A day of protest as the president speaks

Airport workers
The much-reduced base of those whom the president consults includes the Chamber of Commerce, which advocates tourism as the lead industry for the recovery from an epidemic that’s not yet over. The federated airport workers’ unions look askance at both Nito and the people to whom he listens. 

Most people stay home, but the discontent is palpable on the streets

by Eric Jackson, photos gleaned from Twitter posts

There were few surprises at the Justo Arosemena Legislative Palace as President Laurentino “Nito” Cortizo Cohen reported at the start of a new legislative session about what he did in his first two years and what he hopes to do in the next year. It was a speech designed to incite sleep, not passions.

However, a couple of days before his labor minister purported to decree the end of a private sector strike and require binding arbitration. It was quite the favor to the now Honduran-owned Estrella Azul dairy products company as the ranchers seek other buyers for their milk. It was also a pretty clear violation of the legal right to strike in the private sector, thus an impetus to the fractious Panamanian labor movement to set aside differences and rise to the occasion. Many different groups with different causes and often overlapping bases of supporters showed up to protest — not only at the legislature but elsewhere around the capital city and the country — when Nito spoke.


Is our maritime sector crucial to the Panamanian economy? Canal workers legally can’t strike, but some off-duty ones were at the demonstraations.. And this port workers’ union also marched.


The largest and arguably the most militant of Panama’s unions, the construction workers’ SUNTRACS, showed up at the National Assembly in force, but as this was a work day, also elsewhere.


In the foreground a campus activist is interviewed.
In the background you can see the Coca-Cola workers’ union.


Various labor unions gather.


Environmentalists were there, as part of a percolating battle over control of Panama’s water supply.


The CGTP labor federation, opposing privatization of Social Security.


the riot squad
The heat. In case of a rumble out front of the legislature, their job is to keep people from escaping into the Metro subway.


Entertainer, journalist and activist Gaby Gnazzo, there for the cause.


Construction workers who couldn’t make it to the legislature blocked traffic around the city.


Is that Big Bro watching from on high?


Panama’s chapter of the international anti-corruption group Transparency International issued a scathing report for the occasion. This was its cover.


There were protests in Bocas del Toro…


…and in Cocle…


…and in Veraguas…


…AND in the legislative chamber where Cortizo spoke! Independent deputy Juan Diego Vásquez, who sits right up front, put this sign on his desk.



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