Panama archbishop trusts talks will solve protests over fuel prices

Dialogue between protesters and the government of Panama. Dialogue between protesters and the government of Panama. | Archdiocese of Panama

"I believe in the good will of all of us Panamanians and there is no other tool to find solutions than dialogue," Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta of Panama told the local press at the start of the process of the talks to end the protests against the government over increases in the price of fuel and food.

At the government’s request, talks began July 14 with the country’s president, Laurentino Cortizo, and government officials participating, and with the Catholic Church acting as mediator.

However, due to mistrust of the government, the absence of various social sectors leading the demonstrations was noted.

Given this scenario, Archbishop Ulloa, who participated in the talks, emphasized that he believes "in the good will of all and that all of us in one way or another are pushing for Panama to be different."

"Let's take advantage of this, although at this time we can’t really understand what is happening," the prelate encouraged.

Also, at the request of some trade associations that the roundtable talks take place outside the capital, the archbishop said that "we can speak of a single table, but also with different realities."

In addition, he stressed "that today we must seek to listen to each other because by listening to each other, we will find the solution together."

The Communications and Press Office of the Archdiocese of Panama said in a statement that the Facilitation Team of the Church at the "Dialogue for Panama" thanked all those who contributed to analyzing the real situation of the various social sectors and proposing solutions.

"By understanding the legitimacy of the citizens’ actions, we hope to identify the social actors, and open lines of communication with them that facilitate solutions," he said.

Given the shortages  of "some food products and fuel due to the closure of streets, avenues, highways" by protesters, the bishops asked that the sick be allowed freely to access medical care.

"We urge our brothers to, at least intermittently, allow the opening of roads that facilitate the transit of patients who require health services, as well as the transfer of food, gasoline and diesel."

The next meeting of the general roundtable talks is scheduled for July 18. The location will be determined shortly by the Church Facilitation Team.

Protests, strikes, and roadblocks began more than a week ago with demands from various sectors for cheaper fuel, greater investment in schools, and control of public spending, among other problems.

The government said a few days ago that the price of fuel and some basic foods would be frozen, and presented state austerity measures.

However, this did not placate the demonstrations and protests continue despite the establishment of talks to resolve the crisis.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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