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Trucks loaded with groceries head into Panama City as roadblocks continue

#Trucks #loaded #groceries #Panama #City #roadblocks #continue

A convoy of around 200 trucks loaded with groceries headed towards the Panamanian capital with a police escort on Wednesday as protesters maintained crippling roadblocks in a dispute with the government over the rising cost of living.

A new round of negotiations, announced on Tuesday after some protesters rejected an earlier deal, has yet to begin as unions and other civic groups consider their common position.

The caravan set out from Chiriqui in western Panama on Wednesday to make the 500-kilometer (310-mile) journey to Panama City with hundreds of tons of food.

The trucks were escorted by police and members of the construction workers’ union Suntracs, one of the organizations taking part in protests against rising fuel prices and the cost of living.

The demonstrations have caused serious food and fuel shortages in some parts of the country.

Jaime Caballero, leader of Suntracs Chiriqui, said it had been agreed to “allow a humanitarian caravan to transport agricultural produce to the capital”.

He added: “Our just fight is against the government and the neoliberal model and not against our people.”

The protest, which began about two weeks ago, has seen trucks and burning barricades on the Panamericana, which connects the country of 4.4 million people to the rest of Central America and is the main transport route for goods. Other roads were also blocked during the protest.

– Losses –

Alicia Jimenez, president of Panama’s Association of Chambers of Commerce, said losses from the roadblocks were approaching $500 million.

On Tuesday, protesters clashed with police as they tried to clear the street of burning tire barricades near the city of Santiago de Veraguas.

Unions and community groups involved in the long-running protests were due to meet Wednesday to agree on an agenda for new talks with the government, brokered by the Catholic Church.

On Sunday, the government and some protest leaders announced an agreement to end the revolt.

Roadblocks and demonstrations erupted again the following day as some groups said they had been excluded and that while the deal had reduced fuel prices it had not addressed pressing concerns about rising costs of living and drug prices.

The government had agreed to cut the price of gasoline to $3.25 a gallon after another cut announced last week – from $5.20 a gallon to $3.95 in June – was not enough to placate protesters.

On Tuesday, the government said it was “committed” to dialogue to “promote social peace and the common good.”

The protests come as Panama faces economic difficulties, with inflation recorded in May at 4.2 percent and an unemployment rate at around 10 percent.

Despite the dollar economy and high growth figures, the country has high levels of social inequality.

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#Trucks #loaded #groceries #Panama #City #roadblocks #continue

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