Monday 30th October 2023.
October 29, 2023
The President of the Republic, Laurentino Cortizo, announced this Sunday, October 29, that he will request a popular consultation on Sunday, December 17, so that the population can decide whether or not to repeal Law 406 of 2023, which adopts the contract between the Panamanian State and Minera Panamá.
The result of this citizen consultation will be mandatory, Cortizo promised.
In a televised message to the country, at 8:45 pm and which lasted less than a minute, the president also announced that Executive Decree 23, which declares a moratorium on metal mining, will be elevated to law of the Republic. .
To do so, he needs to present a bill to the National Assembly, which closes its regular sessions on October 31. If Cortizo intends to speed up the approval of this rule, he must call extraordinary sessions and wait for the deputies to return from their recess on January 2, 2024.
Executive Decree 23 of October 27, 2023, signed by Cortizo and the Minister of Commerce and Industries, Federico Alfaro, prohibits the granting of new metal mining concessions. Currently, there are 15 in force, including Minera Panamá’s concession for copper extraction in Donoso.
That decree was a vain attempt by the Executive to put a stop to the citizen protests that, since last Sunday, have been held daily, against Law 406, which has already accumulated six unconstitutionality lawsuits in the Supreme Court of Justice. Two of these demands have already been admitted and are awaiting the opinion of the attorneys of the Administration, Rigoberto González, and of the Nation, Javier Caraballo.
The Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Agriculture of Panama (Cciap) maintained that the Executive Decree that prohibits the granting of new metal mining concessions is not enough, and they also indicate that the population’s unrest goes beyond this issue, as it covers complaints against corruption.
In the text of the Camera Opina the business union indicates that the President of the Republic must act forcefully and call extraordinary sessions of the Legislative Body for the exclusive discussion of the Bill that dictates the mining moratorium and that it includes all those concessions that have not come into operation, as well as the granting of any new exploration and exploitation concessions.
They also made a strong call to the Supreme Court of Justice to act within the law and in a timely manner.
The Chamber of Commerce warns that it has become evident that the national boredom that we are witnessing transcends a particular issue and has already exceeded national patience. “This discomfort will hardly disappear with the solution to the mining issue.”
They indicate that for years they have warned about the indolence shown by the authorities in the face of the lack of actions that respond to the needs of the population.
“We have highlighted the profound and negative impact they have on the citizen, the fact that those who are called to carry out actions that improve their lives, assume the poor functioning of public services as normal; politicization and corruption in the use of public resources; and the making of arbitrary decisions far from the slightest consensus or citizen participation , among other situations already characteristic of the way politics is carried out in Panama.
For the business community, the lack of opportunities, frustrations and open misfortunes have ended up generating justified fatigue that is now reflected in the streets with protests and demonstrations.
“This is a fair and reiterative claim, which today young people take hold of and cry out: Panamanians do not have to settle for a half-hearted country, managed for the interests of a few.”
The Chamber calls on politicians and those who aspire to elected office to understand once and for all that “they cannot continue leading the country through whim, politicking and obscurantism”.
They insist that the government must turn the mining moratorium into law, while committing to carry out a thorough review of the General State Budget Bill for 2024, where significant cuts are reflected, especially for institutions that do not really know how to support what was requested and allocate the necessary resources to core emergencies such as that of the Oncology Institute.
The actions in the streets to express discontent over Law 406 – continued this Sunday.
Several motorcyclists gathered in the morning on Balboa Avenue to leave from there in a demonstration against Law 406. They visited various points in Panama City such as Calle 50, via Israel, via Cincuentenario, among others.
In the activity, the motorists carried Panamanian flags and most of them wore sweaters from the Panamanian national soccer team.
Once the tour was finished, they parked the motorcycles in one of the squares along the coastal strip to shout slogans against the new mining contract. The activity ended with the singing of the national anthem.
The Union of Panama Canal Pilots called on the Supreme Court of Justice to give priority to the corresponding procedure required by the unconstitutionality claims presented to contract Law No. 406.
The union also urged the Executive Body to take the necessary measures, in accordance with the popular clamor that is in the streets, so that a real, direct and transparent discussion takes place about the future of mining activity in the national territory.
“It is imperative that the Executive Body also submit, before the plenary session of the Legislative Body, a proposed law that suspends all open pit mining activity, through a moratorium, until the country democratically decides the course to follow.”
They also emphasize that Panama can live without mining, but not without water and allude to the water crisis that the Panama Canal is experiencing.
Canal pilots point out that it is time to take concrete actions, both on the mining issue and on what is required to resolve the water crisis facing the interoceanic route.
“We take advantage of this situation to remember that the Panama Canal faces an unprecedented water crisis, which requires immediate actions that allow the sustainability of the maritime route. The current mining crisis calls into question the commitment expected of our authorities towards our main resource and delays the decisions that, as a country, we must take, to guarantee the safe, profitable and uninterrupted operation of our interoceanic waterway,” they indicated in a statement.
The protests against Law 406 have broken borders.
There have been pickets by Panamanian residents in cities such as Barcelona (Spain), New York (United States), London (United Kingdom), Paris (France), Dublin (Ireland) and Toronto (Canada).
Also during the week, a video circulated of a group of young Panamanians in Dublin, Ireland, in which they expressed in unison: “No to mining.”
In Paris, the Eiffel Tower was the backdrop for the protest over the environment in Panama. About 15 Panamanians participated.
In London, Panamanians demonstrated in front of the Panamanian embassy. Its organizer, Patricia Rogers, said it was outrageous to learn what happened while she was so far from home. According to Rogers, everything was organized through different social networks.
The young woman indicated that among the signs there were several also in English so that those who passed by would know the reason for the protest. Many of the local people came to ask about the topic of the protest, explained it to them and even took photos. “From all over the world we hope, with our hearts in our throats, that the government listens to the people about what we think,” Rogers commented.
The ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) registers a significant loss of members in less than a year.
Official figures from the Electoral Tribunal (TE) indicate that 29,231 militants resigned from the PRD in the last nine months.
In February of this year, the PRD – the largest party in the country – had reached the highest number of registered members: 734,730. Its leaders celebrated the historic record at that time.
However, as the months have progressed and discontent has grown in the streets, due to the decisions of the National Assembly – controlled by the PRD bench – and the president Laurentino Cortizo to renew the contract with Minera Panamá, the number of members has fallen to 705,499 as of October.
In Democratic Change (CD) , led by Rómulo Roux, has also registered a drop in the number of those registered. From February to October 24 thousand members left. Currently, CD has 283,554.
While the Panameñista Party –led by José Blandón Figueroa– lost about 15 thousand members in the same period. As of October, it has 239,568 registered.
On the other hand, the Realizing Goals party gained some 24,000 new members from February to October. So far it has 259,406 adherents.
The former president of the Republic and presidential candidate of the Popular Party (PP), Martín Torrijos , announced this Sunday, his running mate with a view to the general elections on May 5, 2024.
This is the paediatrician Rosario Turner, who was Minister of Health in the current government administration and who until now served as the coordinator of Torrijos’ political campaign.
Likewise, this Sunday it was announced that Mayer Mizrachi will be the candidate for Mayor of Panama, also for the PP.
The announcement was made during an extraordinary national board of directors of this group that is meeting behind closed doors at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort hotel, as confirmed by campaign sources.
Some 67 directors – out of 84 authorized to vote – ratified Turner, who was proposed by presidential candidate Torrijos in this political board, in permanent session since last Sunday.
Both Torrijos, who governed the country between 2004 and 2009, and Turner, are still enrolled in the now ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party.
In a speech, Torrijos highlighted that Turner represents first an important asset for the political campaign and then for the government, being a professional woman “with a proven will to serve.” He stated that she was the voice that “gave security to the Panamanian population in the midst of uncertainty,” alluding to her role as head of the Health portfolio at the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic (March 2020 ).
Turner was “the one who paid a very high price for being honest, for not giving in to her principles, for being upright, for putting Panama above the economic and political,” Torrijos stated.
It must be remembered that she was removed from her position in the Ministry of Health in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and replaced by Luis Francisco Sucre.
At the closing of the board of directors, Torrijos referred to the wave of demonstrations throughout the country after the sanctioning of Law 406.
“The situation that the country is going through is extremely delicate. And it could have been avoided if the president [Laurentino Cortizo] had encouraged a true national debate. But the government and the [National] Assembly preferred to impose a legal contract with the mining company, harmful to the interests of Panamanians and with overtones of unconstitutionality,” he noted.
He added that “they believed that by approving, sanctioning and publishing the contract in a single day, the problem would be solved,” which is a “massive mistake.” “The answer is in the streets,” he said.
Meanwhile, Turner said he also shared the feeling of frustration and indignation expressed by those protesting across the country. “I accept this commitment with humility, conviction and with the will to put all my experience and all the best of myself at the service of the Panamanians as I have always done,” said the candidate for the vice presidency of the Republic. “This is the most important challenge of my life,” she confessed