Photo taken from the Facebook page of FRENADESO – the National Front for the Defense of Economic and Social Rights – which is an alliance of various groups closely related to the CONUSI labor confederation.
Will the tiger become a vegetarian?
by CONUSI (translated by The Panama News)
The National Confederation of Independent Trade Union Unity (CONUSI) has been invited by the president to participate in the supposed dialogue “Closing Gaps” Bicentennial Pact.
We have requested information in writing on the topics to be discussed, methodology, how decisions will be made, who will participate, the scheduled time, how the meetings will be. Once the questions are clarified, we will proceed to the appropriate internal consultations between our organizations and the rest of the social and union movement and through our democratic mechanisms we will adopt our decision that will be announced to the people in a timely manner.
But we must say that today there are many doubts and uncertainties.
To really talk about “closing the gap” in the sixth most unequal country in the world is to change the economic model that led us to this situation. It is, through other forms of redistribution of wealth, to combat and end hunger, poverty, misery, unemployment in a context that we know are reaching levels never before imagined. In this pandemic, Panama is more unequal than before and this is reflected in the job insecurity that affects more women and young people, the decrease in family income, the deterioration of health and public education, among other factors.
Are the 115 ultra-millionaires in the country, that privileged caste, willing to put an end to this unjust model that has greatly favored them? Will the business associations, rulers and traditional politicians be willing to sacrifice themselves, put an end to business as usual, change regressive tax policies where those who earn the least pay more taxes, eliminate bribes, stop the generalized corruption? In the pandemic they have revealed to us their true face with statements such as “if you want water, look for it in the river,” “you have to bring foreign talent,” “what is a healthy population worth with a bankrupt economy,” “you have to be extremely careful in investing in public education.” If there is no health, there is no economy. Actions in the midst of a great health crisis tell us. We see the enough to know of the government’s phantom payrolls and social service cuts. We are aware of the excessive costs, theft with impunity and colossal indebtedness. What we don’t know are the conditions to be imposed, which may include new taxes as in Costa Rica or so on.
If the moratorium seemed like a “diabolical idea,” what would a change in the economic model look like to them? The apocalypse? Will the model be “virtually” changed? Will the tiger become a vegetarian?
It is evident that a change of this nature must have the people as the protagonist so that they decide democratically and in a participatory way. It is evident that under current conditions this can hardly be done. Will it be a pact between party leaderships? As in the past, another of the many “Yo con Yo” dialogues, to reinforce the neoliberal model?
We also have our justified misgivings. The immediate precedent of this dialogue were the business-labor talks over the minimum wage, where the demands and proposals of the workers were given no attention, and in the end the impasse was used to impose decrees and laws in favor of the interests of the business sector. These are still in force and our organization has sued in the Supreme Court because they violate the sacred rights of workers and the people.
What dialogue can we talk about when there are still almost 200,000 workers with suspended contracts who barely survive on $100 per month — for those who receive it — while the resources obtained from bond issues are used to inject money into the banks and favor big business? The suspended contracts are, according to the Minister of Labor, intended to be extended, further loading the crisis onto the workers’ backs.
• When the number of unemployed and informal workers grows, maternity leave is violated, there are massive dismissals, “mutual agreements” are imposed, support is denied to small farmers, wages are reduced, other more aggressive forms of exploitation such as telework are emphasized and there are new decrees and reforms to the Labor Code in favor of the employers…
• When 300,000 students have been left out of the educational system and the number of deaths from and infections with COVID-19 grows dramatically…
• When more than 100,000 Panamanians have been arrested for curfew violations and – for those of humble means – onerous fines have been imposed, just like the poor popular candidates in the last elections were senselessly fined $3,000. (An amnesty for all such harsh fines would be fair.)…
Can we speak of dialogue and a social pact under these conditions?
CONUSI can rest assured assure that from now on we will not lend ourselves to sow false illusions among the workers and the people, nor to freeze the social struggles. We will be consistent with the people, especially with those who suffer the most, suffer from hunger, trauma and great needs, and who face threat of dispossession by bankers or usurers of goods and property that they have earned with much effort. We continue to insist on a bonus of $500 for workers with suspended contracts, the unemployed, the self-employed and retirees on meager incomes. We demand unemployment insurance, basic income for workers without income, a real moratorium that includes interest, utility services guaranteed basic during the pandemic and a special tax on large fortunes. We subscribe to the “Christmas without Hunger” campaign of FRENADESO.
Apart from the dialogue proposed by the government, it is up to the patriotic, popular and truly democratic forces to develop their own initiatives, and combine efforts in pursuit of common objectives. This would let us create the conditions and levels of mobilization, organization, awareness and struggle to convene, in a sovereign way, an Originating Constitutional Convention with full powers — the only real way to make the transformations that our society urgently requires.
Fighting for our true and definitive independence is the task of the moment, if we really want to honor the feat of the bicentennial of the independence of Panama from Spain and the dreams of the Liberator and our true heroes. Otherwise, we will condemn ourselves to another century of inequality, oligarchic rule, backwardness and dependence.
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