Panama’s president said Wednesday that he is willing to cancel plans to sell state-owned land in a duty-free zone on the Panama Canal following a week of sometimes violent protests in which a 10-year-old boy and two adults died.
President Ricardo Martinelli said on his Twitter account: “If the people of Colon don’t want the land in the duty-free zone to be sold, the sale will be canceled.”
Late Tuesday, Martinelli’s economy minister offered to use proceeds from the proposed sales for development projects in the city of Colon after a woman and a man were killed by stray bullets. The boy was killed during a confrontation between police and rioters Friday.
Despite the government’s statements, hundreds of residents carrying signs that read “Colon is not for sale” burned tires on the streets Wednesday. In the capital, Panama City, construction workers and students protesting in support of the people of Colon threw rocks at heavily armed police who responded with tear gas.
Protesters object to legislation signed into law Friday that would let export-import businesses buy land they are now leasing in the duty-free zone, an area that city residents consider their patrimony.