Panamanian producers from the central province of Los Santos and Panama East today blocked traffic in their respective regions, to demand that the National Government stop the imports, which, they claim, are ending the unprotected agricultural sector of the country.
In Los Santos, protesters blocked the four sections of the La Villa bridge, while another group of producers in Tortí de Chepo, some 59.5 kilometers east of Panama City, did the same for about eight hours on the Pan-American highway leading to the province of Darién.
The milk, meat and rice producers of both regions demonstrated against excessive imports and demanded the installation of a dialogue table with the participation of high government authorities, producers and importers to analyze the problem and find a solution.
They also announced for next Thursday a rally on the coastal strip, in the capital, from where they will march to the Panamanian Presidency, in the Old Town, to call attention to the problem to the country's president Juan Carlos Varela.
Nelson Cedeño, a meat producer from Los Santos, told reporters that this protest is the product and the result "of the total abandonment in which the last governments have had to the agricultural sector", which, he said, "has not been properly considered and they have it on the verge of bankruptcy".
Cedeño clarified that they are not asking for subsidies or jobs to the Government, but that "we are demanding that we be respected and paid fairly for what we produce".
"We cannot allow four miscreants to do business in this country at the expense of the misery and the bankruptcy of the agricultural sector," said Cedeño.
The producer asked the reactivation of a toxicology laboratory so as not to lose the export quota of meat to the US, and that the Panamanian Food Safety Authority (Aupsa) that the producers accuse of benefiting imports disappear.
The local channel Telemetro informed the Minister of Agricultural Development, Eduardo Carles, announced in Los Santos, after the protest in La Villa, that a permanent work table will be set up next Monday to seek a solution to the import dispute, and that will request a technical audit to the importers that are in the Aupsa.
"We are going to open the Aupsa books so that we know who, when and how much they are importing, not just the Aupsa books, all the books," said Carles, who said this entity created in 2005 must be re-designed, according to Telemetro.