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New negotiations to end Panama cost-of-living protest

#negotiations #Panama #costofliving #protest

New negotiations to end Panama cost-of-living protest

Panama City (AFP) –


The Panamanian government and protesters were slated for a new round of negotiations Thursday to end more than two weeks of cost-of-living protests that have disrupted food supplies and damaged the economy.

Demonstrators demanding lower prices for fuel, food and medicine have blocked the vital Panamerican Highway and other major roads with stuck trucks and burning tires, and some have clashed with police.

On Sunday, the government and some protest leaders announced a deal to end crippling expressions of anger in the country of 4.4 million.

But Monday saw fresh roadblocks and demonstrations as other groups rejected the deal, saying they had not been consulted.

As roadblocks and demonstrations continued this week, the government agreed to a new round of talks to be brokered by the Catholic Church.

The parties were due to meet Thursday in the town of Penonome, about 150 kilometers southwest of the capital Panama City.

The Anadepo Alliance of civic groups, trade unions and representatives of indigenous communities will stand on the side of the protesters.

– ‘Concrete Answers’ –

“We hope that the government will provide concrete answers to the basic needs of the population,” said Saul Mendez, general secretary of the construction workers’ union Suntracs, which took part in the revolt.

The protesters are demanding lower prices for basic consumer goods, fuel, energy, medicines and more spending on public education and health care.

They are also calling for urgent action on corruption amid growing public concern over high civil servant salaries and government waste at a time of mounting economic hardship.

Despite its dollarized economy and impressive growth figures, Panama has one of the world’s highest rates of social inequality, with poor access to health services, education and clean drinking water in some areas.

The demonstrations have caused serious food and fuel shortages in some parts of the country, and the business sector says about $500 million has been lost.

A convoy of around 200 trucks carrying much-needed groceries to Panama City with an escort of police and Suntracs members was stopped at a roadblock on Wednesday.

Suntracs had described the caravan as a “humanitarian” shipment and the unions later denied they were responsible for the raid, blaming unspecified “thugs”.

Police said they will ensure the cargo arrives safely on Thursday.

The government agreed over the weekend 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 appease the protesters.

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

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#negotiations #Panama #costofliving #protest

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