Newspaper warns of unrest in Colón, rest of Panamá

The Panamá News warned Sunday of unrest and a general strike today in the city of Colón and other possible unpleasantness that might  extend north to Chiriqui, Bocas and Veraguas. There was a riot Friday in Colón, and a 9-year-old boy died from police bullets, the newspaper said.

Editor Eric Jackson said that the strike would last at least two days. It has been called by business, labor, civic and community groups and even the Colón Chamber of Commerce. The dispute is over a law that would allow the sale of state land in a free zone.

“It’s not particularly safe to go to Colon,” wrote Jackson. “There have been roadblocks set up by both protesters and police, and gun battles in which  people from both sides have fired shots and in which there have been casualties on both sides and the one person who was killed was a nine-year-old boy who was not involved on either side but was gunned down by police ‘special forces’ who appeared to be randomly shooting at any available human target in a residential neighborhood.”

The newspaper also said that different factions in the Ngabe-Bugle Comarca are calling for big public meetings and it may turn out to be another contest between the officially elected general cacique, Silvia Carrera, and the traditional general cacique, Celio Guerra. The native groups have blocked the main highways in western Panamá near the Costa Rican border in the past.

“Anywhere in Panama, there is an increased possibility of drivers being delayed by protesters blocking the roads,” said Jackson.

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