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Sunday, September 22 2019 @ 08:43 pm EDT

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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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Transistmica Closed Near University of Panama

Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Protesters from the Asociación de Empleados de la Universidad de Panamá (ASEUPA) (Association of Employees of the University of Panama) have closed three lanes of traffic on Via Transistmica, near the University of Panama. You can add this one to the list of blocked streets. Traffic in Panama City is going to be impossible today. Stay home. Avoid the pain. Make brownies.

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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Calle 16 In Colon Is Closed - No One Going In Or Out

Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Protesters have closed Calle 16 where it intersects the "main drag" leading into the center of the city of Colon proper. No one has been able to enter or leave the city for more than 40 minutes. The high ranking government delegation is in the offices of the Administrator of the Colon Free Trade Zone, so they were able to come in through the "back way" via the streets of the zone itself. Hence, the standoff begins. The protesters have refused to sit down to dialog with the government delegation until after the National Assembly votes to repeal 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. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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High Ranking Government Delegation Arrives In Colon

Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The high ranking government delegation has arrived in the City of Colon. They intend to discuss the most recent government plan, which is to repeal the articles of Law 72 that allow for the sale of the lands of the Colon Free Trade Zone. Instead, their new plan is to double the rent being paid by the businessmen in the Free Trade Zone, and put 100% of those funds into the newly created Trust Fund, to be spent in the province of Colon. Some of the leaders of the protests said they would not be willing to meet with this delegation until the National Assembly repeals 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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Protesters Block Road Leading To City of Colon

Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Protesters have closed the road leading the entrance to the city of Colon. There are currently ongoing confrontations between protesters and riot control officers of the National Police. This action is probably related to the arrival of the high ranking delegation from the government that is enroute to Colon, with the intention of seeking a dialog with the leaders of the protesting groups. At least one of those leaders has said they will not participate in any talks or dialog, until the National Assembly repeals the controversial Law 72, which allows for the sale of the lands of the Colon Free Trade Zone.

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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At Least Ten National Institute Students Arrested In Protests (Photos)

Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Mi Diario is reporting that at least ten high school students from the National Institute have been arrested by the National Police, as the result of running battles with riot control officers. The newspaper published the following photos. These girls don't seem to be the same as the young males who were throwing rocks with their faces covered by masks, so they are probably the only people the cops could catch.





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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Ave. Balboa Closed By Protesting Nurses - No Cops In Sight

Protests & Demonstrations By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - A large group of protesting nurses have apparently come out of the Santo Tomas hospital in Panama City and are protesting by blocking Ave. Balboa. Thus far, no police officers have responded to the scene, and traffic is backing up. Right now the national police forces have been spread thin due to the problems in Colon, the protests by the SUNTRACS construction workers this morning, and the protesting high school kids. So anyway, as if things weren't bad enough already, you can add Ave Balboa to the list of places to avoid. I bet those brownies are sounding pretty good right about now, eh?

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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Riot Control Police Throwing Rocks Back At The High School Students?

Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Right now the high school students from the National Institute are in running battles against the riot control officers of the National Police on the Ave. de los Mártires, Calle J, and the other streets in the surrounding area. Apparently the television cameras from channel 13 Telemetro captured images of the riot control officers actually throwing the rocks that had been thrown at them by the high school students, back at the students. Yup, eye for an eye, stone for a stone.

This might sound like a good plan to the riot control officers at first glance, because they have the advantage of wearing helmets and other protective equipment. But, sooner or later one of those stones is going to hit a kid in the head, and either kill him or cause brain damage. Dumb. Unprofessional. Not thought through. Bad plan. They should stick to rock salt and tear gas...

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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Colon Leaders Refusing To Meet With Government Delegation

Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The union leader in Colon David Niño said the government will have to first repeal the controversial Law 72, and only then will they sit down to talks with the high ranking government delegation that is currently enroute to Colon. He said they would not participate in talks until after Law 72 has been repealed.

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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Government Delegation Enroute To Colon

Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - A high level delegation of government ministers is currently enroute to the province of Colon, with intentions of meeting with the primary forces behind the violent street protests. They intend to try to negotiate a peace and an end to the violent protests, based on the decision made last night to suspend Law 72, and to repeal the articles of the law which would allow for the sale of the lands of the Colon Free Trade Zone. The government's newest plan is to double the rent being paid by the Free Trade Zone users, and to place 100% of the money into the new Trust Fund created by Law 72, to be spent on projects that would benefit the people of Colon. The high ranking government commission has not yet arrived in Colon, and it is unknown if they will be received, or if any sort of dialog will take place.

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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National Institute Students Protesting Law 72

Protests & DemonstrationsHigh School students from the National Institute are protesting on the Avenida de los Mártires , Calle J, and the streets surrounding the school. Youths wearing hoods and ski masks have come out to protest in rejection of Law 72, which allows for the sale of land in the Colon Free Zone. The demonstrators say they stand in solidarity with the people of Colon and their struggle for the repeal of the disastrous law. Elsewhere in the interior of the country, organized groups have also organized street closures and other measures of force in opposition to Law 72. (Telemetro)

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Ave. de los Mártires Closed By Rioting

Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - High School students from the National Institute are protesting, rioting, and demonstrating on the Avenida de los Mártires (4th of July) and are trading rocks and stones for tear gas with the riot control officers of the National Police. This is the road that leads into Panama City from the Bridge of the Americas. Obviously, the traffic is all screwed up. Today is a good day to stay home and make brownies.

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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Panama Government To Reverse Colon Land Sale Law

Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The government of Ricardo Martinelli has blinked. Last night Martinelli said via Twitter: "Si el pueblo Colonense no quiere que se vendan las tierras de ZLC,se derogará la venta.los aumentos de alquileres 100% para Colón." (If the people of Colon don't want to sell the lands of the Colon Free Trade Zone, the sale will be reversed, the rents increased by 100% for Colon.)

Presidential Press Release: Shortly thereafter the communications office of the Presidency issued a long press release, which said:

  • State Secretariat of Communication, Telephone: (00507) 527-9600/(00507) 527-9637/9733 Fax: (00507) 527-9034 E-mail: Website prensa@presidencia.gob.pa: www.presidencia.gob.pa Follow us on twitter: @ SecComunicacion and facebook.com / presidencia.panama Link for downloading images. http://www.presidencia.gob.pa/ver_todas.php?cod=3998

  • - Sale process is suspended until agreements are reached. Government propose that 100% of the money from the sale of the lands of the Colon Free Trade Zone be for the people of Colon.

  • On the instructions of President Ricardo Martinelli, the Minister of Economy and Finance, Frank De Lima proposed a modification to the approved Law 72, where instead of the 35% set by the law, 100% of the money generated from the sale of the lands of the Colon Free Trade Zone will be allocated to the people of Colon. The sale of these lands will be suspended for the duration of the dialog with the forces of Colon.

  • This proposal, which will be brought by the high-level commission to the province of Colon on Wednesday morning, demonstrates the government's decision to increase investment for the benefit of the people of Colon.

  • "President Martinelli instructed me that we will make a change to the recently passed law, through which the trust fund will not receive 35% but rather 100% of the money from the sales of the lands of the Free Zone. All of the monies from the sale of the land will be for the province of Colon, to improve the lives of all of the people of Colon," said De Lima, who also reiterated that the Government keeps its doors open to discussions with all stakeholders and active forces.

  • "I make a call, for tomorrow that all of the people who want to talk to the government to do so, so that the active forces and the various unions of Colon can discuss what should be the future of Colon given this announcement, in which we demonstrate that our commitment is so that Colon will have better days," said De Lima.

  • De Lima explained that currently, Law 72 provides that 35% of land sales will go to a trust to be administered by the people of Colon or authorities elected by popular vote, for the development of projects or to attend to the needs of the province, involving the civil society, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Colon Free Trade Zone Users Association. These are needs that have accumulated during other governments over the past decades that were not being met.

  • He reiterated that Law 72 does not require the purchase of the land, because businessmen can either buy the land, they can exercise a purchase option in which they would make a 10% down payment which would freeze the price for five years over which time they could pay it off to buy the land, or they can just keep renting.

  • The Government's initiative to allocate 100 percent of the sales from the land of the free zone for social projects in Colon, said Minister of Economy and Finance, Frank de Lima, not only debunks the malicious misinformation that has been circulated by opposition sectors in the sense that this proposal seeks to find money to clean up the fiscal deficit, but it is also a clear demonstration that the government wants a dialog without preconditions.

  • For its part, the government minister, Jorge Ricardo Fabrega reiterated the call to the various leaders of the forces of Colon to reach out to the high commission that will come back to the province to talk to those who want, in order to put an end to the violence that has been generated in recent days and that affect citizens and the economy of the region.

  • The government's proposal was made public during a press conference attended by ministers Frank De Lima (MEF), Jorge Ricardo Fabrega (Government), Jose Domingo Arias (Housing and Land Management), James Ford (Public Works) , and the Vice Minister of the Presidency, Sygrid Barragan.

But, The Plan Changed Again: This morning Frank de Lima was on the morning news (forget which program, I was channel flipping) and he announced yet another change to their plan. Now they say they will reverse those articles in Law 72 that allow for the sale of the lands of the Colon Free Trade Zone, so the land will not be sold at all. Rather, they now intend to double the rents being paid by the 1,500 users of the Colon Free Trade Zone, and then 100% of that money will go into the newly created trust fund to be spent entirely in the province of Colon. That was valid as of about 8:00 am this morning. Wait awhile, and the plan will probably change again. But what is perfectly clear is that the government has no intentions whatsoever of sticking by their plan to sell the lands of the Free Zone. They are now running hard in the other direction, it just remains to see how far and how fast they run. Why the turn around? You can't win the election in 2014 without Colon. If those people want to kill you, then they probably won't be voting for your guy. So obviously the answer is to take more money from the 1,500 businessmen of the Colon Free Trade Zone and throw all of it at the voters in the second largest city in the country. Makes perfect sense to me...

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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SUNTRACS Screwed Up Panama City This Morning

Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The SUNTRACS construction union came out to screw up traffic all over Panama City this morning. They knew all of the riot control police officers of the National Police were deployed to Colon, so they took advantage of the situation to launch simultaneous street closures on every key road and avenue in Panama City.

In Panama City the blocked several streets, including Calle 50 where they burned tires, Via España, Transistmica, Tumba Muerto (in at least two different places), as well as 12 de Octubre in front of the KFC, via Tocumen at El Crisol,

They also closed several highways, including the road from Arraijan to Panama City in front of Howard, effectively shutting down the Bridge of the Americas. They also protested somewhere on the road leading to the Centennial Bridge, which is also now jammed up and not moving. In addition, the Southern Corridor is basically closed, and people have abandoned buses and are now walking on the roadway, trying to get to their destinations.

The leadership of the SUNTRACS said they are doing these protests for one hour as a warning, and if the Law 72 is not repealed then they would close the roads for 24 hours. By now the various roadblocks should have been lifted, but it will take hours for things to return to normal.

Editor's Comment: Make sure to follow Panama Guide on Twitter which is the best for real time breaking news. I started sending out Tweets on the SUNTRACS roadblocks and the traffic situation right when it started, however I was not yet in my office so I couldn't post to the primary Panama Guide webpage. Twitter is excellent for following the news and headlines, much better than Facebook which is really built to post and share photos. I post stuff to Facebook as well, but I can really jam on Twitter in practically no time at all. Most of the time it does not matter, but when there's a breaking or developing situation, you're going to want to be following us on Twitter to get the news as it occurs.

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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Cargo Truck Drivers On Strike In Support Of Law 72 Protesters

Protests & Demonstrations Cargo truck drivers from the province of Colon have gone on strike in support of the people who oppose Law 72, which allows the sale of land of the Free Zone. Alejandro Vanegas, leader of the cargo carriers, said the strike began today at 12:00 noon, for 48 hours, extendable. (Dia a Dia)
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Business Leaders Arrive To Speak With Government Delegation On Law 72

Protests & DemonstrationsMore than three hours has passed since the delegation representing the National Government arrived at the Arab Club to talk with those who are protesting in Colon, about Law 72.

However, the talks could not be started because the leaders of the different groups of protesters are demanding the repeal of he law as a precondition.

The president of the National Council of Private Enterprise (CONEP), Gabriel Diez, arrived a few moments ago to the place of the meeting to speak with the ministers of state, Frank De Lima, Jorge Ricardo Fabrega and James Ford on the situation that exists in the Atlantic coast.

Upon arrival, Diez called for peace and tranquility in the province of Colon. He also said that the clashes occurring endangers the entire country and all citizens. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: It makes sense that the businessmen should be meeting with the government delegation, because the protesters are being paid for and funded by the businessmen of the Colon Free Trade Zone, who don't want Law 72 to stand. They are willing to fund a whole lot of unrest in order to make it go away.

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Government's Plan For Talks Over Law 72 Fails

Protests & Demonstrations The bridge built by the Government to start a dialog today with the forces around Colon over Law 72 authorizing the sale of the land in the Free Zone, failed.

The Chamber of Commerce of Colon and the Colon Broad Front, which brings together unions and civic associations in the province, and leading a strike (now in its second day), announced they would not attend a high-level committee appointed by the Executive that went to Colon to talk.

Last night, in a statement, the sectors representing the people in Colon conditioned the meeting with the commission on the repeal of the law. Still, Luis Eduardo Camacho, Communications Secretary of State, said the commission will travel to Colon in any case.

Editor's Comment: The government of Ricardo Martinelli is losing the war of "hearts and minds" on this issue. Informal talks on the street among run of the mill Panamanians think it just "doesn't make sense" to sell the lands of the Colon Free Trade Zone. Their efforts to explain how and why this is a good thing (from their point of view) are failing.

The strike paralyzed trade yesterday the city of Colon, and it was accompanied by street protests by the citizens.

The police cracked down on the protesters with the support of officers from the State Border Service, an elite group trained in combat against irregular Colombian guerrillas, and yesterday they were was disguised with masks and armed with assault rifles.

At least eight people were injured, including a seven year old girl who was shot in the abdomen.

The protests spread to Panama City, where SUNTRACS workers marched to the National Assembly.

Similar demonstrations occurred in Chiriqui, Bocas del Toro and Veraguas involving the indigenous Ngäbe Bugle people.

Moreover, the Colon City Council declared the president of the National Assembly Sergio Galvez "persona non grata," who from the full Legislature sent the opposition "to go cry in the cemetery."

Yesterday Gálvez apologized to the people of Colon, but like the rest of the government, he reaffirmed the stance of keeping the law in place.

The unrest in Colon, according to the Chamber of Shipping, is having side effects on the movement of cargo by rail and in the ports of Manzanillo, Panama Ports, and the Colon Container Terminal. (Prensa)

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Presidency Minister Calls For Calm

Protests & DemonstrationsThe Presidency Minister, Roberto Henriquez, appealed for calm and sanity to cease recent violent acts that affect everyone, and said there will be talks with the various players in the province of Colon, including Monsignor Audilio Aguilar, who will meet on Sunday afternoon.

"We call for peace, for calm and nonviolence, we must lay attitudes, it is important that we can understand each other," said the Minister, adding that there will be talks with the different players in Colon in order to hear their concerns about Law 72.

Henriquez's call comes at the conclusion of a meeting at the presidency between various Ministers of State, central government officials, and the provincial authorities of Colon, such as the governor Pedro Ríos, the Mayor Damaso Garcia, the manager of the Colon Free Leopoldo Benedetti, and several National Assembly Deputies from the province.

"It is important that we understand one another, and that we can talk, to stop endangering the lives of the people of Colon," he reiterated. (Mi Diario)

Editor's Comment: Martinelli is in Japan, that means Henriquez has the lead on the ground in Panama.

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Reaction To Amateur Video Of Cop Kicking Handcuffed Suspect In The Face

Protests & DemonstrationsMembers of civil society and representatives of the Church yesterday showed their rejection of police abuse that became apparent after an amateur video showed the way two men were abused during the riots of October 19 in the province of Colon, after the approval of Law 72 that allows for the sale of the lands of the Colon Free Zone.

Mauro Zúñiga, who belongs to the National Civil Coordinator, compared the abuse by the members of the National Police against civilians in Colon and the return of the Panamanian Defense Fores (PDF). "They are not acting as police officers, but as soldiers," said Zuniga. He said the situation arises because the government is imposing laws without consultation, as they did in Bocas del Toro and in the Ngäbe-Buglé.

Pablo Morales, president of the Ecumenical Committee of Panama, denounced the attitude of members of the National Police. "The pictures say a thousand words," he said. He added that during this administration the police officers have been given pay raises to respond on behalf of the public, but the opposite happens.

Since the release of the video, the Ombudsman (Human Rights Defender) has not made a statement. This newspaper (El Siglo) tried to obtain a reaction from the defender, Patria Portugal, but she did not return the many telephone calls or messages left on her cellphone.

DRP PROBE - Given the facts, it was learned that the case is being investigated by the Department of Professional Responsibility (DRP) of the National Police, which this year has opened 146 cases in response to reports of abuse by police officers. (Siglo)

Editor's Comment: I found this video on YouTube on Saturday morning. It had been on line for more than 12 hours, and had a total of only 60 views. I blasted off an email to practically every media contact I have in Panama, and published links to the video on Panama Guide. As of right now the video has more than 12,630 views. Also, other organizations have copied it and re-posted the video under their own accounts, to make sure it doesn't "go away". I simply do not trust the DRP to investigate Panamanian police officers for abuse. In this case the Public Ministry and the Attorney General should have immediately opened their own investigations for the crimes committed by the fat coward (cop) in this video. He's quite a bad ass when the suspect is laying on the ground, handcuffed, and helpless. Embarrassing, non professional, weak. He's a punk-assed bitch who needs to be removed from the National Police (for starters) and prosecuted for the crime he committed (abuse). Hey, I get it. It's a hard situation. But when you got a guy in cuffs, the game changes. The authorities have to be responsible. How can you be expected to enforce the law if you don't follow the law yourself? This prick reminds me of the guy who beat Billy Ford with a club back in the Noriega years...

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Clashes Continue in Colon Over Law 72

Protests & DemonstrationsProtests and demonstrations against Law 72 have continued on Monday, on the Atlantic coast. The situation became tense in Calle 16 where hundreds of people came out of the apartment buildings and rushed against riot control units, after gunfire was exchanged by both parties from the top of the apartments, and they are throwing stones and glass against the National Police officers. It was learned that a National Police officer was injured on Monday in the legs, with a firearm projectile, as he faced youth in the areas of Calle 8 and Calle 9 Central, amid clashes by over the Law 72 which allows for the sale of land in the Colon Free Zone. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: The fundamental story does not change. There are running clashes between protesters and riot control police in the city of Colon. Roads are closed by protesters, then reopened by riot control police. Both sides are using their firearms. In short, stay the hell away from Colon, or any other protest that might pop up, anywhere else in the country.

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Running Gun Battles In Colon Between Police and Protesters

Protests & DemonstrationsColon awoke dressed for a peaceful struggle this Monday, October 22, against Law 72, which allows the sale of the lands of the Colon Free Zone. Very early, the highway from Panama to Colon was blocked, at Bervena, where protesters placed barricades. Riot units arrived in the area to clear the road.

Also, the National Union of Workers in Industry, Construction and Allied (SUNTRACS) held a march in several streets of Colon.

Public transportation services (buses) have been eroded due to the uncertainty that exists in the inner city on the Atlantic coast, because of the violent actions that occurred last Friday, October 19, where there was a fatality, more than a dozen injured, and damage to public and private property.

Although everything seems to be in apparent calm, there is an atmosphere of tension and confusion in Colon. Classes in schools have been suspended by the Ministry of Education. Also some businesses remain closed because there was looting during the protests last week.

The police Deputy Commissioner Aldo Macre said they are preventing road closures, and there will be detours to prevent congestion there. Other street closing occurred on 16th Street in the city of Colon, where riot control police officers launched tear gas, and a journalist in the area was affected.

It is hoped that on Monday the dialog between government officials and representatives from the people of Colon will continue, in an effort to seek a solution to the conflict. The Minister of the Presidency Roberto Henriquez said they will not yield to the petition to repeal Law 72, which has been criticized by members of the Frente Amplio Colonense, because they say it is an unbalanced dialogue where the government wants to impose its will. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: There have been running battles between protesters and riot control police all morning. Both the protesters and police are firing their weapons at one another. Right now on the channel 2 TVN news, a reporters is giving a live report on the difficulties they are having in trying to cover the protest, because they are in the middle of gunfire from both sides. Colon is covered in tear gas, pepper spray, and weapons. There is a report of suspects who opened fire on journalists with an AK-47. The Colon Free Trade Zone itself has been shut down because the truck drivers who move all of the merchandise have joined the protests.

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Frank de Lima (MEF) Explains New Law 72 On Sale of Colon Free Trade Zone Lands

Protests & DemonstrationsThe Minister of Economy and Finance, Frank De Lima, talked about some of the points outlined in the new Law 72 which, among other things, allows the sale of the lands of the Colon Free Zone. The minister said the new law creates a trust that will provide benefits to the province of Colon that they are not currently receiving.

About the sale of land, he said no businessman is obliged to buy the land on which his business is located, and that the law establishes three mechanisms. He explained on the channel 2 TVN morning news that businessmen can buy the land if they want. If not, they can choose a purchase option for which they would pay 10% of the value of the land and they would have to cancel the balance over a period of five years. The third option, they can continue to rent the land as they have been doing for years, however the cost of renting will increase.

According to Lima, only those who are currently renting in the Colon Free Trade Zone on a concession will have the right to purchase the lands. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: OK, so the trust fund for Colon is a new thing. Hmmm. I bet that before the money (25%) just went into a slush fund that got splashed around with little or no oversight. This new trust fund would increase it to 35% and probably add a few layers of control and oversight. So maybe that's why some of the protesters are protesting, because their slush fund is getting taken away.

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Riot Control Police Clear Road To Colon City

Protests & DemonstrationsRiot control officers of the National Police of Panama have reopened the main road leading into the city of Colon that had been closed by protesters. The riot police fired tear gas at the people who were on the road doing a peaceful protest, according to the National Assembly Deputy from the opposition Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) Irasema de Dale. Dale said on the channel 2 TVN morning news broadcast that she cannot understand the attitude of the National Police, and the attacks they made this morning cannot be justified, and she asked them to please stop attacking the people of Colon, who are against the sale of the lands of the Colon Free Trade Zone.

At the time when the riot control officers were clearing the roadway, the journalist Delfia Cortés was affected, because one of the tear gas canisters fired at the protesters landed near her face. For now, the Panama to Colón highway is closed and vehicles wanting to leave are returning towards the city of Colon. The protests are against the new law that allows the sale of the lands of the Colon Free Zone, and they started protesting early this morning.

At this time the Association of Colon Free Trade Zone Users has not stopped working. (Panama America)

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Protest Actions Continue In Colon Against Sale of Free Trade Zone Lands

Protests & DemonstrationsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - This morning protest actions continue in the province of Colon, and the rejection of the government's plan to sell the lands of the Colon Free Trade Zone is about the only thing that's making headlines today. It's important to point out National Assembly already passed this law last week. President Ricardo Martinelli immediately endorsed the Bill and signed it into law, and it was quickly published in the Official Gazette. With those things accomplished, it is now the law of the land. So if you hear anyone using the word "veto" they don't know that they are talking about because that ship has already sailed. Meanwhile, Martinelli himself jumped on his jet and flew to Japan. No sense in hanging around here while the tires are burning in the streets.

About The Protests: Some of the protests against this law are genuine. However there were a great many people who just took advantage of the chaos to loot stores and steal things. Some of the "protesters" (gang bangers) were shooting their weapons at the police officers from apartment buildings. One 9 year old child was shot and killed in the cross fire. Police officers abused detainees - and one fat coward was caught on amateur video kicking a handcuffed suspect in the face repeatedly and jumping up and down on the back of his neck.

More Coming Today: All of the "normal" protest groups will be coming out in force today. For example the SUNTRACS construction union will be joining forces with the protesters. It should be pointed out that the SUNTRACS labor union only has about 12,000 members, while more than 250,000 (if not more) are now employed in the various construction projects going on around the country. SUNTRACS is more political than labor union oriented. Then of course there's the FRENADESO - same thing. A small group of minority radicals. The Chamber of Commerce of Panama has also gone political. It's president is now someone who is opposed to Ricardo Martinelli so whatever he does is always immediately "bad" in general. Anyway, you can expect protests and marches and stuff all week long. Just remember - the law has already been passed and Martinelli is in Japan. Great time to protest, against a done deal.

Rent vs Sell: At the heart of the issue is the question: Is it better to sell the lands of the Colon Free Trade Zone, or to continue to rent them forever. The government of Ricardo Martinelli wants to sell them. Martinelli wants to get as much money as he can from the businessmen in the Colon Free Trade Zone, then in the future they will expand the area (or, make a new one somewhere else) - and they will be screwed. Remember - Martinelli does not like these people. He owns the chain of 99 Supermarkets and he's an "outsider" when it comes to the businessmen of the Colon Free Trade Zone. He wants to hit them where it hurts - in their wallets.

The Colon Trust Fund: Did you know there is a trust fund that's been established for Colon? Supposedly, under the old law, 25% of the money paid to the government in rent every year goes into that trust fund. According to the Economy Minister Frank de Lima, right now the government receives about $33 million dollars per year in rent. So therefore - supposedly - the government should be paying $8.25 million into that trust fund, every year. Now with this new law the government hopes to sell the lands of the Colon Free Zone for $400 million dollars. And, they have increased the rate to be paid into the trust fund by 10%, bringing it up to 35%. So therefore, the trust fund would receive $140 million dollars from the sales of these lands. At that rate it would have taken 17 years for the trust fund to get that much money from the rent.

Who Is Really Behind The Protests: Don't think for a minute that the people of Colon are the ones who really care about these issues - because they do not. The protests are being organized and funded by the businessmen of the Colon Free Trade Zone because they don't like it, and they want it to go away. They are perfectly happy paying the rent on their concessions, as things are now. Once the concessions expire then the government can sell the land out from under them, to someone else (in all practical purposes, forcing them to buy). But these protests are being funded by the businessmen (multi millionaires - if not billionaires) who own the concessions, not the poor people of Colon who are actually out there throwing stones, blocking streets, and burning tires. Don't be naive.

So Once Again, It Comes Down To The Money: Businessmen fighting over the money. Bank accounts, government contracts, corruption - the spoils of an election victory. I've become convinced that there's no practical difference between any of the political parties in Panama, they are all corrupt, so that becomes the common denominator. So do I care (personally) if the lands of the Colon Free Trade Zone are sold or not? No, frankly I couldn't care less. Martinelli was elected to office, and now he's going after one more source of money - the land of the Colon Free Trade Zone. Is anyone surprised? There will be lots and lots of reporting on the details, at least until everyone runs out of steam. In the meantime, Martinelli is in Japan. Once again, he lights the fuse, then he lights the engines on jet so the doesn't have be around to smell the tear gas...

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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