After an address to the nation from the President of the Republic, Laurentino Cortizo, broadcast last night calling for a referendum on this matter on December 17th, the first reactions were of rejection and reaffirmation of the continuity of the protests throughout the country.
Cortizo said in his speech that Panamanians will decide whether or not to repeal Law 406, which supports the pact with the foreign company. “Through citizen participation by voting we will be able to legitimize the will of the people.” The result of the referendum, he said, will be mandatory.
For the general secretary of the Single National Union of Construction and Similar Industry Workers (Suntracs), Saúl Méndez, this is another maneuver and deception. “Enough mockery. The (protests) will remain in the streets. The mandate of the people is the repeal of Law 406 and that the history of looting in this country ends,” he said, referring to the exploitation of copper in Donoso, in Colón, by a subsidiary of the Canadian transnational First Quantum.
Thousands of Panamanians have demonstrated over the past week in rejection of the new agreement with Minera Panamá, which exploits the largest open pit copper deposit in all of Central America.
The protests, which began two days after the signing of the contract, have developed peacefully, but some have ended with clashes between groups of people and riot police, which used pepper spray to disperse the protesters.