Bone of contention

Line 2
A large poster in the national bus terminal, about a major public work in progress.

Bone of contention

note and photo by Eric Jackson

On Friday, February 10, members of the SUNTRACS construction workers union, whose leaders are part of the November 29th National Liberation Movement (MLN-29), along with other groups in that political group — the Revolutionary Student Front (FER-29), the National Front for the Defense of Economic and Social Rights (FRENADESO) and the Broad Front for Democracy political party (FAD) — blocked streets in the metro area and some other parts of Panama. It was billed as a protest against corruption but this faction of the left has had little to say about Odebrecht as the national and international bribery scandal has been brewing.

So what’s THAT all about? Odebrecht is a conglomerate but at the center of it is one of the world’s largest construction companies. For their public works projects here — under great suspicion of having been procured by bribery — the people who do the actual work are construction workers represented by SUNTRACS. Throw Odebrecht off the job and it might entail something that union leader Saúl Méndez is warning about, disruption of the job with layoffs for workers whom he represents.

But what’s a commie radical movement to do when all the other commie radicals — as well as most business and conservative groups in the country — are protesting about the systematic government corruption of which Odebrecht is the poster child?

Well, call out SUNTRACS and friends to block traffic to protest corruption on a Friday. That sort of covers the movement from allegations of being soft on corruption, and after the morning’s protests are over gives the union rank-and-file a longer weekend.

The big Odebrecht project now underway is Line 2 of the Metro commuter train system. It would be disruptive to throw the confessed criminal company off the job, but as they do a lot of the work through subcontractors giving them the boot may not have to involve a shutdown of the project. It would largely depend on how the government managed any expulsion of the Brazilian company.


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