Conflicts & War

2 Run over during road-blocking protest in Panama

Panama City, Jul 23 (EFE).- Two protesters blocking a segment of the Panamericana highway in western Panama were hospitalized Saturday after being run over by a pick-up truck carrying produce, the health ministry said.

One of the victims suffered a laceration to his arm, while the other had rib, ankle and head injuries, the ministry said following the incident in Horconcitos, 410 km (255 mi) west of Panama City, where numerous drivers had been stuck for more than 24 hours.

Footage aired on Panamanian television showed the pick-up advancing as someone off-camera shouted encouragement and a handful of indigenous protesters threw stones at oncoming vehicles.

At least one police officer was present.

“They threw a rock at me, they took out my windshield, they broke my head. My reaction was to flee, that’s why I went over the gentleman,” the young man behind the wheel of the pickup truck said in a video posted on social media, displaying his injuries.

Four other drivers likewise displayed wounds on their head and arms they blamed on rocks hurled by protesters.

Police said that they arrested the driver of the pick-up and have opened an investigation that could lead to his being charged with attempted homicide.

Earlier this week, two men who allegedly brandished guns to stop a “humanitarian convoy” carrying food to the capital from the western part of the country surrendered to authorities.

Eight associations representing the freight sector issued a statement giving the government until Monday to take steps “to guarantee unfettered transit and the security of cargo transport at the national level.”

“Otherwise, we will have to suspend the provision of service to ensure the protection of our colleagues and equipment,” the industry groups said.

Blockades on the Panamericana highway and other major roads have led to shortages of food, fuel and other goods in the cities while forcing thousands of workers to travel to and from their jobs on foot.

The blockades continue despite the convening on Thursday of a dialogue between President Laurentino Cortizo’s government and the various unions, grassroots organizations and indigenous communities that have been protesting the soaring cost of living.

“The national government calls for an end to the blockades of public roads,” Cortizo’s office said Saturday. “Every person who commits acts of vandalism will be prosecuted.” EFE gf/dr

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