Panama Paralyzed with Days of Protests and Road Blockades
“This generation had not experienced a crisis of the magnitude of the one that overwhelms our country today,” said Martín Torrijos.
HAVANA TIMES – New demonstrations and peaceful road blockades took place this Friday (7/15) in Panama in protest over rising inflation and corruption, while the Government seeks to negotiate a way out of an unprecedented crisis with several unions.
In Panama City, construction workers from the SUNTRACS union, the largest in the country, demonstrated on several streets and avenues, some of which were partially blocked from vehicular traffic with barricades.
On the Pan-American highway -which connects Panama with Central America, and a vital route for the transport, trade, and distribution of merchandise to Panama City- truck blockades also continued, leaving thousands of people stranded.
The Central American country is experiencing one of the greatest crises since the military dictatorship of General Manuel Antonio Noriega fell in 1989 after the US invasion. The discontent occurs in a panorama of 4.2% year-on-year inflation registered in May, an unemployment rate of around 10% and an increase in fuel prices of 47% since the beginning of 2022.
The situation has caused fuel shortages in some areas of the country, while most of the stands in the main food market in Panama City have been forced to close due to a lack of products. Likewise, many supermarkets are without fruits and vegetables.
“This generation had not experienced a crisis of the magnitude of the one that overwhelms our country today,” said former Panamanian president Martín Torrijos (2004-2009) on Friday. “The social explosion we are experiencing is not the product of an isolated event or temporary increases in fuel and food. It is the accumulation over time of unattended demands (…) and an evident deterioration in the quality of life of the Panamanians,” he added.
Recess in dialogue between the Government and groups until Saturday
Lowering the gasoline price to US $3.40 a gallon is on the negotiation table.
HAVANA TIMES – Despite the fact that the first advances were made on Friday, the groups decided not to sign any document until they reached agreement on all the demands presented.
They have been protesting nationwide for more than a week over the high cost of fuel, basic foods, medicines, and for better conditions in schools.
The meeting between authorities of the National Government and representatives of the Alliance for the Rights of the Organized People (Anadepo), takes place in Santiago de Veraguas in the center of the country. The first session ended late Friday night without agreements signed, but with the first advances. A second session is set for 10:00 a.m. on Saturday.
Panamanian Vice President, Jose Gabriel Carrizo, confirmed that the proposal discussed with the leadership of Anadepo is to establish the price of a gallon of fuel at US $3.40, which will be presented to the grassroots of the groups for approval.
“We were going to pave the way point by point. We are providing an alternative to problems that have existed for more than 40 years, such as the cost of medicines. We are going to be there Saturday at 10:00 a.m., because what was proposed to us was that they should go to their bases to seek consultation,” Carrizo said after clarifying that these measures will not affect other social programs.
Anadepo leaders said that they will continue in a permanent dialogue session and indicated that they will not sign any document, nor will they end the strike, until agreements are reached on the price of the basic foods and medicines.
The representatives of the association had requested that the price of fuel be frozen at US $3.00, for its part the Government proposed $4.25, later lowered to $3.95, an amount that was later formalized through an announcement by President Laurentino Cortizo. He said this would benefit the owners of private cars, a measure that came into effect on Friday, July 15.
A compromise price of $3.40 was discussed on Friday in the renewed negotiations.