Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Meanwhile, Here In Panama. . .
La Prensa/David Mensa
Yesterday the construction workers' union, SUNTRACS, was protesting in the city of Colón, when a riot broke out and the police shot one of the protesters dead. He was appearantly shot in the back. The protest spread this morning to Panamá City. The workers were joined by students from Universidad de Panamá, and they shut down Transístmica, the Trans-isthmus highway, one of the main arteries of the city. The workers and students were armed with sticks and stones and the police with guns and tear gas. When we finished our Healing Eucharist this morning, we were asked to warn the congregation not to go downtown as shooting was taking place. Protests spread from Transístmica to Avenida Balboa, El Dorado, Tumba Muerto, San Pedro, the Multicentro Mall on Avenida Balboa, Via Israel, Costa del Este (next to where the Lovely Mona and I live), Las Mañanitas, Universidad de Panamá, both toll roads: Corridor Norte y Corridor Sur, Via España (San Cristóbal is just off Via España), and Manuel Espinosa Batista, which means all these roads have been closed down. Fortunately I live a half-hour walk from the church, because we can't travel about the city right now.
The protests have now spread throughout the country: Colón, San Carlos, Arraiján, Coronado, Rio Hato, Penonomé, and David, Santiago de Veraguas, where workers have taken streets, bridges and other infrastructure. I figure this will spread to Bocas del Toro tomorrow.
SUNTRACS have been protesting for a year now because of unsafe conditions at construction sites. The kind of deregulation so popular with the Republicans back in the U.S is practiced here and construction workers are in great danger. There is a lot of construction going on in the country right now, especially in the Interiór, where many estadoünidense are retiring and purchasing land and building. I was really surprised when I was in the Interiór last month for Campamento; there were billboards in English!
The president and government officials have condemned the protests but haven't said anything about the worker's demands.
Pray for Panamá during this period of unrest.
I See You!
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