A Cement Mixer is Not a Machine in This Part of Panama

Unless people are machines, but all we get is a machete and a shovel.

Fred Ermlich
3 min readAug 25, 2021


By Author. Yes, we live in a blurry part of Panama.

Cement mixing takes place on your driveway and the street. That way you don’t mix dirt into the cement.

. . . This is why Americans don’t move here. One time a visiting U.S. American stayed back to meet the concrete crew up the street. He asked the men standing there, “When will the cement mixer come?” They said, “But señor, we are the cement mixers.”

He was lucky they weren’t my age. The oldsters here remember Operation Just Cause, when the U.S. attacked because they changed their minds and decided to stop the druglord Noriega from being the CIA’s source of illicit narcotics.

Well, this ain’t blurry:

Only the American military can make cement buildings and steel cars burn. . . . By SPEC. MORLAND — http://www.dodmedia.osd.mil/ DN-ST-91–00787.JPG, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2238278, Caption: “20,000 were displaced from their homes. Disorder continued for nearly two weeks.” (I’ve walked through that part of Panama City. The bullet holes and ruins are still there.)

Okay, readers — sorry! This story evolved while I was writing it. I was already pissed off by how America is treating Panama, and how they’ve been treating me since I moved here. Then I got angry — as an American citizen — at the pure nastiness of our government. I particularly hold in disdain the drug-peddling CIA.

Casualties . . . aka, dead Panamanians . . .

A U.S. Army M113 in Panama, Wikipedia.

According to official Pentagon figures, 516 Panamanians were killed during the invasion; however, an internal U.S. Army memo estimated the number at 1,000.

The UN estimated 500 deaths, whereas Americas Watch found that around 300 civilians died. President Guillermo Endara said that “less than 600 Panamanians” died during the entire invasion. Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark estimated 3,000 civilian deaths. Figures estimating thousands of civilian casualties were widely rejected in Panama. The Roman Catholic Church estimated that 673 Panamanians were killed in total. (Let’s go with that figure.)

Operation Nifty Package was an operation launched by Navy SEALs to prevent Noriega’s escape. They sank Noriega’s boat and destroyed his jet . . . the U.S. military’s psychological pressure on him and diplomatic pressure on the Vatican mission, however, was relentless, as was the playing of loud rock-and-roll music day and night in a densely populated area. The report of the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff claimed that the music was used principally to prevent parabolic microphones from being used to eavesdrop on negotiations, and not as a psychological weapon based around Noriega’s supposed loathing of rock music.

Can you imagine? They used my rock and roll as an instrument of torture.

Doesn’t it piss you off just to be reading this?

Aw, hell. I just want to mix cement, and later to drink beer with the crew.




Fred Ermlich

Living in rural Panamá — non-extractive, non-capitalistic. Expat USA. Scientist, writer, researcher, teacher. STEM mentor +languages. Gargoylplex@protonmail.com