Wednesday 22nd November 2023

November 21, 2023


The Minister of Education, Maruja Gorday de Villalobos , announced this Tuesday, November 21, 2023 that administrative actions will be taken against those teachers who have not returned to school classrooms due to being on strike.

In a press conference, Gorday de Villalobos assured that they will proceed to “suspend and withhold the payment for the second half of November” to those who have not complied with this return to the educational day.

Yesterday, Monday, Meduca made a second call for teachers to return to classrooms in the official sector. The message sent by the entity, through a memorandum from the Administrative Vice Minister of Education, Rosa Argüelles , indicated that those who have returned or will return to their jobs yesterday would not have administrative measures against them and will not require any document in which they conditions this return, it had no effect among the members of the teachers’ union organizations.

“We appeal to that call, we appeal to that return,” insisted the head of the education portfolio, who urged that there be a “peaceful dialogue” and to be able to complete the 2023 school year.

It should be remembered that the school year is scheduled to end on December 22, while the student balance and graduation period is from December 26 to 29, 2023. At the conference, the minister detailed that 25% of the student population is attending classes in person and in different modalities.

He also specified that 20% of the teachers have returned and started a process of leveling and recovery of classes.

Regarding graduating students, he pointed out that in 110 middle-level centers, that is, 48%, they will finish with the 2023 school calendar.

For his part, the general secretary of the Association of Teachers of the Republic of Panama (Asoprof) , Fernando Ábrego, has said that the fight will continue in the strongholds of struggle until Law 406 is repealed.

“The school situation is further aggravated by the ministerial and governmental decision. The fight continues,” Asoprof published on X (formerly Twitter) after the statements of the Minister of Education.

A criminal complaint for the alleged commission of the crimes of money laundering, embezzlement and against the internal personality of the State was filed this Tuesday against the Canadian company First Quantum, officials and former officials who participated in the preparation of the contract for mining exploitation . in the districts of Donoso and Omar Torrijos, in Colón.

Lawyer Santander Tristán , along with a group of residents from 54 communities located in the mining exploitation area, appeared this Tuesday morning at the headquarters of the Public Ministry (MP), to demand that the mining company be investigated for having obtained benefits from the mine for more than five years and – according to the complaint – having not delivered corresponding royalties to the State, in addition to the consequences it has for the residents of neighboring communities.

The complaint states that current and former government officials allowed the mining company to continue operating, despite the existence of a ruling of unconstitutionality issued by the Supreme Court of Justice, in 2017 (although promulgated in the Official Gazette four years later ) , which in his opinion is malicious conduct.

The complaint states that in this case the crime of embezzlement would also be classified, because the company obtained economic benefits illegally – always according to Tristán’s complaint – by operating outside the law.

One month after the protests, road blockades and crisis over the mining contract, the Panamanian economy will lose 1.2 points of gross domestic product in added value, which will translate into lower growth than estimated.

This was warned by the economist, Felipe Chapman, from Indesa, in the Café con La Prensa forum, regarding the analysis of the 2023 Economic Closing, in which he indicated that it was estimated that the economy would grow this year by 6.2%, but now it will grow with difficulty 5%.

“If the crisis continues, the decrease will be greater. Again, it is a very conservative estimate, that is, it could be worse,” she warned, pointing out that these are approximate estimates and calculations.

He maintains that the human face of this crisis is already reflected in the loss of jobs, disinvestment, a drop in sales and a generalized crisis in sectors that suffered the most during the pandemic, such as tourism and construction.

Added to that there is a paralysis of international trade, for example from the Colón Free Zone to Central America.

An investigative commission of the National Assembly , created last October to determine the causes of the deficiency in the electric energy service in the country, summoned the director of the Public Services Authority (Asep) for this Thursday, November 23 , Armando Fuentes.

The official must appear before this body, which had its first meeting this Tuesday, November 21. “The director of Asep was summoned to respond to concerns regarding the poor quality of the public electricity distribution service,” highlights a statement from the Assembly.

This Tuesday, Jorge Rivera Staff, from the National Secretariat of Energy, appeared before this commission made up of deputies Eugenio Bernal, Ariel Alba and Roberto Ayala, from the Democratic Revolutionary Party; Corina Cano, from Molirena; Yanibel Ábrego and Fátima Agrazal, from Cambio Democrático; Juan Diego Vásquez, independent deputy, and Panamanian Yesenia Rodríguez.

Rivera Staff explained that he attended the meeting to give a snapshot of the different initiatives they have developed, not only to improve the quality of service, but to “empower citizens with other alternatives, such as independent marketing, management and modification of mechanisms.” for the review and sanctions of the different companies”

For his part, Congressman Bernal, who chairs this commission, said that what is sought is to carry out an inspection analysis, regarding the electric energy service. “This body will investigate the issue in depth, given that it is recurrent and that, in recent years, there have been many complaints in all the provinces of the country,” he indicated.

The national government announced the restriction on the delivery of social subsidies – technically known as the monetary transfer program – in areas of difficult access, the suspension of the Solidarity Christmas program, which consists of the distribution of hams at the end of the year, and the cancellation of the promised increase to retirees with pensions of less than $350.00 per month.

The common denominator of these announcements occurs in the midst of the crisis that is plaguing the country due to protests against mining, but the coincidence of the announcements also seems to have overtones of pressure. The government cited low mobility as a result of street closures to cancel the payment of subsidies in areas that are difficult to access – most of them are regions – and the same reason for the distribution of hams.

And regarding the increase promised to retirees, whose funds would supposedly come from 20% of the payment that Minera Panamá made to the government in recent days, it will not happen either because the funds are deposited in the National Bank and “no one can touch them” according to what he said. Cortizo about the $560 million whose payment the government announced last week.

“The Social Security Fund (CSS) acts as a paying agent and requires that said resource be deposited in the account of our institution to distribute it to our beneficiaries. Given that they have not been deposited in the CSS account, we are limited to making it effective for now,” said the director of the CSS, Enrique Lau yesterday, Monday, at a press conference.

Thus disappears the promise that Cortizo made to retirees when he first presented the mining contract at the beginning of last August before the National Assembly. On that occasion he promised that the mining company’s payments would guarantee a minimum pension of $350 per month to everyone below that threshold. He also left them waiting at a meeting to which the retirees in the Presidency were called at that juncture.

And they will continue waiting. There are some 120,315 retirees and pensioners in this condition, and 16,000 of them are below $200 per month, according to the director of the CSS, Enrique Lau, who concluded his speech by saying that “for the CSS, the fact that the existing inequality, and having a group of retirees who require that social justice be applied and that at some point we will have to recognize.”

Pork producers also reacted to the announcement of the suspension of the Solidarity Christmas program. They are in a state of uncertainty because the pigs have already been delivered to the Agricultural Marketing Institute, which then buys the final product from the meat processing plants.

In a previous interview that Guevara gave to the journalist, Vielka Corro, he explained that since March to date the producers have sold the government around 20 thousand pigs to be used in the preparation of the hams of the Solidarity Christmas Program.

But according to the statement issued this November 19 by the government, the suspension of the program was agreed with the agribusiness “due to the decrease in the supply of products” attributing it to street closures as the factor that has “complicated access to the raw material to manufacture meat products or making their distribution nationwide impossible.”

The government statement is confusing because it explains the difficulty in getting the raw materials (pigs) to the processing plants and at the same time it talks about the distribution of the final products. The former is unlikely according to producers, since the pigs arrived at the processing plants long before the protests began. The statement also does not expressly say whether the government will suspend the purchase of the hams or only the distribution to the vulnerable population, which also causes confusion.

Now they fear that this announcement will imply non-payment for the product delivered, a debt that amounts to $230,000 with the Association of United Pork Farmers of Panama, a union that brings together 90% of national pork producers, according to Juan Guevara, president of the group.

“By demonizing the program as clientelist and due to lack of transparency, the most vulnerable population is being affected who will not have the opportunity to put a ham on the table, and also the producers who worked so that this product was national and not imported. like it was before. Today [this decision] could mean the bankruptcy of small producers,” lamented the producer, who added that the imminent import of meat without tariffs puts at risk more than 60,000 direct jobs occupied by the pork industry.

The government pays producers $1.50 a pound of pork, but “it takes them eight months to pay,” he said.


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