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Volume 17, Number 5
May 4, 2011
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economy

Also in this section:
May Day 2011
Tabasara hydroelectric project talks break down
Colombian court decision sets back Panama-Colombia electric hookup
Job creation the old economic textbook way: reducing the value of the dollar
IMF regional outlook: Watch out for overheating (PDF)
Foreign Direct Investment in Latin America and the Caribbean (PDF)
Fishing for a living where others want to do battle
Teachers march to the Presidencia, stage symbolic strike


Many things that used to be in a Business & Economy Briefs feature of the website have now migrated to our constantly updated Facebook page


Photo by Eric Jackson

May Day 2011: organized labor slowly gathers strength
story by Eric Jackson, photos by Eric Jackson and José F. Ponce

In some recent years, there have been as many as four separate May Day marches, with rival stages at or around Plaza Cinco de Mayo and many insults traded. This year, there was more unity among the labor unions than there has been in a long time, but the differences among the political factions celebrating May Day stood in the way of a complete unification.

The past year has been a roller coaster ride, but at the end of it labor was able to pull together at key moments and fend off a determined offensive by the Martinelli administration. Perhaps most of the credit belongs to Martinelli himself: in the Chorizo Law, he indiscriminately attacked all labor unions, plus the environmental movement, the indigenous comarcas and anyone who doesn't believe in police brutality; then in the battle over it he started raving about widespread and imaginary conspiracies, rashly showed his hand about wiretapping his political foes, insulted nearly every civic group in Panama and acted like a Gestapo commandant not only to the groups with which he was locked in battle but to the press. In the end it was the Changuinola banana workers' strike and Martinelli's thuggish reaction to the strikers that forced the demise of the Chorizo Law. The subsequent betrayal in which Martinelli kept the impunity for police brutality provisions led rather shortly to the sickening televised scene of police burning young prisoners alive and taunting them as they burned, a further defeat for Martinelli. Labor still had major divisions but began to pull together only against the gravest threat. Perhaps they would not have survived but for the president's mental illness. But they did survive, and they came out of the experience a bit tougher and a bit more united.

Then the president picked a fight with the environmentalists, those campesinos whose land or water is coveted by the promoters of mines or hydroelectric dams, the tourism industry in general and the Ngabe-Bugle Comarca in particular. Indigenous protesters did the heavy lifting in that battle, but labor let its sympathies be known, and again Martinelli aggravated the situation by attacking the civic groups and especially the press. The Law 8 Mining Code reforms were repealed and labor came away with the certain knowledge that Martinelli would attack again, and that he could be beaten.

And so it was that on May Day the feuding CONATO and CONUSI labor federations marched together and shared a common stage for the first time in many years. The day's division, which did involve elements of organized labor, came because ULIP was annoyed with FRENADESO and marched from a different staging area to a different stage. That political split, however, paled before organized labor's enhanced unity.


Photo by Eric Jackson


Photo by Eric Jackson


Photo by Eric Jackson


Photo by Eric Jackson


Photo by Eric Jackson


Photo by José F. Ponce


Photo by José F. Ponce


Photo by José F. Ponce


Photo by José F. Ponce


Photo by José F. Ponce


Photo by José F. Ponce





Also in this section:
May Day 2011
Tabasara hydroelectric project talks break down
Colombian court decision sets back Panama-Colombia electric hookup
Job creation the old economic textbook way: reducing the value of the dollar
IMF regional outlook: Watch out for overheating (PDF)
Foreign Direct Investment in Latin America and the Caribbean (PDF)
Fishing for a living where others want to do battle
Teachers march to the Presidencia, stage symbolic strike




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© 2011 by Eric Jackson
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