Panama City, Oct. 26 (EFE) – Despite the rain, hundreds of demonstrators walked through the main streets of Panama City on Thursday until they reached the area of the Presidential Palace, where clashes broke out with the police, to reject the renewal of the concession granted to the company Minera Panama, a subsidiary of the Canadian company First Quantum Minerals (FQM).
Workers, teachers, indigenous groups, students and civil society protested on Thursday for the fourth consecutive day against the legal contract signed on Friday by Panama’s president, Laurentino Cortizo, which allows Minera Panama to exploit the largest copper mine in Central America for 20 renewable years.
“This land is not for sale” or “Minera, we do not love you” were among the chants of hundreds of young people who marched today along the Panamanian capital’s seafront to the old city, where some of the government buildings, such as the presidential palace, are located.
The march ended with riot police firing tear gas from behind large fences protecting the government buildings.
This controversial contract has been widely rejected by environmentalists and trade unions, in addition to generating great popular discontent with protests and blockades on the country’s main roads, affecting the economy with estimated losses of between 60 and 90 million dollars, according to unions.
This week, the demonstrations have gradually intensified and so far have resulted in more than 200 arrests, 25 police officers injured, 30 businesses and 6 state offices vandalized, including the Ministry of Economy and Finance, according to the latest police report.
On Thursday, the Panamanian Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (CCIAP) asked the government to “decree as soon as possible a moratorium on the granting of mining concessions, both for exploitation and exploration” and to “set a date for the review and strengthening of the Mineral Resources Law, which will allow defining the future of the country in this matter.
They also called for a “cessation of violence against those citizens who choose anarchy and create confusion and uncertainty” in relation to the acts of vandalism that have occurred in the capital and other parts of the country.
Supreme Court of Panama allows a lawsuit of “unconstitutionality The Supreme Court of Justice of Panama reported today that it has admitted a claim of unconstitutionality filed by a lawyer against the Mining Law Contract.
Raisa Banfield, former vice mayor of Panama and member of the environmental group Panamá Vale Más Sin Minería, explained to EFE during the demonstration that the fact that the Court has admitted this lawsuit less than a week after the ratification of the agreement “proves that they are aware of the seriousness of the situation that the country is experiencing and that it is up to them, as the third organ of the State, to proceed.”
The government defends that this contract law grants great benefits to the state, such as the minimum annual revenue of 375 million dollars to the treasury, the payment of previously exempt taxes, as well as broad powers of state supervision over the operation of the mine, among others.
But environmentalists insist that this contract retains the same flaws that led to the previous one being declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2017, which is why the current government has been negotiating a new contract with the mining company for more than a year.
“This treaty has the same overtones of unconstitutionality (…) as the previous one, so the Court, due to the jurisprudence created, cannot cancel it, and it would be a gross error in the conditions under which this treaty was signed and approved, which now the Court declares constitutional. It would be very serious for the stability and legal security of Panama,” said the environmentalist. EFE