Panama: 10,000 Protest & Riot Over Fare Hike

More than 10,000 people marched in the streets of Panama City on May 9 to protest a 60% increase in bus fares, from $0.15 to $0.25, instituted the previous week [see Update #588]…The protesters say the government should hold off on the bus fare hike–which followed increases in telephone and
electricity rates–until the economy improves.

More than 10,000 people marched in the streets of Panama City on May 9 to protest a 60% increase in bus fares, from $0.15 to $0.25, instituted the previous week [see Update #588]. The march
was organized by labor, student and human rights organizations grouped in the National Movement in Defense of Sovereignty (MONADESO); the protesters say the government should hold off on the bus fare hike–which followed increases in telephone and
electricity rates–until the economy improves.

When the march neared the government palace, a group of protesters tore down a security fence and riot police responded with repression, firing large quantities of tear gas at the crowd. Forced back by the tear gas, protesters marched on the nearby National Assembly; some threw stones at police and passing buses, and barricaded streets with burning objects.

The violence later spread to the nearby Santa Ana and El Chorrillo districts of the capital, and rioting continued through the night as hundreds of protesters clashed with police and small groups of people looted more than 20 businesses and vandalized government offices, including the Department of Migration and Naturalization, where four government vehicles were burned.

The Red Cross reported that 225 people were treated for respiratory problems caused by tear gas. At least 18 people– including five police agents–were wounded by bullets, and at least 80 people were arrested, 26 of them minors. March leaders
condemned the police repression, demanded the release of those arrested, and announced that the protests would continue. [Hoy (NY) 5/11/01; Miami Herald 5/11/01; El Nuevo Herald (Miami) 5/11/01 from AFP, 5/12/01 from AP; Washington Post 5/11/01 from Reuters; La Prensa (Panama) 5/11/01, 5/12/01]

Panamanian officials met late on Apr. 10 with protest leaders from MONADESO and other groups. But the talks, mediated by Archbishop Jose Dimas Cedeno, ended at 4am on Apr. 11 with no
agreement. [MH 5/11/01; LP 5/11/01; La Republica (Lima) 5/11/01 from AFP]

The State Department issued a warning to US citizens in Panama on May 10, urging caution: "While these events have not specifically targeted American citizens, there have been some
expressions of anti-American sentiment by protesters, and normal business activities have been disrupted," the State Department said. [MH 5/11/01]

Author: NICARAGUA SOLIDARITY NETWORK OF GREATER NEW YORK

News Service: Weekly News Update on the Americas #589, 5/13/01

URL: http://www.eco.utexas.edu/faculty/Cleaver/chiapas95.html