Panama Breaks Out in Massive Protests Over Decision That Could Affect All of Central America
Panama has been the center of massive protests over the swift approval by the government of a contract that would allow Minera Panamá, owned by Canadian company First Quantum Minerals, a concession to proceed with a mining project on a scale never before seen in the Central American country.
The country’s population is overwhelmingly against the contract, which is set to have environmental repercussions not just in Panama, but in the whole Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, which connects wildlife habitats in seven countries in Central America and southern Mexico.
But the government, which has widely been reported to have received kickbacks to approve the contract so quickly, has already given Minera Panamá the go-ahead. Now, environmental groups, unions, and activists alike have come together to shut the country down in hopes of getting the contract rescinded. Massive protests have been planned for the entire week, not just in the capital city of Panama City, but in the entire country as workers, teachers, doctors, and more hit the streets.
Panama’s government’s only response has been an out-of-touch and seemingly arrogant address by President Nito Cortizo claiming there would be no going back on the contract, and saying “no one is above the law.” This statement comes despite the fact that the contract hasn’t followed Panamanian law, something social media has pointed out at every turn.
The protests have turned increasingly violent after a very peaceful Sunday, October 22, with police escalating the response to what has mostly been crowds of people chanting slogans against mining and singing the national anthem. The contract was approved on Friday, October 20.
Last Thursday, October 19, a journalist reportedly lost an eye after being hit by what looked to be rubber rounds during protests. Police initially claimed he was being disruptive and blamed other protesters for his injuries. Video evidence, however, suggests it was police that hit him.
Videos from the protests come from all over and are likely to keep coming as Panama fights for a country that, as always, politicians don’t seem to see as anything more than a bargaining chip to sell to the highest bidder.