What will remain as Panama continues to grow? New conversations arise weekly


OP ED: by James “JB” Bryson

In America it is called “Imminent Domain“, or in lay terms, when the government is able to emancipate properties that are deemed proving to be an obstacle in development that they feel would be for the greater good of the neighborhoods and cities involved. Well as Panama continues to grow and expand, the same will occur here. Where the discussion centers around what can be considered a historical and important piece of the countries heritage, and those that are merely considered an eyesore and impediment to progress. The same was covered last week in regards to the barrios fronting the coastline, and this week the conversation moves to Old Town.


The director of the Association of Neighbors and Friends of the Old Town , Fernando Díaz, assured that the lack of maintenance and control by Historical Heritage has allowed the roots of these bushes to cause breakage in the wall, which is also affected by renovations to adjoining buildings.

For example, the Casa Lola hotel , which would be failing to comply with legal and security measures, confirmed the director of Works and Constructions of the Mayor’s Office of Panama, Antonio Docabo. Casa Lola “is in contempt,” said Docabo, after an order to stop the works.

This newspaper tried to obtain the version of Historical Heritage and Alessandro Cavallera, director of Casa Lola, but did not respond to the questions.

Properties violate laws of the Old Town

Properties would violate laws of the Old Town
Historic, endangered and abandoned wall

The historical wall of the Casco Antiguo, with almost 350 years of existence , and buildings that belong to the Monumental Complex of the historic quarter, face dangers again. Although its preservation is regulated by law, this is not an obstacle to breach the legislation by some who acquire real estate in that area.

A tour of this newspaper by the walled area reveals the little protection of the monument by the authorities in charge of its preservation, as well as what can be described as infractions to the law of preservation of the site.

At first glance, buildings stand out without keeping the regulatory distance, areas that show breakage by the vegetation that grows inside, even painter’s, as well as buildings used by hotels and restaurants without building permission or occupation, despite the fact that both perimeter wall as the buildings are part of the Monumental Complex of the Old Town, protected under two decrees and, at least, two laws that govern it.

In 1997, the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (Unesco) included the Old Town in the list of World Heritage Sites.

But what are the protection measures implemented by the Historical Heritage Directorate to preserve the Monumental Ensemble of the Old Town? How many inspections have you carried out to detect irregularities after granting certifications of patrimonial value? Linette Montenegro -director of Historical Heritage- did not answer the questions.


Faced with the view of the authorities, there is a building that presents irregularities with respect to patrimonial regulations and security issues. It’s about the Casa Lola hotel.

It is a building in the Old Town that has received two certifications of “first and third order” patrimonial value. That is to say, that the wall must be “valued”, enhanced and preserve its facade, eliminating discordant elements.

Located a short distance from the Presidency of the Republic, the hotel – under the partnership Casa Lola – lacks construction and occupation permits, although the works carried out in this building are visible. The property has two restaurants, whose electric power is generated by an electric plant.

The Mayor’s Office of Panama, since March 19 of last year, ordered the “immediate suspension” of the work, (see fax), but these continue their march.

The director of Works and Constructions of the City Hall, Antonio Docabo, confirmed that Casa Lola “is in contempt for breach of order of suspension” of work.

Properties violate laws of the Old Town

Properties would violate laws of the Old Town
Docabo affirmed that “the preliminary draft of the Casa Lola hotel, accepted on May 27, 2016, does not have any construction plans registered or in route, therefore, no construction permit”, which is granted by the mayor’s office.

The same note “orders the corregidor to ensure compliance with and follow-up of the mandate.” But nothing has impeded the course of work.

It is not all. The rehabilitation and construction of the hotel, which adjoins the barrier dating from 1672, does not meet the distance of two meters required by Decree Law 9 of August 1997, according to technical reports from different entities, including Historical Heritage.

Article 128 of that decree law highlights that the buildings of before 1850 must be preserved and restored in its entirety, and warns that the discordant elements must be modified or eliminated.

Among the discordant elements are, for example, works that exceed the approved levels and the existence of visible drains (see photo 2).

In November 2015, Casa Lola was sanctioned with 150,000 dollars for unauthorized work, which the company paid. A second sanction was applied in March 2017 for Historical Heritage, although the details are unknown. What is known is that two years later, everything remains the same. What actions will Historical Heritage apply to preserve historical infrastructures? Why do the works continue at Casa Lola? Historical Heritage remained silent.

I ignore

The director of Works and Constructions of the Mayor said that the construction company has “ignored” the order of suspension issued by that entity. On five occasions, since September 25, 2014, Docabo informed, the City Council warned the company about its breaches.

There were also access to Historical Heritage reports in which irregularities are noted, such as the one dated March 13, 2018, which indicates that during the inspection of their works “it was observed that they do not have a construction permit or approved plans, which had already been sanctioned “in September 2014 and July 2015.

The report highlights that the owners carried out renovations on the roof “without the respective permit”.

But, surprisingly, since May 2016, Casa Lola has an operation notice from the Ministry of Commerce and Industries.

Properties violate laws of the Old Town

Properties would violate laws of the Old Town
They ask for protection

Stop abuses, neglect and lack of protection to the heritage monument of the Old Town is what several members of civil society request that the Government put “order” in the area.

The director of the Association of Neighbors and Friends of the Old Town, Fernando Díaz, said that “the efforts have been very brief” to provide resources in the conservation and preventive maintenance of the wall and colonial buildings.

Díaz insisted that “there is a generalized state of deterioration” of the monuments and that there are “abusive” constructions or that they are not attached to the regulations “. For example, the restaurant that operates in Casa Lola, which becomes “unfair competition for developers who meet the standards,” he said.

In his opinion, the “greatest weakness” of Historical Heritage is to be an address and not have autonomy. His opinion is supported by former Director of Historical Heritage Sebastián Paniza, who advocated more economic resources and the hiring of qualified personnel.

“The position of director is being given to people who have no experience, ability or experience, who will venture and learn, without enforcing the laws,” criticized the former official.

Paniza said that “there has been a lot of lightness of some officials who approve things that are detrimental to the law.”

He denounced, for example, that, with knowledge of the authorities, Hotel Casa Lola “has a restaurant that operates with an electric plant and calls itself the best restaurant in the Old Town”.

Precisely, in social networks the fact that the restaurant and the roof of the hotel were visited by Hollywood actors and other artists is promoted.

Lola House

Since when does Casa Lola have a building and occupation permit? What type of electrical system are you currently using for the operation of the two restaurants and your bar? With what type of security devices does this hotel have to protect the lives of its customers? They are questions that were not answered to this medium by Alessandro Cavallera, director, secretary and one of the subscribers of Casa Lola, SA

According to residents of the area, last August, the power plant that Casa Lola used for the lighting of the premises burst. Your prints are visible in the photo above. (see photo 1).

It was also reported that water from a pipeline from the roof of the building would have fallen on the historic wall, but residents indicate that Patrimonio Histórico did not show up to inspect.



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