Panama Protests

Protests in Panama: What is Really Happening?

Last Updated on July 25, 2022 by Retire in Panama

Panama Protests
July 18th National Strike Day Protest Parade

Many of you may have been seeing on the news or in your social media feeds about some protests happening in Panama. Unfortunately, a lot of what you are seeing in the media is the exaggerated negative side of the truth, sometimes even fake news. We don’t want to sugarcoat what is going on with protests, but we do want to give you a clear picture format in this blog posts of what is actually going on, and how it is affecting expats here.

To be clear, the country of Panama is NOT shut down. There is NO martial law in the streets. Protestors are NOT burning down government buildings, and looting an entire downtown section of a city. Protestors are NOT storming the Assembly, trying to take over a government. The Panamanian people are exercising their constitutional right to peacefully protest against things they feel the government is doing wrong.

The Protests have always been a way for the Panamanian people to let their Government know they are not happy with something. Protests are generally peaceful, with no rioting, usually just marching with signs and blocking traffic. Unfortunately, when you get large numbers of people blocking vehicles trying to get by, you will have problems, and there have been a few violent confrontations.

There were major protests, with violence back in January 1964 with Martyrs’ Day, and of course during the Noriega years in the 1980s. Besides these two major times, Panama has mostly been known as a peaceful nation. Panama has almost 120 years of not having a civil war. It has had a democratic transition for 32 years, where whoever wins the election assumes power.

It has immigrants from all over the world living in peace without violence against them. We have Catholics, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Evangelicals, Atheists, and all other beliefs living here without religious violence. We do not have mass shootings in our malls, theaters, discos, or, God forbid, our schools. Currently, we have protests; although they do close the roads and cause inconvenience, they are not full of violence like other countries.

For the past two weeks, several groups, construction, teachers, health care workers’ unions, and the indigenous people have been protesting by marching on the streets and blocking roads. In fact, the Pan-American Highway, which runs across the country, has not been passable much in the last two weeks. They have opened it up a few times for gas and food to get through, but that is about it. This highway is the only road to cross Panama, with no way to drive around it.

The Government has been negotiating and already has offered and put into place $3.25 a gallon for gas (which went into effect last week) and

Protests in Panama 2022
You will often see smoke and fire at Panama roadblocks, they burn stuff in barrels and wood on the road. They are not burning private or public property

a price cap on 36 basic food items, called the basic food basket. Their demands started with lower fuel and food costs; then, the list got bigger and bigger as the days went on and other groups joined. Now that they have the first two items, they are concentrating on corruption in the government and more spending on education and health. The Government has agreed to continue to negotiate.

A one-day countrywide strike was held on Monday, July 18, and almost shut down Panama City with road closures. Since then, the problems are basically in the center of the country, near Santiago and west towards David, with the indigenous population still blocking the roads for more demands. The unions have agreed to remove the roadblocks, so the negotiation on other issues can continue, but the indigenous have not.

What shocking images are truthful that you have seen, mostly on social media? Are police cars burning? After protestors and police left an area in Santiago, a police car was left behind. A group of teens, not even part of the protests, stole the car and lit it on fire, and that, of course, makes for an excellent headline to sell the news. Also, a couple of people got hit by cars, and social media was quick to report their deaths. We are glad to report that they did not die and are recovering in hospital and wish them a speedy recovery.

There have been just social media posts of martial law and the US sending warships. Just really out there stuff that, of course, is not true

Here in Chiriqui, where we live, we have not seen much of anything for protesting besides a couple of days in the beginning in David. Roads between Boquete, Volcan, and David are open, business almost as normal, except for the long lines at gas stations when a truck gets through.

Police Escorted a 100 Truck Convoy with goods for Panama City

In Panama City now, it has been mostly calm after last Monday, and the biggest problem is the lack of fruit and vegetables, which all come from Chiriqui. Although a police escorted convoy of 100 trucks arrived in Panama City on Friday, which will help things. Even yesterday, the highway from Panama City to Coronado was open to getting to the beaches. But the interior remains closed to traffic, but you can fly from Panama City to David.

Should you come to Panama now if you have a trip booked? Well, that depends. If you were planning on coming to Panama and driving across the country to check it out yourself, I would say NO, not possible now. Suppose you are coming to Panama City to do something in Panama City, or to the Coronado area. In that case, you may be able to come. If you have a professional guide in Panama City you are working with, contact them for assistance and advice.

We had a tour group booked to arrive last Thursday, so we met with them all on Zoom the week before and told them that they should delay their trip by a month as we could not provide everything on our tour for them. But, they still wanted to come. So, we worked out an itinerary that showed them everything in Panama, except for the interior, and they all decided to come.

They have been here for four days, some five or six, as they arrived early, and none of them have seen a protester or a roadblock. They had a great tour of all the sites in Panama City, spent a day in the Coronado area looking at rentals, and met other expats.

This afternoon they fly to David with Oscar, where they spend the night, and tomorrow at a beach resort for the day, then off to Boquete on Tuesday. So, it can be done if you have experts on the ground knowing what is going on and coordinating things.

There have been other tour operators in Panama City still doing their jobs and servicing their customers, just keeping an eye on Waze and Google maps for any roadblocks around them.

So what happens next? That is hard to tell. Over the last week, there have been fewer and fewer protests in Panama City, and most of the road is passable now from Panama City to Santiago. The problem is from Santiago to David, which remains blocked by the indigenous, and talks are going on as we speak, so we hope for progress.

Being a part of Panama life, protests will always be around Panama. They just cannot continue on this scale. When you block the goods and services from moving about this country, it hurts everyone and costs the economy millions. So we hope a resolution is reached very soon, and one that will ensure this does not happen again.

And to the Panamanian people, your protest has worked. Panama now has $3.25 per gallon of gas, $0.87/L, and a 20 – 30% reduction in the basic food basket. The Government is forced to cut its expenses to pay for this, thus reducing corruption.

Let’s look at some of the great things Panama has which make this a great country to live in. We have to congratulate the Panamanian people Protests in Panama 2022 and their country on achieving these things. Still, of course, there is more to do.

  • With the $3.25/gallon for gas, Panama will have the cheapest gasoline in Central America. And much less than North America.
  • Panama’s minimum wage is among the highest in Latin America.
  • Over the past 15 years, Panama has had the region’s highest rate of economic growth.
  • Panama has a progressive tax system, in which those who make less than $11,000 per year pay no income taxes, and those who make less than $50,000 each year only have to pay 15% of their salary.
  • Lower and middle-income property owners (value under $120,000) pay $0 in property taxes.
  • The 25-pound liquefied propane is $5.37, which has been discounted for years and is the region’s cheapest.
  • Government subsidies allow Panamanian families with two full-time minimum wage workers to purchase a new house. They can pay nothing or very little down, with a low-interest rate.

Many of these things mentioned above were brought about by peaceful protests.

As we move forward from today, we look forward to things getting back to normal. We look forward to a better life for the Panamanian people in this country many of us expats call home.


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One Comment

  1. Thank you for posting this! You never know who or what to believe in the Media, frankly I dont believe much of it anyway. This is real life truth. I pray that everything gets worked out in Panama, seems like a beautiful place!

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