When the World Bank told one of the world's most heavily indebted countries that its social security would have to be privatized, there were strikes and violent clashes between workers and police on the 10th and 11th of September. This came after hundreds of high school and university students were injured and arrested in mid-August in clashes over privatization of the damaged and faltering educational system, while the Moscoso administration spent millions on the Miss World pageant.
In a country of just less than 3 million people (re: one hundredth the size of the USA, and similar to the sizes of Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Liberia or Palestine), between 150,00 and 200,000 protesters packed the Plaza Cinco de Mayo on the 18th of September. A popular movement of unions, rank-and-file workers, the poorest sectors, students, liberation theologists, and Marxists has been steadily rising up. Beginning on the 23rd, there was the first general strike in six years, with tens of thousands of militants and marchers in the streets, clashing with police yet once again. The last total on the 23rd was 40 injured. In a country with a union density of about 8%, reports from Reuters and other news agencies that the urban centres of the country were paralyzed was quite promising.
demonstrations continued throughout the last week of September in this country with a 40% poverty rate, and 50% unemployment & underemployment. The specific argument was over the firing of the director of Social Security, izquierdista Juan Jovane, but groups and people used it as an opportunity to show their discontent with neo-liberal and neo-colonial policies that the Moscoso administration has capitulated to the United States. Most of the direct action and armed action has been carried out on the Universidad de Panama campus, or else by construction workers, who earlier clashed with police in the mid-september strike, however, the poor have also gotten in on the action, in small shoot-outs with police.
There is a march planned for the 9th of octubre, the day before the courts will decide on the fate of Jovane as the Seguro Social director. Another general strike has been announced for the 30th of octubre.
And remember, November 4th and 5th are the Centennial Anniversaries of independence (actually the move from Colombian control to US control, after the US had spent some five decades quelling independista uprisings), and the 40th anniversaries of the Flag Uprisings is coming 9-13 january of 2004. Updates on both the counter-globalization movement and the anniversaries will be upcoming. and feel free to organize something in your community in solidarity with the Pueblo Panameño.
Comité de Solidaridad Panameño