|Written by Bernardo Cerdeira|
|Wednesday, 06 February 2013 18:06|
The Panama workers and people dissatisfaction with the actions and policies of the unpopular government of President Ricardo Martinelli has been growing on a daily basis. The permanent government’s attacks against the people’s rights and its refusal to meet the social movement demands have caused protest actions that the several affected sectors has been preparing and are scheduled to start as from February 4.
One of the first organizations to call for demonstrations was the National Association of Housing Officials on Social Security (ANFACSS), whose workers have been threatened by the government’s project of unifying the CSS with the Ministry of Health (MINSA), a measure which will cause budget cuts, layoffs, increased workload and deterioration of the public health service.
The CSS workers and particularly the leaders of ANFACSS have been the target of Martinelli government attacks. The National Direction of CSS fired our comrade Gerardo González, general secretary of ANFACSS. It was a frontal attack because Gerardo is the main leader of this association, which has the largest number of members among the workers of this institution.
However, the dismissal of Gerardo González happens in a context of CSS attacks against all the associations of public employees of this sector. There are other layoffs which prove that this is not an isolated case. The others made redundant are: Iraida Cano (CSS Employees Association); Juan Samaniego (CSS Independent Staff Association); Benjamin Batista (ANFACSS); Gabriel Pascual (ANFACSS) and Elineth Menchaca (ANFACSS). There is also a dismissed employee from the Teachers Association of Panama Republic, Andrés Rodríguez.
The attack has to do with the workers’ struggle of Social Security Bank, the Board’s steadfastness which represents them and the Martinelli government policy for the CSS, for the whole working class and popular segments.
Martinelli government policy
Since his inauguration in July 2009, President Martinelli government is characterized by a general policy against working class, pro-imperialist and by systematic attacks against the workers’ and popular segments’ movement. This policy was clearly expressed on numerous occasions, such as the repression against the banana workers’ strike in Changuinola (Bocas del Toro), in 2010, in the face of adoption of the so called Chorizo Law (which amended six legal codes and the labor and union rights in the country), and in the repression of protests made by the Ngäbe Buglé people against the Mining Code reforms. Last year, this policy was marked by the attempt to approve the Sale Law of the Colon Free Zone Lands.
In all of these episodes there was a strong popular reaction, which forced Martinelli’s government goes back. The last fight was the heroic struggle of Colón people who,after 10 days of demonstrations, general strike and confrontations, managedto force the government to withdraw the law. However, the government will always come back to the offensive.
The main reason for these reiterative attacks is a combination between the large growth of Panama’s economy (10% in 2012), based on an enormous imperialist investment, and the concentration of capital in the hands of a greedy bourgeoisie which is totally dominated by the imperialism, and is longing for obtaining the maximum profit possible, taking advantage of this favorable cyclical economical conditions. To get it all, this bourgeoisie and its government have to, as soon as possible, to sell the country natural resources and the national patrimony, as well as to abolish the workers’ achievements of workers and cut back the employees’ benefits and social services.
This explains the reason why the government will always come back to attack even after being forced to retreat in face of the masse’s reaction. What drives the bourgeoisie and its government to attack again is the prospect of obtaining huge profits and get a part (even if it is pretty small) of the country’s wealth which has been plundered by the imperialism. This is the underlying problem.
The LTS, Panamanian section of IWL, has indicated that the only solution is the unity of the labor and popular movement in order to prepare the mobilization aiming at the government definite defeat. It is both necessary and possible to defeat the government with the mass movement response.
The labor and popular movement has prepared a national protest
In this regard, it was positive the fact that around 20 groups have joined together and made up a united fight front against the government impositions and against its failure to comply with commitments. Among their demands are the ones of the Colón people that were not met; the demands of the CSS workers against the merger with the MoH (MINSA) and for the return of the fired leaders; also the education union claim, who do not agree with the Decree 9 – 20 which intends to privatize the country’s education and withdraw the teachers’ job security; there are also the demands of the Ngäbe Buglé people against the hydropower projects etc.
Originally, this popular block was comprised by representatives from the following organizations: Union of Banana Workers Bocas del Toro, Association of Social Security Bank Staff (ANFACSS), National Council of Organized Workers (CONATO), Association of Educators from Veraguas (AEVE) , Ecological and Agricultural Association of Veraguas, Movement for Lecto-Deed of Ngäbe Buglé, National Network for the Defense of Coclé Coastal Regions, Coordination of the Peasant Movement of Palma de Veraguas, Venado Foundation, April 10 Movement, Coordination of Women of Ngäbe Buglé Coordination for the Natural Resources Defense of Ngäbe District, as well as delegates of the Ngäbe General Congress, indigenous major decision-making body. Representatives of the Broad Front of Colón also participated in. This Broad Front is the organization that headed, in unity of action, the heroic struggle of the people of this city, who stated that with such government all sectors of the country have been “victims of neoliberalism and of the ruling class outrage”. The FAC has started again the struggle in order to achieve the Colón people demands.
These organizations unity, besides establishing a strategic alliance of grassroots organizations, has agreed to start the protests as from Tuesday, February 5th. Thus, there is the possibility to materialize the unity of action which had been called persistently by the National Board of Directors of ANFACSS. Over the coming days there might be crucial confrontations that put at stake this corrupt, repressive and pro-imperialist government.
An International Campaign for the reintegration of the dismissed leaders
1. That the democratic and popular trade unions, organizations and individuals of all countries send letters to the President of the Republic of Panama in this regard. The letters can be based on the following template (whose wording can obviously be modified):
Dear Mr. President:
The undersigned were informed of the dismissal of the union leaders Gerardo González (General Secretary of the National Association of Housing Officials on Social Security ANFACSS), Iraida Cano (Secretary of Finance of AECS), Andrés Rodríguez (Secretary General of ASOPROF), Benjamín Baptist (ANFACSS), Gabriel Pascual (ANFACSS) Elineth Menchaca (ANFACSS) and Juan Samaniego (CSS Independent Staff Association).
For the respect to the rights of unionizing and of mobilizations, we request your intervention so that these union leaders are reintegrated. Otherwise, we will understand that your government violates these rights, and so we will extend the denunciation internationally.
2. The letters and the signatures collected must be delivered to the embassies or consulates of Panama, in the period from 4 to 8 of February to coincide with the mobilizations of ANFACSS and other organizations.
3. As far as possible, the press shall be called and an act of protest should be carried out at the embassy so that the denunciation is reverberated.
4. Copies of signatures collected shall be sent to the Director of Social Security Bank: