02 de Dic de 2022


When protocol outguns location

Location, location, location ? key words when you are setting up a business, but what about when you are trying to organize a garden par...

Location, location, location ? key words when you are setting up a business, but what about when you are trying to organize a garden party? The American Society of Panama has been bedeviled with the problem since they started to plan their most popular event of the year, the Dry Season Picnic, where they welcome new members, and reward those who have paid their dues early.

Last year, the event was held in the grounds of the American Ambassador’s residence, a stately home in prestigious La Cresta. At that time the ambassador was Bill Eaton , and scores turned up, to eat, chat and dance.

When the new ambassador Barbara Stephenson was approached about the staging of this year’s event, the request was turned down on the grounds of worldwide regulations of the State Department in Washington D.C.

The grounds can be used by the Embassy only for official government purposes and activities held at the residence must be in direct pursuit of justified foreign policy goals.

When fundraising activities of charitable organizations, are concerned it is “necessary to justify how the activity is in the clear foreign policy interest of the United States.”

The Ambassador followed the letter of the law and the Association decided to hold the gathering at the Balboa Yacht Club on January 24.

But when it was explained to her that The American Society uses its membership fees and any surpluses from it social events for charitable purposes, including providing scholarships for Panamanian school children and providing infrastructure for one of them, the John F. Kennedy School she reversed her decision.

Out went the message to members that the celebration would be at the ambassador’s residence, on January 31, and it offered pricing discounts, as a thank you for early commitment to attend.

And there, as Shakespeare said, was the rub. The ethics committee of the legal department of the Embassy read the message and, as the ambassador explained in a letter to Association president Dr. Charly Garcia: “ The invitation, as written, gives the appearance that the American Society and the U.S. Embassy are attempting to ignore or circumvent these regulations.

“Particularly, the requirement that money is exchanged either as dues or by pre-purchasing a ticket is open to the interpretation that it is in reality a fundraising activity.”

Red faces all round, and a letter to Dr Garcia which read “The Legal Department of the State Department sustains that the use of residence in the manner advertised violates existing regulations. While these regulations have been in place for some time, the lack of strict enforcement has led to some practices we are unable to continue in the future.”

For Dr. Garcia the melancholy task of announcing a third change.

The final final note says: The Annual Dry Season New Membership Drive and Membership Appreciation Picnic will be on S aturday, January 31 , from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m at the Balboa Yacht Club, Amador Causeway.

The Balboa Yacht Club, has a stunning view of the Bridge of the Americas, and ships heading in and out of the canal, which played such a big part in bringing the United States to Panama.

So enjoy the barbecue and the music of Shorty and Slim, know that your contribution will be going to good causes and promoting the good name of the United States.

A final note from Ambassador Stephens: “These regulations are not unique to Embassy Panama and are not up to the discretion of an individual Ambassador. “