Ricardo Abrego, leader of the Banana Industry Workers Union
(SITRAIBANA), spoke with
the brutal repression against the people of Bocas del Toro
-Were you there when the repression was unleashed?
-Yes, it was horrible, and the country is mourning its
effects. This massacre caused by the government of
Ricardo Martinelli left at least nine dead and hundreds
injured or thrown in jail, and it’s a direct result of the
approval of Law No. 30.
These are poor folks, farmers and rural laborers, and they
never even for a minute imagined that the government would
send the National Riot Police to come down on them as it did
on Jul. 8.
They began by dropping tear-gas from helicopters, then went
on to shoot rounds of pellets at us, and finally they opened
fire with AK47s.
I still have pellets lodged in my body from the shots I
received that day. Several fellow workers lost their sight,
and many others are badly hurt.
When the government called in the anti-riot police from
other provinces, with orders to repress, the police came
down on demonstrators without stopping to see who they were
going against: ordinary people rallying peacefully.
It was a massacre; we never expected such a brutal attack.
-What is the situation today in Bocas del Toro?
-We’re demanding that
withdraw the court actions filed against trade unionists,
and that there be no workers penalized or fired.
We’re also demanding that the authorities guarantee the
protection of workers and their families, and that there be
no more attacks on anyone who questions the government’s
actions. In our case, as trade union leaders, we don’t feel
The government has agreed to compensate the families of the
victims, so we’re drawing up a list to submit to the
authorities in charge of carrying out this agreement.
Also, medical assistance has been promised to anyone who was
injured, and there are steps underway to obtain the release
of the demonstrators arrested.