Crisis Persists: Anti-Mining Contract Protests Reach Cortizo's Ranch and the Presidential Palace - Expat Community

Crisis Persists: Anti-Mining Contract Protests Reach Cortizo’s Ranch and the Presidential Palace

Oct 27, 2023 | News & Articles, Panama | 0 comments

Medical and teaching unions continue their strike, while a group of citizens marched to the estate of President Laurentino Cortizo in Colón and to the Presidential Palace to express their rejection of the mining contract. Road closures are ongoing in various parts of the country.


Panama faced another intense day of protests against the mining contract signed between the government and Minera Panama for the fifth consecutive day. These protests have virtually paralyzed the country and its economic activities.


Early on Thursday, various locations in the country were blocked, and in parallel, the Chamber of Commerce, Industries, and Agriculture of Panama requested that the government immediately impose a “moratorium” on new mining concessions and review the Mineral Resources Code as an urgent response to the public’s outcry against mining and the approved contract.


The scene in various places involved hundreds of people walking long distances to reach their destinations. The cities of Panama and districts in Panama West, such as La Chorrera and Arraiján, were affected by the protests. The same situation occurred in several regions, including Colón, Veraguas, Chiriquí, and Coclé, where hundreds of drivers were stranded.


As of yesterday, about 215 people had been arrested in the country during the recent protests against Law 406 of 2023, which approves the contract between the government and Minera Panama. The National Police provided this information and reported that around 25 officers were injured during these events. Of those injured, the security force detailed that eight were wounded by firearms, nine by blunt objects, and eight through physical assault. None of the injured officers were currently in life-threatening condition.


The police also noted that no homicides had been reported during the disturbances in various regions of the country.


Additionally, during the protests, more than 30 businesses have been vandalized, and the same has occurred in six government offices, including the Ministry of Economy and Finance, located on Vía España. Furthermore, 18 vehicles were affected, with 13 being vandalized and five set on fire.


Health Sector

On Thursday, October 26, the first day of the strike announced by the National Negotiating Medical Commission (Comenenal) and the Association of Specialist Doctors of Santo Tomás Hospital began. Medical unions gave the government 48 hours to repeal the mining contract, or they would extend the strike, which involves suspending outpatient consultations and elective surgeries.


“We continue to provide care in emergency services, intensive care, and for those hospitalized patients,” said Domingo Moreno, coordinator of Comenenal.


The Social Security Fund (CSS) reported on Thursday that road closures have put the Chepo Hospital in a “difficult situation that jeopardizes the care and lives of our patients.” The CSS indicated that the hospital has only four general practitioners and two interns providing services. There are no specialist doctors because protesters prevent them from reaching their workplaces.


The CSS revealed that it only has enough food for two days because “protesters have not allowed the passage of food to the hospital.” The CSS also said that this situation is recurring in other regions of the country, such as Panama West, Colón, Chiriquí, Bocas del Toro, and central provinces. In light of this, the CSS requested a humanitarian health corridor to provide patient care.


Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health reiterated its call to protesters to allow ambulances to pass throughout the country.


While classes in the public sector remain suspended, teachers’ unions have extended the strike until Friday. Private educational institutions have maintained flexibility measures adopted by their directors and parents.


One of the most notable demonstrations during the day was a group of residents who walked from the communities of Río Indio in Donoso, Colón, to the Chagres district to reach the estate of President Laurentino Cortizo. On their way, the locals chanted slogans against the mining contract and Cortizo’s current administration. President Cortizo has an estate in Punta del Medio, Piña corregimiento, Chagres district.


However, personnel from the National Aeronaval Service prevented the protesters from reaching the president’s property.


While this was happening, road closures on the Transístmica highway persisted, affecting the mobility of cargo trucks to the ports and France Field in Colón. Teachers and university students have been gathering in the 4 Altos area, and members of the Union of Construction Workers (Suntracs) have continued to protest. As a result, security in the Colón Free Zone has been reinforced.


Some lawmakers, such as the Panameñista Party’s Bernardino González, called on protesters opposing the mining contract to “respect private property” and refrain from protesting outside the homes of politicians, ministers, lawmakers, and directors.


In contrast, others, like the PRD member Crispiano Adames, called on President Laurentino Cortizo and the National Executive Committee (CEN) of the Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) to address the country’s situation.


“We have to demand that the national government takes an act of conciliation now,” said Adames, first vice president of the PRD’s CEN, who abstained from voting on Law 406.


He questioned that the government now relies on the Supreme Court of Justice, an institution that took 20 years to rule on the unconstitutionality of the contract with Minera Panama and an additional four years to clarify the judgment.


In the midst of the rain, various groups and citizens marched on Thursday afternoon to San Felipe and arrived at the Presidential Palace to reject the approval of the mining contract.


Starting at 3:00 p.m., the demonstrators gathered in the vicinity of Plaza Porras and, after 4:00 p.m., began their march through the main streets of Calidonia, near the National Assembly, and then to the Cathedral area, near the Presidential Palace.


“Those are the ones; there are those who are selling the nation,” shouted some participants in the march while pointing their index fingers at the National Assembly.


Teachers, health professionals, university students, construction workers, indigenous groups, and citizens participated in this march. They mobilized, blowing horns, waving flags, and chanting slogans until they reached the Plaza de la Independencia in San Felipe.


Furthermore, citizens gathered again on the Cinta Costera to protest against the mining contract. These people are calling on the government to end mining. Like in previous days, they marched.


Similarly, organized groups and citizens from the Panama West province marched from this region and crossed the Bridge of the Americas to join the other demonstrations in Panama City. –

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