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Tuesday, June 18 2019 @ 02:51 PM UTC

Protests in Colon Marked By Violence, Looting, Sacking Stores

Protests & DemonstrationsProtests in Colon over the approval of a new law allowing the government to sell the lands of the Colon Free Trade Zone sparked heavy fighting between the protesters and police, and acts of vandalism.

Demonstrations, street closures and violence in different streets of the city of Colon began from the early hours of the day, prompting the intervention of National Police units.

Protest actions by the different groups intensified after 8:00 am when they learned the National Assembly had approved the Bill allowing the sale of the lands of the Free Trade Zone in the third and final debate.

The acts of vandalism were directed against local businesses, among these the local headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce and Industries and Agriculture of Colon, and a gas station owned by the Manager of the Colon Free Trade Zone, Leopoldo Benedetti.

The situation worsened with the passage of time, to the extent that groups of people were seen looting several stores in downtown Colon, forcing the Mayor of Colon Damaso Garcia to declare a curfew starting at 4:00 pm yesterday. Despite the mayor's decision, hostilities continued at different points into the night.

There were even exchanges of gunfire between police and youths who barricaded themselves on balconies and in alleys. During the violence yesterday a ten year old boy was killed due to a gunshot wound he received in the abdomen, and three police officers were wounded.

The manager of the Colon Free Zone, Leopoldo Benedetti, regretted the incident and confirmed that some of the workers in the Free Zone also protested, but it did not escalate. "They had some concerns, and were told there were no problems," he said.

Meanwhile, the leader from Colon Luis Ladeutt said more than one hundred people have bene arrested as a result of the protests, and that these protests will continue throughout the weekend. "The slogan is not to stop, resist and overcome," said the leader from Colon.

Due to the violent actions that have occurred in Colon, the bishop of the diocese of the province, Audilio Aguilar called for sanity and tolerance on the part of the various sectors involved in this situation.

When the demonstrations started in Colon at about 7:00 am yesterday morning, in Panama City president Ricardo Martinelli, accused a Palestinian lawyer named Walid of being behind the protests, and he even linked him to drug trafficking and Colombian guerrillas. "We are going to start a process (investigation), it is possible to revoke citizenship and deport him," said Martinelli, while the Director of Immigration, Javier Carrillo declined to comment on the issue.

Hours later the lawyer Walid Zayed acknowledged that the president was referring to him, but said the accusations against him are strange.

Another who made accusations about inciting violence in Colon was the president of the National Assembly, Sergio Gálvez, who said that a candidate for Congress for the Panameńista political party was also trying to destabilize the province.

The controversial bill was passed by the National Assembly in the third and final debate on Friday, and just a few hours later in the afternoon, it had been signed into law by president Ricardo Martinelli and published in the Official Gazette - becoming the law of the land. (Panama America)

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