Big decision: Casco Viejo
By Jacob Ehrler
Images: Ministry of Public Works (MOP)
The wraparound option would change the geography of the historic peninsula.
The government’s plan to connect modern downtown Panama City with El Chorrillo and beyond has met a bump in the road when getting past Casco Viejo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ancient walled city is built on a peninsula surrounded by shallow rocks to protect its original inhabitants from pirate attacks. Today, its privileged geographic location is in the way of progress. Soon decisions will be finalized that will change the face of this tourism destination.
The three options to get around Casco Viejo were presented to UNESCO in Paris earlier this month. President Martinelli states that the most favourable of the three options is to fill around the sea wall and wrap it with a lawn and highway. This has caused vehement proests from those who seek to keep the beaches, UNESCO status and view of Casco Viejo intact.
Martinelli accuses Casco Viejo residents of hiring gangs
President Martinelli said this week that a group of wealthy people in Casco Viejo is hiring gang members to intimidate those in favor of the wraparound option. He said that these people will feel the full weight of law.
The tunnel option would be underground, outside the Old Quarter limits.
New Heritage Commission created
Within the last two weeks the government created the National Commission on World Heritage, Cultural and Natural Sites to preserve five World Heritage Sites in Panama.
The second option is a tunnel that would go underground near the Fish Market and come out at Barraza and El Chorrillo. The third is a viaduct, similar to the Corredor Sur on the bay in front of Panama La Vieja, another World Heritage Site located in the capital.
The president supports the wraparound option because of “economics.” The tunnel would cost $110 million more (at $776 million) according to a report this week in the daily La Prensa. No price was given for the viaduct. The government, according to La Prensa, has three months to make a decision.
The viaduct option would maintain certain distance from the sea wall.
A close-up image of La Plaza de Francia at the tip of the Old Quarter with the viaduct option.