Panama riots continue for second day

October 23, 2012

Police and protesters clashed Tuesday in the Panamanian city of Colón on the second day of strike against a bill authorizing the sale of state-owned land in the free zone. No injuries or arrests were reported.

Demonstrators, most of them young, closed streets with barricades and threw rocks and sticks at police, who responded with tear gas, according to local TV news broadcasts.

Earlier on Tuesday, hundreds of people protested in various parts of Panama, but most demonstrations took place in Colón, on the Caribbean coast, where protests ended in a violent battle.

Riots broke out last Friday after President Ricardo Martinelli signed the bill into law, and have resulted in the death of a child and dozens of injuries and arrests.

Government officials on Tuesday attempted to negotiate with opponents of the new law, but protesters rejected any dialogue while the legislation is in force.

The mayor of Colón, Damaso García, said that economic losses generated by the strike are “incalculable,” as most stores, supermarkets and other businesses have not been able to open.

The controversial law allows the sale of land in the Colón Free Zone, which would generate some $2 billion in government revenue in the next 20 years.

With more than 3,000 companies in operation, the Panamanian free zone generated more than $29 billion in 2011.

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