Protesters In Panama Abandon Part Of Key Highway
Panama’s government and indigenous leaders reached an agreement on Sunday to evict protesters from part of the Pan-American Highway in exchange for lower fuel prices, but other stretches of the strategic route remained blocked by protesters demanding more concessions. .
The government released images of the signing of the agreement in a church on the western edge of the Chiriquí province, where most of the food in the Central American country is produced, and of the cleaning of a blocked section of the highway.
Two weeks of rebellion in Chiriquí and other parts of Panama over high prices and corruption have made it difficult to feed the country.
Despite this deal, most of Panama’s Pan-American Highway, which links the country of 4.4 million people to the rest of Central America, remained clogged Sunday with large trucks and banner-waving protesters.
“The Panamanian people deserve respect, this is a mockery,” said Luis Sánchez, spokesman for the organizations promoting the protests.
In Panama City, a hundred people gathered on the waterfront to demonstrate. They all wore black, in contrast to the white suits lawmakers wear during official ceremonies.
Food costs are “higher than what you earn. We have a big social problem,” lawyer Jaqueline Hurtado told AFP. “People are fed up and have taken to the streets to demonstrate for things to change.”
Retiree Iliana Arango said: “In my 68 years of life, I am tired of seeing governments that promise, go up, steal, go down, the next one follows and here we lack everything: medicine, education, food.”
Government delegations and protesters met again at a school in the town of Santiago de Veraguas, 250 kilometers (155 miles) southwest of Panama City.
“We ask all the parties that today we can reach an agreement and above all clear the roads,” the Government’s Ombudsman, Eduardo Leblanc, said in the conversations.
An agreement was reached on Saturday to lower the price of gasoline, but protesters expect price cuts on some 40 consumer products and medicines.
“We keep fighting,” said farmer Juan Morales in Capira, near Panama City.
In May, year-on-year inflation was recorded in Panama of 4.2%, along with an unemployment rate of around 10% and increases in fuel prices of almost 50% since January.
Despite its dollarized economy and high growth figures, the country has a high rate of social inequality.
Economic problems have caused fuel shortages in some parts of the country, and stalls in the capital’s food markets have run out of produce to sell.