Second Panamanian banana worker killed in clashes with police

July 10

PANAMA CITY, Jul. 10, 2010 (Xinhua News Agency) — A second person was killed Saturday in clashes between striking banana workers and riot police in the western Panamanian city of Changuinola, said Minister of the Presidency Demetrio Papadimitriu.

The victim, a worker who participated in the street protest for better payment and rights, was shot by police buckshot and died in hospital, said Papadimitriu.

So far the conflict has caused two deaths. And at least 105 people were injured while another 115 were arrested.

The cause of the first victim who died on Thursday has not yet clarified, said Papadimitriu.

TV footage showed there were dozens of bleeding gun-wounds on the back of a worker and many people had been shot in their eyes. At least 47 workers were sent to the capital Panama City for treatment because of eye injuries.

Protesting workers required President Ricardo Martinelli to go to Changuinola and to have dialogue with them.

Papadimitriu said the three police officers who had been held hostage by striking workers since last Thursday were released.

Panama’s labor union announced a nationwide strike on Tuesday to support Changuinola’s striking workers. But more than 100 of whom participating in the discussion over the national strike were arrested immediately after the meeting.

Talks between the government and Changuinola’s banana union members with mediation of a priest have not started, but the final negotiation could begin in the next few hours, said Papadimitriu, who came to the city to mediate the conflict.

Changuinola, with a population of 50,000, is the capital of the western province of Bocas del Toro. In the past three days more than 7,000 banana workers clashed with riot police.

The workers are demanding a better payment and the repeal of the so-called “law chorizo” which was recently approved by the government. The law includes restrictions on the right to strike and limits the rights of workers to join trade unions.

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