What is happening in Colón?

Thursday morning brings an end to a general strike in the province of Colón and the start to renewed dialogue with government officials.

Protests and strikes were on-going in Colón over the past couple days, as residents demonstrated their concerns with the government’s plans to regenerate the city with renewed infrastructure. 

While the government of Panama worked to show how the plans would benefit the people of Colón, civic groups behind the protests demonstrated their concerns. The new infrastructure plans are just “ a sneaky way of trying to gentrify the city and drive poorer residents out.” said residents as reported by BBC News. 

Minister Álvaro Alemán spoke to the groups protesting the government plans as "delinquent groups backed by people driven by political interests.” In response to acts of vandalism that have occurred over the past days, the minister added that the government would “deal swiftly with those behind these acts”.

Residents are also complaining about the slow pace of the work to regenerate the city. These improvements include a renovation of the city’s sewage system and water supply. Panama’s public works official Jorge Gonzalez pleaded with Colón residents, asking them to be patient, saying that the revitalization project is more than 50% complete.

The protesters, of which 35 were arrested for crimes such as looting, vandalism, and attacks on police, were also demanding work to reduce crime in Colón. The province has one of the highest homicide rates in the country.

Preliminary reports from national police said four officers and one protester were injured in Tuesday’s protests, which were the most serious demonstrations in Colón since the violent protests of 2012. 

Following Tuesday’s protests, The provincial government has declared a curfew for minors under age 18 between 6 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Wednesday, March 14th the demonstrations took a more peaceful turn reported La Prensa, largely due to intervention by the National Police. While public transportation was suspended for the larger part of the day and commercial business irregular, groups seemed to be organizing in a more peaceful fashion carrying pickets and handing out leaflets. 

The strike came to an end late Wednesday as leaders of the Committee for the Salvation of Columbus gathered making the decision to end the strike.