Conflicts & War

Panama organizations pressure president over fuel crisis

Panama City, May 19 (EFE).- Social and labor organizations protested in the streets of Panama City on Thursday to demand that President Laurentino Cortizo’s government set a new course to overcome the economic and social crisis the country is experiencing, mainly due to rising fuel costs.

Shouting “Leave no one behind,” various social, trade union and student groups marched from the central Parque Porras to the office of the president to hand over a list of 32 demands.

In the statement, the organizations said they took to the streets in the face of the country’s “serious economic, political and social situation,” exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

They stressed that the measures to get out of the crisis “cannot continue to be aimed solely at recovering profit rates and protecting capital,” which is why they demand Cortizo “correct the course and guarantee the protection of people and their fundamental guarantees.”

Among their main demands to the government is a general increase in wages, pensions, and “concrete alternatives” so the increase in international fuel prices, and its multiplier effects, “does not affect the already high cost of food, medicines and basic services, and does not affect the operation of transport.”

On Friday the price of a liter of Octane 95 and 91 petrol will rise by $0.15 and $0.13 to $1.42 and $1.33, respectively, while diesel will fall by $0.06 to $1.39.

“We are also proposing that because of the high unemployment rate, which is above 11 percent with more than 200,000 workers unemployed, there must be unemployment insurance and an immediate employment policy for workers,” Marcos Andrade, secretary general of the National Confederation of United Independent Unions (CONUSI), told EFE.

“It is not acceptable that the people suffer what they are going through,” he said.

Andrade denounced that workers continue to be fired in companies “with false mutual agreement” as a result of the pandemic, and stressed that to date “there are more than 87,000 workers who have not been able to return to their jobs.”

The union leader explained that the idea of delivering this list of demands is that a commission be set up “to see (the solution to) these points with us,” and said that another march is being organized for June 28 in order to press for answers to demands.

Social groups and unions also demand greater investment in the education sector that reaches 6 percent of gross domestic product, as well as fighting corruption and political patronage, ending insecurity and desisting from modifying the labor code. EFE


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