Cortizo’s new measures fail to stop Panama protests
Panama City, Jul 11 (EFE).- Panama’s president on Monday announced the freezing of the price of fuel for private cars and 10 food items, but failed to satisfy unions, which will continue a teachers’ strike and the street protests that began last week.
In a message to the nation, President Laurentino Cortizo said that starting Friday a gallon (3.78 liters) of gasoline will be frozen for private cars at $3.95, as has already been approved for public transport and some production sectors.
The president, who was outside Panama last week for medical reasons, said that he has been “aware of the happenings in the country,” and that he understands “the dissatisfaction of the various sectors over the situation” that is “caused by the effects of the pandemic and the consequences of the conflict in Ukraine.”
The general secretaries of the Association of Teachers of Panama (Asoprof), Fernando Ábrego, the National Confederation of Independent Trade Union Unity (Conusi), Marco Andrade, and Suntracs construction union, Saúl Méndez, told EFE that the announcements of the government are “insufficient.”
The leaders affirmed that both the teachers’ strike and the nationwide street demonstrations will continue, including a “great march” on Tuesday in Panama City.
“It is not just the issue of fuel or 10 basic foods. We are asking for the price of the basic basket to be lowered. He (Cortizo) did not speak of the high cost of medicines or of the six percent of the gross domestic product for education,” Ábrego said.
Andrade added that 30 points are requested by the United People for Life Alliance, which is made up of 70 organizations, including Asoprof, Conusi and Suntracs, whose leader asked protesters to “sustain the actions” on the street and ratified the 24-hour strike of the construction sector on Wednesday.
“There has been no negotiation” with the alliance, and the protests will stop “when [the government authorities] sit down with us to really negotiate,” said Andrade, who added that the unions are asking for a general increase in wages.
On Monday there was also no agreement between the government and the National Alliance for the Rights of the Organized People (Anadepo), which met in the interior province of Veraguas after the government proposed freezing gasoline at $3.95 a gallon, with unions insisting on $3.
The United People for Life Alliance and Anadepo are the promoters of the protests throughout the country.
Meanwhile, businessmen and academia asked the Cortizo government to rationalize state spending, to lead a national dialogue and to create a national emergency plan.
“It is time for the government, private companies, workers and all sectors to turn to dialogue as the best way to resolve conflicts,” said the Panamanian Chamber of Construction, which asked Suntracs to “reconsider its decision to declare work stoppages or strikes.”
The National Council of Private Enterprises called for the promotion of “a great national dialogue” that should “produce the immediate normalization” of the country.
In the demonstrations, chants were also heard against what citizens consider abuses of power, such as the fact that officials did not have their salaries lowered – some were raised – while a large part of the population lost their jobs due to the pandemic, as well as the wasting of public resources, corruption and displays of opulence of many parliamentarians.
“The people are fed up and tired of how resources are stolen and the people continue to be deprived of health, education, transportation and social security,” educational leader Diógenes Sánchez told EFE during a new march on Monday in the capital. EFE