20th November 2022
Snug Harbour, San Blas, Panama – Isla Tigre, San Blas, Panama
Heads of state wield enormous amounts of power. Joe Biden, at the stroke of a pen can assign billions to good causes and in a similar way, Britain’s record-breaking ex-leader*, Liz Truss, lost billions through incompetence, bad communication and a lack of emotional intelligence. In the San Blas we’ve been up close and personal with a world leader and seen the transformation that world leaders can create.
After sailing through the smooth waters outside Isla Tigre, negotiating the reefs and anchoring in front of the town, we thought that something was awry ashore. The coast was alive with uniformed men who bristled with guns and didn’t return our friendly waves. They seemed intently interested in where we were going, the flags we flew and the company that we were keeping.
The intrigue continued as we stepped foot on the public dock. Every corner held a soldier with an automatic weapon on his front, a pistol by his side and with utility belts around their waists that would make Batman or Luke Skywalker jealous. The village was not just clean but spotless. Not a spec of dirt was out of place, footprints had been brushed away making the streets perfectly flat and smooth while every home had recently received some loving. Just what was going on?
This little unassuming village, far from the trappings of big cities, big business and big names was expecting a big name. The military were there to guard him, the sahilas where there to greet him and the children had been briefed to excite him. The village was expecting none other than the president of the whole of Panama, Laurentino Cortizo.
With the security on the island being tightened by the minute we were told that although we were welcome our boats were not. They couldn’t stay in front of the village and our only options was the exposed windward side of the island or the reef strewn, uncharted shallows to the south. We chose the south, but we had a magic secret weapon to neutralise the dangers.
We loaded Brock with technology and Mike from “Basta” with his magic mobile depth sounder. The sounder was paired to the phones and as Brock motored around the uncharted shallows a nautical chart was magically created in front of our eyes**. This tech took all the risk out of taking Ruffian into really scary areas and as we did our heart rates didn’t rise, everything was calm and Fiona anchored Ruffian in the prefect spot.
Everything was now set for the arrival of the big man and, like the rest of the village, we all waited for the tell-tale sounds of helicopter rotors. From over the high mountains the first military helicopter came into view, circled the island and landed. The silence was broken as palm leaves were sent flying and sand billowed high into the air. This however was just the precursor ensuring that all was safe as machine guns sat at the doors and the president bodyguards fanned out to wait for his arrival.
The air of anticipation was now reaching a crescendo as the whole village was looking into the distance for any sign of their extoled leader. A dot on the horizon slowly grew and then the whole village was enveloped in a cacophony of noise as 2 lynx choppers set down.
As the rotors stopped and the doors opened all the children in the village were encouraged to run to the big man. He towered above them, give a stately wave to the waiting adults and was escorted to see the expectant crowds. He walked among the people, where we were just inches from him and we could feel his confidence, charisma and charm.
Along with Laurentino all the great and the good were assembled ready to address the crowds. Ministers, vice-presidents, sahilas and pastors all took their turn and just as interested started to wain the crowd knew what was coming next; transformative gifts.
High achieving students were awarded scholarships, villages who wanted to drive revenue and tourism was given tour boats, ladies who’d excelled in mola creation received sewing machines and the transformative gifts just kept coming; rotavators, sports kit, books, educational equipment, ……… Everything needed to transform individual lives, villages and entire communities were ‘gifted’ by the government to the Kuna people, all very targeted, all very required and all very vote generating.*** .
As quickly as he’d arrived, Laurentino was once again in the air and disappeared into a world that’s seems a long way from the San Blas, with its simple lives and simple needs, but in his wake he’d left transformed lives and a bunch of very surprised gringos who happened across his visit.
* Record breaking; as she is the countries shortest reigning leader, reduced the economy quicker that any other leader and was outlived by a lettuce.
** This is technology called SonarPhone by Vexilar and we really really really want one.
*** As all governmental income is via taxes it felt almost as if the government was buying support by simply giving back to the people things they’d just payed for in taxes.
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