Law No. 30 and the repressive actions of the Martinelli government

With Justiniano Buitrago

The labor movement will not stop until Law 30 is repealed


Last week, the government of Ricardo Martinelli unleashed a bloody repression against workers in Bocas del Toro. Sirel spoke with Justiniano Buitrago, organization secretary of the  Workers’ Confederation of the Republic of Panama (CTRP) and the Industrial Packaging and Food Workers Union (SITEA), an IUF affiliate.


-Can you tell us what the impact

 of Law 30 is?

-Generally speaking, it’s a law that has no backing in the population and which attacks trade unions directly, among other things, because it contains a clause that eliminates the possibility of deducting payment of union fees from salaries and practically does away with the workers’ right to strike. In addition, it gives the National Police free reign to savagely repress the population, like it did in Bocas del Toro.


After the July 8 incidents, which resulted in a true massacre of banana workers and citizens of Changuinola, in Bocas del Toro, Law 30 will be reconsidered by Congress. But discussion will focus only on the clauses pertaining specifically to the labor code reform. Panama’s labor movement, however, is demanding that the law be completely repealed.


-What can you tell us about what happened on July 8?

-The repression orchestrated by the government against banana workers who were protesting peacefully was a clear violation of human rights. A total of nine people were killed, and over 100 were wounded -a toll that evidences a brutally violent repression. An important number of workers lost their eyesight as a result of pellet shots fired by riot police straight at their faces.


-How has this repression impacted public opinion in Panama?

-Public opinion in general is outraged, and the media covered the repression and is showing it throughout the country. The negative impact was such that polls reveal a sharp drop in President Martinelli’s popularity - and we’re talking about a president who was elected with 70 percent of the vote.


So it’s clear that Panamanians are fully behind the rejection of Law 30, a law that came out of nowhere and was arbitrarily imposed overnight, without prior consultation to the affected stakeholders. Which is why it triggered opposition and demonstrations across the country, ultimately resulting in the deplorably violent repression in Bocas del Toro.


Panama’s labor movement will not stop until this law is repealed.


From Montevideo, Amalia Antúnez


July 19, 2010





Photo 1: Gerardo Iglesias

Photo 2: Bernabel Matos




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