Prolonged Protests In Panama Over Proposed Constitutional Reforms

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Above photo: Students demonstrate outside the National Assembly. From La Estrella de Panama.

Protests in Panama started on October 22 when 1,000 students, teachers and administrators from the University of Panama marched to the National Assembly to protest proposed changes to the Constitution that would undermine higher education. When the marchers arrived at the National Assembly, they were prevented from entering and some climbed over the fence to get in.

Since then, protests have continued every day and more groups have joined them. Telesur reports that trade unions, movements, and social organizations have also joined. Telesur explains why the demonstrations are growing:

“…after the first debates of the reform on October 15, a group of assembly members included amendments that would give them the power to alter the general state budget, appoint a superior prosecutor to investigate attorneys, censor ministers and adjust the salaries 

The changes introduced by the deputies were the trigger for popular demonstrations.

The organizers of the anti-reform demonstrations denounce that most of the approved changes refer to issues such as nationality, marriage, human rights, education and other matters.

On the subject of education, the articles indicate that the National System of Evaluation and Accreditation for the Improvement of the Quality of Higher Education of Panama would be created, which would be the body that would recognize the academic and professional degrees issued by the State or authorized by law thus taking away from official universities the power to be the supervisors of higher education.”

The protesters are demanding that the proposals be withdrawn and that there is a broader discussion of changes to the Constitution.

This week, the protests were met with repression. Police in riot gear used pepper spray and arrested demonstrators. Despite that, protesters are chanting, “We are more and we are not afraid.”