Conflicts & War

Protests continue in Panama against copper mine contract as president calls for ‘sanity’

Panama City, Oct 24 (EFE).- Protests were staged for a second day in Panama on Tuesday against the recent approval of a mining concession contract with fresh clashes between protesters and the police and the closure of major roads across the country.

Clashes erupted between protesters and the police in Colón province and Panama City despite President Laurentino Cortizo’s call for “sanity” in an address to the nation.

In the Panamanian capital, protesters pelted stones at riot agents outside the headquarters of the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) as well as the premises of the National Assembly, to which the officers responded with tear gas.

The Inter-American Highway, which stretches across the country from north to south and connects it with Central America, was blocked at some points by workers of the powerful Suntrac construction union as well as indigenous and civil society groups.

Suntrac said that a protester was “shot and wounded” in Panama City during clashes with the police, who said that the injured person had been hospitalized and was stable.

Doctors and other health professionals declared a 72-hour strike starting Wednesday and asked patients not to go to medical centers unless it was an emergency, urging them to join the protests instead, according to a statement published by the media.

The country’s education ministry announced that classes in public schools would remain suspended on Wednesday while the University of Panama also decided to suspend classes for the rest of the week.

Some private companies have asked employees to work remotely this week due to the blockades and riots caused by the protests.

In an address to the nation, President Laurentino Cortizo called for “sanity, respect for laws and institutions, private and public property, and free movement” and declared zero-tolerance for “vandalism, or calls for anarchy, or the commission of any offense.”

The protests erupted after the president signed a contract on Friday giving a 20-year renewable concession contract to the company Minera Panama, a subsidiary of Canada’s First Quantum Minerals, to exploit the largest open-pit copper mine in Central America. EFE


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