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Citizens Protest Over Covid-19 Policies and Police Aggressively Arrest

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Outcry over police response to student protests


Posted 17/12/2020

Calls for the resignation of Panama’s Security Minister and Police Chief are among condemnations voiced Thursday, December 17over the detention of university students by the National Police after a demonstration on Wednesday afternoon when TV footage showed a girl protester being punched in the face by a second lieutenant, handcuffed students being beaten and a journalist roughed up.


The Foundation for the Development of Citizen Freedom, The Panama chapter of Transparency International (TI), denounced "the repressive actions and abuses of the National Police" who detained a group of young people "who made use of their right to demonstrate, as contemplated in our Constitution ”.

“Not only do the images that have flooded communications on networks and the news show disproportionate actions against the unarmed civilian population, but multiple reports indicate denial or unjustified delay to the right to defense, by not allowing young people, once detained, to have timely access to their lawyers,” the organization said in a statement.

According to the Foundation, "these actions by the National Police are not isolated, they echo the disproportionate repressions that took place a year ago against young protesters - who opposed the absurd constitutional amendments drawn up by deputies of the National Assembly - and join multiple authoritarian actions, which ignore the civil and political human rights of citizens ”.

It stressed that the rights contemplated by the Constitution are still in force for the country's inhabitants and demanded that the National Police and the Public Ministry initiate administrative and criminal investigations against the police and the guidelines involved and "that these acts do not go unpunished."

It also demanded that the president and the Cabinet Council review the actions of the Ministry of Security and the security forces under his administration and that the ministry be led by citizens with civil and human rights training, not military, "to remember that our Constitution states that "the Republic of Panama will not have an army."

It asked the Ombudsman's Office to comply ex officio with its constitutional mandate and to be "the voice of the voiceless in front of the State Power."

“Within fundamental Human Rights is freedom of expression, and international instruments today recognize the right of access to public information as an inherent part of freedom of expression rights. This right is not in quarantine either, although in multiple cases documented by the media, organizations, and citizens, during the pandemic officials unjustifiably delay or do not respond to requests for access to public information. The emergency decrees did not suspend this right either and we demand its faithful fulfillment and that the National Authority for Transparency and Access to Public Information fulfill its role of demanding it, ”the organization added.

27 people, including four minors, were arrested on Wednesday afternoon after protests in the vicinity of the National Assembly because the bonds of the Panama Solidario program were taken away from those under 25 years of age.

José Miguel Vivanco, director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch, also spoke out respecting the statements of the Police Director, Jorge Miranda, who said that university student Ileana Correa was denounced for allegedly attacking an agent.

Vivanco said that in a video the student leader is repeatedly beaten in the face by a second lieutenant while she is surrounded by soldiers. "That is brutality and cannot be justified," he said.

Vivanco also referred to the aggression suffered by the EFE agency photographer, Bienvenido Velasco, while he was covering the demonstration.. "The Police and the Ministry of Security must investigate these events and punish those responsibly," he said.

Tthe EFE news agency also spoke out regarding the blows Velasco suffered. “The EFE Editorial Board expresses its solidarity with Velasco, a photojournalist for the Agency in Panama, who was attacked by the police while doing his work. Violence against journalists is inadmissible ”.

The provisional Board of Directors of the Panamanian Association of Foreign Press Correspondents (Acopep) , said that Velasco “was surrounded, intimidated, shaken and beaten by police units while covering the detention of several protesters in the framework of the protests ”, an attack that he suffered“ despite presenting his credentials. ”

The association urged the competent authorities "to take the appropriate measures to guarantee the safety of foreign press correspondents and colleagues from national media during the protests and to avoid this type of abuse, which does not benefit the international image of a country" .

The National Council of Journalism and the Forum of Journalists said that they have observed with "great concern" the way in which the Police, under the direction of Miranda, "act disproportionately and violate the right to coverage, which constitutes an attack on the free exercise of our profession ”.

In the note, they demanded President Cortizo and the corresponding authorities to carry out investigations and take "forceful measures" to prevent the continuation of "constant police actions" that violate fundamental rights and freedoms.

"The complaints are very serious and cannot be taken lightly: people who have already been handcuffed and restrained cannot be repressed and beaten," the statement added.



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Governnment backpeddles on benefits after student protests


María Inés Castillo

Posted 18/12/2020

The Executive  has back-peddled on a week old decree and once again included those under 25 years of age, who are dependents, in the program to receive the digital voucher in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The reconsideration decree. was issued on Friday, December 11.

The original exclusion measure provoked a strong reaction from groups of young people, especially university students, who demanded in the streets the right to continue being part of the solidarity plan

 The protests of the young people were repressed by the National Police, who arrested 27 people. The police action was described by various sectors as police abuse.

Now, a week later,  this group of young people will be allowed to collect the digital voucher, whose value is $100, redeemable in supermarkets.

"This Government evaluates its actions and reconsiders them in cases where it finds them prudent, reasonable, and valid, so in that sense, we are restoring said benefit to about 125,000 students who attend official universities," said the Minister of Social Development María Inés Castillo.


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Protect and Serve abuse


Posted 18/12/2020

During the pandemic, the National Police have systematically abused their force. The images released Wednesday afternoon and night of riot police beating unarmed, reduced and immobilized young people at close range, are intolerable and a shame for the institution.

These actions are comparable to the daily abuses committed by the anti-riot agents of the defunct Defense Forces during the worst moments of the military dictatorship. In the pandemic, these abuses have been systematic, invariable and almost planned, in open and unpunished violation of the human rights of citizens, especially against young people, the motor of protests, tired of government abuse and neglect.

This National Police, under the command of Jorge Miranda, looks more like an army of internal occupation, something that does not seem to bother the ruling party, the PRD, which was the political arm of a caste of gorillas that ruled us for more than 30 years reports La Prensa.

Faced with this repeated violation of human rights, the head of the National Police reacts by almost justifying these excesses of power and force, and the Government, beginning with the President of the Republic, is complicitly silent. Just two months after the President signed the Declaration of Chapultepec, again another journalist suffers the aggression of the Police and nothing happens. At the same time, the institutionality of the Republic - with a blind Supreme Court and a National Assembly prey to patronage - continues to weaken in the face of aggressive police brutality in this pandemic. Who can the ordinary citizen turn to in the face of this level of official savagery? To the Public Ministry? The National Police itself? To the Presidency of the Republic? Very little can be expected from these institutions.

Frankly, the lack of action of the President of the Republic leads us to think that he protects someone who should be immediately removed from office, since this official does nothing more than stain the uniform he wears, embarrass the authorities committed to human rights and trample his jury duty to the citizens: protect and serve.


Video: EFE




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Chamber of Commerce demands accountability for police action


Posted 20/12/2020

The Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture (CCIAP) demanded that the authorities respect citizens' rights, and enforce the law, without repression and for accountability.

 In the midst of the situation we live in, acts of violence against the population are inconceivable; as well as actions that violate the rights of third parties, both by the authorities and by citizens. They are to be condemned in any circumstance ”, said a CCIAP statement .on Sunday, December 20.

Last Wednesday, during a protest on the Cinta Costera,  Second Lieutenant of the National Police Yulia Garcés gave several punches to the student Ileana Corea, when she had already been apprehended by other agents. 

In addition, the EFE photojournalist, Bienvenido Velasco, was attacked while covering the events. In total, 27 youths were detained that day, but the justices of the peace released them without charge.

“We demand timely accountability from the authorities; as well as promoting a culture of peace and dialogue in strict compliance with the law, ”said the business group.

On the vertiginous increase in cases of   Covid-19 the, CCIAP reiterated the call to “strictly adopt biosafety measures, which have proven to be the first protection barrier, while we insist on the need for the mandatory use of the face screen in public transport.



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