On Wednesday, July 27, the social organizations and trade unions which have been mobilizing across Panama in rejection of the high cost of living and neoliberalism since July 1, reached another agreement with the right-wing government of President Laurentino Cortizo.
On the 28th day of the national strike and the 8th day of the negotiation process, the representatives of the People United for Life Alliance from the capital Panama City, the National Alliance for the Rights of the Organized People (ANADEPO) from Veraguas, and the Indigenous Peoples Alliance signed an agreement with the Cortizo government to reduce and freeze the price of fuel at USD 3.25 per gallon for the next three months, through a decree which will be renewable.
According to the agreement, the new fuel prices will be applied nationwide. The government will allocate about USD 200 million in subsidies to alleviate the impact of the rise in fuel prices in the international market. The fuel subsidy benefits will be available to use in agricultural machinery. Luxury yachts as well as government officials’ vehicles will be excluded from the benefits.
The figure of USD 3.25 per gallon had been agreed upon last week in an initial negotiation table between the government and the ANADEPO, which the alliance subsequently rejected after consulting with the grassroots movements.
Fernando Abrego, general secretary of the Association of Teachers of Panama (ASOPROF) and one of the representatives of the People United for Life Alliance, hailed the agreement as a victory for the people in the streets. “Every achievement made on the single dialogue table is the result of the struggle in the streets for a better Panama,” said Abrego in conversation with Prensa Latina.
Earlier this week, on July 24, the organizations behind the nationwide protests succeeded in convincing the national government to reduce the cost of 72 essential commodities by 30%.
The organizations had called for the national strike demanding justice for the poor with a list of 32 demands that address the growing economic and social crises in the country. Following several discussions among grassroots organizations from diverse sectors, it was agreed to raise and achieve eight fundamental demands at the negotiation table.
The reduction and freezing of the price of basic commodities and the reduction and freezing of the price of fuel are two of those eight essential demands. Other demands include freezing the price of medicine and resolving the lack of medicine supply, allocation of 6% of the GDP for the public education budget, reducing and freezing the price of electricity, measures to combat corruption, evaluation of the crisis of the social security fund, and the establishment of an intersectoral and monitoring table.
Leaders of the alliances are engaged in dialogue with government officials around these demands, and are hoping to reach agreements on all demands in the coming days. Meanwhile, thousands of people are demonstrating in the streets. Roadblocks are being lifted gradually as the negotiations proceed, however, the strike in various sectors and protests in different parts of the country continue. The construction workers associated with the Single Union of Construction Workers (SUNTRACS) and teachers associated with the ASOPROF, among other unions, have been organizing massive marches everyday.
— ASOPROF (@ASOPROF30) July 28, 2022
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El pueblo despertó y está en las calles exigiendo vida digna pic.twitter.com/qEFNUGFfG3
— C̳O̳N̳U̳S̳I̳ ̳ (@conusi1) July 28, 2022