general secretary of the Industrial Union of Soft Drink,
Beverage, Soda, Beer, Liquor and Similar Beverage Production
and Distribution Workers gave
update on the issues at stake in the social conflict
experienced in the country upon the amendment of Law 30 and
the Bocas del Toro massacre.
-What is the information on the results of the Bocas del
-According to off-the-record information, the government is
hiding the real number of casualties resulting from
repression in Bocas del Toro, they’ve only admitted to four
dead, while non-official information reports nine
casualties: two adults and six children, plus a Police
officer; although the number could be higher.
Three persons were affected by short-distance pellet shots
and were blinded, while dozens are reported to have suffered
injuries in one eye.
One of the 150 wounded persons is affected by serious kidney
and liver injuries, while someone else has lung damage as a
consequence of pellet and bullet shooting.
-What has been the social reaction in Panama?
-This ruthless repression has been condemned by many sectors
and organizations, which are also acknowledging that the
government is not creating suitable conditions for dialogue
because it is surrounding itself only with loyal entities.
That includes the Catholic Church, which I think should be a
mediator and not a party to this conflict.
The government is also acting as if it is entitled to
autonomously appoint mediators for a possible dialogue, and
that is not acceptable.
-So, what is the position of Panama’s social forces then?
-We remain firm in demanding that Law 30 be repealed. We
are planning new actions for next week.
When we, as union leaders, call on workers to
support a strike or a peaceful demonstration,
according to the government, we are to be blamed
for “advocating criminal acts”.
They are criminalizing social struggles and
setting up a Police State under a terrorist
regime, with a government-dependent system of
-What type of actions?
-We are organizing a picket line at the entrance of the
Supreme Court of Justice.
But this crisis is escalating; even the media is now blaming
the intransigence and repressive stance taken by the
government, which has led sources close to President
Ricardo Martinelli to in turn blame the media for
encouraging insurrection and uprisings.
The fact is that repression has been so brutal that the
population seems to have become convinced of the need to
repeal this law, which, apart from attacking unions, gives
special powers to the Police forces.
-What are those special powers?
-The Police are authorized to shoot for any reason, they can
kill without explaining their actions to the courts, and
without fear of being removed from their post; as if we were
living in a state of war.
What happened in Bocas del Toro was the “pre-screening” of
Police forces acting with these new powers granted by Law
30. Now the government is beginning to suggest that the
situation is out of control, but it is clear that the orders
for full repression came from the government itself.
This has been a real massacre, unprecedented over the past
decades in Panama. Law 30 was encouraged and voted by
the government and has brought full impunity for these
-So you mean that the democratic system is seriously
-We could say that we are virtually heading for a civil
dictatorship, launched to repress the people and the working
class. This bloody repression adds to the State terrorism
created by the false charges hurled by the government, thus
preparing the ground for persecution and repression.
Now, for instance, when we, as union leaders, call on
workers to support a strike or a peaceful demonstration,
according to the government, we are to be blamed for
“advocating criminal acts”. They are criminalizing social
struggles and setting up a Police State under a terrorist
regime, with a government-dependent system of justice.
Tomorrow, Saturday, July 17, two of the fatal victims will
be buried, while the others are still at the morgue in spite
of the demands from their families for the bodies to be
Possibly the worst is yet to come.