El famoso informe de la Unesco, una guía para el lector

O, me acabo de leer estas 53 páginas so you don’t have to.

Dedicado a todos los que me mandaron el pdf. Gracias miles, mis winged monkeys.

Caveat lector: Este es un post largo y sin ilustraciones. Para los que tienen tiempo de sobra o asistentes de sobra, los urgimos a estudiar las 53 páginas originales que están disponibles en el sitio de la Fundación Calicanto. Todos los énfasis y negritas en las citas textuales son añadidos. Como somos pesimistas, nos hemos saltado todo lo que se refiere a Panamá Viejo, porque allá todo es color de rosa; lástima que estén pegados por el ombligo con el Casco Viejo, donde la cosa es diferente.

El cuento: durante la reunión del World Heritage Committee (Brasilia, julio de 2010), se solicitó que el State Party

Invite a joint World Heritage Centre/Advisory Bodies reactive monitoring mission in 2010 to assess the state of interventions at the historic monuments, current management arrangements, planned development projects and the state of conservation of the property;

La gente estuvo acá entre el 27 y 31 de octubre de 2010, y este es el reporte de su misión, fechado 26 de abril de 2011. Toda la sustancia está en el Executive Summary entre las páginas 3 y 5, pero para los que solo tienen tiempo para leer una oración, vayan directo a la primera recomendación en la página 4

The World Heritage Committee at its 35th Session in 2011 should inscribe the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger in order to address the concerns and challenges currently facing the site;

Viene la vaina. Interesantemente, la versión de esa primera recomendación en el documento completo (en la página 25) tiene un tono menos definitivo, pero indica otro objetivo final

The World Heritage Committee at its 35th Session in 2011 should consider the inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger in order to finally achieve the positive reaction expected from the State Party;

Para los que se crean que al gobierno estas vainas no le preocupan,

According to the declarations of the President of the Republic, who kindly welcomed the Mission at his office, it is expected that a more comprehensive national policy for World Heritage will be developed, which would include all Ministries and the various public and private stakeholders. [p. 4]

Based on the declarations of the President […], it is hoped that greater emphasis will be placed by the State Party on the various Panamanian World Heritage sites. [p. 24]

Al menos de la boca para fuera, y cuando tienes a UNESCO y a ICOMOS en el despacho. También, eso fue hace siete meses, y mucha agua ha corrido bajo el puente (y bajo la mesa) desde entonces. But I digress. Vamos a la página 13: Identification and assessment of issues / threats. Primero lo burocrático: Management effectiveness:

-The INAC has developed a proposal for the creation of a National World Heritage Commission

-The Office for the Historic District (OCA) and the Patronato of Panama Viejo recently signed [an] Agreement […] related to the joint coordination of efforts on the conservation and management of the two sites that comprise the World Heritage property. The coordination of actions between the two components of the property […] has not yet been implemented.

-The INAC and the OCA have been […] studying the possibility of officially declaring the Historic Center as a special district [énfasis en el original] with all the necessary authorities, and will be possibly subordinated to the Office of the President.

Entonces, otra comisión de alto nivel, un acuerdo de coordinación sin implementar, más poder para la Presidencia. Business as usual. Empero,

However in spite of the above-mentioned efforts, the Historic District’’s management still remains inefficient due to the following reasons:

INAC’s National Heritage Directorate and the OCA have insufficient authority to adequately intervene in the various processes taking place in the Historic District.

-The insufficiency, complexity and dualities of the legal instruments persist and do not allow the proper sanctions or orientation with regards to the negative actions on the patrimonial areas.

-There is a lack of stimuli for investments in the area […]

-Non-existence of a definitively updated and legally supported Master Plan for the Historic District […]

-There is no clear coordination of decisions regarding the City of Panama’’s territory and those of the Historic District. This is evident, in for example, the ‘‘Plan for the Development of the City’’s Thoroughfares’’ currently promoted by the Ministry of Public Works, and which foresees a continuation to the Cinta Costera (Coastal Freeway) surrounding the Historic District or through a tunnel. This Plan has not been fully coordinated with INAC’s Heritage Directorate.

-A definitive proposal for the Historic District’s buffer zone has not been concluded, so there is not yet any legal support for this proposal. In addition, the Ministry of Tourism is currently promoting a large scaled development for a convention centre, cruise ship facilities, etc. within the area foreseen by the OCA as a buffer zone. This development will require large land fills on the sea side. No environmental and heritage impact assessments have as yet been concluded regarding the impacts of this development on the buffer zone, on possible archaeological findings or other values.


-The technical regulations comprising the Manual of Standards and Proceedings for the rehabilitation of the Historic District of Panama City, approved by Executive Decree 51/ 2004, are often violated. Examples of this are the cases of the PH Independencia and Hotel Central both on the main Plaza, which have not had a satisfactory solution due to the already mentioned weakness of the current legal instruments and their proper enforcement.


-The Tourism authorities maintain that the District cannot yet be considered a tourism destination because it is unsafe and lacking necessary services.

Saltamos a la página 16: Nature and extent of threats to the property:

-The acute deterioration of many buildings (whether inhabited or empty) persists;

-A high percentage of privately owned buildings (more than 80 %) are neglected;

There is strong speculation on the built heritage, and the value of a property can extend from 3000 to 4000 USD per m2.

-While progressive gentrification is taking place, the living conditions of a large number of low income families have not improved;

-There are large numbers of dwellings in poor condition and inhabited by low income families. According to the OCA’’s data, 240 families live in extreme poverty, however a simple inspection would reveal that a much larger number of persons live under precarious conditions. At the fore of this alarming situation, is the apparent lack of priority being given by the Ministry of Housing (MIVI) to the improvement of living conditions in the Historic District;

-The numerous social challenges such as increasing violence, gangs and others related issues that threaten the area’’s security are mainly due to the precarious living conditions;

-As a consequence of violating existing technical regulations and the subsequent weak legal enforcement by the authorities, there are frequent alterations and loss of values of emblematic landmarks. For example, the Hotel Central is currently undergoing questionable reconstruction, after a large portion of its original components were arbitrarily destroyed; and at the PH Independencia where new and aggressive volumes were added to create new high standard apartments; (note: The investors of the Hotel Central were fined USD 50, 000 which does not compensate the losses they produced on this valuable building. Regarding the intervention on the PH Independencia –– INAC informs it is not possible to act because it was, though erroneously, officially permitted by the Heritage Directorate and it is not currently possible to revoke this decision).

-The former Santo Domingo Convent, rehabilitated and adapted to cultural and commercial functions and opened in early 2010, is now closed without any social use, consequently the resources used on its restoration have been wasted. The general neglect of the building also contributes greatly to its deterioration;

-The large (and significant) numbers of vehicles (approximately 400,000) which circulate the Historic District on a daily basis contribute significantly to problems of congestion, pollution, and general insecurity;

– In spite of successive warnings by the World Heritage Committee, the Cinta Costera Phase 2 is currently under accelerated construction at the Historic District’’s former harbour area known as Terraplén, without the necessary social and visual impact studies—as it relates to a historic area, being sent to the World Heritage Centre. As far as it can be appreciated, it is the case of a new and very wide strip on the waterfront that, although it might improve the hygienic conditions of this area, definitely modifies its old harbour character and close views of the waterfront; (note: It is to regret that—instead of building such an expensive thoroughfare with several lanes probably suitable for a considerable speed—they did not work out the rehabilitation of the existent street, its picturesque seafront and its buildings providing it with attractive services on the ground floors, preserving the maritime harbor character for tourism, recreation and culture).

-The underground parking area presently under construction as part of the Cinta Costera Phase 2 on the Terraplén, is huge, unnecessary and out of scale, and instead of hiding its shape, exceeds the street level by about one meter;

-The projects for the Cinta Costera Phase 3 are even more dangerous to the integrity of the Old District. They have also not been submitted to the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies for review, neither is there any indication of environmental and heritage impact studies having been undertaken although repeated requests have been made by the World Heritage Committee;

-Based on information received from the MOP, the Cinta Costera Phase 3 will be developed from the Terraplén (Arosemena Street, current Phase 2 to concluded soon) to the zone of Amador, as part of an ambitious Thoroughfare Plan for Panama, that, far from benefitting the Historic District, intends to use it as a connection and would strongly impact its integrity. The MOP has worked out two alternatives: a) Surrounding the Historic District; b) Traversing the Historic District with a tunnel. Alternative A – is unacceptable as it would transform the District’’s traditional form and image on its coastline, an important part of the values which warranted inscription on the World Heritage List. Alternative B – besides being too expensive could signify risks to the structural stability of the old and deteriorated built heritage. (note: The Brazilian Company Odebrecht is studying the tunnel alternative and assures that—according to their experience on tunnels like the one they built under the historic zone of Chiado in Lisbonne—they have all the means to avoid any risks). Neither the Odebrecht Company (in charge of construction) nor the MOP has developed a third alternative for the Historic District;

-The District’’s water supply and sewage infrastructure are also in a severely deteriorated state;

-Signage on streets and public spaces is also poor.

Como somos unos pesimistas nos saltamos la escueta sección de positive developments para ir directo a las conclusiones en la página 24.

-INAC’s and OCA’s advances in terms of technical or legal studies and proposals, inter-institutional agreements, a few educational or cultural programmes, among other positive actions, do not yet translate to a practical and definitive impact on improvements in the property’’s management or on the physical conservation of its Outstanding Universal Value, authenticity and integrity;

-In spite of the generalized lack of stimuli for investments in the Historic District, there has been some private interventions done according to established regulations, on formerly abandoned buildings […];

– Regarding two other examples i.e. the Plaza Independencia and the Hotel Central which have violated all regulations, the heritage authorities have not been legally able to halt the negative transformations on the buildings or revert them, turning these cases into symbols of a lack of enforcement of regulations and the efficacy of authorities;

-Considering real estate needs, particularly those related to the large numbers of deteriorated buildings and the acute lack of social housing in the Historic District, only a limited amount of restoration or rehabilitation works have been either finished or initiated by the OCA since 2009;

– Real estate speculation and gentrification are progressively increasing in the Historic District.

-The emergency plan submitted by the State Party in 2009, and requested by the World Heritage Committee, does not seem to have been further updated and completed;


The projects for the Cinta Costera Phase 2 currently in construction and Phase 3, planned to either surround or traverse the Historic District through a tunnel, have never been submitted to the World Heritage Centre for examination by the World Heritage Committee, and no studies on their physical, social and other impacts have been undertaken;

Phase 2 has strongly modified the traditional water front of the Terraplén losing the opportunity to rehabilitate the picturesque maritime character of the area;

Phase 3 signifies a very serious threat to the property.The alternative that surrounds the District would definitely modify its coastal border, and the alternative of the tunnel, a part from being expensive, could mean physical risks to the old and quite deteriorated structures;

-Up to October 2010, the steps achieved to positively counter or alleviate the serious threats suffered by the property (specifically in the Historic District) have been insufficient or weak and have not produced substantial improvements;

-The various negative factors identified by previous monitoring missions and underlined by the World Heritage Committee’’s Decisions remain significant threats to the property;

-For all the reasons posed in this report, the mission considers that the Outstanding Universal Values, authenticity and integrity of the property are in Danger.

Ergo, la primera recomendación que ya vimos:

The World Heritage Committee at its 35th Session in 2011 should consider the inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger in order to finally achieve the positive reaction expected from the State Party;

Como para suavizar el golpe (asumiendo que nos fuera a doler) miren qué bonito podría ser nuestro futuro:

-Considering that the Republic of Panama is currently undergoing an exceptionally accelerated development process; and having a large number of cultural and natural World Heritage properties in proportion to its small territory, and the currently expressed will of the President to comply with all the compromises regarding the World Heritage Convention, it is possible to use this State Party as a paradigm of good practices related to heritage and development under the direct sponsorship of the President;

Y miren qué facilito sería llegar allá:

-In order to progressively achieve this condition, a new comprehensive and legally supported national policy, endorsed at the highest governmental levels, is urgently needed;

-INAC’s proposal for a National World Heritage Committee must be approved and implemented;

-The proposal for the Historic District as a special territory with the necessary legal status should be approved and implemented with urgency;

-In addition to the recent agreement signed between Panama Viejo and the Historic District, as two components of one World Heritage property, the responsible authority or entity to unify criteria and coordinate actions must be defined;

-The Emergency Plan submitted in 2009 should be updated according to the above stated objectives, with a clearer and more practical approach to priorities, dates, budgets, etc., as well as endorsed by the highest levels of the State Party;

– A definitive Master Plan for the Historic District must be concluded and implemented;

-The proposal for the Historic District’’s buffer zone must be urgently concluded and submitted for approval;

-A legal and satisfactory solution for those negative cases, the Hotel Central and PH Independencia must be established with the support of the highest levels of the State Party if necessary, in order to avoid the generalized feeling of impunity they produce and the bad example they represent;

The Cinta Costera Phase 3 must be immediately halted, and its related projects submitted to the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies for review. A study of the impacts of any alternative to the Cinta Costera must also be urgently conducted. The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies should evaluate the projects and studies together with the Odebrecht Construction Company, the Ministry of Public Works (MOP), INAC and OCA. (nota: Brazilian Odebrecht Company has recently expressed its will to collaborate with UNESCO on this project). If necessary, the World Heritage Centre should designate a highly specialized expert on these matters as a consultant;

-A capacity building and training programme on World Heritage management addressed to all involved sectors should be established and systematically applied.

Y ya acabamos. Las otras 25 páginas son anexos que podemos ignorar, a menos que quieran los números de celular de unos cuantos Ministros o ver con sus propios ojos qué se siente estar en la azotea de la Residencia de Mrs. Liliana Meredith.

Vamos a ver qué hace nuestro State Party para la reunión de París ahora en junio. Claro que no tenemos de qué preocuparnos, como nuestro Ministerio de Obras Públicas «mantiene constante comunicación con la Unesco para tratar el desarrollo del Casco Antiguo,» ¿no? Vamos bien.

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