RTL Today – Central America: Protests in Panama continue despite falling fuel and food prices

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Thousands of Panamanians again took to the streets on Tuesday to protest against rising inflation and government corruption, despite the announcement of lower prices for fuel and some food products.

The protests, called by the Central American country’s many unions, lasted two weeks and led to the closure of some major highways.

President Laurentino Cortizo announced on Monday that the price of gasoline for private vehicles will be reduced to $3.95 per gallon starting July 15, a 24% drop from the price at the end of June.

He also announced that his government would draft an executive order to freeze the prices of a dozen essential food items.

But several unions say the protests will continue until there is a general reduction in prices and gasoline prices fall below $3 a gallon.

Protesters in Panama City marched from Porras Central Park to the heavily guarded National Assembly building on Tuesday.

Many carried Panamanian flags and banners with messages such as “Corruption has hijacked my nation”, “We want honest governors” or “Where’s the money?”

“It’s the cost of living that brings people to the streets,” protester Sergio Gallegos, an indigenous man from the Ngabe-Bugle region, told AFP.

In La Chorrera, a town west of the capital, protesters marched on the Inter-American Highway, the main artery connecting Panama to the rest of Central America.

Security Minister Juan Pino on Tuesday launched an “appeal to common sense”, so that “social peace” prevails over “any divergence”.

The protests have fueled fears within government and the business sector that the country could see a drop in economic activity or impacts on the tourism industry.

In Ecuador, 18 days of mass protests over high fuel prices last month cost the country more than $1 billion, according to its central bank.

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