Dozens of pensioners demonstrated today in the Panamanian capital to demand an increase in pensions, after President Juan Carlos Varela this week vetoed a bill that establishes increases in up to 60 dollars.
"Mr. President be honest to yourself, we want the increase, we do not want bonuses, please we want the increase," retired police officer Óscar Coop told reporters.
The retirees, including elderly people in wheelchairs, demonstrated in a central square of the old town, near the seat of the Government.
They carried banners in which they could read messages such as "President Varela change your attitude" or "retirees and pensioners deserve respect. Their lives and effort contributed to the country".
On December 5, the president partially vetoed bill 631, which establishes an increase as of next January 1, between 35 to 60 dollars to retirees and pensioners of the Social Security Fund (CSS).
The bill, approved by the National Assembly in October, states that the increase will be financed by a 7 percent tax on remittances sent abroad and a rate of 5 percent of the net annual profits of slot machines and gambling centers in casinos and gambling halls.
The government explained that it vetoed the bill because it disagreed with the funding sources and that it formed a high-level commission, which is meeting this Friday, to seek "a responsible and sustainable economic formula to respond to the just aspirations of retirees and pensioners".
"If (that formula) does not meet the needs of retirees we will take to the streets because (the increase) is a right that we have and as such we will continue fighting," said another pensioner present at the demonstration.
Varela, on the other hand, said on Thursday that he is in favor of an increase in pensions, but that we must look for new funding sources and that solution could be a "bonus".
"We are asking for an increase and it has been very well specified where this increase has to come from. The bill never establishes a bonus. We hope that the proposal that comes out of the Presidency today will be concise and accurate and we will put it to the retirees’ vote," said the retired policeman Coop.
The Panamanian Association of Business Executives (Apede) was one of the unions that harshly criticized the Parliament for approving a tax increase "without a consultation process or in-depth analysis" and warned that the impact of the bill could be "devastating" for the country's economy.