Panama City, May 18 (EFE).- Panamanian riot police on Wednesday used tear gas to disperse protesting University of Panama students, who for the third day in a row demanded concrete measures from the government against the rise in insecurity and fuel prices.
Nearly 200 riot control officers attended the University of Panama (UP, state-owned) to clear the road in front of this university, which the protesters blocked for several hours with barbed wire, rubbish bins and burning tires.
More than 50 students slung stones, rocks and other blunt objects at the police, and returned the occasional tear gas grenade.
The students ended up retreating inside the campus, which was surrounded by crowd control units, with no official reports of injuries or arrests.
“As university students, we continue to fight in the streets until the government not only speaks out and sits down at a dialogue table, but also provides satisfactory answers and solutions for all the Panamanian people,” Dionel Salazar, of the student group Transformative Thought and Action, told EFE.
Salazar added that the country is experiencing “one of its worst socio-economic conditions in its history,” with a rise in fuel prices that has created an “unsustainable” situation for Panamanians, many of whom’s income does not meet the high cost of living.
In Panama, the prices of gasoline and diesel, for the first time in almost a decade, have risen above $1 per liter, attributed to the international situation resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The energy ministry announced that on Friday, Octane 95 and 91 petrol will rise $0.15 and $0.13 to $1.42 and $1.33 respectively, while diesel will drop $0.06 to $1.39.
The student leader reiterated that the government could take measures against this increase, but that “it seems to be disinterested” in finding a solution “and only watches over the business and commercial interests of the wealthy economic sector.”
He also stressed that the increase in insecurity in the country, which also threatens university students, is another reason why they are protesting as the “critical conscience of the nation.”
“Women don’t dare to leave their homes for fear of being kidnapped or killed, and we see that the government doesn’t seem to be interested (in that) either,” said Salazar.
There have been 46 missing persons in Panama in the last 12 months. Of those, 29 are men and 17 are women, according to data from the Prosecutor’s Office.
Feminist groups have denounced that at least 25 women are missing since 2012, warning of an increase in disappearances. EFE