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Panama elections

Panama Mining Protests: President Cortizo Offers Referendum

President Cortizo announces plans for a December referendum in an effort to ease the Panama mining protests engulfing the country. Protesters accuse the president of trying to buy time.

Last night, in an effort to quell the mass protests taking place all over Panama, President Cortizo announced plans to hold a referendum next month to decide the future of the controversial mining concession that has brought thousands onto the street over the past ten days.

Today, I want to refer again to the events that we are experiencing in the country… I have listened respectfully to those who oppose the contract. I believe in democracy and, as President, I understand the clamor of voices that are expressed on the matter.

“So that the majority will is expressed in the most democratic way, I request the Electoral Court to call a popular referendum on Sunday, December 17, 2023, so that Panamanians can vote whether or not to repeal Law. 406.

“Through citizen participation through voting, we can legitimize the will of the people, the result of which will be mandatory. The people are sovereign. I also announce that we will raise the ban on metal mining at the national level into law,” said Cortizo in a televised address.

Is Cortizo buying time to stop the Panama mining protests?

To recap, Panamanians are furious over the concession granted to Canadian mining company First Quantum Minerals (FQM) to operate the largest open pit copper mine in the region. Aside from environmental concerns, they suspect deep government corruption over the granting of the contract in the first place. They are also angry at the lack of benefits the contract awards to the local communities around the mine.

Protestors have demanded an immediate cancellation of the FQM concession and an investigation of how it was awarded in the first place. They want transparency with the awarding of any future mining concessions and stricter environmental regulations.

Although President Cortizo offered protestors much of what they want in his address last night, protest groups are not convinced. They say that the referendum has already taken place on the streets and demand the government cancels the mining contract immediately. Bottom line is, since the pandemic, Panamanians no longer trust a word the government says, and many think that Cortizo is simply buying time in the hope that the protests will blow over. There is little chance of that happening any time soon.

CA Staff

CA Staff