Panama protests help delay controversial utility firm sales

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Panama protests help delay controversial utility firm sales

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Panama’s President Ricardo Martinelli has delayed plans to sell the government’s stakes in several utility companies after a day of protests.

Workers clashed with police on several occasions after political opponents staged rallies outside the national assembly building in the capital Panama City.

Critics say plans to use the cash from the sales to fund infrastructure projects is floored.

“We are calling for an end to the corruption of the Martinelli government and against the false opposition. They don’t represent us,” said Saul Mendez, Secretary-General of the Workers’ Union.

“We should call on the people to end, once and for all, this shamelessness, this thievery,” he added.

A security fence was placed round the parliament building after scuffles between government and opposition lawmakers in the gallery on Monday.

Separately, planned changes to judges on Panama’s Supreme Court are also causing controversy in the country.

Martinelli has now withdrawn two controversial bills relating to both issues and called on the Catholic church to mediate talks between the government and its political opponents.