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Friday, August 01 2014 @ 06:29 PM EDT

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SUNTRACS Protesters Reach National Assembly - Security Reinforced

Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - There are reports that the first groups of the protesting SUNTRACS construction labor union members have reached the National Assembly.

Their plan is for all of their members who have been closing streets and protesting all over Panama City this morning to march to the National Assembly, where they will demand that the controversial Law 72 be revoked.

Right now the Ministers of State are trying to establish a meeting of the Executive Cabinet Council via Skype, in order to issue an official request, asking the National Assembly to revoke the law they passed last Friday.

Constitutional experts have said their plan to hold this meeting via Skype is "valid" from a legal point of view.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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Pan American Highway Reopened In Chiriqui

Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - There are reports that protesters have reopened the Pan American Highway over the Piedra River in Chiriqui. They had closed the roadway at that point for more than an hour.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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All SUNTRACS Protesters Now Moving Towards National Assembly

Protests & DemonstrationsThe workers and the leadership of the National Union of Workers in the Construction Industry and Allied (SUNTRACS) who have been obstructing various parts of the capital city all morning, said they will be holding a march from all of the buildings where their workers are located, and they will all be moving towards the National Assembly. They reported that the march has already started from the area of Costa del Este, that it will pass down Via Israel to Ave Balboa, and on the way they will gather up all of their colleagues to finish at the National Assembly. They demand the repeal of Law 72 which allows for the sale of the lands of the Colon Free Trade Zone. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: At 9:46 am local there are reports the SUNTRACS workers are in the area of Paitilla. There are several groups spread out all over the place, so it's not really clear if this is the main body.

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He Tweets! Ricardo Martinelli Speaks From Vietnam...

Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - With Panama City in utter chaos, the SUNTRACS labor union in control of the streets, and thousands of people trapped in their cars, president Ricardo Martinelli issued the following Tweet just seconds ago: "Ley buscaba lo mejor para Colón pero tuvo poca aceptación. Procederemos a su derogación definitiva. Queremos paz y tranquilidad para todos." (The law that sought the best for Colon was not accepted. We will proceed with its revocation. We want peace and tranquility for all.)

It's That "Say Stuff, Do Stuff" Disconnect: The administration of Ricardo Martinelli has effectively taken a face full of pepper spray from the SUNTRACS and the rest of the protesters. Not only have they blinked, they are now on their knees and blowing snot all over the place, begging for some water to wash it out. However there's a problem. Martinelli is on the ground in Vietnam, and the protesters have the city by the balls. With this Tweet Martinelli is trying to say "we're going to reverse the law, trust us." But the opposition knows they have him in checkmate. There's no way they are going to let him off the hook. They are going to make them squirm...

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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Executive Cabinet Meeting Via Teleconference? That Would Be A First...

Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Panama's Labor Minister Alma Cortés said they are "studying the possibility of having a cabinet meeting by conference." In other words, they are going to try to hold a meeting of the Executive Cabinet Council with president Ricardo Martinelli, even though he is still physically in Vietnam. That would be a first.

Struggling To Deal With Reality: Obviously, the Ministers of State in Panama are trying to figure out how to deal with this crisis.

The opposition and protesters have them over a barrel. They look weak, ineffective, confused, and leaderless.

With Ricardo Martinelli gone and Vice President Juan Carlos Varela on the outside due to political considerations, the only real "leader" they have left is the Minister of the Presidency Roberto Henriquez.

Legally speaking he is not in charge because Martinelli has not left the country for more than ten days. But in reality - yes he is.

They obviously don't want to hold a "real" meeting of the Executive Cabinet because that would be chaired by Vice President Varela, something they are not willing to concede.

So let's watch as they continue to grapple with this situation, and search for a way out of the bag they've backed themselves into.

Apparently Martinelli's well worn tactic of hopping on his jet and leaving the country any time there's an anticipation of controversy has bit him soundly on the left cheek...

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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The Bridge of the Americas Is Now Closed In Both Directions

Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The Bridge of the Americas is now closed, in both directions. Earlier this morning workers from the SUNTRACS construction labor union closed the Pan American Highway near Howard, and now there are reports that traffic has been halted in both directions. Stay home.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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Executive Will Revoke Law 72 on 31 October - Henriquez

Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Talk about being between a rock and a hard place. Apparently now the Minister of the Presidency Roberto Henriquez - who is de facto in charge of the country with he absence of President Ricardo Martinelli and with the Vice President Juan Carlos Varela on the outside due to political considerations - has announced that the Executive will revoke the controversial Law 72 on October 31. I suspect they would probably like to do it right now, but for some incomprehensible reason, they have worked themselves into a weird logic box, in which the National Assembly has decided that they cannot act on their own. You know, the guys who pass the laws? They've decided that they cannot pass a law without a request from the Executive. And now it looks like we're going to be talking about this for the next five days. Wow. Who is giving advice to Martinelli? Amazing stuff to watch unfold...

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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Coastal Strip Closed At Miramar

Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The Coastal Strip and Ave Balboa remain closed near the Miramar Hotel (at the bottom of Ave. Frederico Boyd, near the Parque Urraca.) Workers have abandoned public transportation, buses and taxis, and are walking in an attempt to reach their destinations. Thus far, it appears that the riot control officers of the National Police are not taking any actions whatsoever against any of these points where the SUNTRACS has closed down the major streets of the city. Thousands of people are stuck in their cars, and can't move. Stay home.

(Cocoas.net)

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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Waiting For The "Boss" To Come Home - In The Meantime, Suck It Up...

Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The Minister of the Presidency Roberto Henriquez has said that President Ricardo Martinelli will revoke the controversial Law 72 as soon as he returns to Panama. Apparently the National Assembly is convinced they cannot act on their own, without first having received a request from the Executive Cabinet Council.

Vice President Juan Carlos Varela is here in the country, but he's in "opposition" to the government of Ricardo Martinelli since the breakup of their political alliance in August 2011.

And, I'm sure the government officials of the Cambio Democratico would not allow the Panameñista Juan Carlos Varela to step in and chair a meeting of the Executive Cabinet Council, in order to generate a request to revoke Law 72.

If they did that, then of course Varela would immediately be able to "take credit" for having reversed the law himself.

No, Martinelli would rather wait until he arrives, chair the meeting himself, and reverse the law.

If that means most of Panama City has to sit in their cars waiting for his Leer Jet to land, then so be it.

Really, you can't make this shit up...

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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SUNTRACS Blocking Streets and Highways - Panama At A Standstill

Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Starting at 7:30 this morning the SUNTRACS construction labor union came out in force to block practically all of the major streets and highways in and around Panama City.

Still blocked are;

  • Calle 50 in front of the old Dante Mansion (Obarrio);
  • Ave Balboa and the Coastal Strip;
  • Via Israel near the Multiplaza Mall;
  • Via Transistmica at the La Salle school;
  • Via Transistmica at the Estrella Azul plant;
  • Tumba Muerto at the Brisas del Golf entrance;
  • Tumba Muerto at the Roosevelt overpass;
  • Tumba Muerto closed at Villa Lucre and El Crisol;
  • The Southern Corridor at the ATLAPA toll booth;
  • Intersection of Tumba Muerto and Transistmica overpass bridge closed (San Miguelito);
  • Pan American highway at Westland Mall (La Chorrera);
  • Pan American Highway at Howard (Bridge of the Americas);

And There Are Probably Others: The cellular telephone network is quickly becoming saturated to the point of collapse, because everyone wants to make calls at the same time. The streets are full of people who are stuck in traffic, who can't move either forward or back, and there's nothing they can do. This is a really good day to stay home.

Follow Panama Guide on Twitter: If you had been following Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

  • Outside of Panama City - Street closures and protests also in Colon and Chiriqui.
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    Expect The Worst For Tomorrow As Talks Fail, Strikes Continue

    Protests & Demonstrations By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The SUNTRACS construction union has called for a 24 hour strike starting at dawn tomorrow. They will be supported by the FRENADESO and the Central General Autonoma de Trabajadores (CGTP). Panama's Ministry of Education has shut down the National Institute to keep those students at home, and the University of Panama will also be closed down for (supposedly) a problem with the electrical power. In fact, the school is also being kept closed in order to reduce the number of students on campus tomorrow. The indigenous Ngäbe-Bugle started their actions this afternoon by closing down the Pan American highway, and they will probably do more of that tomorrow.

    When the SUNTRACS executed a very short action early Wednesday morning, they closed all of the main roadways in Panama (Calle 50, Transistmica, Tumba Muerto, Via Israel, Southern Corridor, Pan American highway, Bridge of the Americas, Centennial Bridge) for just one hour. That was enough to bring Panama City to a virtual standstill. If they do the same thing starting early tomorrow, then expect one major cluster throughout the day.

    Meanwhile in Colon, the government commission has tried for three days to hold talks with the representatives of the province, and those efforts have failed. Leaders from Colon are demanding that Law 72 be repealed before they will talk to anyone. So, you can expect more strikes and protests in Colon tomorrow as well, as things snowball.

    President Ricardo Martinelli is on a trip to Vietnam. The President of the National Assembly is basically standing by, waiting for orders. But nothing definitive has come across the Twitter-gram.

    Editor's Comment: The bottom line - all of this adds up to real mess tomorrow. This final protest action will most likely push the effort to repeal Law 72 "over the top" and it will happen sometime tomorrow. And here's the kicker. If I know this already, and so do you - why can't anyone in the Panamanian government read the same tea leaves I'm reading? Why are they going to let this go on for another day before taking the inevitable step of repealing Law 72. For the record - speaking personally and only for myself - I really could not give less of a crap about Law 72 and the sale of the lands in Colon. I mean, it would be hard to find a subject or issue about which I care less. It simply does not matter to me one way or the other. There are lots of people on all sides who feel passionately about this issue, and I'm not one of them. Sell it, rent it - macht nichts. But with all of that having been said, we still might be in for one hell of a mess tomorrow. Tank your car, buy brownie mix, stay home.

    Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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    High Ranking Government Delegation Leaves Colon - No Talks Again Today

    Protests & Demonstrations By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The high ranking government commission, which was in the province of Colon, has departed from the administrative offices of the Colon Free Zone after the refusal by the leaders of that province to seek a rapprochement with the government team. Government Minister Jorge Ricardo Fabrega said the consultation process is maintained, while denying that the talks between the government commission and the leaders in Colon have failed.

    The Minister of Economy and Finance Frank De Lima said there is progress on the rapprochement with the leaders and the prime movers of Colon. When leaving the premises of the Colon Free Zone he refused to speak to the reporters who were at the scene.

    This is the third consecutive day that the committee went to Colon to try to speak to the leaders of the protest movement, but no talks have taken place. The leaders of the demonstrations against Law 72 have repeatedly stated that first the government must repeal the controversial law - in its entirety - before they would agree to sit down for talks with the government officials.

    Meanwhile, President Ricardo Martinelli is on an official tour in Vietnam, the last stop of a trip that started last Friday. He is expected to return to Panama on Saturday. His absence from the scene, combined with a lack of progress on the ground in Panama to resolve the conflict, highlights the weakness of having all political power focused on one single individual as the only valid decision maker. And of course his Vice President Juan Carlos Varela is no help, because after the breakup of their political alliance he's now batting for the other side, and launching criticisms against Martinelli at every opportunity. So while the tires burn in Colon, Martinelli is sampling the Pho Bo. Có lẽ đó là thời gian để có được trở lại Panama ...

    Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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    Ngäbe-Bugle Close The Pan American Highway In Protest Against Law 72

    Protests & DemonstrationsA group of indigenous Ngäbe-Bugle have closed one lane of the Pan American Highway at the San Felix intersection, demanding the repeal of Law 72. The protest will be peaceful and they will keep the road closed for one hour, said the indigenous leader Rogelio Montezuma, president of the Coalition for the Defense of Natural Resources and People's Rights and Peasants Ngäbe Bugle. A group of police officers are in the area, but they are just standing by. Another protests is being made in the area of Horconcito in support of the people in Colon who oppose the sale of the land in the Colon Free Zone.

    Juan Carlos Varela Critical of Martinelli - The Vice President Juan Carlos Varela said on Thursday, October 25, that the Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli should have returned to the country, to address the crisis that exists in the province of Colon. Currently, the President is in Vietnam. "A country can not be governed by Twitter," said Varela, who today traveled to the city of Colon, the scene in the last days of protests against Law 72, which allows for the sale of the lands of the Colon Free Trade Zone. Varela said there is now a "leadership vacuum in the country." He said even several of the Deputies in the National Assembly and Ministers of State are not in agreement with the controversial law. "The whole country is waiting for the President to repeal the law," said Varela. He said the people of Colon are in the streets to demand that the law be repealed. The people in Colon are fighting for their land, he said.

    "We want peace to return to Colon," said Varela, who participated in a march through the main streets of the Atlantic coast. However, later the vice president of Panama had to abandon the parade for security reasons. Many of the people from Colon who were there shouted at Varela, saying they did not want any politicians to participate in the demonstration, that had been organized by evangelical pastors. Balbina Herrera from the Democratic Revolutionary Party was also there, who said the old law governing the Colon Free Trade Zone should be restored, and then there should be a conversation about this topic.

    National Assembly - Meanwhile, the National Assembly closed the permanent session. They did allow for meetings on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, if necessary. The President of the National Assembly Sergio Galvez said the Assembly does not have to wait for Martinelli to return in order to take action on Law 72. "The National Assembly has legislative initiative in making determinations on its own," said Galvez. Galvez also announced that the legislative caucus from the Democratic Change political party will meet to seek an understanding among the Deputies regarding Law 72. According to Gálvez, they seek formulas to end the crisis in Colon. "There are various opinions among the deputies," he admitted. In turn, the Commerce Commission in the Assembly is convened to consider any bill that comes up, he reported.

    In Panama City a group of students protested in front of the University of Panama. Riot control officers from the National Police were at the site of the event, to prevent them from closing Via Transístmica.

    Front Demands An Investigating Commission - This afternoon Edgardo Voitier, one of the leaders of the Broad Front for Democracy, demanded the formation of a commission composed of Panamanian and international human rights organizations to investigate the cases of abuse by police officers committed against the community, as well as the deaths of three people, including a nine year old child, the more than 40 people who were injured by gunfire, as well as arrests. Voitier believes this committee should gather all of the evidence to clarify these justified deaths, caused by "Martinelli's uncompromising stance." (Prensa)

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    Business Activity In Free Trade Zone Comes To A Halt Because Of Protests

    Protests & DemonstrationsThere has been almost no commercial movement through the Colon Free Trade Zone for the past five days, representing big losses. On this subject, Luis Germán Gómez, of the Association of Colon Free Zone Users, talked about how they have been impacted by the crisis in Colon, related to the protests and clashes that have been taking place since last week. Gomez said the situation has impacted all sectors, such as transportation, cargo, commercial, and other. In relation to the rent being paid for the lands, Gomez said the last increase was in 2009, and they are currently paying $17.20 per square meter. He said this year the Colon Free Trade Zone provided $86 million to the state. (Telemetro)

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    They Ask For Law 72 To Be Repealed, And A Comprehensive Development Plan For Colon

    Protests & DemonstrationsThe lawyer Luis Chifundo, who is a member of the Colon Broad Front, said the forces of the province want a dialogue, however, this cannot take place until after the Government repeals Law 72, which provides for the sale of the lands of the Colon Free Zone. Chifundo said the repeal of Law 72 is not only a requirement that has been mandated by the people of Colon, but rather behind the demand they are asking for the design and implementation of a comprehensive development plan for the province. The lawyer said it is time for the Colon Free Zone to make an economic contribution to the province. "The people have a distrust over what has been expressed by the president, Ricardo Martinelli, and what his emissaries have manifested through the state ministers comprising the government delegation, who seek to sit down at a dialog table with us," he said.

    Actions Of The Day In Colon - Chifundo said this morning at 10:00 am there will be a march led by the evangelical pastors from the province. He said the action is peaceful, and is a further demonstration that the people will not allow the sale of their only asset. He said at 2:00 pm this afternoon at the San José church, there will be a funeral for the 10 year old boy who died in the middle of a confrontation between the protesters and the police, which occurred last week.

    Government Commission - Today it is expected that the governmental delegation will return to Colon for the third day, in an attempt to establish a dialogue with representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, the Colon Broad Front, and other groups that reject the sale of the lands of the Colon Free Zone. The Catholic Church is mediating between the parties, trying to bring all sides to the table, in order to restore order and peace in the province of Colon. The Ministers of State have submitted several proposals to amend the law, however, the protesters are demanding that Law 72 be repealed as a precondition to participating in talks. (Critica)

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    Camacho Says All Options Are On The Table Regarding Law 72

    Protests & DemonstrationsLuis Eduardo Camacho, the presidential press secretary, said the government is still dedicated to seeking a solution to the demonstrations that have been occurring in the province of Colon since last Friday, product of Law 72, which allows for the sale of the lands of the Colon Free Trade Zone. While he did not confirm if the controversial law would be repealed or not, he did say that once the talks start with the government representatives all options would be on the table. "I'm sure that as good Panamanians we all want peace to reach the province of Colon," he said on the Telemetro morning news program. He said the President has been following everything that is happening in Colon through the Ministers Frank De Lima, Jose Domingo Arias and Jorge Ricardo Fabrega. (Panama America)

    Editor's Comment: I just checked my traffic tracking services. I've been getting hits this week from Japan, and now a surge from Vietnam. Go figure...

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    Indigenous Ngäbe Buglé Will Launch Their Protest Actions Tomorrow

    Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The indigenous Ngäbe Buglé have announced that they would start their protest actions tomorrow, in support of the diverse groups who are demanding the repeal of the controversial Law 72, which allows for the sale of the lands of the Colon Free Trade Zone.

    This announcement should be particularly important for those who live in Chiriqui, because it's highly possible - to the point of bordering on probable - that the Ngäbe Buglé will be closing the Pan American highway at the same locations where they protested against the debates over the mining law earlier this year.

    So stock up (now), fill your car's gas tank, and take a hard look at your travel plans. Hopefully the National Assembly will quickly pass some sort of repeal of Law 72, and a lot of this pain can be avoided.

    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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    Efforts To Halt Protests and Violence in Colon Have Failed

    Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The attempts by the Catholic church to bring the two sides together in Colon for talks have failed. The Broad Front for Colon and other groups announced they have extended their strike for another 24 hours. Tomorrow there will be a march, with the participation of evangelical churches. They continue to demand the repeal of Law 72, which would allow for the sale of the lands of the Colon Free Trade Zone. Also tomorrow will be the funeral of the 9 year old boy who was shot and killed in the protests.

    Right Now in Panama City: There is a march that started at the Parque Porras with the participation of opposition politicians and civil society groups, to express their support for the protesters in Colon and their call for the repeal of Law 72.

    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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    Bishop Audilio Aguilar Meeting With Leaders From Colon

    Protests & DemonstrationsRight now the representatives of the largest groups who are protesting in Colon are meeting with the Bishop Audilio Aguilar, to establish a dialogue with the National Government commission, composed of five ministers of state, who are waiting for them in the administrative offices of the Colon Free Trade Zone. It was learned the meeting began at 2:00 pm between Bishop Aguilar and the leaders to convince them to agree to meet and seek a peaceful solution to the conflicts that occur in the province. The talks are taking place in the facilities of the Colon Chamber of Commerce, and the leader Luis Felipe Cabezas, a member of the Colon Broad Front, is participating. The administrative offices of the Colon Free Zone is the point where today it is hoped the long awaited dialog between government representatives and the leaders from Colon will take place. (Panama America)
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    Protesters Now On The Panama - Colon Highway

    Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - There are now reports of a small group of protesters who are located at kilometer 16 of the highway from Panama to Colon. Riot Control police officers have responded to the scene and are firing tear gas against them to disperse.

    Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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    MEDUCA Decides To Close National Institute After Clashes

    Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Citing security concerns, Panama's Ministry of Education has decided to temporarily close the National Institute, following the clashes this morning between high school students from the school and riot control officers from the National Police. The MEDUCA said the closure is temporary, and applies only to students, but not teachers and staff.

    Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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    Protesters Start Up Again in Colon, Police Holding Back

    Protests & DemonstrationsThe city of Colon remains closed, on Ave. Omar Torrijos, Calle 16, and Central Avenue protesters returned to burn tires and throw stones at the crowd control units of the National Police stationed at the site. Young people, mostly men covering their faces, use slingshots to fire objects at the police officers, and a few Molotov cocktails.

    During the morning on Wednesday the attitude of the police officers was a little different, because they have not responded to the attacks launched by the protesters. This comes after President Ricardo Martinelli announced via his Twitter account that the government will repeal the part of Law 72 which allows for the sale of the lands of the Colon Free Trade Zone, it that's what the people of Colon want.

    Meanwhile, in the administrative offices of the Colon Free Zone, the Ministers of State Frank De Lima and Jorge Ricardo Fabrega are waiting for a response from the Colon Broad Front to start a dialog.

    In the Chamber of Commerce of Colon, Bishop Audilio Aguilar is meeting with those leaders to attempt a rapprochement with the authorities. (TVN)

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    Everyone Waiting To See What Happens In Colon Talks This Afternoon

    Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Indigenous groups are meeting to discuss their options, and to decide how they will support those who are protesting against Law 72 in Panama City and Colon. Indigenous leaders in Chiriqui and Bocas del Toro are waiting to see what happens in Colon today before making any decisions on how to proceed.

    Meanwhile in the City of Colon, the leaders of the various groups who are protesting against Law 72 will be meeting at 2:00 pm this afternoon in the Chamber of Commerce, to decide whether they will sit down to participate in talks with a high level delegation of government ministers, or not.

    In Panama City the National Assembly has declared themselves to be in "permanent session" as they await the results of the talks in Colon.

    The church is weighing in. The Bishop of Colon Audilio Aguilar is calling for calm, and for the talks to proceed, in order to avoid more violence and deaths. He said "for the good of Colon I am prepared to do everything possible to promote dialog." Right now the Bishop is acting as a sort of "shuttle diplomat" running back and forth between the two groups, trying to bring them together for talks, in order to end the violence.

    So far at least three people have been killed, including one nine year old child. As of yesterday more than 20 people have been injured by gunfire, and the police have arrested 275 people.

    There was a brief skirmish at the intersection where Calle 16 in Colon intersects the main drag. Protesters had closed the street and were just standing there. Riot control officers arrived to the area but they didn't do anything. When the police officers started to shoot video and take pictures of the protesters, they responded by throwing stones at the police officers. Since then the protesters reopened the street, and the area has since returned to calm.

    The group of Ministers who make up the high level government delegation departed the administration offices of the Colon Free Trade Zone, saying they were going to get some lunch. They are still waiting to see if the representatives from the various groups of protesters will sit down to talk with them.

    Back in Panama City, the university students who are protesting on Via Transistmica near the University of Panama have vowed to keep the street closed, saying no one will be able to push them off, and taunting the riot control police. And of course the riot control police responded by pushing them off of the street. Exchanges of rocks for tear gas continue.

    Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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    Police Arrested 34 High School Students During Street Protests

    Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The National Police have announced that they arrested 34 high school students from the National Institute during the violent street protests that took place this morning along La Avenida de los Mártires, Calle J, and other streets near the school. The National Police said the students would be turned over to their parents, and it would fall to the school's principal and the Ministry of Education to take any disciplinary actions against the students.

    Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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    SUNTRACS Announces 24 Hour "Warning" Strike For Friday

    Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The SUNTRACS labor union has just announced a 24 hour "warning" strike, to be held this Friday, 26 October 2012, as a show of solidarity with those in Colon who are protesting against the controversial Law 72, which allows for the sale of the lands of the Free Trade Zone. SUNTRACS said they would be joined by another organization, Frenadeso.

    Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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    Riot Control Officers Now Clashing With University Students On Via Transistmica

    Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Riot control officers of the National Police are now clashing with university students from the University of Panama on Via Transistmica. The riot control forces in Panama City have been drawn thin by the riots in Colon, so they had to first deal with the problems on La Avenida de los Mártires with the high school students from the National Institute, and now they have apparently shifted their focus towards Via Transistmica. Running street battles continue. Expect traffic to be screwed up all over the city, all day. Once again, stay put.

    Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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    Television Cameraman Injured In Street Protests

    Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - A television cameraman from SERTV Noticias was injured while covering the street protests, riots, and clashes between the demonstrators and the riot control officers of the National Police near the National Institute this morning. He was hit by a thrown rock, and required three stitches to close the wound. He is in stable condition. It's a tough job...

    Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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    Protesters Reject Martinelli's Offer - And Keep Protesting Against Law 72

    Protests & DemonstrationsThe sectors opposed to the sale of land in the Colon Free Zone today rejected the government's offer to repeal the section of the law that permits the sale of the land, and they said they would continue their protests, which have caused deaths and paralyzed the port city, until the entire law is repealed. Groups of demonstrators marched through one sector of the city of Colon this morning without incident, the city which houses the largest free zone in the continent, in the first of several marches announced for this day in the city. Commercial transportation and classes in schools have been suspended.

    In Panama City several avenues were blocked early in the morning by members of the SUNTRACS construction union, generating strong complaints from drivers about the traffic jams through local media.  

    The government said it is willing to repeal only the Article of Law 72 which allows for the sale of the lands of the Colon Free Zone, the largest in the continent, explained Wednesday the Interior Minister, Jorge Ricardo Fabrega. That decision should be made in a dialog that the government insists on installing, but the sectors who are protesting are placing a condition on the talks, saying the entire law must be repealed first, before they would participate in the dialog. Fabrega said the Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli "has been very clear (...) the Government is prepared to submit a proposal to amend this section of the Law, eliminating the sale of land (...) this should be the conclusion of a broad dialogue with the people of Colon."

    Martinelli wrote last night via his Twitter account that "if the people of Colon do not want the lands of the Colon Free Trade Zone to be sold, the sale will be repealed." "The 100% rent increases for Colon," Martinelli said via his social network account, who is on a tour of Japan and Vietnam since last week, when the conflict started.  

    Fabrega said this Wednesday a commission composed of several ministers, himself included, will travel to Colon fir a second day, and they will wait again for the trade guilds and unions who reject the law to install the roundtable for talks. "Let's put the good, the bad, and the ugly on the table, of the probabilities we are given to sell, not to sell, or to increase the rents (...) today we can all call for a return to normal" the Government minister said.

     

    But the leader of the Broad Colon Front Felipe Cabezas said the forces of Colon will continue with their protests and strikes, which began on Monday, and they will not sit down to talks until after the government repeals Law 72 in its entirety. "We will not participate in any dialogue until the whole law is repealed," said said Cabezas, who reiterated the call for Panamanians to protest against Law 72.

    SUNTRACS leader Saul Mendez, announced on Friday that the union convene a 24-hour national "warning" strike, to press for the repeal of the law that allows selling land in the Free Zone.  

    The protests in Colon started last week and left at least three dead, one nine year old child shot dead, confirmed by the authorities, and two adults as reported by the media and unions yesterday.

    On Tuesday Fabrega limited himself to recognizing that in the protests "some people have died," and he asked for people to wait until the Public Ministry can clarify the circumstances of those deaths. (Dia a Dia)

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    University of Panama Students Now Also Protesting on Via Transistmica

    Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - In case you're keeping score, you can add University Students from the University of Panama to the ranks of the protesters who are partially closing Via Transistmica near the university. They apparently came out after the union employees started the street closure. The riot control police are tied up near the National Institute and in Colon. In short, street closures continue all over Panama City.

    Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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    National Assembly in "Permanent Session" - Awaiting Results From Colon

    Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Sergio Galvez, the President of the National Assembly, has declared a "permanent session" as they await the results of the attempts at dialog by the high level commission in Colon. The protesters are demanding that the entire Law 72 be repealed before they will meet with the government delegation. Right now the plan held by the administration of Ricardo Martinelli is to modify a few of the most controversial articles of Law 72 - specifically to repeal those which allow for the sale of the lands of the Colon Free Trade Zone. I suspect the protesters will simply stand their ground, and the National Assembly will be forced to repeal the entire Law 72, rather than just modify a few of it's Articles. In any case, the National Assembly is now standing by with the 41 votes of the deputies from the Cambio Democratico and their allies in the MOLIRENA party, to do whatever the president ORDERS. Make no mistake about it, right now Ricardo Martinelli is running all three branches of the Panamanian government, by Twitter, from Japan.

    Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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