Panama: Ongoing protests over inflation, high costs of living
Protests in Panama against rising living costs and austerity measures have caused shortages in the country's supply chains.
As the people of Panama spend their third week on the country's streets to protest the high cost of living, particularly the high fuel, food, and medicine prices, these demonstrations have started to cause shortages in these items due to the blocking of roads.
Panama is the latest in a wave of popular rebellions and uprisings around the world against neo-liberalism and it’s heavy price on the lives of our peoples pic.twitter.com/OGWelLYoAf— Manolo De Los Santos (@manolo_realengo) July 20, 2022
The protests have seen Panamanians blocking various roads and international highways, including the Pan-American Highway, forcing the national electric company to ration electricity in Colombia-bordering Darien province.
Tankers transporting gas to fuel the power generation plant cannot reach their destination and thus cannot provide the plant with the resources it needs to provide power to the region's people. Some 7,000 families have been bearing the brunt of the rationing, with electricity only coming on for 11 hours a day.
The main wholesale market in the country, which is one of the main suppliers of produce and products to supermarkets and individual consumers, had barely any traffic on Wednesday, contrary to how it usually is, with very low quantities of products on the stands.
PANAMA: Mass demonstrations underway as citizens rise up against the government over high inflation which increased the cost of food, fuel, and basic services.— Katie Daviscourt🇺🇸 (@KatieDaviscourt) July 17, 2022
Panama is on the verge of collapsing.pic.twitter.com/EHS0kyJPlH
The Chriqui province is the main supplier of produce to the Panamanian markets, but the region's Indigenous Ngobe-Bugle people have blocked several parts of the Pan-American highway, preventing trucks carrying produce from reaching the capital, Panama City.
The people demanding the government to provide them with their rights are also affecting trade and shipments coming from elsewhere in Central America.
The road blockades have led to losses that exceeded $130 million so far, groups representing agricultural producers said.
The situation is getting a little better, though, as protesters have cleared up some roadblocks on the international highway, allowing many trucks to pass into the various cities of Panama, mainly Panama City.
The food coming in is sold rapidly, with the director of Merca Panama, the aforementioned wholesale market, saying: "As the cargo enters, the stands restock, that is what we're trying to do today, to get 80% stocked," as consumers rush to the stands.
It is worth noting noted that the government of President Laurentino Cortizo, which implemented austerity measures and froze fuel prices, tried to reach an agreement with the protesters since the beginning of the demonstrations, but to no avail.
Last Tuesday, the police fired tear gas at protesters who blocked roads in the west of the country. A number of associations that sought alongside other organizations to conclude an agreement with the government described the situation in the country as "critical", in light of the continued suppression of protests by the police.