Law 30 unleashes repression from the Martinelli government

With Guillermo Puga

Banana workers

brutally repressed


Four dead, over 100 injured and dozens arrested is the balance of the clashes that erupted on Jul. 8 between banana workers and riot police in Panama’s western province of Bocas del Toro. Sirel interviewed Guillermo Puga, general secretary of the Workers’ Confederation of the Republic of Panama (CTRP), who spoke of the serious and violent situation that is affecting Bocas del Toro, and which is feared will spread throughout the rest of the country.


-What is the situation in Bocas del Toro?

-The situation is serious. There are at least four dead, one hundred wounded and several arrested as a result of the conflict that began last Jul. 2, when more than four thousand workers of the Union of Industrial and Banana Workers (SITRAIBANA), an affiliate of our confederation, organized a blockage of streets and bridges and a partial stoppage of economic activities, primarily in Changuinola, to demand the repeal of Law No. 30, enacted two weeks before on Jun. 16. This law limits trade union rights and reduces the environmental regulations that these industries must comply with.


It violates ILO Convention 87 concerning freedom of association and protection of the right to organize, and ILO Convention 98 concerning the right to organize and bargain collectively, and leaves the consideration of environmental impact evidence up to the government. It also allows the Police to repress the population with complete impunity.


On Jul. 8, the government ordered a brutal repression against demonstrators, and now this chaotic and violent situation is aggravated by the curfew imposed by the national government of Ricardo Martinelli, which threatens the constitutional rights of the citizens of the region.


-Has the conflict spilled over into other areas of the country?

-Yes, in particular in Panama City, where dozens of demonstrations have been held; it has also spurred the labor movement into action in all the other provinces of the country.


-Has the government given any sort of explanation for the repressive actions in Bocas del Toro?

-So far it has given no signs of repealing the law; all it’s done is send the police, which has come down on workers and people in general. It should be noted that as this conflict erupted, President Martinelli announced his trip to South Africa to attend the FIFA World Cup Championship final, a decision that reflects the government’s indifference to the problems that affect its people.


-What actions did CTRP take?

-Last week we filed a legal action with the Supreme Court, demanding that the law be declared unconstitutional, along with a complaint presented to ILO.


We have also organized several demonstrations in Panama City, and have called on all workers to stage a national strike in the event the government fails to repeal Law No. 30.


-How is worker morale?

-Workers are prepared to fight. Panama’s labor movement is willing to stage a general strike and maintain it until the government repeals this unconstitutional law, which, among other things, allows management to elude payment of overtime and establishes an obligatory union fee deducted directly from workers’ salaries.



From Montevideo, Amalia Antúnez


July 12, 2010





Foto: Rel-UITA




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