This Tuesday, March 13, a general strike will be staged in the province of Colón to show dissatisfaction with the Urban Renovation plan implemented by the government of President Juan Carlos Varela. The call, to protest against the delay of works, was made by leaders of the Committee for the Salvation of Colón, an initiative to which several sectors of civil society joined, according to local media.
Edgardo Voitier, leader of the Frente Amplio Colonense (FAC), in an exclusive interview with Telemetro, highlighted the need to demand from Varela’s government, that within the works to recover the town, he considers to respond to the situation faced by the inhabitants of the region in terms of drinking water and land ownership.
"For tomorrow the strike will be held and nobody will stop it, all the communities, all the people from Colón are ready tomorrow to defend what we have to conquer, our soil, our land. In 2012, it was about defending the lands of the Free Zone. Now it is about defending our city," he told Telemetro.
Voitier also questioned the security operation implemented by the government in Colón during this weekend, assuring that it is not to "catch criminals but to provoke". He said: "President, while our people tomorrow are enthusiastically and peacefully going to protest, you are provoking, you are creating violence ... on Saturday, the police were going towards the bus world, that's repression, that is a violation of the right to transit," he told for Telemetro, although President Juan Carlos Varela and the director of the National Police, Omar Pinzón, assured that the security device is not related to the demonstration on Tuesday, but to continue guaranteeing the safety of all the people from Colón.
Engineer Luís Powell, leader of Colón, rejected the delay of the works: "He promised us on July 1 in the Wilcox house that this building was going to be restored in compliance with the National Constitution and the Law of Heritage Preservation. It turns out that almost four years after the administration of this government, the Wilcox house has not been made the necessary underpinning so that these structures do not subside and collapse. They promised that in five years they would give us 5,000 apartments in the Alto de Los Lagos project. It turns out that only four months after completing four years of management only 240 apartments have been delivered," said the professional in a video released on social networks.
The Minister of Housing and Territorial Planning, Mario Etchelecu, in an exclusive interview with Telemetro, said that there are political reasons that could be affecting the completion of the works.
"We must understand that we are in 2018 and the difference with 2015, 2016 is that we are closer to the political part, then people start to play, whose motivations are not necessarily the completion of the works in Colón or that they are of the greatest benefit ... I believe that there are valid things that are claimed and we are in a position to explain, even if we have to modify something, but there are political motivations behind this," said the official for Telemetro.
The mayor of Colón, Federico Policani, does not support the call to strike, he regards the call as unfair. "I do not agree with the action that is being taken ... I do not think that Colón is right now in that situation of enduring one more strike, there are certain things that are said in this opportunity that are not true, such as the fact that the people of Colón are evicted, that's false, here we are working to improve the image of the city," he said in an exclusive interview with Telemetro.
President Varela informed on March 10 that the Ministry of the Presidency will tender for the restoration of the Wilcox house in Colón, and said that the economic resources that his government had planned for the restoration of this historic property dating from 1913 will be destined to remodel the Public Market of Colón. He also highlighted that in April, he will convene in the province of Colón a Cabinet Council to address the progress of works under development in that town.
"It's not an easy job, in the city of Colón there were 41 gangs operating; they interrupted also the work; it is a security issue that we are solving; there was waste water in the streets, the rainwater was connected with the waste water, then all the pipes had to be lifted, five thousand families living in slum houses had to be moved, the Free Port Act had to be drafted, but all projects are moving forward," Varela said according to Telemetro.
The renovation undertaken by the Panamanian government in Colón and harshly questioned by the inhabitants of this province includes not only the recovery of major infrastructure works and sites of interest, but also the rehabilitation of streets and avenues.
According to local media, by September 2017, the Renovación Urbana de Colón project had 54% of completion, while the Altos de Los Lagos housing complex, which seeks to benefit some 25,000 people, registered over 57% of completion.