Monday 13th November 2023.
November 12, 2023
The leadership of the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) spoke out this Sunday regarding the social crisis that the country is experiencing as a result of the rejection of Law 406, which renewed the contract with Minera Panamá.
Through a statement, the National Executive Committee (CEN) – chaired by Bocatoreño deputy Benicio Robinson – admitted that the trigger for massive discontent in the country was Law 406.
Therefore, he advocates for a consensus that derives from a new social pact between all sectors of the country.
“The PRD calls on all social and political forces in the country to build proposals for dialogue and consensus, as a mechanism to promote a great national debate that in a frank and open manner builds an agenda and a methodology that allows our country to take transcendental measures. , not only on the mining issue,” he highlights.
Let the Executive speak out, make decisions that respect the rights and guarantees of all citizens and change some figures in its Cabinet. These are some of the requests in which unions, politicians and citizen movements agree, after 19 days of protests and road closures throughout the country against Law 406 of 2023, which adopts the contract between the State and Minera Panamá.
The last time Panamanians heard from President Laurentino Cortizo was two weeks ago, when he proposed a moratorium law on metal mining and a popular consultation on the future of Law 406. He was then seen in a video of the protocol acts of the beginning of the national festivities.
Since then, there have been events in the country that have claimed the lives of protesters, including a wave of violent murders such as that of the PRD member and representative of Belisario Frías, César Pelé Caballero . In addition, there has been damage to property, cessation of economic activities, suspension of classes, strikes and shortages of medicine, fuel, gas and food throughout the country or in some provinces.
The Foundation for the Development of Citizen Liberty, Panamanian chapter of Transparency International (TI), considers that it is imperative that the Cortizo Government “restore social trust” and not allow “the constitutional order to be broken.”
“A change of direction on the part of the Government is urgently required to recover peaceful coexistence, restore the social fabric and maintain the democratic order that allows the elections to be held in 2024,” says a statement issued by the foundation, suggesting to the Government take actions in at least four aspects. One of them is to guarantee the democratic order and fundamental rights. That is, that the streets of the country be reopened, but that the citizen protest be respected, indicated Olga De Obaldía, executive director of the foundation.
“[Free] transit and protest are rights that can coexist, exercised within the guidelines of order and the common good, and that the Government must guarantee. No right is above another,” she said.
He adds that it is about guaranteeing the continuity of the democratic order, protecting the fundamental rights of all: life, physical integrity, freedom of movement and assembly, protest, freedom of expression and of the press, the exercise of economic activities lawful, etc.
“No society can function without law and order. The painful loss of the lives of three citizens, as well as the multiple effects of all kinds that have occurred, are tragedies that could have been avoided and that now wait for justice to do its job,” says De Obaldía.
He insists that there are groups that try to “create national chaos to break the constitutional order and that should not be allowed.”
The foundation also proposes to Cortizo to remove from public positions officials accused of acts of corruption and initiate investigations. In recent days, journalistic publications reveal irregular actions by several of his ministers as administrators of public affairs.
Likewise, they ask that the abuse of public funds be stopped and that the general budget of the State for 2024 be reformulated, which amounts to about $32,754.5 million (which has not yet been approved by the National Assembly). In addition, a plan for the transition will be presented now, once the next government wins.
The Environmental Advocacy Center and the Get Out of the Networks movement, which has promoted peaceful protests in the capital city against the mining contract, are of the thesis that we must temporarily withdraw from the streets, to give the Court the opportunity issue a ruling on the unconstitutionality claims against Law 406. However, they have their eye on the Cabinet.
“The Executive must assume its responsibility within this crisis and recognize the damage caused,” the movement points out.
Therefore, they request that the Ministers of Commerce, Federico Alfaro, and the Environment, Milciades Concepción, make their positions available. They consider that the resignation of both facilitates the investigations that the Public Ministry must carry out, following complaints “for violation of the duties of public servants, environmental crimes and other types of criminal offenses” that the movement has filed since 2021.
Alfaro and Concepción defended the mining contract when it was debated in the Assembly. Alfaro was even the proponent of the bill and signed the contract, along with the representative of Minera Panamá.
The presidential roster of Cambio Democrático and the Panameñista Party asked Cortizo for changes in the Cabinet. They talk about the creation of a space for inclusive dialogue that involves civil society and political, union and business sectors.
Likewise, they urged the president to generate rapprochements to establish a humanitarian mobility schedule, which allows the free transit of food, medicines, medical personnel, fuel and people with urgent needs.
They ask citizens to wait for the Court’s ruling, with the public commitment that if a ruling is not given within a peremptory time, the Executive will call the National Assembly to extraordinary sessions to define the future of Law 406. The Assembly is on recess until January 2, 2024.
Yesterday, Saturday, some roads in the country remained closed, despite the fact that the National Police managed to open several points.
One of the closures that has most affected the country is that of the province of Chiriquí, taking into account that the largest food production comes from that region.
The indigenous groups of the Ngäbe Buglé region and farmers who maintain the closure announced that tomorrow, Monday, they will open the Interamericana for 12 hours, tomorrow, Monday: from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm
the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Panama questioned the Government of Laurentino Cortizo for its response to the blocking of streets due to the crisis generated by the rejection of the mining contract.
“The National Government has demonstrated a passive response that ignores respect for constitutional rights. The crisis has stopped being managed both in the streets and in the possibility of generating rapprochements to mediate a way out of the current crisis. Once again, they have been an example of a failed communication and action scheme that has characterized the most critical moments of this period,” the organization highlighted in a statement.
He pointed out that the strategy seems to be to sit back and watch how “the life and well-being of millions of compatriots are ruined every day,” until the Supreme Court of Justice issues the ruling in relation to Law 406 of 2023, which renewed the contract. between Minera Panamá and the Panamanian State.
“Only those who do not understand or selectively ignore the total severity of the havoc that this paralysis is perpetrating on the lives of Panamanians is capable of believing that by letting the days pass, the violent, radical and antidemocratic groups will give in. No, these alone will not give in, but will continue to attack, with their demagoguery and violence, the democratic foundations of our society,” the Chamber added.
Fortunately, the union maintained, each passing day makes it clearer that “the majority of Panamanians repudiate the paralysis of the country because they value hard work, the continuous education of our children and young people, and the importance of peaceful coexistence.”
Meanwhile, in a statement, the first vice president of the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) and former president of the Assembly, Crispiano Adames , assured that the current crisis that the country is experiencing is the result of an accumulation of events and absences, all “marked with indifference and arrogance.”
“Everything affected us. A PRD government, but without a leadership method attached to its transformed historical origin, a government that was hit by the pandemic and denatured it even more, to the point of completely disconnecting it from its essence,” said the deputy.
In two simultaneous raids, Panamanian officials seized 524 packages of drugs in the province of Panama Oeste , on the night of Friday, November 10, 2023.
In a police action in the Montelimar residential area, agents seized 130 packages with illicit substances inside a van with a double bottom; In addition, a firearm with 15 ammunition was seized. One person has been arrested in this case.
This search procedure continued in the Arraiján district, in the Playa Dorada neighborhood, where 394 packages with illicit substances covered with adhesive tape were located in a residence. Three citizens were captured there: two Colombian nationals and one Panamanian.