Yesterday, one of my contacts here in Panama took me for a drive through several low-income, predominately black neighborhoods in Panama City. I was mainly interested in seeing Curundu, which received national media attention in the past couple of years after the national government sponsored the construction of several low-income housing units in the neighborhood. The project was touted as revolutionary. The apartments are sturdy and cheap, costing just $50 per month.
But some say the project was just a publicity stunt by current President Martinelli during his last years in office. The new housing units represent a meager governmental effort to effect major change in a struggling community. As we drove through, I saw what a small percentage of Curundu residents are able to take advantage of this opportunity. A short metal fence divided the brightly colored buildings from the rusty shacks and rubble directly adjacent. I didn’t take photos, but I found some online that show the difference — captions unnecessary.