One Dead in Panama Protests

PANAMA – One person was killed, more than 100 others injured and dozens arrested in clashes between demonstrators and police in the western Panamanian city of Changuinola, authorities said Thursday.

The confrontations began early on Thursday after the city’s main streets were blocked off by workers for the Bocas Fruit Company, who are protesting against new government measures that restrict protests and the right to strike.

Police spokesman Jairo Polo told Efe that the dead man was identified as Antonio Smith, 30, a leader of the banana workers union, but he did not provide any details regarding the circumstances of his death.

Sources at the office of President Ricardo Martinelli said he called an emergency Cabinet meeting and sent his chief of staff, Demetrio Papadimitriu, to Changuinola, to speak with the protesters.

Channel 2 television reported that the city is almost out of food and lacks supplies at the regional hospital after seven days of demonstrations that were begun originally because the Bocas Fruit Company didn’t pay its workers.

Operations at the Manuel Niño airport have also been affected with demonstrators stoning the facility along with other buildings, the TV channel reported.

The workers are protesting against a law recently approved by the government that allows punishment of up to two years in prison for people found guilty of blocking streets during demonstrations and another one limiting the exercise of the right to strike, as well as modifying other labor regulations. EFE

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