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Panamanian Agricultural Producer's Crisis

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OPINION: Panama’s agricultural crisis

Farmers protest imports
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The agricultural sector, the backbone of the country’s food security, is cornered. The crisis of conjuncture has many loose ends that revolve around unfulfilled promises and the management of government that has taken the Panamanian agriculture to a critical condition. The rice silos are full of imported grain, which does not give space to national production. At the same time, the specialized laboratories that are needed to provide the analyzes to be able to export meat are not yet in operation. This is another chapter of the same saga that in previous governments had as protagonist the Dutch onion, and currently the rice of Guyana. There is no transparency in agricultural institutions, and government actions punish and discourage national production. Agriculture should not be the object of subsidies that only maintain a precarious situation, but of strategic investments and the stability of public policies that facilitate profitability and competitiveness that has been denied to this potential giant of the Panamanian economy. Not everything can be logistics and tourism since someone has to produce what we eat. The agricultural sector needs respect and men and women who keep their word.- LA PRENSA, Dec. 13


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Panamanian Union Declared Against Producers Repression

Sat, 12/22/2018 - 18:44


Today, the Panamanian Society of Engineers and Architects (SPIA) demanded that the Panamanian government "to desist from confrontation and threats", and to give "the welcome to the sensible dialogue", after the detentions and repression that occurred last Tuesday against producers of the agricultural sector.

Through a communiqué to the country, the SPIA, one of the most representative private associations in the country, fought for this dialogue to be conducted "without preconditions" and with the responses demanded by the agricultural sector.

Last Tuesday a group of producers demonstrated in the area of Divisa, central province of Herrera, to ask for the cessation of excessive imports by the authorities since they are affecting domestic production.

The protest generated that riot unit to act after the protesters violated the vehicle that transported the ministers of Agricultural Development and Security, Eduardo Carles and Jonathan del Rosario, sent by the Government to dialogue with producers.

The violent protest, in addition to the repression against the producers, ended with the arrest of at least six demonstrators.

"The detention of six producers for the sole purpose of asserting their constitutional right of protest is an extreme and undemocratic measure that offers no room for concord nor dialogue, but rather generates an atmosphere of terror and uncertainty that does not help the democracy that we all have to build for Panama, "the SPIA said in its manifesto.

The communiqué of the union, which bears the signature of its president Gustavo Bernal, makes it clear that "democracy in every Rule of Law is consolidated through dialogue and the exchange of ideas that lead both the governed and the rulers to find appropriate solutions to the problems that have a negative impact on national development. "

However, the SPIA observes with concern how these democratic precepts have been distorted against one of the representative sectors of the primary economy and that it represents the food sovereignty of the country like the agricultural sector.

SPIA affirms that this sector is in a serious crisis today due to the lack of responses from the Panamanian government to a series of market distortions, which threaten the subsistence of thousands of peasant families that depend on it and, therefore, the food of an entire population.

Also, this organization highlights that "the repression is not the ideal tool to address the country's enormous problems, especially when it is used against citizens who defend national interests, threatened by an economic policy aimed at destroying the agricultural sector."

In the same way, he points out that the slogan of "People First", promoted by President Juan Carlos Varela during his political campaign, "it was made in a reality and not in another illusion of disappointment and absence of leadership".

Meanwhile, the authorities denounced on Tuesday night that a small group of infiltrators, opposed to the government, caused the demonstration of the producers to lead to riots, which put an end to the dialogue that was going to take place with representatives of the sector.

The ministers Carles as Del Rosario, as well as the Minister of the Presidency, Jorge Gonzalez, in a press conference condemned the "acts of physical aggression" and "violence" that were raised against the authorities.

President Juan Carlos Varela said that day that he would not allow acts of this nature and attributed to the intrusion of partisan politics in the protests of agricultural producers, in order to get votes for the next election.

As well as the SPIA, other social, business and political organizations have declared against the repression suffered by rural workers this week, who reject the neoliberal policies and trade agreements of the governments that put them at a disadvantage and that is causing the disappearance of the sector.



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Peaceful protests and acts of violence are two different things. These guys were out of control, destroying public and private property and causing personal injuries. They deserve to have been locked up.


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Judge Imposes Measures on Producers Involved in Violent Protest in Panama

Sun, 12/23/2018 - 10:52


The six producers involved in a violent protest, held on Tuesday, December 18 in the central area of Divisa, were imposed measures of periodic notification and refused to allow them to leave the country by a judge of guarantees, informed this Saturday the local press.

According to journalistic reports, the judge of guarantees of the province of Herrera, Zeddy Ureña, applied these measures to the producers Elias Marciaga, Alberto Martinez, Luis Miguel Chavez, Leonys Peralta, Pedro Vidal, and Carlos Aviles, after being attributed four charges, among them, disorder on the public highway, attempted kidnapping and disrespect for authority.

The producers were arrested on December 18 in Divisa, in the central province of Herrera, after a demonstration by representatives of the agricultural sector against the excessive imports to the country and that are affecting farm workers.

In the confrontations with riot units, the producers retained the ministers of Security and Agricultural Development, Jonattan Del Rosario and Eduardo Enrique Carles, who came to the site as representatives of the Government to enter into a dialogue with a view to resolving the crisis facing the agricultural sector.

"The judge of guarantees considered illegal the way in which the producers were removed from their homes, handcuffed, and, although, the prosecution requested a measure of deprivation of liberty due to the risk of flight and destruction of evidence, the judge denied it because it was considered excessive ", published the newspaper La Estrella de Panama.

Before the violent acts that took place last Tuesday in Divisa, the Panamanian Society of Engineers and Architects (SPIA) demanded today the Panamanian government to "desist from the confrontation and the threats", and that it gives "the welcome to the sensible dialogue."

During the week several organizations also spoke out against the repressive attitude that was experienced with the agricultural workers, a sector that is mired in a permanent crisis after the trade agreements that government administrations have negotiated with other countries.

Several sectors of the country, after condemning the repressive action of last Tuesday, also requested that a dialogue should be established "without preconditions" and with the answers demanded by the agricultural sector.

Even the Church called both the government and the producers to engage in dialogue as one of the main ways to achieve consensus and for the welfare of this economic sector of the country.

The Permanent Committee of the Panamanian Synod expressed its concern about the levels of violence in which they have unleashed a series of protests in the agricultural sector that demand the evaluation of the signed trade agreements.

In the same way, the church recognized the abandonment in which the producers have remained. "Capital has been placed above the person, producing an abandonment of the land and the loss of the culture of work," said the bishops of the Panamanian Catholic Church.

For his part, the president of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela, said he has always been willing to dialogue, but will not allow acts of violence that affect public order and alter social peace.

"To four months of government I am not in the capacity of renegotiating Free Trade Agreements that were previously negotiated, "said the Panamanian leader in his personal Twitter account, highlighting local newspaper reports.



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A new day of producer’s protest is announced

Mon, 12/24/2018 - 10:09


A new day of protest at national level has been announced by producers for the next January 11, 2019, with the aim of demanding the Government to suspend harassment of producers through checkpoints of the National Police, the suspension of the proceedings of the Police leading to new arrests, as well as the withdrawal of all charges against the producers who have been prosecuted.

The decision of this new demonstration was announced during a General Assembly held on the night of this Saturday, December 22, by members of the Chapter of Los Santos of the National Association of Cattle Ranchers and the Cattle Ranchers Movement to the rescue, in which both were authorized boards of directors to coordinate with all organizations in the country this day of simultaneous protest in all provinces and counties.

They also announced other actions they will be taking, such as a vigil on Wednesday, December 26 at 10:00 am, at the installations of the Accusatory Criminal System of Chitre and at 2:00 pm a caravan departing from Santa Maria in Herrera.

In addition, the producers seek to "reiterate to the President the call to serious and responsible dialogue, directly with those who have been fighting in the streets, who will ultimately approve or reject their results, in the event that it is carried out."

It is worth remembering that these actions will be carried out after the confrontations registered on December 18 between members of the control of crowds and producers who were protesting in the Divisa sector, and after which several of the protesters were apprehended and imposed precautionary measures later.



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Agriculture producers plan four front Varela denunciation

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Simultaneous protests announced by agricultural producers for January 11 will be concentrated in four points nationwide says  a body which brings together some 29 organizations across the country.

They are protesting what they see as broken promises of President Juan Carlos Varela  to develop plans to stabilize the marketing of agricultural products

The protest locations are La Chorrera, Divisa, David and Azuero and they come a week before the first major influx of World Youth Day (WYD) pilgrims and world media outlets.

Aquiles Acevedo, coordinator of the United for Agro Movement said that in this demonstration the disagreement that the sector has with Varela will be made public. On August 16, 2018, the president promised to hold a meeting to evaluate the measures aimed at stabilizing the market of agricultural products in general.

In a statement, agricultural producers said they regret that after the violent events in Divisa, on December 18, President Varela “has not issued his reflections, much less called them to a meeting.”

They said that “for this reason, they will return to the streets to demand the first public servant (Varela) to fulfill his duties.”

The different Panamanian agricultural organizations are exhorting the country’s producers to participate in the demonstration on January 11, at the closest concentration point to their residences.

The dialogue between the producers and the government was broken on December 18, after confrontations in Divisa when 11 producers were arrested. Currently, eight of them face charges.



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Panamanian Government and producers will resume imports talks

Tue, 01/08/2019 - 12:42


The Panamanian Government announced today that, they will continue tomorrow the talks with producers on the sensitive issue of imports. The first approach, during last month, presented violent disturbances that the Administration attributed to infiltrators from opposition political sectors.

The Panamanian Minister of Agricultural Development, Eduardo Carles, with the Catholic Church represented by the Chitre Diocese of the central region, and the group United for the Dialogue, agreed to resume the talks tomorrow in Panama City.

"In this meeting not only the 9-points review presented by the producers in August 2018 will be resumed, but also the framework of different topics necessary to discuss will expand," said in a public statement the Ministry of Agricultural Development (Measure).

The agricultural portfolio reiterated its position of "keeping the doors open to dialogue" in order to reach, in consensus, the best decisions with the producers, which demand that the Government puts a stop to the excessive imports that affect this sector.

Producers of milk, meat, rice, and other items submitted last August to the Government a list of 9 petitions in which, among several points, they ask access to the national product market, durability, and stability for the agricultural sector, and engage with food safety.

However, producers complained about the lack of response from the Government and have made several protests in different parts of the country. The idea is to push the Government for a solution to the issue of imports.

On December 26, a Panama Court ratified the precautionary measures imposed on a group of producers allegedly involved in a protest against the government's import policy. That finished in riots in the central region of Divisa.

The Superior Court of Appeals maintained the measures of report every Friday before the Attorney General's Office of the central provinces of Cocle and Los Santos and leaving the country prohibition without judicial authorization to two producers who allegedly participated in these demonstrations last December 18.

The protest preceded mainly by farmers, occurred when high government officials sought dialogue with the producers.

The Government denounced that a small group of opposition infiltrators provoked the protest to end in riots. They wanted to put end to the dialogue taking place that day with this sector.

The incidents forced the riot units to act after the demonstrators, mainly cattle ranchers, besieged the vehicle that was transporting the ministers of Agricultural Development and Security, Eduardo Carles and Jonathan del Rosario, envoys of the Government to talk with the producers.

For next January 11, the producers, and other organized groups that support them have announced new actions to press for a response to the agriculture problem.



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Panamanian producers demand solutions for agricultural problems

Sat, 01/12/2019 - 11:25


Panamanian producers come back again on Friday to demand solutions to the problems of agriculture that, they denounce, this is "seriously affected" by imports, while the Government, which ends its five-year period in June 2019, assured will buy their products.

Producers of various items such as meat, dairy and rice, among others, held new demonstrations today, at least in the central province of Coclé, despite this week in meetings with the Government, with the mediation of the Catholic Church, they had been suggested to "lower the pressure" to seek consensus.

The resumption of dialogue on Tuesday came after last month's first rapprochement resulted in violent disturbances that the Administration attributed to infiltrators from opposition political sectors, and concluded on Thursday with the Government's commitment to withdraw complaints against the producers allegedly involved in these facts.

The parties also agreed on a "joint work commission to follow up on the agreements reached between the Government and producers, which should be presented at a future meeting with the President of the Republic", Juan Carlos Varela.

Even so, Rubén Ceballos, of the Association of Rice Producers of Coclé, told local television that the message they have for the president of the country, Juan Carlos Varela, is that "in what little he has left (mandate) solve the problems of agriculture", which is something "very complex and (in what) we need solutions".

"We do not need more lies, no more lies, we need you, president (Varela), to fix the nine points of the national producers" contained in the list of demands submitted last August, said Ceballos, who warned that if these points are breached "We go back to the streets".

In addition to the workers, there were also demonstrations today in support of the University of Panama by workers, teachers' unions and students.

Nelva Reyes, general secretary of the Central General Autonomous Workers of Panama (CGTP), said that the requirement is for the government to reach agreements with producers "to the extent that food security and food sovereignty is guaranteed."

For his part, the Panamanian Minister of Agricultural Development, Eduardo Carles, told reporters today that from the Government "we are going to define purchases this week of their dairy products for the whole 2019".

Carles affirmed that "national purchases will be made as has been done in these four years in other specific items such as rice".

"Guarantee that in the transition period (of this Government), and also comprehensive reviews of the financial supports that we are currently giving, which already amount to 200 million dollars", said the head of the agricultural portfolio.

Last August the producers presented to the National Government a list of nine petitions in which, among other points, they ask that access to the national product market be guaranteed, durability and stability for the agricultural sector and commitment to the country's food security.

They also demand the repeal of Decree Law 11 of 2006 that created the Panamanian Food Safety Authority (Aupsa), and that the Trade Authorities take control of the excessive imports of some products such as mozzarella cheese.



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Countrywide support for agricultural producers

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Teachers, professional workers, unions and jubilados (retirees)  turned out across the country on Friday, January  12 to join peaceful demonstrations in support of Panama’s agricultural and livestock producers who are seeking a meeting with President Varela before World Youth Day (WYD) -January 22-27.

The president near the end of his mandate appears to be unaware of the rumpus as he prepares to receive the visit of Pope Francis, but the jubilados have promised to continue their protests during the WYD celebrations.

Two sections of the road that connects La Villa with Chitré were closed by the supplicants including education guilds and the construction and allied workers union (Suntracs)

The producers announced that the protest will continue in a peaceful manner, as agreed with the authorities at the dialogue table that began this week. The producers gathered on the road near the bridge over the river La Villa, said that they are still waiting for the issues discussed in the list of demands, including excessive imports, to be resolved.

Another group of producers and supporters were concentrated in Divisa, along the Interamerican highway. Officials of the Ombudsman’s office were in the area to monitor possible confrontations.

In the province of Panamá Oeste, the route of a peaceful march in the district of La Chorrera was under the eyes of National Police crowd control units.

Others marched in the province of Chiriquí, and in the capital city.




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Charges against protesting farmers withdrawn

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Agricultural producers have vowed to continue their protests across the country until they get a meeting with President Juan Carlos Varela to press their case for the reduction of imports and had demanded that charges against participants in an earlier demonstration be dropped have had one of their requests granted.

Getting to meet with President Varela might be more difficult. He is currently focused on World Youth Day (WYD), January 22-27 and the visit of Pope Francis and heads of state from multiple countries.

farmers-300x169.jpgThe Minister of Agricultural Development, Eduardo Enrique Carles, reported that on Tuesday. January 15  he went to the Chitré Prosecutor’s Office to stop the investigation against several producers, arising from the demonstrations and confrontations in Divisa on December 18. Angry protesters shouting abuse surrounded the minister’s car and prevented it from leaving.

“Reiterating the commitment agreed on Thursday, January 10, 2018, and in search of preserving social peace and national conciliation with producers, I went to the Prosecutor’s Office to express the intention, on behalf of the Panamanian State to not continue with the investigation, “said Carles, in a statement.

This will allow continuing “with the open dialogue with the producers and work in unity for the good of all Panamanians,” Carles added. added.



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Ranchers warn of  deteriorating industry, farms loss


MILK down the drain

Posted 09/02/2019
PANAMA ranchers have warned that the conditions of the agricultural sector continue to deteriorate,  and farmers are in danger of losing their properties. while waiting for action from President Juan Carlos Varela  who they believe  is living up to his tortoise label in the closing months of his administration 

In a letter t to the Varela, carrying bearing which bears the signature of Aquiles Acevedo, president of the National Association of Cattle Ranchers (Anagan), the breeders ask the president to grant them the opportunity to meet with him to evaluate the results of the measures adopted on August 16, to which are added the specific agreements of the meeting at the Hotel Cubitá de Chitré and those reached on January 10, 2019.

Acevedo told Varela that the sector has deteriorated, to such an extent that the milk receiving plants predict cuts in production, and that livestock prices, far from rising, continue to fall.

"The performance requirement has not been effective in stopping large imports of meat from Nicaragua and milk from Costa Rica," they said insisted and they fear the current scenario threatens to lead to the loss of their properties.



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