Labor rights, the stumbling block in a new relationship between Central America and China

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  • Tue, 12/04/2018 - 10:41
Labor rights, the stumbling block in a new relationship between Central America and China
  • EFE

Panama and the rest of the countries of Central America that have embraced China face the challenge of coupling different cultures in all areas, including labor, which may be a stumbling block in this new relationship in the opinion of analysts consulted by EFE.

Panama, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic, which is located in the Caribbean but is politically in the Central American region, a region historically under the control of the United States, also faces Washington's distrust of these new diplomatic ties with China in times of tension between both powers for the commercial issue.

In the last year and a half the three countries broke ties with Taiwan and accepted the "One China" doctrine, which has generally brought great and positive expectations in each other's economic and political sectors, but also some fears about the US reaction, which even called its ambassadors for consultations.

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday begins an official visit to Panama, historic for being the first of a Chinese president, and does so full of "great expectation", as expressed in a letter published in the local newspaper La Estrella.

Xi asked in his letter to Panama to work "against the clock to achieve the advance in the curve of our links despite its late start" (June 2017), acknowledged "geographical distance" and "multiple differences" between both countries, as well as also that they share entrepreneurial and creative peoples.

The Panamanian internationalist Julio Yao affirmed to EFE that "for Panama it is very important to open relations" with China, "especially symbolized by the presence of President Xi" in the Central American country.

For Yao "there is no doubt" that Panama will be strengthened, thanks to Chinese investments, its logistics center and the financial, banking and domestic production, now famished but can grow because the Central American country "can easily place its agricultural production "in the Asian giant.

But the challenge, "the most important thing, is for China to fulfill what it has already promised: that it will obey the labor laws of Panama," something that depends on Panamanians, he said.

"There can be labor problems if we neglect ourselves and let China do what it likes," said the analyst, a reality that can be applied to all Central American countries that have accepted Beijing.

In this context, Yao pointed to the Panamanian Government as responsible for making "capable, technically qualified and accredited people" available to be "in charge" of projects run by Chinese companies, such as the construction of the fourth bridge on the canal, a work of 1,420 million dollars.

Chinese investments well carried could also generate economic conditions that discourage migration in countries like El Salvador, which together with Guatemala and Honduras make up the Northern Triangle, where each year tens of thousands of people flee violence and poverty towards the U.S.

Thousands of Central American migrants are now in Mexican territory after taking a trip in mid-October, while US authorities have deployed thousands of agents on the southern border to prevent their entry.

The United States should "let China make the investments" that it has in mind in Central America so that "people stay to work" and desist from going to North America, said Yao.

For the former Ambassador of Panama in the Organization of American States, Guillermo Cochez, the cultural clash in labor matters is inevitable with the Chinese.

"I do not trust the Chinese very much, they are totally different from us, they work 20 hours a day, they do not believe in the Labor Code or in human rights," the former diplomat told EFE.

And on the issue of human rights, activist Ti-Anna Wang, daughter of Chinese opposition leader Wang Bingzhang, sentenced to life imprisonment, told EFE in Guatemala that a country with China's economic influence "is very difficult to criticize (...) when China acts against human rights, it practically enjoys the permission of the Western world."


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