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Panama: A Country For Sale

Panama is for sale: or at least that is how a large group of Panamanians see the situation after watching with indignation how President Ricardo Martinelli‘s government is aiming to liquidate a large portion of state assets.

The state of Panama owns 49% of telephony in Panama; the other 49% belongs to a British company Cable & Wireless and the remaining 2% belongs to the company's employees. The state also has shares in electrical companies; however, the government has decided to sell 24% of its shares in both companies. The people of Panama have reacted with outrage.

Erick Simpson tells us his point of view in his blog Pma507Pty Panamá Blog [es]:

Cual si de un baratillo de liquidación por cierre se tratara, el gobierno de turno se ha dado a la tarea de rematar los últimos activos en los que el Estado tiene participación en las empresas mixtas. Para comenzar, los “honorables” padrastros de la patria, “legalizaron” a hurtadillas, de espaldas al pueblo, y en plena madrugada, la venta de las acciones que el Estado posee en las empresas de distribución y generación eléctrica, y el Consejo de Gabinete autorizó al MEF a presentar a la Asamblea Nacional una modificación a la ley que restructuró el Instituto Nacional de Telecomunicaciones, con el propósito de rematar el 49% del capital social que el Estado posee en la empresa Cable & Wireless y depositar el 25% del producto de dicho remate, en el recién creado FAP.

If we were dealing with a closing down sale, the current government has given itself the task of liquidating the last assets the state owns in joint ventures. To start with, the “honourable” stepfathers of the country “legalised” the sale of shares in distribution and electrical companies owned by the state in secret, behind our backs, under the cover of darkness. The Cabinet Council also authorised the Ministry of Economy and Finance to present a modification to the law to the National Assembly that restructured the National Institute of Telecommunications, with the intention of liquidating 49% of the social capital which the state owns in Cable & Wireless and depositing 25% of the proceeds to that liquidation, in the newly established Savings Fund of Panama (FAP).

"Dear Politicians, If you really want to sell something, why don't you have a garage sale in your house? Panama is not for sale! Enough…"

Outrage has reached astonishing levels since two historically conflicting parties have created a united “front for democracy”. The Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), founded by General Omar Torrijos, has formed an alliance with the Panameñista Party, founded by Arnulfo Arias Madrid, who was president of Panama until a coup d'état led by Torrijos and the Panamanian Public Forces. However, last weekend both parties “smoked the pipe of peace” and agreed to take a stand against the current government's intentions.

Some Panamanians gathered on Monday, June 19, 2012, in front of the Legislative Assembly, where legislators would discuss whether or not to allow the sale of these shares. The attendees and politicians from the opposition practically boycotted the session, which had to be cancelled and postponed until June 19. La Prensa [es] reports:

Las gradas frente al pleno legislativo quedaron abarrotadas este lunes. A las 12:45 p.m. se escuchó el canto del Himno Nacional al tiempo que los presentes ondearon banderas panameñas.

En tanto, los diputados de las bancadas de oposición se levantaron y se colocaron frente a la silla del presidente del Legislativo, alzando el emblema tricolor. En total, llevaban tres banderas grandes, cada una sostenida por dos diputados.

The stands located in front of the legislative plenary were packed this Monday. At 12:45 p.m. they began to sing the National Anthem while waving their Panamanian flags.

On the other hand, opposing party legislators stood up and placed themselves in front of the chair of the president of the National Assembly, carrying the flag. In total three flags were being carried, each one held by two legislators.

Panamanian netizens also showed their indignation and the hashtag No Vendan Panamá [es] (“Don't Sell Panama”) was created, where hundreds of Panamanian people expressed their displeasure at the way state assets are being treated.

Ana Lorrein J (@analorrainej) [es] sees a deep-rooted problem in the matter that goes further than political class and touches the roots of Panamanian society:

La clase política es un reflejo de esta sociedad de solo importo yo y los demás que se jodan…

The political classes are a reflection of our society where only “I” matters and the rest can screw themselves…

Karen Chalmers (@karen_chalmers) [es] asked the president to avoid confrontations between Panamanian people:

Sr. Presidente, se lo rogamos, por nosotros, nuestros hijos, nuestro amado Panamá! Recapacite y evite nuevos enfrentamientos entre panameños.

Dear President, We ask you, on behalf of ourselves, our children, and our beloved Panama, to reconsider and avoid clashes between Panamanians.

The day ended with a march in which thousands of Panamanian people asked the government to stop the sales. La Prensa [es] sums it up:

Sin embargo, unas mil 500 personas se sumaron a la manifestación más tarde. Con la actividad se pretende ponerle un alto a las más recientes actuaciones del presidente de la República, Ricardo Martinelli.

However, some 1,500 people joined the demonstration later. The aim was to put a stop to the most recent activities of Ricardo Martinelli, the President of the Republic.

The sessions in the Assembly were scheduled to resume on June 19. Meanwhile, the people of Panama were still waiting to see what might happen with these government initiatives, ready to voice their opinion about the outcome on the internet and in the streets.

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