Panama and Strikes

Panama is a prime example of how what one person does will inadvertently affect everyone else that lives with him in a society. Since the place is so small, the ripples someone’s action makes can be felt in practically every level of life here, and I’ll give you an example of this right now: I saw on the news this morning that the there’s a labor strike starting today with all teachers and professors of public schools regarding a lack of satisfaction concerning a pay raise they’ve been discussing with the government for well over a month now. The specifics are, in typical blog journalist fashion, subjective and inconclusive to me but it seems that negotiations, even though there was an agreed sum that both parties could live with (a whopping $90 raise, which is a little less than half the offer the teacher unions were gunning for, a sum which came close to almost $250 if I remember correctly) someone decided they don’t like the deal they struck and went to the only way they know how to be heard. That’s the solution to a lot of the communication problems between the people and it’s government: go out to the streets and protest about whatever ails you no matter how big or small it is. I notice that the people in the worker unions, the National University’s student movements and these other smaller groups can never be happy. They have a prejudice against the government that I believe stems from both the inherent affinity of the human being to question authority and the absurd things their parent told them when they were kids, stuff that was said out of spite and hatred for a government that never had time to take care of them. There’s this one guy, Saúl Mendez I believe is him name but I could be wrong… this guy goes on RCM (our “news network,” of sorts) in shows where politicians, scholars, businessmen and other people come in to talk and discuss the current events ailing the country and the world; every time he goes on he has this embedded animosity against everything anybody on the panel that’s wearing a suit would say, and even though said businessman or even politician is right on their point, however obvious and ridiculous it is he will always be against them, playing dirty by doing personal attacks in this passive, condescending tone that I loathe to no end. Some of these people are frustrating to watch because of their obvious lack of vision on a general scale and crystal clear agenda to go against the government not because what they are proposing on any given subject is good or bad for you but because it’s the government and since they’re the government they always lie and they will always want to fuck the people over. A lot of these guys are like that, and whether their ridiculous demands are met or not they will still go out on strike anyway because they’ve said so before.

These strikes and protests bring pro’s and con’s to the table, as does everything. Continuing the example of today, I got to work earlier today because since the public school teachers are on strike then they didn’t open the schools, which means that the buses don’t have to make as many stops and there doesn’t need to be more buses than there already there… voilá, less traffic on the streets and therefore I get to the office sooner than I thought. People have the right to fight for what’s theirs and I completely support it but this is the part I don’t find much sense in: the student unions of the country’s National University (la Universidad de Panamá) will take any excuse imaginable to close down the street in front of the main entrance to the facilities called Via Transístmica and not only cause INSANE traffic jams, but also vandalize and destroy private property that’s not theirs. They’ll do the whole burning tire and trash on fire thing in the middle of the closed-off street until the cops show up, 20 of them in a small, raggedy wagon car armed to the teeth like they were handling terrorists (which they are, mind you) with smoke and gas bombs, as well as rubber bullets to subdue the children masked using their own t-shirts to cover up their faces. What continues is a Mexican Stand-off between the two factions, the cops trying to disperse the felons who have ran back into university grounds, private property and therefore untouchable by the troops… but they still shoot them from outside so they can calm the fuck down. Then the kids complain about police brutality… fuck, there have been times where innocents trying to pass by the Transistmica get stoned out and sometimes their car windows have been broken by some smartass getting his kicks off of damaging stuff that isn’t his. Not just car windows, either: people have been beaten up, mugged and even raped once or twice while these riots happen and it’s that “put up or shut up” attitude of both the workers’ and student unions the one that’s going to push us further into the ground.

If you’re not news savvy/Panamanian, it’s as good a time as any to mention that there’s going to be a referendum in October to decide the fate of the Panama Canal. There’s a plan to modernize it by making the lock wider so that it can take in bigger boats and more at a time; the Panama Canal Commission is 100% behind this plan, so technical and downright mind-numbing that even though they have tried their darnedest to educate the people by setting up information posts in malls as well as making the project’s headquarters a place open to the public, phone numbers you can call, e-mails you can write to and a whole bunch of other ways where the Panamanian citizen can get information on the project, there’s been a real animosity to the whole thing because of the people’s distrust of the government. Martin Torrijos’ rule over Panama has been very hit-and-miss, stumbling many a time but ultimately getting done what’s best for the country. The Panama Canal modernization is no exception: the zeitgeist points to the fact that they don’t trust the government because if they vote “yes” on the project they would be handing over 5 BILLION DOLLARS to have the project made. Even though the ACP says that those funds come from the income the Panama Canal has been receiving ever since it came back to Panamanian hands, there are reports that say that the statement is not true. The same people who say that also say that it’s not necessary to modernize the Canal yet. I don’t know about you, but the Panama Canal is the only really good thing we’ve going for ourselves and we’re doing pretty good at administering it. There’s a serious risk of our beloved Canal to stop being a competitor when you have people planning similar, more modern projects in various points of the continent and if we don’t get with the times we’ll loose our one real pride and joy… the only thing that’s giving us any real money. I don’t know whether to attribute it to distrust or ignorance, but voting “no” just because the government is saying you should vote “yes” is rather childish and moronic. Of course, voting “yes” because your government tells you it’s good for you is just as bad… both instances are repulsive, more so due to the fact that a lot of people have chosen to think in either of these 2 ways. The elections are going to be insane… this thing’s big, and it’ll cause big riots.

Nobody seems to be able to compromise, here. It’s like we’re children as a society, and the statement seems appropriate considering we’re merely over 100 years old as a country. Acting like children is what we do.


    […] world has ever known. We’re not as […] I’ve touched on this topic before here and here, but I want to address this particular stain in Panama’s white dress; the public […]

  • Way too many strikes here in Panama. Where are the Old Noriega death squads when you need them?

  • i would hope that “the culture” would find some way to rise above these so called LEADERS.

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