Monday 23rd October 2023.
October 22, 2023
“Down with the PRD, down,” “Down with the mining contract.” These are some of the slogans that were heard during a protest held on the afternoon of this Sunday, October 22, 2023 in the coastal strip, Panama City.
The demonstration was organized to express the rejection of Law 406 of 2023, on the mining contract between the Panamanian State and Minera Panamá.
“Yes to life, no to mining”, “Mining=loss of biodiversity”, “No to the mining contract”, were some of the messages that were read from the banners carried by citizens.
“This country is not for sale, this country defends itself”, “The fight is fighting”, also repeated the citizens gathered on the coastal strip, from young people to retirees.
Those attending the protest waved the flag of Panama, many dressed in black and others sounded pailas. In the background, Patria , the emblematic song by Rubén Blades, was heard .
It must be remembered that with 47 votes in favor, 6 against and 2 abstentions, the plenary session of the National Assembly approved last Friday, in the third debate, the mining contract between the State and Minera Panamá for the extraction of copper in Donoso, province of Columbus. That same day, the President of the Republic, Laurentino Cortizo , sanctioned the contract law, which was published in the Official Gazette No. 29894-A.
This Sunday, construction workers took to the streets to ask for the repeal of Law 406 of 2023. “We want to tell the country that we are ready for the fight in the street,” reported Saúl Méndez, general secretary of the Single Workers Union. of Construction and Similars (Suntracs), on the forceful actions that will continue starting tomorrow.
And for this Monday, various sectors of society (including indigenous people, workers and educators) have announced protests in opposition to the aforementioned law.
The Ministry of Education announced the suspension of classes – which applies to both official and private schools – for Monday, October 23. Likewise, the Academic Council of the University of Panama announced that there will be no in-person classes on October 23 and 24, on the central campus, on the Harmodio Arias Madrid campus, the Faculty of Education, the Faculty of Administration Public and in the Faculty of Business Administration.
Regarding the protests due to the mining contract, the Minister of Public Security, Juan Manuel Pino, said that “the best solution is not confrontation.” The official called for management and dialogue, while warning that “we cannot allow harm to third parties either.”
“The street closures that we Panamanians have been suffering recently, instead of advancing the causes for which traffic is supposedly obstructed, end up causing harm to thousands of honest Panamanians who report daily to their jobs or are just on the street. earning their keep.”
This was part of the statement made by the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture of Panama (Cciap), regarding the recent citizen demonstrations rejecting the contract between the State and Minera Panamá, which is already Law 406 of 2023 .
In the Sunday column La Cámara Opina , the organization stressed that every time a street is blocked, citizens traveling to their jobs, schools or businesses are harmed, which means the cancellation of thousands of job interviews, school classes, appointments. medical injuries and considerable economic losses. “Especially for entrepreneurs, micro and small businesses that are the most affected by these closures. The economic losses and wasted opportunities are incalculable, while the only beneficiaries appear to be those who, no matter what they do, are guaranteed remuneration,” he added.
The Cciap emphasized that when streets are blocked indiscriminately, the space for constructive dialogue is limited and the possibility of forging alliances that promote significant changes is weakened. Therefore, instead of closing streets, the business union called on protesters to explore protest methods that allow the free movement of people and access to essential services. “Demanding the improvement of certain situations is crucial, but not at the expense of adversely affecting third parties,” he said.
This week the National Council of Private Enterprise also expressed its rejection of street closures as a method of protest. “These practices affect citizen coexistence, produce irreversible damage to the country’s productivity, mainly to micro, small and medium-sized businesses, also affecting third parties who, in democracy, have the right to exercise free transit, which must be guaranteed. by the authorities,” the group indicated in a statement.
For its part, the Single Union of Construction and Similar Workers has stated that, despite the fact that the mining contract has already been sanctioned by the President of the Republic Laurentino Cortizo and published in the Official Gazette , the struggle in the streets will continue. Likewise, the teaching unions have called on educators to concentrate in different parts of the country this Monday, October 23, 2023.
At the national level, classes will be suspended this Monday, October 23, reported the Ministry of Education (Meduca).
In a statement, the entity explains that the measure is adopted to safeguard the educational community and avoid situations that put the school population at risk, taking into account the demonstrations scheduled for this Monday in rejection of the contract between the State and Minera Panamá. which is already Law 406 of 2023 .
“We encourage and request all members of the educational community to maintain dialogue, communication and reiterate the importance of face-to-face interaction in educational centers,” Meduca said.
Likewise, the institution – which is directed by Maruja Gorday de Villalobos – called on the educational community to ensure tolerance, respect and the right to express ourselves freely, “promoting a culture of peace that allows us to complete the 2023 school year.” ″, according to the school calendar. In a second statement, Meduca expressed that the decision applies to official and private schools in the 16 educational regions of the country.
For this Monday, October 23, the teachers have announced that they will hold rallies in different parts of the country and also called general assemblies to decide the next forceful actions. This, after the National Assembly approved last Friday, in the third and final debate, the mining contract between the Panamanian State and Minera Panamá, for the extraction of copper in Donoso, province of Colón. That same day, the President of the Republic sanctioned Law 406 of 2023.
As a result of all this, educators do not rule out a national strike, as warned by Armando Espinosa, a member of the Association of Authentic Independent Teachers.
The Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) nominated at least three township representatives who are convicted by justice, to seek re-election in May 2024.
Two of them are in the district of Panama and another is in San Miguelito.
These are the representatives of the township of San Felipe, Mario Kennedy , and of Chilibre, Yoira Perea , in the district of Panama, and the councilor César Caballero , of Belisario Porras, current president of the Municipal Council of San Miguelito.
Perea was sentenced to 60 months (five years) in prison by the Criminal Court for crimes against the public administration in the form of embezzlement, after her participation in “embezzlement and appropriation” was proven – according to the accusation. from the Public Ministry – of $1.5 million from the Education Equity and Quality Fund (FECE), a program of the Ministry of Education. In a statement dated August 2, 2021, the MP referred to Perea as the “author” of this crime. She also has a sentence from the Court of Accounts, which ordered her to pay $2.2 million.
Perea says that there is “nothing firm” and that he will prove his innocence.
Meanwhile, Kennedy was sentenced to six years in prison for the irregular management of funds in the San Felipe Community Board, between 1999 and 2003. In August 2021, citing documents from the Judicial Branch, La Prensa reported that the Criminal Chamber of the The Supreme Court of Justice did not admit an appeal filed by the mayor’s defense.
Perea and Kennedy were president and vice president, respectively, of the Municipal Council of Panama, between January and June 2023.
For his part, Caballero maintains a five-year prison sentence for embezzlement to the detriment of the University of Panama. This, after the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) rejected an appeal processed by his defense and a clarification of the ruling was not admitted.
Lawyer Ernesto Cedeño embarked on the search for this information after learning that members of the Municipal Council of Panama hold positions that involve the management of public funds, despite having current convictions.
Cedeño has sent notes to the Ministry of Government, the Supreme Court of Justice, the Comptroller General of the Republic and the Attorney General’s Office to provide him with information on the matter, but so far he has not received what he requests. He has even had to turn to the Administration Attorney’s Office, which monitors the conduct of officials.
Numeral 3 of article 226 of the Constitution establishes that to be a township representative it is necessary to “not have been convicted of an intentional crime, with a custodial sentence of five years or more, by means of an enforceable sentence, issued by a court of justice.”
A fire was recorded on the morning of this Sunday, October 22, 2023 in the Coco del Mar area, San Francisco district. After 11:00 am, the situation was already under control.
The incident affected a residence located on Esther Neira de Calvo Street.
Firefighters from the Carrasquilla and Calidonia stations moved to the scene. During the extinguishing efforts, a firefighter was injured in one of his legs and was taken to a hospital for treatment.
Meanwhile, the residents of the affected home immediately evacuated the place when the fire started. Justina Duque, owner of the residence, told the media part of what happened.
Once the fire is extinguished, the Safety Office of the Panama Fire Department will be in charge of carrying out the corresponding investigations.