Panama: Retirees Protest With Street Closures

President Ricardo Martinelli has had a turbulent and controversial term in office. One of the latest problems he has had to face is the raise in pensions that retirees have been asking for. Street closures and peaceful protests have marked the demands of this group.

The reaction from the majority of Panamanians has been of disapproval as they have to suffer the traffic congestion caused by these protests. Almost all reactions on Twitter are against these forceful measures that affect everyone. However, there are also those who see the street closures as the only viable option.

Photos courtesy of Joao Q

Photo by Joao Q. Used with permission

Blogger Joao Q tells us in his blog Medio Cerrado [es] that despite the little acceptance the street closures have had, in reality it is the only way to draw attention and be heard:

No entraré a discutir si quienes protestan de esta manera están en lo correcto o no, lo que si puedo decir es que en el tiempo que estuve presenciando esta  protesta todo se llevo en forma pacífica y hasta alegre. El buen humor de los jubilados, la guitarra y el sancocho de huesos ayudaron mucho. Por otro lado ¿Cree Usted que si la gente protesta en las aceras alguien les prestaría atención?

I will not get into discussing if those that protest in this way are in the right or not, what I can say is that during the time I was witnessing this protest everything took place in a peaceful and even happy manner. The good mood of the retirees, the guitar and the bones’ sancocho (a type of stew) helped a lot. On the other hand, do you think that if people protested in the sidewalks anyone would pay attention?

Emily Garibaldi (@EmilyG18) expresses displeasure with the constant inconveniences:

Queridos Nietos e hijos de los jubilados revoltosos: AMARRENLOS PA KE NO CIERREN LAS CALLES! Atte, Pueblo Panameño.

Dear grandsons and sons of the revolting retirees: TIE THEM UP SO THEY DON'T CLOSE THE STREETS! Kindly, the Panamanian people.

Zhopisticat (@Zhopisticat) reveals discontent with having to pay the consequences of unfulfilled campaign promises:

y ¿por qué no cierran la entrada de la casa del sr. Martinelli mejor?… Me parece un ambiente más apropiado para jubilados.

Why don't they close the entrance to the house of Mr. Martinelli then?… That looks to me like a more appropriate place for retirees.

Emila A. Dixon A. (@Em_Dix) alludes to the month of national celebration to ask for a stop to the street closures:

empezamos el mes de la Patria y ni en consideración a eso…dejan la cerradera de calles!!!

we start the month of national celebration and not even in consideration of that…they stop the street closures!!!

The first of November the retirees once again closed Via Transístmica, one of the main roads in the capital city. This triggered an immediate alert to look for alternate routes. The site (@cocoas_net) published in its Twitter page a warning to citizens:

¡Atención! Los jubilados cierran nuevamente la Transísmica hace 45 minutos. Tomen sus precauciones.

Attention! The retirees closed once again the Transísmica 45 minutes ago. Take your precautions.
Photos courtesy of Joao Q

Photo by Joao Q. Used with permission

The protest lasted approximately one hour. Afterward, the retirees’ leader, Eladio Fernández, declared the end of the protest as he had received a call guaranteeing that the raise they are asking for will happen for sure. That's how Kathyria Caicedo reported it in the web page Telemetro [es]:

En medio del cierre de la vía Transístmica, Fernández informó a sus compañeros de lucha que había recibido una llamada de Juan Carlos Illueca, secretario de asuntos públicos de la Presidencia, informándole sobre la seguridad de que recibirán los 50 dólares de aumento.

In the middle of the via Transístmica closure, Fernández informed his partners in this fight that he had received a call from Juan Carlos Illueca, secretary of public affairs for the Presidency, assuring him that they would receive their 50 dollar increase.

However, Panamanians reacted with anger to the concession of the retirees’ petitions. In the web site Prensa [es] the opinions about the news were full of displeasure and very heated. For example Absoluto [es] thinks that this raise puts in danger the stability of future retirees:

No se les puede dar aumento, seria jugar con las prestaciones de los que no nos hemos jubilado, entiéndase que la jubilación no es un salario es un ahorro que se hizo durante toda una vida y de acuerdo a este ahorro te corresponde las mensualidades, depende de cuánto ahorraste de cuanto te tocará, respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz.

They can not be given a raise, that would be playing with the benefits of those of us that have not retired, understand that retirement is not a salary it is savings that are made throughout a lifetime and in the measure of how much you have saved that is how much you will get, respect for other people's rights is peace.

On the same web site Israel [es] believes that the fault lies in the media for giving so much importance to the retirees’ protests, and questions the passivity of the forces in charge of maintaining order:

Que buen ejemplo le están dando a nuestra juventud, pero la culpa la tienen los medios por haberle dado tanto protagonismo a Eladio, un señor que no sabe ni hablar, ¿porque son ancianos no le tiran los anti motines?

What a great example they are setting for our youth, but the fault lies in the media for giving so much attention to Eladio, a man that does not even know how to speak. Because they are elderly they do not throw the riot police at them?

On the other hand, Kristopher Michael (@KrissMichael) shows his happiness and respect for the retirees:

Por fin!!! Mucho tiempo dejaron que los pobres jubilados estuvieran en las calles!!!

At last!!! Too long they let the poor retirees be in the streets!!!

The main question is: Where will the funds to pay the retirees come from? Jose Ureña's (@JocUrenaG) fear is understandable when he answers this question with:

más impuestos. El prometió tanto, q no sabe d donde sacar el dinero. Si lo sacara de su cuenta de banco a nadie le molestaría!

more taxes. He [Martinelli] promised so much, that he does not know where he is going to get the money from. If he took it out of his personal bank account no one would be bothered by it!
Hannah McKeeth Moreno contributed to this post.

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