Wednesday 25th October 2023.
October 24, 2023
The President of the Republic, Laurentino Cortizo , broke his silence this Tuesday, October 24, to address a message to the country, in the midst of days of protest, street closures and demonstrations against Law 406 of 2023, which adopts the contract of concession between the Panamanian State and Minera Panamá.
In a prerecorded message, almost 12 minutes long, Cortizo appears seated at his desk in the Yellow Room of the Presidency. He began by making a small account of the mining concession in Donoso, which began in 1991 with an exploration permit, and which was perfected over the years, in successive governments, until mutating into the current Law 406.
Subsequently, Cortizo announced that starting November 20 of this year, the pension of some 120,315 retirees who currently receive less than $350 per month will be increased . The increase, he recalled, will be possible with the contributions of $375 million per year that Minera Panamá will make to the Panamanian State for the exploitation in Donoso, as stated in contract law 406 of last October 20.
Given the protests generated by the new Law 406, against which there are already three complaints of unconstitutionality in the Supreme Court of Justice, Cortizo stressed that there is no going back.
“This law is in force,” he pointed out.
Cortizo had remained silent since the mining contract became law of the Republic. He did not refer to the issue even on the day Law 406 of 2023 was sanctioned. The country found out that the contract had been sanctioned and was already the law of the Republic, when it saw it published in the digital version of the Official Gazette , the night on October 20, because the Presidency never reported on that fact. Cortizo also said nothing on his social networks.
He maintained that silence even when the protesters approached his building shouting last Sunday, or when it was learned that a photographer lost his right eye after being shot last Thursday during a protest on the grounds of the Assembly. National.
The president also issued a warning. “I will not tolerate vandalism or calls for anarchy or the commission of any crime. These acts will be prosecuted. As I have reiterated on several occasions, no one is above the law,” he said.
He recalled that Panama is in the process of economic recovery, with which he indicated that street closures affect the economy, prevent people from reaching jobs, disturb the tranquility of the population and affect the attention of medical appointments and patients at risk. .
“We Panamanians may not agree, have different opinions. Democracy allows these differences to be expressed, always within a framework of respect. As president, I call for sanity, to respect laws and institutions, private and public property and free transit,” he said.
In turn, he defended the approved contract law, since with it – according to him – the 9,387 direct jobs at the mine are safeguarded, with an annual payroll of $357 million, which translates into a contribution to the Fund. Social Security of $161 million each year.
Cortizo stated that the contract included, among other aspects, a reforestation plan, a mine closure plan, and permanent supervision and inspection, on site, of compliance with its contractual obligations in environmental matters.
Finally, he highlighted that Law 11 of 2012 prohibits the granting of concessions for the exploration, exploitation and extraction of metallic and non-metallic mining, and its derivatives in the Ngäbe Buglé region.
One of the claims of NGOs and regional movements is that what happened with this mining contract could happen in the regions.
For today afternoon, specifically at 3:00 pm, a Cabinet Council will be held, where what is happening in the country with the issue of the mining contract will be addressed.
For his part, the biologist from the Environmental Advocacy Center, Isaías Ramos, said that the president’s speech “threw more fuel on the fire” and that it did not respond to the expectations of the citizens.
“We are not satisfied with what the president stated,” Ramos said.
Starting at 7:00 am today, October 25, 2023, the Association of Doctors, Dentists and Related Professionals of the Social Security Fund (Amoacss) will begin a 72-hour work stoppage that can be extended in all health facilities. from the country.
This occurs before the approval of Law 406 of October 20, 2023, which establishes the new mining contract between the State and Minera Panamá. In the opinion of this group, the new law was approved with a “beating drum.”
“We recognize the seriousness of the approval of this law, clearly unconstitutional, in open opposition to the Panamanian people, and which constitutes a robbery of the natural wealth of Panama,” said Amoacss, which urged patients to avoid going to to health facilities, unless they are emergencies.
“We must prioritize the scarce supplies in caring for those injured in this fight,” he said in a statement.
Meanwhile, members of the Association of Doctors of the Chiriquí Regional Hospital, who are part of the National Negotiating Medical Commission (Comenenal) , announced that they will go on strike starting next Thursday, October 26, from 7 a.m. :00 am
They announced that they will continue to attend to emergencies of all kinds and to hospitalized patients and special procedures.
“We want to send a loud and clear message to all the political authorities of this country that the people are not going to allow the country to be sold,” said doctor Julio Osorio, leader of that group.
Corredor Sur, the Domingo Díaz roads (Brisas del Golf) and the Ricardo J. Alfaro, in the capital, are some of the points that were closed, on the morning of this Tuesday, October 24, by workers affiliated with the Single Union of Construction and Similar Workers (Suntracs).
The Centenario road, near Merca Panama, and the Bridge of the Americas, are also blocked as part of the day of protests – taking place at the national level – against the mining contract between the State and Minera Panamá.
In addition, it should be mentioned that a group of teachers gathered on Vía España, in the Iglesia del Carmen, in rejection of the aforementioned law, something to which students from the School of Biology of the University of Panama joined.
From there, the educators went to the headquarters of the Comptroller General of the Republic.
“We must fight for our natural resources,” said Fernando Ábrego, from the Association of Teachers of the Republic of Panama (Asoprof), who added that “we are going to continue in the streets.”
The Panamanian Hotel Association (Apatel) issued a statement this Tuesday, October 2, in which it requested the Government and the union organizations involved in the protests against Law 406 of October 20, 2023, which regulates the mining concession contract with Minera Panama, the search for a dialogue to address the causes of the demonstrations, with permanent solutions that have the support of citizens.
Apatel emphasized his support for the legitimate right of citizens to demonstrate freely, but stressed that this right should not infringe that of others to move freely in the country, as has happened with road blockades.
The Academic Council of the University of Panama (UP) requested this Tuesday, October 24, the National Government to revoke the mining concession contract granted to the Minera Panamá company.
In a resolution that bears the signature of the rector of that house of higher education, Eduardo Flores Castro, protesters are urged to safeguard public and private life and property, since, ultimately, the former are paid for by state taxes. all Panamanians.
It also calls on Panamanian society to debate the future of the mining industry, so that it can then be submitted to a national referendum, in order to determine if we agree with open pit mining.
The Superior Court for Settlement of Criminal Cases confirmed this Tuesday the sentence of 128 months in prison against former president Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal, as the author of the crime of money laundering in the New Business case.
Likewise, the Court confirmed the fine of $19.2 million, as an accessory penalty.
Martinelli had been convicted in the first instance, last July, by criminal judge Baloisa Marquínez.
This Tuesday, judges Manuel Mata Avendaño, José Hoo Justiniani and Eyda Amarilis Juárez denied the appeal presented by Martinelli’s defense against Judge Marquínez’s sentence, and confirmed the conviction of Martinelli and four other defendants: Janeth Vásquez, Iván Arrocha, Valentín Martínez and Daniel Ochy, sentenced to 60, 70, 80 and 96 months in prison, respectively.
Judge Marquínez also acquitted 10 defendants. The Specialized Prosecutor’s Office against Organized Crime appealed the acquittal of six of them, but the Superior Court did not consider this appeal because one of them (Vernón Salazar, legal representative of the company Condotte Panamá) presented a protection of constitutional guarantees, which was admitted on October 18 by Judge Cecilio Cedalise.
Cedalise ordered the Superior Court to suspend the processing of the appeal presented by prosecutor Emeldo Márquez, despite the fact that he had already supported it in writing since last October 10.
The Mayor’s Office of Panama prohibited the consumption and sale of alcoholic beverages in supermarkets, stores and any other commercial establishment, during next Thursday, November 2, Day of the Dead.
Likewise, bars, wineries, canteens, barbecues and other entertainment venues were ordered to close from 12:01 am to 11:59 pm that day.
Violators are exposed to fines of $100 to $1,000, as stated in Mayor Decree 009-2023 of last October 17, signed by the mayor of Panama, José Luis Fábrega.
This similar measure is adopted every year, in commemoration of the deceased.
There are exceptions : premises within hotels will be able to continue operating without interruption.