Panama is a quiet and peaceful place to live. However, in July there were protests and street blockades, the likes of which have not been seen in over 30 years. In the meantime, the situation has returned to normal. Find our report on the background here.
In July, there were mass protests and street blockades all over the country. This was triggered by the increased cost of living and expensive energy prices, which the whole world is currently struggling with. This was joined by demonstrations against the ever-smouldering issue of corruption and other issues that are a thorn in people’s side. Basically, people in Panama like to demonstrate peacefully, but not in a way that affects the country’s transport system and infrastructure.
This time, however, the protests were more violent and partly deliberately organised by trade union groups (including the construction union), associations and other groups that wanted to fuel the mood and exploit it for their own benefit.
After all, presidential elections will be held in 2024 and the election campaign will start soon. This is where an unsettled mood and publicity-grabbing pictures in social media are to the advantage of one or the other. And if you then bring your own photographers into the crowd and create exaggerated images, you exaggerate the event in your favour.
The provinces of Chiriqui and Veraguas, which are located in the interior of the country, were the centre of the largest protests. Here there were some clashes with the police and complete road blockades of the Panamaericana, which is by far the most important traffic artery and connects the country.
In the capital Panama City, things were comparatively quiet. But the protests in the interior had a short-term impact on supplies in the supermarkets, because the country’s own products such as vegetables were stuck on the Panamericana.
The unanimous opinion of the people in Panama we spoke to is that protests (especially against corruption) are good as long as they remain peaceful and meaningful. But the protesters, who took to the streets for the “people”, have partly harmed themselves. Less well-stocked supermarket shelves and farmers and other traders who made huge losses and had to throw away their products.
At the beginning of the protests, the government had hidden and hoped that the problem would solve itself. But now the government has been sitting at the table with the different interest groups (and there are many of them…) for weeks to find solutions and compromises. The government has made several concessions, including subsidising fuel prices and “freezing” the prices of other staple foods. Negotiations are still ongoing, including on the prices of medical and pharmaceutical products.
The people responsible for stopping the trucks carrying food have now been arrested.
These protests cannot be compared to the violent protests in other countries in Central and South America. But they should be a warning to the government to tackle the problem of corruption in a targeted way and to distribute the country’s large revenues (from the Panama Canal, among other things) fairly and invest them sensibly (education and medical care for all strata of the population, etc.).
Extreme parties from the left and right have never had a chance in Panama, because the population is aware of the bad developments in other Latin American countries. This can also be assumed in the 2024 elections.
Klaus Happ’s company “FRAPAN-Invest” advises investors who want to invest in real estate in Panama. He offers advice on all aspects of living in Panama.
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