Our attention is drawn this week to our subscribers who are trying to decide which country is best for immigration in the Southern Cone–and perhaps elsewhere.

This is one reason we began to publish an email newsletter 10 years ago. That email gradually grew into Four Flags Journal. We witnessed people, including ourselves, being hurt financially and even just disappointed by the inaccurate and even bogus information from some established sources.

We have seen articles that say Uruguay has low prices when, in fact, Uruguay is one of the most expensive countries in our area that  you can opt for. A meal at a restaurant will cost you more than it would in the United States. Rents are high. Everything, in our opinion, is expensive.

We keep telling you the truth, but we still have subscribers who write us about the discrepancy between what we publish and what they read elsewhere. Now . . . Uruguay may well be worth the expense to you. They certainly have beautiful beaches and, in our opinion, great people, but a bargain it is not, compared to ten or more years ago.

However, if you see things differently or find a different situation from that of which we are aware, we want your input and we invite correction. We have come to realize that no one can know everything. But we will do our best to tell you the truth. And although we ourselves do have certain preferences of countries, we still try to avoid passing those preferences to you. We want you to choose what is right for YOU!.

There is a lot out there by people who have an interest in charging you for immigration services in their country or selling their real estate development or whatever. There are even lawyers who would like to charge you a fee for their services.

For example, your editor was paying attorney fees to maintain residency for two years longer than necessary, until we met our present attorney, Gabriel Celano. Dr. Celano took one look at our records and said, “You were eligible for citizenship two years ago.” He began the citizenship process for us that day. But we had paid attorney fees for two extra years to maintain temporary residency when we could have already gotten our passport. Little did we know! And we still have readers writing us that we are wrong, that they went to a different Argentina attorney and found out that they have to have three years residency and then two years to citizenship.

Well, we do our best. The same thing happened to us.  Is it possible that those attorneys don’t know better? Maybe. But that law changed over 20 years ago.

That is exactly what happened to us. Just think of how much extra fees that generates. For anyone who does not want to pay Dr. Celano his legal fees, just think what false information would cost.

But how do you find good information? That’s the question. We do our best to help you with that. And we gladly publish the stories of other subscribers as well, if we think they can provide good information that will help you with decisions. We so appreciate our writers who so generously share their experiences here on Four Flags Journal.

The problem is people sometimes hear so much hype about a certain country when the thing is, you have so many choices here. We think that every country here has good and bad points. That’s the value of choices. We encourage our readers to keep an open mind and look at every opportunity, in everything. In jobs, in business opportunities, in countries, in investments–in everything. We encourage readers not to follow the lead of someone you consider the expert. Yes, hear them, but then go hear others, investigate, do your own thinking. And beware!

In our case, we warn  you out of experience. One publication loves to publish that Panama “checks all the boxes” on business, citizenship and a myriad of other things. It does not. Panama is a prime example. We have direct experience with Panama/

First on business. Panama has different classes of business. If you go to Panama with beau coups bucks and want to build a hotel, you can do it. Yes Panama checks the business box if you are one wealthy dude. But if you are a normal investor who would like to buy and/or operate a restaurant or a taxi service, etc., you can forget it unless you have a Panamanian partner–and you can’t even work in the business. Your privilege is to lay down your money on the counter for some Panamanian and then pretty much step aside.

Has anyone else told you that?

My own son believed the disinformation about Panama. We were so inexperienced then, as many of you are. He sold an apartment building in the States because he is not retirement age and needed to put a large deposit in a Panama bank in order to qualify for Panama citizenship, which he was assured by the publication’s recommended lawyer that dual citizenship was legal in Panama. He jumped through all the hoops. Paid all the fees. He reads and speaks Spanish very well and he finally got around to reading the Constitution of Panama and learned that you can only have dual citizenship IF YOU WERE BORN IN PANAMA.

Slightly different from what he had read and what he was told by their attorney who conducts seminars for them, even. It is possible that she no longer hypes Panama with that claim since your editor has called them all on that misrepresentation. Even Robert Bauman in his book on passports had bogus information about Panama. We believe him to be an honorable man, a former congressman, who undoubtedly based his publication on the information he was given. Your editor contacted him several years ago and he has changed his book in subsequent editions. Even publishers can only go by the information they are given by the experts–until that information is proved wrong. That change is to his credit, but some others are still putting out false information.

My son confronted the attorney who possibly had not read her own Constitution. We are not sure whether she knew the truth but her comment after he had invested mucho dinero in Panama was, “Just don’t tell anyone you are a dual citizen. ” Well that would have been a good thing for him to have been informed up front.

This man has been paying the fees and renewing his residency by going there every two years, ever since, but our understanding is that it has been years since the president of Panama has granted citizenship to a U.S. citizen there. If any of you know differently, we would appreciate that information. He has waited for news that Panama was, once again, granting citizenships. Since he has invested so much, it is hard to let go of that possibility. But it was all unnecessary and would not have happened if he had been given accurate information. And he tells us he would not do the same thing today–if he had known up front.

And worse, while some of the misrepresentation may just be lack of knowledge on the part of the publisher, much of it is with full knowledge. Not long ago I saw a hyped up ad for a restaurant for sale in Panama listing all the benefits of owning this restaurant. Not a word that you can’t even work in it if you buy it, you have to have a local partner who is native Panamanian to run it.

Wondering if perhaps the law had changed, I called the agent long distance, told him my son’s experience and asked if, in the light of his ad, that had changed. Know what he told me? “Well . . . .  your son would need a Panamanian girlfriend or something.” His way of admitting the ad was bogus. The law was still the same.

I don’t know about you but this attempted deception of innocent, trusting people puts my blood pressure up a few degrees.

One of the primary publications that likes to say Panama checks all the boxes including business is one to which I subscribed at one time. I have phoned them several times. In fact, every time they publish that, I phone them if I see it and remind them that it is not true–so for a fact they know. This couple’s daughter is now working in their office and the last time we called, she said caustically, “You’ve called us before.” I said, “Yes I have and I will call you again if you keep publishing that because people are making life-changing decisions based on what you are publishing. You need to tell people the truth.” I hope that by now they have changed. I don’t bother to read them any more.

Now you here on Four Flags Journal know I’m a trouble maker. But our purpose is to publish information that will help you to make a smoother transition than we have–and less costly. We want to save you time, money and pain. Unless something has changed, you can’t get citizenship in Panama and  you can’t own and run a “normal” business yourself in Panama either. If you have an online business or something that does not draw on the Panamanian population for business, or if you have mucho dinero to buy a hotel, or if you don’t care about a second citizenship, are not really trying to diversify, are retired with an income you believe is secure and you just want to enjoy another country, you will be fine in Panama. But if you have in mind a small,  local business there, or you are into international diversification and getting another passport, better think again.

A similar situation exists over Uruguay although we think Uruguay a much better choice than Panama. Still, we see bogus information about Uruguay that may have been true 20 years ago but is no longer the case. This is one reason one of our pillars is to encourage people to be independent, do thorough research and think independently. We’ll help you all we can but you have many choices and ultimately the decision is yours.

Of course when you are in your home country and all you can do is read about different countries, that’s really all you have to go on. It is one reason we suggest that you not make difficult to change decisions when you first arrive. Rent for a while before you buy, put off shipping everything for a while, if possible, start looking at real estate and get familiar with the values, pay attention to the politics in the country, check out the lay of the land, the costs, and other things that might be critical to your decision. Maybe do some traveling to check out nearby countries, talk to locals, and see if there is a better fit for your family. Having said that, there really was investment opportunity in Uruguay even ten years ago, and may still be in some areas today. Those who bought in the country that long ago can now sell at a nice profit. So as in any case, the secret is to learn the market and buy right. In that case, investment is a wise decision.

Our word to you is to proceed with caution. Be skeptical. We know that our readers depend heavily on us but we also benefit greatly from and depend on you. Our readers are special in that most understand what is going on in the world, have a good handle on economics, and since they are on the ground in the country, may well see things that we do not see from a distance. If you find any situation in any country that you think should not be, or that you think is positive and offers opportunity, we appreciate those of you who do take the time to let us know and in some cases we will publish your story. As our readers know, we are about community here.

Right now we like all the countries in the far south of South America. We think that there is a lot of opportunity here. For example, lots of people from the United States have knowledge that is only starting to take hold in our area to the far south. Using internet for marketing is one example of a subject with which many U.S. people are intimately aware but is just getting off the ground in South America. However you need knowledge of the local language. But once you have that, we think opportunity abounds. And if you have the basic knowledge, you an always find someone to put it in correct form for you at low cost.

It isn’t hard to learn Spanish. We offer the same course that we have used here and that we like. Any time we offer anything here it is because we have checked it out, or tried it ourselves, and fully believe that it can be a benefit for our readers. If we publish a paid advertisement we will indicate that it is an advertisement. But if it comes with our recommendation, that means we know it works.

Having said all this, as you know we love living in South America.

See you next week . . .