Panama Protests Continue Despite Government Concessions

Panama Protests Continue Despite Government Concessions

Panama City – Thousands of protesters have continued to block roads and highways across Panama, demanding more action from the government to address the high cost of living, corruption, and environmental issues. The protests, which began in early July, have caused severe disruptions to the transport of goods and services, leading to shortages of fuel, food, and medicine.

The protesters, who include teachers, construction workers, students, and indigenous groups, have rejected a deal signed by some of their leaders and the government on Sunday, which agreed to lower the price of fuel by 10 cents per liter and freeze the price of 10 basic products for six months. The protesters say the deal is insufficient and does not address their broader demands for a national dialogue to reform the political system and stop the mining contract between the government and the Canadian company First Quantum Minerals.

The mining contract, which was approved by the National Assembly in 2017, grants First Quantum Minerals the right to exploit the Cobre Panama copper mine, the largest in Central America, for 40 years. The protesters claim the mine will destroy the environment, violate the rights of indigenous communities, and benefit only a few elites. They are calling for the cancellation of the contract and a referendum on the future of the mine.

The government, led by President Laurentino Cortizo, has defended the mining contract as a source of revenue and jobs for the country, which is facing a fiscal deficit and a high unemployment rate. The government has also accused some of the protesters of being manipulated by political opponents and foreign interests, and has deployed security forces to clear the roadblocks and restore order. The clashes between the police and the protesters have resulted in at least two deaths and dozens of injuries.

The protests have also drawn international attention and solidarity from human rights groups, environmental organizations, and labor unions. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has expressed its concern over the excessive use of force by the police and the violation of the rights to protest, expression, and information. The IACHR has urged the government and the protesters to engage in a peaceful and constructive dialogue to resolve the conflict.

The protests, which are considered the largest and longest in Panama in decades, have exposed the deep social and political divisions in the country, as well as the challenges of balancing economic development and environmental protection. The protesters have vowed to continue their mobilization until their demands are met, while the government has appealed for calm and patience. The outcome of the crisis will likely have a significant impact on the future of Panama and its relations with the region and the world.