Protests paralyze Panama’s capital after negotiations fail
Panama City, Jul 18 (EFE).- After the breakdown of an agreement between the Panama government and an alliance of unions and associations to freeze the price of fuel, Monday saw another day of protests, which paralyzed the capital.
The agreement reached at the weekend in the central province of Veraguas between representatives of the government and the National Alliance for the Rights of Peoples (Anadepo), was broken Monday by the teachers’ union that leads this coalition and thus dissipated the possibility of putting an end to the educators’ strike and the blockade of national highways, which stops supplies from getting through.
This agreement established the freezing of the price of a gallon (3.78 liters) of fuel at $3.25 dollars – below the $3.95 announced by the government last week – for all consumers.
The same fate as the Veraguas pact befell another reached by the administration of President Laurentino Cortizo with the indigenous and peasant communities in the western region of Chiriquí to set fuel at $3.32 per gallon and lift road closures.
The strikes and road closures have now been running for more than two weeks as protesters demand a freeze in the price of fuel, the stabilization of the cost of basic products and a drop in the price of medicines.
The pressure for a single negotiating table by the People United for Life Alliance, made up of the powerful Suntracs construction union and the Asoprof teachers’ association, was felt early Monday in the capital through the closure of important roads that paralyzed the city for several hours.
The main avenues of Panama City remained deserted, citizens were seen walking along the highway to get to their jobs or the airport, and supermarket shelves of vegetables, legumes and fruits were empty.
A march of teachers reached the headquarters of the Ministry of Economy and Finance shouting slogans against corruption and asking for the dismissal of “botellas” or those in sinecure positions.
“Down with Nito (Laurentino Cortizo), down with Gaby (Vice President José Gabriel Carrizo) – corrupt, they put us in debt to fund the payroll, while the teachers have not been paid for five months, while these crooks steal the money,” said a leader of the march.
The need for a single dialogue table for all the “fighting” actors was raised Monday by the general secretary of Suntracs, Saúl Méndez.
Neither Anadepo nor the United People Alliance participated in the installation of the dialogue table in the capital last week, alleging a lack of prior consultation on the mediator and the issues to be discussed. EFE