Panama City Awaits a Food Caravan Held Up by Barricades   

The humanitarian caravan of trucks has faced roadblocks in the provinces of Chiriqui and Veraguas. Photo: Flor Bocharel Q / La Prensa

By Circles Robinson

HAVANA TIMES – A caravan of over 100 trucks have been trying to advance on the Interamerican Highway towards Panama City but several roadblocks have thus far stymied their effort to take produce to the capital. Huge losses of rotting food have already been felt in the last week.

“We are still uncertain.  We don’t know how we are going to advance.  We are very worried, last night we were stopped by criminals,” Rogelio Cruz a producer in the caravan told Telemetro. He said the armed men threatened to burn their trucks if they tried to continue.

Fuel shortages continue in the center and west of the country as few tankers are able to advance to supply service stations.

Roadblocks also continue in different parts of the capital including the Via Centenario and Corredor Sur, normally heavily trafficked roadways.

The critical situation of transport and distribution of food, medicine, and fuel takes place as the different groups of demonstrators that began the protests said they hope that talks will take place on Thursday with the government in Penonome, Cocle. 

The groups united to make eight main demands of the government.

  1. A lowering of basic food prices without affecting producers.
  2. A lowering and freeze on fuel prices. (Already lowered to $3.25 a gallon for two-three months)
  3. Supplying the Ministry of Health and Social Security pharmacies with sufficient medicines and lowering their price, without privatizing them.
  4. Complying with a mandate for 6% of the PIB to be earmarked to Education
  5. Lowering the price of electricity
  6. A discussion on Social Security Fund issues.
  7. Addressing corruption and transparency
  8. Establishing a multi-sector table for follow up

Where is President Cortizo?

While the country is facing a critical food, medicine and fuel crisis, President Laurentino Cortizo hasn’t been seen for the last week, noted La Prensa.  On July 15th he went on national TV to announce that gasoline would be lowered to $3.95 a gallon. (Days later that price was dropped to $3.25 in agreement with some of the protesting groups). 

Over the last week different ministers, vice ministers and government spokespersons have stated the Executive’s positions on the situation facing the country, a strategy that has been heavily criticized for the scant results.  The citizenry perceives a power vacuum in the middle of a social uprising.

In defense of Cortizo, Juan Antonio Ducruet, directo of Aqueducts and Sewers  said “the President is coordinating all efforts and will address the nation at the opportune time.”

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