Panama actions protest soaring prices, lack of jobs

By Brian Williams
August 8, 2022
Reuters/Erick Marciscano

In the largest sustained protests in decades, workers, students, members of Indigenous groups and others have taken to the streets in Panama demanding government action against rising food and fuel prices and joblessness, and opposing the propertied rulers’ indifference to living conditions facing the toiling masses. Above, demonstration in Panama City July 12.

The actions, which began in late June, have included strikes by teachers’ and construction workers’ unions, street actions, and blockades on the Pan-American Highway, the country’s main artery.

“The current situation is unbelievable,” medical student Janireth Dominguez told Al Jazeera. “There are no medical supplies, there are salary cuts, and there is no work.” The official unemployment rate is 10% and the government-calculated inflation rate rose to 5.2% in the year through June. Gas prices have climbed by nearly 50% since January, to $5.75 per gallon.

“In my 68 years of life, I am tired of seeing governments that promise, go up, steal, go down, the next one follows and here we are lacking everything, medicine, education, food,” retiree Lliana Arango told the media.

Under pressure, the government of President Laurentino Cortizo agreed July 17 to cut gas prices to $3.25 a gallon and promised to discuss curtailing food costs. But protesters said this was far from enough in a country where a few have so much and so many have so little. They remain in the streets.