Crime & Justice

Protesters cry for ‘help’ for children abused in Panama shelters

Panama City, Feb 26 (efe-epa).- The word “help” formed with children’s underwear dyed red hung Friday from a fence protecting the headquarters of Panama’s state agency in charge of supervising the shelters where minors were sexually and psychologically abused, according to a parliamentary report that has shocked the country.

Protesters and artists hung up the underwear and also dolls during a new protest in front of the headquarters of the National Secretariat for Children, Adolescents and the Family (Senniaf), around which the police placed metal barriers.

The idea came from Susana González, along with other national artists such as Viviano Romero, who has an artistic campaign on and off social media networks to denounce the abuse of minors in shelters, which was uncovered in a 700-page parliamentary report.

“The pantyhose and underpants were intervened with blood stains to illustrate the violence experienced by these minors (…) we took the action of writing the word ‘help’ together with the citizens,” González told EFE.

Romero said his objective is “to work on the healing process of these children, who have already undergone a lot of violence.”

With songs such as “The town is pissed” and “Not with the children!” about 150 people protested peacefully, until they tried to tear down the fence and the police responded with tear gas to disperse the protest.

Two of the protesters were detained, an officer at the scene said.

The protesters again demanded justice, accused the authorities of being “accomplices,” as no one was dismissed or detained, and asked that the parliamentary report – which indicated that the abuses have been committed in at least 14 shelters since 2015 – be made public.

Through Senniaf, the state supervises shelters run by NGOs and foundations that, in many cases, receive public subsidies.

The Prosecutor’s Office told EFE this week that “54 shelters” throughout the country will be investigated, and confirmed that eight investigations have been opened, some for two years or more.

The events have caused a wave of indignation for weeks with demonstrations throughout the country to demand justice and show outrage.

The attorney general, Eduardo Ulloa, resigned on Wednesday “due to the latest events that have shocked the Panamanian nation.” EFE-EPA


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