Violent confrontations between Panama’s banana workers and police in Changuinola, Bocas del Toro, on the Caribbean coast, that so far has left two confirmed dead, and stranded tourists who are not able to leave Panama.
A group of Costa Rican tourists were reported to be able to fly out of Panama on Saturday, but many more are still stuck on the ground waiting for some form of transportation.
The family of one of the young men which was part of a group of 8 that were able fly out of Panama told the media that there are at least 80 Costa Ricans visiting Bocas del Toro when the violence broke out. However, Costa Rica’s embassy in Panama said on Friday there were no Costa Ricans in the violence zone.
The almost two week old strike by workers of the Bocas Fruit Compnay, where workers are demanding the repeal of Bill 30, better known as the 9 in 1 law, that escalated to violence.
The two main streets in Changuinola are guarded by riot police and shops remain closed.
As well tourists are found with no transportation to take them across the border into Costa Rica and the border crossing at Sixaola is being closely controlled to avoid a massive dash of Panamanians into Costa Rica to avoid the escalating violence.
The new Law 30, also known as the “9 in 1” law, passed by the National Assembly and signed into law by president Ricardo Martinelli, contains one article that really has the labour unions pissed off.
Prior to the passage of this law, workers didn’t have any choice over the payment of union dues. Employers had to deduct those dues from their worker’s paychecks and hand the money straight over to the unions. The law in Panama has been exceptionally “pro union” for a very many years. Now, with the passage of Law 30, workers have a choice. They are no longer forced to make union dues payments, and the payments of those dues are voluntary.