New roadblocks go up in Panama as protesters reject gov’t deal | Business and Economy News

Protesters in Panama have erected new barricades, rejecting a deal signed with the government to clear highways in exchange for lower fuel prices.

On Sunday, the government and several protest leaders announced an agreement to end more than two weeks of protests over high fuel prices and rising costs of living in the country of 4.4 million people.

But on Monday, after union leaders consulted grassroots supporters about the deal, some groups decided to continue to oppose, according to Luis Sanchez, a leader of the group. Anadepo citizens.

“We warned the CEO that we still had to consult the rank and file,” he told TVN-2.

The deal “was signed under pressure,” he added, and members chose to continue raising capital that has seen trucks and protesters waving banners paralyze the Inter-American Highway. strategically linking Panama with the rest of Central America and was the main means of transportation. transnational freight.

“Meanwhile, there’s no deal,” Sanchez said as he tore up a piece of paper.

Monday’s largest protest was in the capital, Panama City, with members of the Suntracs construction union closing roads with burnt-out barricades, causing huge traffic jams.

There are also new blockades of the Inter-American Highway.

The protests have led to fuel and food shortages in some areas.

“We are in a bad way; no food, no bus. I want to buy rice and… the few things that can be found are very expensive. Angelica Ruiz, a resident of Pacora, east of Panama City, also has difficulty getting to work, said.

Union workers block highway in Panama
There were new blockades on the Inter-American Highway on Monday [Rogelio Figueroa/AFP]

‘We will not weaken’

On Sunday, the government agreed to cut gasoline prices to $3.25 a gallon and pursue negotiations on reducing the cost of food and medicine, a key concern of the protesters. .

Last week, they lowered the price of gasoline to $3.95 from $5.20 per gallon in June, but this was not enough to appease the protesters.

Following Sunday’s announcement, some unions said the agreement was incomplete and removed many groups.

“We will be on the street,” said protester Juan Morales, a farmer from Capira, west of Panama City.

“We will not weaken. We need strong and positive answers,” he told AFP news agency.

Suntracs Secretary General Saul Mendez called for talks to include all groups to discuss “the most pressing issues” in Panama.

Those issues include reduced costs of fuel, food, medicine and electricity, he said, as well as overall wage increases and more public investment in education.

The protests come as Panama faces tough economic conditions, with 4.2% inflation recorded in May, along with an unemployment rate of around 10% and fuel prices up nearly 50% since from January.

Although the economy uses the U.S. dollar as currency and growth metrics are high, the country has high rates of social inequality.

Prominent Panamanian singer and activist Ruben Blades spoke out about Monday’s protests, saying the protesters’ economic demands did not go far enough to solve the country’s problems.

“The people did not ask for what we really needed: the replacement of the outdated and corrupt political model that destroyed us morally and economically,” he wrote on his personal blog. .

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