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Wednesday, September 18 2019 @ 03:38 am EDT

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1 Dead, 9 wounded in Panama protests

Protests & Demonstrations(Fox News Latino) A 10-year-old boy was killed and at least nine people were wounded by gunfire in protests against a law authorizing the sale of state-owned land in the Panamanian duty-free zone of Colon.

The National Police clashed throughout the day Friday with groups of demonstrators opposed to the law and with looters who ransacked establishments in downtown Colon. Medical personnel at the Manuel Amador Guerrero Hospital told local television that a 10-year-old boy was caught in the crossfire and died of a bullet wound to the stomach, while six people were treated there for bullet wounds and an unspecified number for pellet wounds.

The National Police, meanwhile, said in a statement that three officers were wounded by gunfire and five others by sharp objects. "Three stores were looted and two gas stations vandalized" in Colon, the statement added, noting that "charges will be filed against all individuals caught carrying firearms" in the city.

The governor of Colon province, Pedro Rios, declared a curfew starting at nightfall Friday in a bid to control the situation.

According to local media, the National Police officers used their service weapons after coming under fire from looters taking advantage of the situation. Local media footage of the clashes showed rock throwing and tear gas and shots fired, as well as some arrests made in a low-income area of the city. The TVN network also reported that groups of rioters fired shots at journalists covering the disturbances.

Panama's Federation of Chambers of Commerce issued a statement Friday denouncing "acts of vandalism" in Colon, although it also reiterated its opposition to the law allowing the sale of state-owned land in the duty-free zone and called on the government to repeal it.

A labor leader in Colon, Edgardo Boitier, announced that protests will continue until President Ricardo Martinelli rescinds the law, which the National Assembly approved on Friday.

The president signed the law that same day despite widespread opposition from different political and business sectors, saying it will improve the quality of life of Colon's inhabitants. In an interview with TVN television, the president accused "professional agitators" of fanning the protests for political or ideological reasons and to "create chaos." He defended the sale of state-owned land in the Colon duty-free zone, saying the wealthy cannot be allowed to pay a pittance for leasing land for the import and export of goods, while "the poorest are having problems." "Much better times are ahead" for the Caribbean city, he said in the interview, calling for calm among local residents.

The Colon Free Trade Zone, a port at the Atlantic gateway to the Panama Canal that is located 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Panama City, is considered the world's second most important duty-free area after Hong Kong.

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Amateur Videos Of Protests in Colon Capture Blatant Police Abuse

Protests & Demonstrations By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The situation in Colon is very dangerous. Do not go there for any reason. If you think there is some sort of emergency you have to attend there, then whoever is in Colon should approach the authorities and request assistance to be evacuated, if necessary. The US Embassy in Panama City has issued a warning against travel to Colon because of the ongoing protests and acts of violence. One ten year old boy was killed by gunfire, and several others have been injured, including three police officers. Last night journalists who were covering the scene were attacked and fired upon, and they had to be escorted out of the area under police protection. In short, there should be no reason whatsoever to travel to Colon until this situation blows over.

Blatant Police Abuse: I started writing this article to publish some of the videos taken by journalists of the street fighting, but then I can across this video taken by some residents in Colon from the balcony of their apartment. They are looking down on a large group of police officers who are in the process of arresting some protesters. There is one man who is handcuffed, on the ground, and helpless. One fat police officer (coward) comes up and repeatedly kicks him in the face. He then steps on his head and bounces up and down. Another police officer takes this same man and throws him violently to the ground, and he hits his head on the pavement because he is handcuffed, and he cannot stop his fall. Then fat ass comes back into the scene with another two handcuffed suspects, who are also being arrested. The man making the video says "you're abusing, I've got you recorded on video." Then the police officer opens fire on the people making the video with his service weapon, and the video stops. If you ever had any doubt about the lack of control and abuse committed by the members of the Panamanian National Police, you should have none now. "Unprofessional" is an understatement. His actions were criminal. If this SOB doesn't end up in prison, then there is no justice in Panama. And for the record, when I found this video it had less than 60 views total. I just called my media contacts at TVN and I'm pretty sure "fat ass" is going to get famous, quick. Watch this video:



These Are Just "Standard" Protest Videos:





Editor's Comment: Channel 13 Telemetro picked it up, after I sent it to them. See: http://www.telemetro.com/especiales/venta-zonalibre/2012/10/20/118324/divulgan-video-sobre-presunto-abuso-policial-colon.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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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 Panameñista 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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Boy dies in violent protests over new Panama land law

Protests & DemonstrationsColon, Panama (Reuters) - At least one person, a 9-year-old boy, died on Friday in violent protests over a new law allowing the sale of state-owned land in a dilapidated port city within the duty-free zone next to the Panama Canal.

Several residents and police were also injured in Colon, Panama's second-largest city, in a third day of protests against the plan, which the National Assembly approved early on Friday and President Ricardo Martinelli signed into law hours later.

Hundreds of people burned tires and threw objects and shot at police, who fired back and used teargas to disperse the crowd. Local authorities instituted a 4 p.m. curfew.

Three police officers were shot and five injured, a police spokeswoman said. She said the boy was shot in the chest with bullets not used by police.

Local media reported as many as three dead, 16 injured, and 40 arrested, but police could not confirm that late on Friday.

The government argues that the sale of the land will yield greater revenues than continuing to lease it, which brings in about $33 million a year.

About 2,000 companies rent land and employ about 30,000 people in the Colon Free Trade Zone, the largest such region in the Americas.

Critics have denounced the government plan as an irresponsible political maneuver to cover government spending and keep the deficit low. They say selling the land will harm residents of Colon, which has one of the highest rates of poverty and crime in the tiny Central American country.

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Panama protests over land sale in Colon free trade zone

Protests & DemonstrationsColon, Panama (BBC) - President Ricardo Martinelli appealed for calm, blaming the protests on 'agitators'. Hundreds of demonstrators in Panama burned tyres and clashed with police hours after the National Assembly approved legislation allowing the sale of land in the duty-free zone of Colon. Protesters fear the new legislation will cost jobs and cut incomes.

More than 2,000 companies operate in the lucrative free trade port area, at the Caribbean end of the Panama Canal.

President Ricardo Martinelli appealed for calm and said the sale of state-owned land will benefit the region.

He said "agitators" and "small-minded interests" were behind the protests in the city of Colon.

According to the law, 35% of the proceedings generated by the sale of land will go to a trust for "social investments" in the area.

The other 65% will go the central government in the Central American nation.

"We do not want the land to be sold because these are assets that belong to Colon," Felipe Cabezas, head of the Colonense Broad Movement, told the AP news agency.

The city of Colon has one of the largest free trade ports in the world, in operation since the 1950s.

It sits at the end of the Panama Canal and just outside the former Panama Canal Zone.

The canal, linking the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, is Panama's main source of revenue.

Panama has been running the waterway since 1999, when the United States handed over control.

Work in the expansion of the canal has been going on for years and should be completed in time for its centenary in 2014.

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Protesters riot over law on Panama duty-free zone

Protests & DemonstrationsPANAMA CITY (AP) — A boy was killed during violent protests in the Caribbean city of Colon on Friday over a new law allowing the sale of state-owned land in the duty-free zone next to the Panama Canal, authorities said.

The 10-year-old boy was shot once in the stomach and died at the Manuel Amadador Guerrero Hospital in the Caribbean city of Colon, emergency unit director Mariano Lopez said.

Lopez said that at least six other people were treated for gunshot wounds and several others for pellet wounds.

Anti-riot police used tear gas and fired into the air to disperse hundreds of people who burned tires and threw objects at police in Colon's downtown. The protesters began leaving the area after the confrontation with police. Authorities didn't return calls seeking comment.

Colon's Mayor Damaso Garcia declared a curfew Friday afternoon.

The rioting came a few hours after the National Assembly approved legislation permitting the sale of land in the duty-free zone to private companies already leasing land there to handle the import and export of goods. President Ricardo Martinelli signed the law hours later.

Protesters said the land is already being rented and it makes no sense to sell it. They said the government should instead raise the rent and invest the money in Colon, a poor and violent city.

"We do not want the land to be sold because these are assets that belong to Colon," said Felipe Cabezas, head of the Colonense Broad Movement. "Why sell if the country is not going through economic problems?"

The duty-free zone has about 2,000 companies that rent land and employ 30,000 people, according to authorities. The government estimates land sales could raise $2 billion over the next 20 years.

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Colon Erupts In Street Battles With Police Over Proposal To Sell Free Trade Zone Lands

Protests & Demonstrations Last night the situation in Colon was one of uncertainty. There was shooting with firearms, burning tires, tear gas, police raids, and bird shot everywhere. So ended the day following the approval on second reading in the National Assembly, of the bill that would allow the government to sell the lands of the Colon Free Trade Zone. Three injured policemen - one of them shot - were taken to the Miguel Amador Guerrero hospital last night amid tight security. On the outskirts of the city, makeshift barricades prevented the movement of cars. There were protests in areas such as Los Lagos, La Feria, Puerto Escondido and Villa del Caribe. While in downtown Colon, in the Wilcox house, shots were heard.

The National Coalition for Development and the Association of Colon Free Trade Zone Users objected to the approval of the initiative, which passed the second debate in the National Assembly with 41 votes from the Deputies of the MOLIRENA and Cambio Democratico political parties, compared to 11 votes against from the PRD and the Panameñista political parties. Once the vote was finished, the President of the National Assembly Sergio Galvez launched insults at the opposition Deputies, saying "Get out, get out, go cry in the cemetery."

The manager of the Colon Free Trade Zone Leopoldo Benedetti defended the law, saying the government will receive about $100 million dollars per year, and of that $35 million will be destined for the province of Colon. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: AVOID both downtown Colon city and the province of Colon for the coming days, at all costs. There should be no valid reason to venture into Colon unless it is an absolute emergency (life and death). If that's the case, then the person who needs help should seek the authorities and be evacuated in an ambulance. I imagine that sooner or later today the US Embassy in Panama City will get around to issuing some sort of an alert or warning, if they have not done so already.

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Those Affected By Diethylene Glycol Poisoning Protest At Supreme Court

Protests & DemonstrationsPatients and family members of the Committee for the Right to Health and Life, who have been affected by diethylene glycol poisoning, picketing, on Wednesday afternoon in front of the Supreme Court. The demonstrators demand an immediate pronouncement by the Supreme Court on the beatings that occurred six years ago against those affected, as they conducted a protest at the Presidency of the Republic. They also demanded medical attention, because they report this is being denied. On July 19, 2007, patients and families affected by the poisoned cough syrup performed a protest at the Presidency, where heavy fighting occurred. The victims reported being beaten by officers assigned to the Institutional Protection Service (SPI). (Telemetro)

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Hydro Project Threatens To Fire All 711 Employees - Protest Instantly Ends

Protests & DemonstrationsFollowing the announcement by the company Hydroelectric Teribe (HET) on the possible dismissal of 711 workers due to the road closure by the Naso indigenous group on the road that leads to the community of Bonyic, the roadway was reopened yesterday afternoon. Roberto Perez, head of Social and Environmental Management of HET, said the situation of paralysis forced the company to initiate the termination of contracts, over the lack of seriousness and breach of the agreements between government entities and indigenous Naso. "The dismissal of the workers sought to lighten the fixed costs of the company during the days that the road was closed," he said. After the road was reopened, a meeting is scheduled for Monday with the Minister of Government Ricardo Fabrega, company managers, and the leaders of the Nasos, to air concerns. (Siglo)

Editor's Comment: Hilarious. These Naso Indians kept the road leading to this new hydro electric project - which is under construction - closed for like three weeks and the company just got tired of screwing around with them. In response, they announced their intentions to fire all 711 employees, most of whom come from the same community as the 30 Indians who were protesting. The roadway was instantly reopened. Blink...

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Bus Drivers Protesting - Close Tumba Muerto At Plaza Edison

Protests & DemonstrationsBus drivers from approximately ten routes parked "Red Devil" buses to block Via Ricardo J. Alfaro (Tumba Muerto) in front of the Plaza Edison building this morning, Friday, 21 September 2012, to demand that the process of making payments for their buses resume.

Jhonny Mosquera, a leader for the bus drivers, said they are asking the Minister of Labor and Workforce Development, Alma Cortez, to intervene in this situation. Mosquera asked Cortes to grant them a certificate the union needs to continue the clearing process.

Possible Strike - The carrier leader also said that these pressure measurements are the only way for them to be heard by the authorities. So Mosquera announced to local media if they do not get a positive response to their requests, starting the next Monday, September 24, they will hold work stoppage (strike). The strike would be supported by the ten routes that still need to be compensated, among them Veranillo, Concepción, San Pedro, Torrijos-Carter and Mano de Piedra.

The compensation process was stopped due to a series of investigations being conducted by the Attorney General because of several complaints filed by both the presidency and by the Land Transit and Transportation Authority and some carriers, in order to conduct an audit and check to see if some drivers and officials may have committed crimes and therefore caused an injury to the State.

Riot control officers of the National Police are in the area of the protest. The situation has caused traffic congestion.

Editor's Comment: I just had to go near the area of the protest. Traffic is all screwed up on Tumba Muerto, and surrounding arteries such as Via Transistmica.

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National Institute Students Clashing With Riot Police

Protests & DemonstrationsHigh school students from the National Institute clashed with riot police on Monday morning. They are asking for the suspension of Law 48, through which - according to them - the subject of "Relations With The United States" is eliminated from the school curriculum. A student leader said on TVN News they are protesting against "Law 48 of 14 August 2012 which modifies the subject matter of Panama's relations with the United States." "We suggested to the Minister of Education, Lucy Molinar, that she should hold a dialog with parents, the education sector and students, and she ignored it," said the student leader. In the area, the students are throwing heavy objects at police officers, who are responding with tear gas. The shops near the protest area have decided not to open their doors. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: The subject of Panama's historical relationship with the United States can be a hot button issue in Panama. Americans think Panama should thank the US every day, for first splitting Panama off from Colombia, making it a separate nation, building the Panama Canal, and then handing it over to the Panamanian government as a gift. And of course there are Panamanians who see the United States as a sort of imperial dictator, who murdered women and children in cold blood during the Just Cause invasion and other military interventions, throughout history. The most important thing is that now - today - Panama is a free democracy, and they have the ability to write their own history books as they see fit. There's this thing called the "Internet" and anyone can search out the details and develop their own personal version of the "truth" to hold forever more. And good luck with that. In the meantime, kids are throwing stones at the police, and they are getting tear gassed for their efforts. The school will end up being closed for a week or two, and the rest of their non-protesting classmates will have to attend classes during what would have been their summer vacation to make up for the missed time. Good call...

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Protesters Rattle Fences And Burn Boxes Outside Of National Assembly

Protests & DemonstrationsTensions resurfaced between protesters gathered outside of the Legislative Palace, when a group shook the fence and burned boxes. Faced with this action, riot control police officers immediately sprayed pepper spray, while members of the fire department arrived on the scene to extinguish the fire. With the pepper spray, the mood seemed to subside. According to journalist Helen Concepcion, this is the same group that forced their way into the National Assembly last week. (TVN)

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Sessions Suspended At The National Assembly

Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The President of the National Assembly Sergio Galvez has ordered the suspension of sessions in the National Assembly this afternoon, in response to ongoing protests and confrontations.

Galvez said that most of the Panameñista protesters outside of the National Assembly are former employees of the municipal government of Panama City, who worked during the administration of Bosco Vallarino and Jose Blandon.

He said the CD party maintains it's position with regards to the proposed package of electoral reforms, and the debates will continue.

Galvez said everything that is happening at the National Assembly today is all "political

The PRD party has called for an "urgent" press conference at the party's headquarters for 4:10 pm this afternoon. Not to be outdone, the Panameñistas are going to have one of their own.

Meanwhile, there are now fistfights between rival bands in front of the National Assembly.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Breaking: A Group of Protesters Force Their Way Into The National Assembly Building

Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - A group of protesters who are opposed to the controversial Bill 508, proposed by the ruling Cambio Democratico party that would make amendments to the Electoral Code, have forced their way into the National Assembly building.

Reports from the scene indicate about 50 people were able to force open a security gate and enter the grounds.

Some of the protesters scaled over the perimeter security fences to gain access to the grounds.

When entering the building they reportedly destroyed metal detectors, and are now in the public viewing area, above the floor of the National Assembly.

Shouting their slogan of protest - "No Means No" - these protesters seek to support the opposition PRD and Panameñista Deputies who are trying to achieve through force and drama what they cannot achieve with votes on the floor of the Assembly.

In response to this action, a recess has been called in the debate.

Security forces are mobilizing to prevent more people from entering, and to remove those who entered by force.

News reporters on the scene are saying they have been locked into the floor of the National Assembly, and that security officers have closed the doors with chains and padlocks.

Riot control officers from the National Police are now deployed around the outside of the National Assembly.

So, in summary - all hell is breaking loose at the National Assembly. As predicted. It's all a show, in order to prevent Bill 508 from being passed.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Pushing, Shoving, and Insults Outside Of The National Assembly

Protests & DemonstrationsDozens of demonstrators for and against Bill 508 that makes amendments to the Electoral Code states remain outside of the Legislative Palace, watched closely by riot police and security members of the National Assembly. Shouting, shoving and insults is the environment outside the palace. Meanwhile, inside the full body, Deputies from the Panameñista party are delaying the debate. The members of the opposition party say they have 100 Bills under their arm which they will introduce in order to prevent Bill 508 from being discussed. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: Wow. The PRD and the Panameñistas must really hate democracy. The CD has the votes because those Deputies were all elected to serve in the National Assembly. Meanwhile, the PRD and the Panameñistas don't have the votes, so they are forced to resort to any delaying tactic they can think of. The fight goes on...

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Protesters Force Their Way Into The National Assembly

Protests & DemonstrationsA group of protesters who are part of the movement Front for Democracy, as well as people who oppose the adoption of the Bill 508, forced their way into the National Assembly this afternoon. By hitting the entrance door to the public viewing area in the grandstands of the National Assembly, the protesters forcibly entered the Chamber today, Wednesday, September 5, as the Deputies are debating Bill 508 on electoral reforms. According to reports, the group of protesters are members of the Front for Democracy movement, led by union leader, Mariano Mena. Shouting slogans and forcing the doors open, the group that is against the adoption of the draft Electoral Code reforms gained entry to the National Assembly. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: And they should now be arrested, and dragged off to jail. The opponents to Bill 508 don't have the votes to stop it, so they are resorting to dramatic acts of violence, because that's all they have...

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Students Close Tumba Muerto in Panama City

Protests & DemonstrationsThe National Police cleared Tumba Muerto, today, Tuesday, September 4, after students from the American Institute closed all four lanes of the roadway, demanding their vacations, which according to them were suspended in order to make up for lost class time, the result of the teachers strike which happened a few months ago. First, the students were picketing on the premises of the school, and parents joined in this action. Not content with this measure, the students closed the road, affecting the free movement of motorists who pass by daily. The students said they have asked to speak with the authorities of the Ministry of Education (MEDUCA), but say they have not been allowed. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: So, they didn't have to go to school during the teachers strike, and now they want their normal vacation time off too? Yeah, sure. That will work. All because of one dude, Rodriguez, who was fired for breaking the law on school grounds, where he worked. Great...

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Bridge Over Changuinola River in Bocas del Toro Closed by Protesters

Protests & DemonstrationsChanguinola, Bocas del Toro - For the second consecutive day, a group of 50 former banana workers who were affected by the riots in July 2010 when they protested in Changuinola against Law 30, closed the road at the bridge over the Changuinola River in Bocas del Toro.

The former employees said they are demanding the presence in the province of the new director of the National Assistance Program (NAP), Rafael Guard, so they can receive the support promised by the Government.

The protesters closed yesterday, Monday, the lanes of the roadway on the Changuinola River Bridge for two hours (4:00 pm to 6:00 pm). However, Jacinto Quintero, a spokesman for the former employees, announced that on Wednesday their protest measure will become permanent, and they will keep the bridge closed until the group talks to the Director of the PAN.

Quintero said the clashes of 2010 hurt them heavily - with many of them either partially or totally blinded - which has affected their daily life. (Prensa)

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Residents of "El Sitio" Protest Over Possible Eviction Notice

Protests & DemonstrationsThe residents in an old wooden building known as "El Sitio" closed Vía José Agustín Arango, outside the factory of the company Pascual, to draw attention to their possible eviction. According to the residents of "El Sitio", they started the protest after they received a letter from the local Justice of the Peace, informing them they had 30 days to vacate the premises.

Two hours after they closed the road, riot control officers from the National Police arrived to clear the roadway, resulting in a confrontation with the complainants. "They want to fix it with intimidation," said a tenant of House Number 4 of "El Sitio", referring to the fact that the National Police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the demonstrators.

While the complainants expressed their dissatisfaction to El Siglo over the actions taken by the police and the lack of response from the government, Asdrúbal Ulloa from the office of Development of the Ministry of Housing and Land (MIVIOT) visited the area. After meeting with residents of "El Sitio", Ulloa said they would propose options within the "wide range" of MIVIOT housing solutions.

Approximately 35 families live in the old wooden building. Ulloa said they are analyzing the socioeconomic profile of each of them, because some have more than $1,000 per month income, making them candidates for a $5,000 grant offered by MIVIOT to help them purchase their own homes in the private sector. (Siglo)

Editor's Comment: These old wooden barracks are the things that tend to go up in smoke on a regular basis. The residents should be happy to move somewhere else. They are all renting, and the owner probably has a better offer on the land under the building, so he wants to clear out all of the current residents and bulldoze the thing. And I didn't know about that $5,000 grant deal. So if you're making $1,000 per month or more you qualify for this grant to help you buy a house? Sweet deal. In Panama there are many of these "cookie cutter" developments, especially over towards Arraijan and La Chorrera, where the houses cost less than $50,000 dollars so the $5,000 bucks would cover the 10% down payment, at least.

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Former Curundu Residents Close Street

Protests & DemonstrationsA group of demonstrators protested this morning, Friday, August 24, at the Avenue des Martyrs, to demand the government provide them with the housing they were promised when they were evicted from Curundú last year.

According to the complainants, to date, the Ministry of Housing and Land Management has not given them their homes, so they currently live in a building located on the Avenue of the Martyrs.

A representative of the Ministry of the Presidency who arrived at the scene of the protest said as of today the homes being built for them are about 50% complete.

He added that they are being given a response, because this project was tendered and countersigned by the Comptroller, so he does not know why they decided to close the street, the officer remarked, moreover, he invited the Comptroller to confirm that she has endorsed the housing project where they will is relocated.

Meanwhile, protesters say they "do not want more lies" and even at the time of writing this note they had not left the street. (Prensa)

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Front For Democracy Will March Against Electoral Reforms

Protests & DemonstrationsWhile the consultation period for Bill 508 which seeks to reform the Electoral Code advances, the Front for Democracy is already planning to go to the streets because of this issue. This was announced by the group's leader Mariano Mena, because it appears, according to him, it does not seem that the Deputies who support the current administration are showing any signs of reflecting on the proposed electoral reforms. Mena said that on August 29, the Front For Democracy will march at 4:00 pm from the Plaza Porras to the Assembly.

Meanwhile, Manuel Cohen of the Government Commission said it will be a decision of the board, to take safety measures all those who are working.

Raisa Banfield said "they tell us now they are legislating to favor independent candidates and to give more power to the people, for me as a citizen this is a real fallacy".

The former Attorney General Guiseppe Bonissi, who now wants to be a judge on the Electoral Tribunal, said his friendship with President Ricardo Martinelli and the Democratic Change does not stop him from asking for the proposal to be withdrawn.

So far about 30 speakers have expressed their views on the reforms, and a recess was declared until Tuesday. (TVN)

Editor's Comment: Highly charged, political issue. The PRD wants to keep things the way they are - unfair and slanted in a way that helps their party. The CD wants to implement four reforms which generally move things more towards a "one man, one vote" position. The Panameñista party is split, gutless, leaderless, and sinking. I expect the National Assembly will cram through the reforms (which are generally a good idea) although the PRD will make it as painful for them as possible.

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FAD and FRENADESO Reject Proposed Changes to Electoral Code

Protests & DemonstrationsMembers of the Broad Front for Democracy (FAD) and the National Front for the Defense of Economic and Social Panama (Frenadeso) protested outside the National Assembly of Deputies. Members of these groups manifest publicly their opposition to the proposed amendments to the current Electoral Code, an initiative by the legislative caucus of the Democratic Change party (CD). They think the amendments to the Electoral Code will only favor the ruling political party in addition to being unwise. The protest was scheduled for three o'clock in the afternoon, when the Government Commission of the National Assembly began the public consultations on Electoral Reform. These reforms to the Electoral Code include specific topics such as: elimination of the "sheet vote," regulation of independent candidates for President and Vice President, term of the election campaign and others. (Critica)

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Public Teachers Strike Is Over

Protests & DemonstrationsAuthorities from Panama's Ministry of Education and leaders of the various teachers unions remain assembled in the Curia Metropolitana, to define the signature of an agreement to set the end of the strike, and the resumption of classes that have remained suspended since last Wednesday. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: The strike is pretty much over. It was a half-baked and lukewarm effort in any case. I just hope they don't fold, and allow that Andres Rodriguez guy to come back on board. He's been breaking the law and getting away with it for decades.

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Public Teachers Strike Continues on Monday

Protests & DemonstrationsAlthough the Minister of Education, Lucy Molinar, on Saturday stressed that good compromises were reached in the dialog, the teachers involved in the talks said the strike would continue on Monday 13 August. After the meeting, the head of education Lucy Molinar said there were important commitments, such as the allowance for time lost during the strike that began last Wednesday. Following this, the union leader Andres Rodriguez said there would be no classes on Monday because they will hold a general meeting. And, according to Rodriguez, the union members will decide whether or not the strike will end. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: I really hope Molinar does not fold to the pressure to reinstate Rodriguez.

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Journalists Protest Against Afu and Martinelli

Protests & DemonstrationsFifty journalists protested this Friday, August 10, in rejection of the violent actions that have been committed against their Panamanian colleagues in the last week. The protesters were stationed near the premises of the headquarters of the Union of Journalists of Panama, on the Paseo Gorgas. The protest lasted only five minutes. They harangued against Deputy Carlos Afu Tito, who attacked the journalist José Garibaldi of Medcom during an activity held yesterday, August 9th. And also shouted slogans against Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli.

The union's general secretary, Philemon Medina said this action is a warning to the government and the Panamanian people, for them to take notice of the attacks occurring in Panama against press freedom and journalists. Garibaldi's case reflects what has been happening in Panama in recent months, first mental attacks and now physical, Medina said. He added that such attacks over nothing are done to intimidate journalists who continue to do their work, and to publish any kind of injustice, corruption and acts against the people of Panama. (Prensa)

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Riot Police Clear Protesters From Highway in Chilibre

Protests & DemonstrationsRiot control officers of the National Police this morning cleared the road to Colon, in the area of Chilibre, closed by residents of Don Bosco who are demanding the permanent distribution of drinking water. On channel 13 In Telemetro Report it could be seen how the riot control officers cleared the roadway using tear gas and pepper spray. During the police operation a group of residents were detained. The residents complained about the use of force to clear the roadway, which they had closed starting at 5:00 am this morning. The residents of the community of Don Bosco also complain about the lack of potable water, and that the tankers being used to distribute water do not meet adequate health requirements. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Show me your receipts for paid water bills. In Panama the IDAAN is owed millions of dollars - I forget the official figure but it's a ridiculous amount - because the people who receive water service simply do not pay their bills. It's literally impossible to either maintain or expand a water distribution system if you don't have enough money to do so. There are vast areas where squatters have simply taken over and built houses on land they don't own, and then they come down and complaint that it would be ILLEGAL for the IDAAN to install a potable water distribution network for an illegally constructed neighborhood of squatters. So, the close the streets to complain. Once again, this is yet another example of what happens with the government tries to run something. If the water distribution system was privatized and run for profit as a joint venture with the government - much in the same way as the electrical and telecommunications systems are - then service would improve and the network would expand. In the meantime we continue to fight the same battles that have been fought literally for decades, with no hope of ever making a true, fundamental change for the better.

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Teachers March To Ministry of Education (Minority Action, Again)

Protests & DemonstrationsTo demand their rights as teachers, educators from around the country and members of various teachers' unions held a march from the campus of the National Assembly to the Ministry of Education. The teachers will also present a list of demands to the Ministry of Education and try to talk to Minister Lucy Molinar. The also submitted a complaint to the Human Rights Commission. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: Once again, piss-poor reporting by a Panamanian news outlet. The obvious questions are - about how many people participated in this protest march. The vast majority of public school teachers in Panama are currently working. They are in the classrooms doing their jobs, not marching down the street to demand their "rights" (whatever that means.) Once again, this is a minority movement, designed to create a headline for political reasons, and not a valid protest or complaint in representation of the majority of public school teachers in Panama. Rabble rousing ankle biters, as usual.

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IDAAN Workers Sign Agreement With Government Authorities, End Strike

Protests & DemonstrationsOfficials of the Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (IDAAN) and government officials smoked the peace pipe and signed an agreement ending the work stoppage that began from Monday July 9. Employees of the state agency had engaged in a nationwide strike, because in their march on Saturday July 7 there was no effort by the authorities to solve their problems. The director of the IDAAN Abdiel Cano, Minister for Canal Affairs Romulo Roux, who is also in charge of the Water Authority, and the union's general secretary IDAAN, Rafael Mejia, signed the agreement, in which was agreed among other things, the reinstatement of two dismissed officers and non-retaliation to workers. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: It seems to me like these IDAAN guys just wanted to make a statement. I really don't think any of them are in serious jeopardy of losing their jobs once the new Water Authority is created in law.

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Ministry of Health Workers Want Their Raise, As Promised

Protests & DemonstrationsBanging pots and with banners in hand, a group of administrative workers of the Ministry of Health (MoH) yesterday launched a series of protests to demand the government of Ricardo Martinelli comply with their commitment to deliver the promised salary adjustment made two years ago. The health workers are upset because through a circular issued by the Secretary General of the MoH, Felix Bonilla, and signed by the Minister of Economy and Finance, Frank De Lima, they are told that the salary range will be lower than what was established in the 2012 Budget. Meanwhile, Jorge Morales, a leader of the workers, said this decision is not justified, so they expect an answer from the authorities by Wednesday or otherwise they will go on a nationwide strike. With these administrative and fiscal measures $294.8 million dollars was cut from the investment budget, of which $60 million relates to new projects with zero execution and $110.5 million in operating budget. (Mi Diario)

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IDAAN (Water) Workers On Strike

Protests & Demonstrations A group of workers of the Institute of Aqueducts and Sewage Systems (Idaan) has started an indefinite strike. The decision, as explained by Rafael Mejia, a leader of the Idaan workers, was taken last Saturday, July 7th, after a march and a meeting they organized. According to Mejia, it's been a year and they still have not reached a consensus with the government authorities who are promoting the creation of a new "Water Authority." Mejia said on the channel 13 Telemetro morning news they went out on strike "because the government wanted to play with the Idaan workers." The leader said they analyzed the Bill creating the new Water Authority and they think it was developed politically. In addition, he blamed the Government forcing the workers to go out on strike. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: The IDAAN is basically a "broke" institution. This move by the government to create a new "Water Authority" to replace the IDAAN is a sort of half-step towards privatization. It would allow for the outsourcing of some of the tasks that are now being done (poorly) by the IDAAN as a 100% government institution. These striking workers are government employees, and they don't know what their future holds. It seems to me like some hand holding is in order. And of course these days there's a political element to everything, so (as usual) it's quite possible that these striking workers don't actually represent the wants, desires, and concerns of the majority of their coworkers. They might be in the minority, and causing problems just for political reasons - like what happens with the CSS workers, the public school teachers, and other factions of government employees. I don't know if that's the case in this instance, but it happens frequently.

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