Panamanian Workers Are Being Punished By Their Government For Leading Anti-Mining Protests


Panamanian business groups and large transnational corporations are trying to take revenge on the National Union of Workers of Construction and Similar Industries (SUNTRACS), says Saúl Méndez Rodríguez, general secretary of the union. The state-owned company Caja de Ahorros has frozen 18 bank accounts of the union. According to government sources, the closure of the bank accounts is due to SUNTRACS’s alleged links to terrorist activities.

However, according to Méndez, the freezing of the union’s accounts is an act of retaliation by national and international economic groups that have economic interests in Panama. He says the union is being targeted for being the political group that led protests against open-pit metal mining during October and November 2023.

SUNTRACS led dozens of popular organizations in massive street protests to defend the country’s sovereignty and environmental well-being by opposing Law 406. The law promised mining privileges for more than 20 years to First Quantum Minerals Ltd. (FMQ), with the possibility of a 20-year extension. The demonstrations resulted in the Supreme Court of Justice declaring Law 406 unconstitutional on November 28. A few hours later, President Laurentino Cortizo announced that the copper mine that FMQ was set to take over would be closed.

These types of neocolonial economic measures, which aim to cede national sovereignty for long periods, have already been applied on several occasions in Panama, the most infamous being the Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty. With this treaty, Panama ceded its sovereignty to the United States, which thus appropriated one of the most important commercial points in the world: the area where the U.S. where the Panama Canal would be constructed. In this way, the protests of 2023 join a long struggle of the Panamanian people against the economic and political impositions of national and transnational oligarchies that promote neocolonial activities.

Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service

Peoples Dispatch is an international media project with the mission of bringing to you voices from people’s movements and organizations across the globe. Globetrotter is an international syndication service for print and digital publications across the Earth.

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