24 artisans, mostly women, and 6 children, from the village of Bavamón. What he is able to sell at the Westin hotel, and the two other hotels–$600 in one day–goes
directly to the village. There is no middleman.
And since Bob is no longer a PCV, he is also allowed by the Secret Service to move freely in the city. Why, he might even be able to get a free drink at the Reception. Have a beer on Obama, Bob.