Image thanks to quepasapanama.com
A controversy has arisen recently over Decree #1424, better known as the Law of the Carrot- Ley Zanahoria– Zanahoria alluding to wholesome behavior. It empowers all governing bodies of the Republic to enforce the regulation (limit) of hours of operation for all nightclubs and, by extension, all bars and other businesses where liquor is expended.
The controversy against this “dry law” is coming mainly from the bar and nightclub owners’ association members who feel singled out and threatened for their businesses because the law seeks to limit their hours of operation to close by 2:00 a.m.
There is, however, unanimity of opinion amongst the large majority of Panama’s thinking public that the businesses must be more strictly regulated. Many people would go so far as to advocate that some of these public watering holes be closed down.
Public Health and Safety studies and reports all confirm the fact that Panama has become the focus of two major scourges that are beginning to affect our young people: illegal drug use and prostitution, not to mention the problem of legalized drugs like alcohol. Many of the businesses in question and its environs serve by action or omission, as platforms for the distribution of illicit substances and for the exercise of prostitution.
Although talks have been established with their owners we’ve seen very few results that the regulations have been respected because these activities go beyond the willingness of the owners of bars and nightclubs themselves to cooperate. Both issues represent public safety, but also public health problems.
The entire issue has transcended the right to diversity of thought, tastes and preferences, and justifiably crosses the specific boundaries of freedom and the right to a private business. It seeks to affirm the majority’s insistence on respect for the law, order and tranquility given that this type of activity is related closely with concepts of welfare and public safety and the safeguarding of human rights.
Panama has the dubious distinction of being one of the most affected places in Latin America by HIV infection weighing in at 51st place on the list of nations with a 0.9 % rate of infection. Panama has an infected population of about 20,000 and at least 1,000 infected persons die per year. Add these figures to what we already know about the relationship between drugs and alcohol and unprotected sex and Panama starts looking like a public health mine field.
Alcoholism is also at epidemic proportions leading to domestic violence, child abuse, parental irresponsibility, auto accidents, and delinquency in general. While the world average annual alcohol consumption is 5.8 liters, in Latin America it is 8.9 liters; where Panama to 2001 was above average world consumption with 6.04 litres of consumption, being the highest in Central America.
The uncontrolled consumption of alcohol brings impact on health, you are more prone to accidents, it has an impact on the relationship, labour, academic, economic and family dynamics. (Alcoholics Anonymous) A study in Panama, by the year 2005, showed that 89% of adolescents between 14 and 17 years old had ingested alcohol in family parties or discos. 84% Expressed interest in continuing to consume alcohol; 92% of these young people do not consider alcohol harmful and 98% responded that their parents consumed alcohol.
The national survey of health and quality of life in the year 2007, among many things related to this topic, tells us that in the population age 18 and over, the consumption of tobacco and derivatives is 7 times greater than that of illicit drugs, while alcohol is about 32 times greater. To relate the consumption of alcohol with the tobacco, the first is 4.5 times greater that the second, making alcohol the foremost most used drug.
Other countries with a thriving tourism industry and larger populations have been able regulate this businesses with even more stringent measures and it has not harmed their economies, on the contrary. A businessman with any vision, knows perfectly well that he must be a partner in preserving the stability of our social environment and the conditions that revolve around his business. He should know that promoting a secure environment is important to our society’s quality of life because all these variables allow the sustainability of business and our growth in the short and long run.
Finally, it would even be advisable to correct the standard to reach all premises that sell liquor, including Casinos, hotels, supermarkets and other such places, and even private households, and/or a prohibition on the present schedules.
The present fight over two hours , which is what the bar owners are quibbling about since it would cut into their pockets, is really trifling when we should also organize to advocate for the improvement of the quality of health care, for the eradication of prostitution and trafficking in girls and women in our country, against femicide, and against malnutrition in a country where a pint of beer is cheaper than a liter of milk.