Panama Police will use "necessary force" against roadblocks after three weeks of protests. - Expat Community

Panama Police will use “necessary force” against roadblocks after three weeks of protests.

Nov 10, 2023 | Panama | 0 comments

The situation is unsustainable for Panamanian businesses due to street closures and blockades causing shortages of food, medicines, and fuel in several cities.


“We will use the necessary force to open the roads and achieve the well-being of all citizens,” said Commissioner Elmer Caballero to journalists as blockades cause shortages. The police will act energetically to restore the needed order in Panama, added Caballero, following a call from the business leadership for President Laurentino Cortizo to take a firm stance to end the blockades initiated on October 20.


On Tuesday, a furious man shot at a blockade outside the capital, killing two protesters, both of whom were teachers. A march-vigil took place on Thursday to demand justice as the accused remains detained, a 77-year-old Panamanian-American lawyer.


The commissioner made the announcement after protest leaders submitted demands to the government, primarily seeking the annulment of the mining contract by law. The police lifted the first blockades on Thursday on the route to Merca Panama, the market where 80% of vegetables are sold in the capital, and Balboa Avenue, the coastal road where daily demonstrations occur.


Earlier, Cortizo met with business leaders demanding a firm stance in favor of legality to end blockades that have paralyzed passenger and cargo transportation. The president has faced criticism for inaction in clearing the roads.


“President Cortizo was made aware of the unsustainable situation for Panamanian companies due to street closures and blockades,” said the National Council of Private Enterprise (Conep) in a statement. Business leaders claim radical groups with political interests have “kidnapped” other Panamanians.


The blockades caused food shortages in the capital as trucks from the agricultural province of Chiriqui, bordering Costa Rica and producing 80% of the country’s vegetables, could not deliver. Classes are suspended in many schools, and over 160,000 medical appointments have been missed in public health centers.


To quell protests, Congress approved a moratorium on metallic mining last Friday, leaving the final decision on the contract to the Supreme Court, satisfying environmentalists. However, construction unions and teachers’ guilds continued protests, demanding the immediate annulment of the contract, replacing the 1997 concession agreement given without bidding and under unfavorable conditions for the country.


The government and the company argue that the new contract provides minimal annual contributions to the state of $375 million, ten times more than the initial agreement, generating around 50,000 direct and indirect jobs, contributing 5% to the GDP.



El Financiero –

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