Who Will Be the Bocas del Toro Mayor 2024-2029?

We are now less than one week away from the 2024 elections, and it’s the final stretch towards the changing (or maintaining) of political power in Panama. On May 5, 2024, some three million eligible voters have the opportunity to exercise their civic duty, choosing who will lead the municipal, provincial, and national government for the next five years.


The mayor is responsible for leading and managing local affairs in their respective municipalities. The municipality’s role is to provide public services, construct public works as determined by law, regulate  development, promote citizen participation, and contribute to the social and cultural improvement of its inhabitants.

Despite their significant role, mayors in Panama have certain limitations on their authority. They must work in accordance with decisions and regulations established by the Junta Comunal (City Council). Additionally, they must comply with directives from the central government and adhere to national laws and policies. Likewise, they must collaborate with various institutions and governmental bodies, such as the Ministry of Public Works, the Ministry of Health, among others, to address broader issues and ensure effective governance at the local level.

So, who will be the next leader of our local municipal government, the mayor of Bocas del Toro for the 2024-2029 term? Let’s get to know the candidates a little better.

Methodology: One week ago, The Bocas Breeze reached out to each of the eight candidates with three questions as a guide, giving each candidate the opportunity to respond via WhatsApp or coordinate an interview. The circumstance of each response is detailed in italics at the beginning of each section. There are also links where you can learn more about some of the candidates. Some have shared their complete plan for government. We have listed each candidate in the same order as they were presented in the mayor’s debate on April 10, 2024, which was chosen at random.

Roberto Smith Gaslin (Partido Alianza)

Roberto Smith Gaslin Bocas del ToroRoberto Smith Gaslin made himself available for an interview with The Bocas Breeze.

Roberto Smith, a 48-year-old native of Bocas del Toro, presents himself as a candidate with deep local experience and a strong commitment to the progress of his community. Born and raised in the archipelago, he has witnessed significant changes over the decades, from the tourism boom to economic and social challenges.

With a solid academic background and a diverse professional career, including roles in bank security, administration, and business management, Smith has accumulated nearly 20 years of experience in the private sector. His practical knowledge and strategic vision have prepared him to tackle the complex challenges facing Bocas del Toro.

As a mayoral candidate for the Partido Alianza (Alliance Party), Smith seeks to carry out management based on transparency, efficiency, and commitment to the community’s well-being. His focus is on three fundamental pillars: education, tourism, and sports.

Regarding education, Smith proposes measures to retain local young talents, such as collaborating with the National University to establish a solid foundation that allows local students to access higher education opportunities without having to leave the region. Additionally, he advocates for stronger educational guidance to steer students toward viable careers and promote access to educational resources, such as virtual libraries, especially in areas with limited resources.

In the tourism field, Smith aims to transform the municipality’s perception from a mere tax collector into a strategic ally for local entrepreneurs. He proposes the creation of a Tourism and Culture Department, as well as the promotion of new tourist destinations and collaboration with neighboring municipalities and cultural associations to revitalize the local tourism economy. Furthermore, Smith advocates for the creation of a gastronomic fair to preserve and promote the region’s rich culinary heritage.

As it relates to athletics, Smith seeks to promote sports diversity and celebrate the past and present achievements of local athletes. He proposes the creation of a Sports Office to support and promote all forms of sports in the district, from traditional sports to those introduced by the diverse cultures coexisting in Bocas del Toro.

Additionally, based on the new information provided, Smith also commits to implementing additional measures to support schools by creating a fund for school meals and to promote sports tourism by organizing sports events in the region, leveraging the natural environment and the coast of Bocas del Toro. Likewise, he proposes to improve municipal services by modernizing processes and creating public spaces, such as viewpoints and kiosks, for the enjoyment of residents and visitors.

In summary, Roberto Smith emerges as a candidate committed to the comprehensive development of Bocas del Toro, with a clear vision and concrete proposals to address the challenges and seize the opportunities facing the region. His experience, combined with his passion for his community, positions him as a capable leader to guide Bocas del Toro towards a prosperous and sustainable future.

Roberto Smith’s proposals summarized in a campaign brochure:

Roberto Smith Gaslin

José Manuel Sanjur (Partido Realizando Metas)

Manuel SanjurManuel Sanjur responded via WhatsApp with his government plan. This article presents a summary of the document. You can read it in its entirety by accessing a link at the end of this section.

Manuel Sanjur is well-known in the community for his activism. He is the owner-operator of the pest control company Kombat and also has experience working in Bocas del Toro’s tourism sector. Sanjur is an avid athlete who actively supports Bocas del Toro’s youth athletic programs. He is the president of our local boxing squad, Los Tiburones de Isla Colón. Sanjur is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce of the Archipelago of Bocas del Toro.

Running for the Realizando Metas (Accomplishing Goals) party, Sanjur has outlined comprehensive plans for various sectors. His vision encompasses ensuring water supply, with proposals including the development of water reserve wells, implementation of water distribution lines, and establishment of a community reserve tank. To promote sustainability and reduce operational costs, Sanjur plans to acquire solar-powered pumps, with a commitment to prioritize local labor for the operation and maintenance of these facilities.

In the domain of public health, Sanjur aims to enable and construct additional health centers. He proposes an annual fumigation program to combat mosquito-borne diseases and suggests the creation of a municipal system of septic tanks and clean water pumping. Furthermore, Sanjur advocates for free sterilization programs for animals.

Tourism development is pivotal in Sanjur’s agenda. He suggests an advertising campaign to promote the destination and the creation of a municipal tourist cooperation service. Efforts will be made to diversify tourism options and enhance sports and cultural activities, particularly during low seasons.

Educational initiatives form a significant part of Sanjur’s plan. He proposes extending the national university in the province, constructing more classrooms, and establishing self-sustaining school cafeterias. Additionally, Sanjur suggests implementing municipal scholarships and improving school conditions through maintenance programs.

Cultural development and support for entrepreneurs are also prioritized. Sanjur proposes training in technical careers, municipal tax exemptions for new entrepreneurs, and the construction of cultural spaces. He emphasizes technological inclusion and internet access in communities.

To address the high cost of living, Sanjur proposes “jumbo fairs” for low-cost food and the establishment of a municipal pharmacy. Housing initiatives include the construction of housing for those in need and the rehabilitation of existing housing.

Transportation and traffic improvements are also on Sanjur’s agenda. He suggests constructing road and maritime infrastructures, acquiring vehicles for municipal use, and enhancing connectivity and road safety in the district.

Sanjur’s plan also considers agricultural development and citizen security. He proposes creating community farms, managing police substations in different townships, acquiring equipment for community services, and installing security cameras.

Finally, Sanjur underscores the importance of ethics, morality, and transparency in municipal administration. He suggests reducing the salaries of municipal officials and creating a transparency website for citizens to monitor the use of municipal funds.

In summary, Manuel Sanjur’s government plan covers a wide range of areas, emphasizing sustainability, inclusion, and transparency in municipal management.

To download a PDF of Manuel Sanjur’s complete government plan in English, click here: Plan de Gobierno Municipal – Manuel Sanjur – (ENGLISH VERSION)

The original version in Spanish is accessible here: Plan de Gobierno Municipal – Manuel Sanjur (original)

Campaign video from Manuel Sanjur’s Instagram @manuelsanjurrm:

Emiliano Torres (Partido Panameñista y Cambio Democratico)

Emiliano Torres Alcalde de Bocas del Toro 2019-2024We did not receive a response from Emiliano Torres. However, here we publish a transcript of words he shared during the debate on April 10, 2024:

“My name is Emiliano Torres, current mayor, candidate for re-election. When we took office, we faced a series of complications in which we had to make a clear decision: either cross our arms and wait for five years to pass, or hit the streets and get to work. And that’s what we focused on.

We created a group in the municipality called ‘Municipality in Your Community.’ From there, we took the necessary resources, the few resources we had, and distributed them in the most needy communities. How was it done? With construction materials and the municipality’s workforce, in collaboration with the communities, we carried out the most important tasks, such as building bridges in places where there were creeks and children couldn’t walk to school.

Docks at schools where there were none. We dug wells in places where there were water problems. We also built shelters to accommodate those children in sensitive areas.

We also did cleanups in all communities, in schools where it was never done before. And that’s why in this plan, in this five-year period, we are offering another work plan that I want to share with you. The issue of garbage.

The issue of garbage is a priority in all municipalities, and Boca del Toro is no exception. When we arrived here, we didn’t have land, and it was managed with the ATP (Panama Tourism Authority), and today the municipality administers a piece of land that we have for garbage disposal. But it’s a problem that’s about to collapse.

Sooner or later, we have to continue managing to have the appropriate means for garbage disposal. With the issue of water, we want to manage a tanker, a water tanker that can provide relief, because we have a water problem in Boca del Toro. Water problems that we can solve when there are ruptures in the water lines, when there is drought, to provide that alternative and be an ideal backup.

Classrooms in those places where there are no schools for those children who have to cross seas. And most importantly, in the “Nueva Barriada,” I want to commit, in these five years I will not rest until I achieve the building of a school in that neighborhood, a bus stop, and a church. That’s my commitment to that community, because I believe it’s not fair that these communities have been given their homes and been told, ‘Defend yourselves as best you can.’

I don’t think it’s fair. So, from my heart, with my humility, I ask for your support this May 5th. I believe that with the great alliance of Rómulo Roux and José Isabel Blandón, we will succeed in doing things with the necessary tools that we haven’t had.”

Find Emiliano Torres and the current municipality administration on Instagram: @alcaldiadebocas. A video of Emiliano Torres’ closing remarks in the mayor debate on April 10:

Wilbur “Waya” Martinez (Partido Revolucionario Democratico)

Wilbur Waya Martinez Bocas del ToroWilbur Martínez was not available for an interview, although his team responded to one of our questions via WhatsApp. We have combined a transcript of words he said during the mayor debate on April 10, adding WhatsApp response:

“My name is Wilbur Martínez Dixon, current representative of the main township of Bocas del Toro. We have interesting plans for infrastructure works,  water supply, cultural activities, and parades. We have almost 10 years of experience in the Junta Comunal (City Council) where we have always tried to do the work as if we were a municipality, because we have done it, and with evidence.

We have funds allocated for the sports complex of Isla Colón, we have funds allocated for improvements to the Municipal Gymnasium, we will support waste management in handling garbage. We have an interesting recycling proposal because recycling is not only keeping garbage in your homes, and in the end goes to the town dump. Recycling means having recycling centers within the same land we currently occupy to separate waste, to minimize the amount that goes to the landfill we currently have.

We also have, in terms of infrastructure works, the construction of water wells in different communities of the archipelago because when we visit the islands of the archipelago, we see that there is no water. It’s such a sensitive issue. People can live without electricity, but not without water. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t cost much to bring water to the community, and it hasn’t been done by those who have pursued us in this position.

And we will do it because we have the capacity to buy a well, a well drilling rig that costs at least $15,000, portable, that one can go to the community and provide water to all the islands, just by training the staff because when one has the will to work, one can do it. And many more things we can do in regards to culture and sports.

Here we held a festival of bands, where 5,000 people showed up, and add up that each person who spends $100 is $500,000, which event cost the Junta Comunal $6,000, and the town benefited. We can do this in the low season because we all known when it’s high season and when the town is full. And it’s so easy to do things, it just takes will when one is in office, and not surrounding oneself with people one should surround oneself with and do things right.

The overall vision for the district for the next 5 years basically involves, on one hand, as administrator of the local government (Mayor) assuming direct responsibility for the processes of management, acquisition, and development of community and local development projects; while as head of the municipality, the aim is to promote the approach and establishment of joint action and consultation ties with different groups of national foreign investors and residents in the archipelago, with the Chamber of Commerce and with the Chamber, in search and achievement of projects and support through International Cooperation for the development of projects of urban and rural interest, in the field of community and family agriculture, in the protection and proper use of fresh waters through rural aqueducts, reforestation, fishing, tourism, environmental protection, lighting through solar panels, and other community and local development projects.”

To learn more about the plan to establish an International Cooperation Office (Public Relations and Protocol), click here and download this PDF: MATRIZ OCI – OFICINA DE COOPERACION INTERNACIONAL (PDF)

Campaign video from Instagram page @waya_martinez


Johnny Griffo (Independent Candidate)

Johnny Griffo responded via WhatsApp and agreed to publish a version of his words from the April 10 mayor debate:

“Cordially, Bocas Breeze asked us for an opinion about our offer and candidacy for Mayor of the District of Bocas del Toro. Therefore, we found it very honest to use part of what was said in the Mayor debate held on April 10, 2024:

Glory be to God. Kuin dere [Ngäbe greeting], Good afternoon. Allow me to start by saying that I am a person like you, who is at home watching the debate and I say, ‘What are they talking about? When they had the opportunity, they didn’t do it.’ And now they come for more.

Currently, there is a national clamor that we want new people, fresh people. The partisan offer has disappointed us. From people who know, people with the will, knowledge, and determination to move this District forward.

My name is JOHNNY A. GRIFFO A. I am a lawyer. I have been a lawyer for 24 years. I have a degree in political science and have never been investigated, administratively or criminally. I have never belonged to a political party. So, I am 100% independent, and I have always kept moving forward, I have always sought a way to forge ahead.

Regarding tourism, I believe that without neglecting the rest, the local government must be completely focused on solving the lack of water and other basic services. Nothing would help tourism more than having stable basic services.

The lack of basic services, such as water, negatively affects tourism and residents. It is crucial to address this situation to improve the quality of life of our citizens and promote a more attractive environment for tourists.

Today we have a road that we don’t know how it’s going. We know that money is spent, but we have never seen a plan or been asked anything. We also don’t know how long it will last. There is no water, there is talk of water, but there is no water, it rains, but we don’t have water. It’s time to move forward and talk about prosperity, with will and knowledge.

I am of Christian principles, I am Pro-Family, I am Pro-Animals, I am Pro-Nature, I am Pro-Work, and I am an athlete to whom I understand that we have to give value to what we have. Bocas del Toro, as such, we are the capital of the Province, the only one in the country whose capital is an island, and we are not treated as such. The institutions take them from here. They give us traffic tickets here and we have to deal with them in Changuinola. That has to be unconstitutional.

Today (day of the debate, April 10, 2024,) in Simon Bolivar Park they were cutting down trees and there is no information, as the law says, that information has to be given to the population to be prepared for what is happening. Imagine. If that is happening in front of their offices, what is not happening by Bluff and the other islands!

I perceive a community thought that we need to focus on promoting the development of tourist infrastructure. We are a set of islands, we need as a community our own ferry that unites us with mainland and the rest of the archipelago.

As the main tourist destination in the nation, we must be a voice that guides the fate of tourism nationally and internationally. I propose starting a dialogue and establishing a domestic airline that guarantees connectivity and promotes economic growth; one that departs from Tocumen International Airport.

Promoting sustainable tourism practices to protect our environment and biodiversity.

Promoting public-private collaboration for the development of comprehensive tourism development strategies for the benefit of the community and the nation. And public bathrooms in the parks.

If I were mayor, I would dedicate myself a lot to this, always in pursuit of prosperity and beauty.”

Find Johnny Griffo on Instagram where he shares videos with his ideas: @johnnyagriffo. A clip of Johnny Griffo from the Bocas del Toro mayor debate on April 10.


Eduardo Simons (Independent Candidate)

Eduardo Simons chose not to participate in this presentation of mayoral candidates. If you wish to learn more about him and his campaign, visit his social media channels.

Gustavo Navarro (Partido Popular)

Gustavo Navarro Bocas del ToroGustavo Navarro responded via WhatsApp with a document detailing a personal profile and his plan for government. In this section, we present a summary. The full document can be read by accessing a link at the end of this section.

Looking ahead to the upcoming municipal elections in Bocas del Toro, one of the candidates who presents himself with a comprehensive focus and commitment to the social and economic development of the district is Gustavo ‘Tavo’ Navarro Thomas, representing the Partido Popular (Popular Party).

With a career marked by dedication to the educational and community spheres, Gustavo Navarro Thomas presents himself as a candidate with a solid work ethic and a profound responsibility to society. At 58 years old and with a long professional trajectory, Gustavo has demonstrated an undeniable commitment to family and community, values that he has embodied both in his personal life and professional career.

Graduating with a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Panama, Navarro has dedicated his life to improving educational processes in the region. From his academic formation at the Escuela República de Nicaragua to his active participation in institutions like the Instituto Profesional y Técnico de David, he has shown a vocation for knowledge and teaching that is reflected in each of his projects.

As a community leader, Gustavo has served as president of the Parent-Teacher Association in several institutions, where he has demonstrated skills in managing and uniting efforts for the benefit of students and their families. This experience has strengthened his vision for creating educational and health programs that positively impact the community, especially in vulnerable areas.

Gustavo Navarro presents himself as a candidate committed to enhancing the cultural, environmental, and economic wealth of the district of Bocas del Toro. His platform includes concrete proposals in various areas, from the development of community spaces to the promotion of sustainable tourism, through the strengthening of health services and the implementation of inclusive educational programs.

When it comes to community development, Navarro proposes the creation of recreational and cultural areas that integrate architectural design with the Caribbean identity of Bocas del Toro, as well as the construction of affordable housing and the modernization of the municipal market to boost the local economy.

Regarding health and the environment, Navarro is committed to strengthening health services, implementing waste management programs, and promoting sustainable practices to reduce pollution and preserve the district’s natural environment.

In the education sector, he proposes the construction of a university extension to facilitate access to higher education and the implementation of scholarship programs for outstanding students from low-income backgrounds.

In terms of security, Navarro seeks to improve public safety through the formation of a municipal police force and the implementation of a surveillance camera system, as well as crime prevention training programs in collaboration with the community.

One of the highlights of his platform is the valorization of local talent, through initiatives such as Professional Integration into the Municipal Work Team, which seeks to harness the potential of young professionals from Bocas del Toro for the development of projects that boost the local economy and tourism.

Additionally, Navarro commits to promoting equal opportunities, ensuring that women, the elderly, and people with disabilities have access to programs that allow them to fully integrate into the social and economic life of the community.

In the sports and youth sector, he proposes sports promotion programs aimed at youth, with the goal of using sports as a tool for social transformation and promoting values such as discipline, teamwork, and physical and mental well-being.

With a comprehensive vision and commitment to sustainable development and social inclusion, Gustavo ‘Tavo’ Navarro Thomas presents himself as an option to lead the future of Bocas del Toro, with concrete proposals and a trajectory that supports his commitment to the community.

To read Gustavo Navarro’s complete government plan, access this link: Plan de Gobierno de Gustavo Navarro. A portion of the document:

Gustavo Navarro Bocas del Toro

Germain Tejeira Waite (Independent Candidate)

Germain Tejeira Waite Bocas del ToroGermain Tejeria Waite responded to our guide questions via WhatsApp.

Germain Tejeira is a humble person with a big heart. His work experience includes being a district representative from 2004 to 2014, as well as working as a business owner and legal advisor for the Ministry of Health. He is a family man and has university studies; he holds a degree in Law and a master’s degree in High Management with an emphasis on Business Administration.

Germain Tejeira’s vision for Bocas del Toro is to turn it into a beautiful city, with all the necessary infrastructure to attract top-level tourism. His dream and vision are that this will generate employment for many Bocatoreños and nearby residents. He also aims to ensure safety in every corner of the island and in the different districts to offer society a safe place.

Likewise, he is committed to working on the construction of an airport with greater capacity to ensure economic growth within the district, thus securing investments from local and foreign entrepreneurs.

Regarding education, he considers it essential to offer study opportunities to young people who complete secondary school so that they can opt for decent jobs upon completing their university careers.

In relation to the environment, Germain Tejeira believes it is crucial to start with education on recycling in schools and establish systems for proper waste disposal.

In the field of health, he proposes equipping the hospital with instruments and specialized personnel to provide optimal service to the local and expat population, with all specialties available.

Additionally, he plans to implement government training on personal and professional development topics, aimed at the population, to improve their quality of life.

Germain Tejeira has many more plans and proposals that he wishes to implement in the development of his district and province if God gives him the opportunity to reach the mayor’s office.

From the Instagram page @germain_tejeira_alcalde2024


Who do you think is best fit for the position of mayor of Bocas del Toro 2024-2029? Join the conversation on our Facebook and Instagram channels @thebocasbreeze.

Community news coverage by The Bocas Breeze is made possible by the support of local businesses advertising in our Business Directory and our Breeze Card members.

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The Bocas Breeze is a digital and print newspaper proudly serving the Bocas del Toro community since 2004; reporting news, advertising local businesses and promoting tourism in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

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