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Protests and street blockades against soaring prices persist in Panama

PANAMA CITY — Hundreds of people took to the streets of Panama on Wednesday to protest the government’s failed efforts to stem the rising cost of living, among other demands. 

Across the Central American nation protesters blocked roads and stopped trucks from delivering food, a pressure tactic that has been increasingly used since protests broke out two weeks ago as inflation accelerated to 5.2% in the year through June. 

“The situation is critical,” said Humberto Montero, a member of the Veraguenses Educators Association, which has sought, along with other organizations, to reach an agreement with the government. 

Protesters are also demanding the government curb public spending, apart from new investments in health and education, and bring a halt to corruption. 

The blockades are now leading to shortages, particularly of agricultural products, in the capital Panama City. 

Since the beginning of the protests, President Laurentino Cortizo’s government, which implemented austerity measures and froze gasoline and diesel prices, has unsuccessfully tried to reach an agreement with protesters. 

On Tuesday, Panamanian police fired tear gas on protesters blocking road access in the country’s west on Tuesday. 

“If the police continue with repression, the dialogue will be affected,” Mr. Montero said. 

Producers have asked protesters to establish “humanitarian corridors” to allow food to be distributed. 

The Ministry of Agricultural Development did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. — Reuters