On Monday, August 8, Panamanian popular movements, social organizations, and trade unions called for nationwide demonstrations and roadblocks on Wednesday, August 10, starting at 7am. The protest actions were called to protest the non-compliance by the right-wing national government with the agreements reached at the negotiation table in the past days.
Saúl Méndez, general secretary of the Single Union of Construction Workers (SUNTRACS) and one of the representatives of the People United for Life Alliance, at a press conference, denounced that the government and business sectors have impeded the fulfillment of several agreements regarding lowering and capping prices. The government of President Laurentino Cortizo had agreed to lower the prices of 72 essential items, but Méndez highlighted that several items on the list had been left out. He also condemned that authorities had also not disclosed the list of 150 medicines that would be given a price cap. Méndez added that businessmen, who had been against the negotiation process, had threatened to deplete the markets of various other necessary products.
“The government has refused to give concrete answers to the demands of the Panamanian people,” said Méndez. With regard to the resumption of protests, he said that “it is a clear message that we are not playing games” and that “we expect that what was said is fulfilled.”
El Secretario general del @suntracs1 @SaulAlFrente anuncia acciones de cierre este miércoles para que el #gobierno cumpla con acuerdos en la #mesaunica #dialogo @SipuFRENADESO #dumasinforma #noticiasdumaspanama pic.twitter.com/v6jw0QqAgk
— Dumas Castillero (dumasinforma) (@dumasinforma) August 8, 2022
Following a month-long struggle in the streets against high cost of living and lack of government support for the poor, in the past weeks, the organizations succeeded in forcing the conservative government to engage in negotiations. Agreements were reached on four of their eight essential demands: the reduction and freezing of the price of 72 essential commodities by 30%, the reduction and freezing of the price of fuel USD 3.25 per gallon, allocation of a greater budget for the public education sector (6% of the GDP), and the freezing of the price of 150 medicines and resolving the lack of medicine supply.
Nevertheless, after the resumption of the dialogue table after a few days break, the government refused to engage with the other demands. Méndez criticized that the government had not yet responded to their proposal on the reduction of the electricity tariff, nor on the management of the Social Security Fund (CSS).
The dialogue table is once again on break until Thursday, August 11. During the third stage of the negotiations, the organizations are expected to present proposals on the pending issues: anti-corruption measures and the establishment of an official instance to monitor the compliance of the agreements with all sectors.