After a difficult 2020 due to the covid-19 pandemic, the Panamanian Ombudsman, Eduardo Leblanc, is concerned about the social conflict and educational lag in 2021 and its impact on human rights in Panama.
The figures make clear the blow that the pandemic has dealt to this country of 4.2 million inhabitants: the confinements and restrictions of 2020 led to a collapse of the economy that is estimated at around 9%, an unemployment that climbed at least up to 18.5% -the highest rate in 20 years- as thousands of students will be left out of the system.
And 2021 did not start well. A new confinement, first national and now limited to the capital and its surroundings, seeks to stop an aggressive pandemic rebound in Panama, which has already accumulated 4,283 deaths and 264,956 confirmed infections since March.
UNEMPLOYMENT AND SOCIAL CRISIS
We are concerned about the mental health of people in working capacity, because we consider that in 2021 we will have more social discomfort in view of the lack of work, said the ombudsman.
The closure of the non-essential economy led to the suspension of more than 270,000 work contracts as of March 2020, of which just over 100,000 had been reactivated until the beginning of December, although the employer has said that the quarantine is ongoing it can set back employment gains.
A survey by the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) released in December indicated that 3 out of 4 families with children in Panama have partially or totally lost their income, and that 7% of households with children and adolescents said not having enough food.
In this context of social crisis, Leblanc foresees an increase in internal migration, people who come down from the indigenous regions after the capital's dream, when the capital is no longer exactly a (good) dream, or who come from the interior in search of Better opportunities.
These migrations worry us a lot, the economic situation is different and can generate more social pressure. Governments have to give the inhabitants of the interior more tools so that they can get ahead from their communities, he warned.
CHILDREN AND EDUCATION
We are very concerned about the psychological health of children and young people, either because of the current confinement, since they cannot go out to exercise, or because the new year that should begin in March will mostly take place remotely, Leblanc in an interview with Efe.
The 2020 school year was affected by a reduction in class hours and it took place remotely, through the internet, for what was connected, and through other means such as classes on television and radio, for those who did not.
A new school term that can be carried out almost everything at a distance will "raise the stress for minors, for parents" and may lead, despite all the obvious efforts of the Ministry of Education, that the system may not reach all students. students, as happened in 2020, Leblanc added.
He stressed that another problem that threatens the right to education is the migration of students from the private to the public sector, in which there is no certainty that they can receive them.
RESTRICTION BY GENDER
From January 4 to 14, it is applied in the provinces of Panama, where the capital is located, and in the contiguous Panama Oeste, the most populated areas of the country, mobility by gender and identity number and the suspension of the day labor.
The ombudsman recalled that these restrictions already generated in 2020 local complaints and international organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) of discrimination and abuse towards the transgender community, for which he has asked the Executive to eliminate it.
We asked the Ministry of Security and the Ministry of Health to rectify we proposed the system of even and odd depending on the identity number, for the fractional departure of people from Monday to Saturday.
At the moment, Leblanc said, no formal complaints of abuse have been received from the trans community, but there have been complaints from men, who in the current quarantine only leave Tuesday and Thursday, while women do so Monday, Wednesday and Friday; there is discrimination towards the male sex, said the official.
Until now, the Ombudsman's Office has not received complaints of police abuses, as it did during the 2020 restrictions, said Leblanc, who did not rule out their arrival because there will always be a police officer or justice of the peace "who will get a little out of hand."
I am very respectful of the security forces, I always say that there are 17,000 troops, of which a minimal part violate their regulations, said Leblanc, who stressed that the agents have been given training in human rights and have spoken with the directors of the organisms so that they take the precautions of the case.