Tuesday 24th October 2023.

October 23, 2023


Dozens of people marched on the afternoon of this Monday, to the vicinity of the National Assembly in rejection of the mining contract, but were received with tear gas.

Despite this, the protesters managed to get close to the metal fences placed to protect the Assembly headquarters. When they were close to taking them down, the riot police intensified their offensive.

From there strong clashes began. The protesters returned with their hands the tear gas canisters that the agents threw at them.

The National Negotiating Medical Commission (Comenenal) joined the groups that oppose the new Law 406 that establishes the contract between the State and Minera Panama.

The organization – which brings together 16 associations and federations linked to health professionals – met last Sunday, and agreed to express its “complete and absolute rejection” of the contract.

They allege that it is “unconstitutional,” allows “irremediable devastation and catastrophe in the biodiversity of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor,” and “hands over sovereignty to a foreign nation,” among others.

In a document signed by doctors Domingo Moreno and Julio Osorio, coordinator and secretary of Comenenal, respectively, it is noted that they do not rule out taking forceful measures, including a “staggered and indefinite work stoppage.”

The concession in Donoso, in favor of Minera Panamá, is the subject of a wave of questions. Workers, environmentalists, students, educators and citizens in general are protesting in the streets of the country against Law 406 sanctioned last Friday by President Laurentino Cortizo the whole process taking just 5 days.

The month of October marks the beginning of the most important commercial season of the year, when local freight transport companies move all the merchandise that will be sold during the Christmas season in the Central American region.

Hence, uncertainty has increased due to the adverse effects that could be caused by the interruption of traffic leaving and entering the country, as a result of the protests and the closure of streets against the express behind closed doors approval and sanction of the mining contract.

Antonio García-Prieto, from the Panama Land Freight Transport Association (Atracapa), told La Prensa that until yesterday morning there had been “mild” interruptions in cargo going from Panama to Central America. and vice versa, which does not represent a significant impact, for now, regarding the volume they handle.

However, there is scepticism that things will continue calm and that regional commerce will be unscathed by the street closures that will occur from the border region in Chiriquí to the capital city.

In Panama, between 200 and 300 trucks move daily into and out of the country.

The merchandise that is re-exported to Central America comes from the Colón Free Zone, from where household appliances and clothing are shipped, while mostly raw materials for the local industry are imported from Central America, García-Prieto said.

“If the free transit of these products is delayed, the entire commercial and logistics sector suffers. “We are not in a position to enter another crisis after the one we had in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic and the closures of 2022,” García-Prieto indicated.

The protests of July 2022 lasted four weeks, when student groups, unions and citizens in general complained about the government of Laurentino Cortizo for the high cost of living and the waste of public funds.

The movement of the vans that García-Prieto mentions does not include the transport of cargo by road and train of containers that cannot be moved through the Panama Canal.

It is worth remembering that the decrease in the water level in the Panama Canal due to drought, as well as the limitation on the number of ships that can transit daily has led to the rise of the alternative system of cargo transportation by road and rail, known as the dry canal.

Containers, owned by shipping lines, that are handled by land have tripled, according to García-Prieto. And until now, its passage from the ports in Panama City to the province of Colón has not been disrupted.

“Around 500 transshipment containers used to be moved by road weekly, and today we count about 1,500 containers in the same period.”

Since Canal restrictions began, the Port of Balboa has handled 42 additional ship arrivals with more than 20,000 container movements. These containers have then been transported by rail and trucks to the other Panamanian ports on the Atlantic, the company reported in August.

It would be a shame if these containers cannot be moved, when Panama needs to demonstrate to the maritime world that it is a reliable and safe route, said the businessman.

“It is not only a complement for the Canal, but also help for the economy because everything that permeates land transportation stays in the country,” he pointed out.

The Panamanian State is committed to exercising the “legal defense” of Minera Panamá, SA against any claim or demand that is presented due to non-compliance with any of the obligations established in the “Conquista del Atlántico” trust.

Likewise, the State renounces any lawsuit or claim against the mining company, “due to the effects and impacts that may have resulted from the declaration of unconstitutionality of Law 9 of 1997,” which is the one that adopted the original contract that allowed mineral extraction. in Donoso.

This is stated in the new Law 406, sanctioned last Friday, October 20, which gives continuity to the concession in Donoso, in favor of Minera Panamá.

Anticipating that Law 406 will be sued before the Supreme Court of Justice, the parties included an article that indicates that the declaration of nullity, invalidity or ineffectiveness of any of the clauses of the contract will not affect “in any way” the validity of the other clauses. .

In 2017, the Supreme Court declared Law 9 of 1997 unconstitutional, considering that the formal requirements established in the Public Procurement Law were not met. The Court also considered that the then Legislative Assembly (later converted into the current National Assembly) had approved a law with retroactive effects and with a shield against future laws, which was unconstitutional.

Likewise, in the new Law 406 of 2023, the mining company and all its affiliates renounce arbitrations and claims presented “in any dispute resolution forum.” The affiliates identified in the contract are FQM Panama Holdings I Ltd., FWM Panama Holding II Ltd., First Quantum Minerals Ltd., Korea Panama Mining Corpo. And Korea Mine Rehabilitation and Mineral Resources Corporation.

Yesterday morning, on Telemetro Reporta , the Minister of Commerce and Industries, Federico Alfaro , said that Minera Panamá, First Quantum and “the Korean partner” had initiated three arbitration processes against the Republic of Panama, which must now be withdrawn.

Law 406 also includes a clause that was not in the original 1997 contract: one on anti-corruption. In it, the mining company declares that neither it nor its shareholders, partners, affiliates or trusted employees “has incurred or will incur, directly or indirectly” in acts of corruption, such as: payments, bribes, bribes, gifts, prizes or illegal commissions, related to the project and the contract. The State may terminate the contract if the commission of any conduct or crime classified in the Penal Code is proven, which already has a final or enforceable sentence.

The “Conquista del Atlántico” trust is the one that will manage the funds that the State will receive from the mining company, which will be assigned as follows: 50% will be transferred to the Disability, Old Age and Death (IVM) program of the Social Security Fund ; 20% will be to increase the pensions of those retirees who currently receive less than that amount to $350 per month; 25% will be to finance projects in the different areas of Donoso and Omar Torrijos Herrera, in Colón, and La Pintada, in Coclé , and 5% will be to build and launch the “Institute for the improvement and well-being of teachers .” If the mining company’s annual contributions exceed $400 million, the rest will go to the National Treasury.

Unconstitutionality lawsuits are accumulating against Law 406 of October 20, 2023 , which establishes the contract between the State and Minera Panamá for 40 more years. Until 12:05 pm this Monday, October 23, lawyers Juan Ramón Sevillano, Ernesto Cedeño and Roberto Ruiz Díaz, had demanded the rule before the Supreme Court of Justice.

In his 70-page lawsuit, Cedeño argued that Law 406 directly violates Article 259 of the Constitution , as it says that concessions for the exploitation of soil, forests and for the use of water, among others, should be inspired only by well-being. social and public interest. However, Cedeño warned, the concession that the State granted to Minera Panamá “abruptly benefits” and grants it privileges that “no other company in Panama that contracts with the State has.”

Cedeño also warned in the document that Law 406 violates article 19 of the Magna Carta, which says that there will be no privileges or discrimination based on race, birth, disability, social class, sex, religion or political ideas.

The jurist also maintained that clause number 14 of the contract says that the concessionaire (Minera Panamá) will have the obligation to make an annual payment to the State for a sum of no less than $375 thousand, however, in his opinion, this figure that “is meager” and the contract does not contain any formula or data to verify “the relevance of the amount.” To argue this part, he cited the fifth clause that says that the amount may vary when the annual market price of copper is lower than the guaranteed minimum income, when the production of copper produced does not reach the minimum of 250 thousand metric tons, among others. .

The new law has generated massive citizen rejection. Since last Friday, October 20, the rule was published in the Official Gazette , different groups have demonstrated against it: workers, environmentalists, educators, students, among others. They oppose the mining contract, mining and the way the Executive and Legislature dealt with the issue: debate and sanction in record time.

While the lawyer Juan Ramón Sevillano was based on articles 17, 32, 159, 257, 259 and 296 of the Constitution . As in articles 86, 2559, 2560, 2561, 2562, 2566 of the Judiciary Code , as well as in law 56 of 1995 and in Cabinet decree 267 of 1969.

The visit that the anti-corruption manager of the United States Department of State, Richard Nephew , had scheduled for this Monday to Panama was cancelled, reported the United States Embassy in our country.

Last weekend it was reported that Nephew would arrive in Panama City this Monday to meet with judicial officials, members of civil society and representatives of other entities.

However, the United States Embassy in Panama reported that Nephew’s visit was postponed due to logistics and agenda issues.

Furthermore, it is reiterated that the fight against global corruption continues to be one of the priorities of the United States government. Likewise, it is highlighted that Nephew plans to reschedule his visit to Panama in the future.

The US official also had a visit to Colombia on his agenda.


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