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Are pro-Chávez Venezuelans setting up a 'Plan B' in Panama?

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The steady stream of wealthy Venezuelans moving to Panama to escape political and social unrest in their home country has not shown any signs of slowing since Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez revealed he is being treated for cancer.

But their political affiliation has changed.

Mr. Chávez’s ongoing battle with cancer, for which he is receiving treatment this week in Venezuela, has some of his top military officials apparently considering a contingency plan in Panama, according to one of Panama’s top real estate developers.

“Now we have Chavistas who are fleeing Venezuela because Chávez is sick and they don’t know how long he is going to last. We had something like six generals come here over the weekend. They figure: This guy is mortal; we need a plan B,” says José Manuel Bern of real estate developer Empresas Bern.

Mr. Bern, whose family firm has delivered 25 buildings in the past five years, adds in perfect English, “[the Chavistas] are thinking: Man, if this guy croaks, you never know… we may have to go.”


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