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Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Mon, 12 Jan 98 09:27:42 CST
From: rich@pencil (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: Weekly Americas News Update #415, 1/11/98
Article: 25422

/** reg.nicaragua: 27.0 **/
** Topic: Weekly News Update #415, 1/11/98 **
** Written 9:46 PM Jan 11, 1998 by wnu in cdp:reg.nicaragua **

Panamanians march for sovereignty

Weekly News Update on the Americas, issue #415, 11 January 1998

Some 2,000 people (or 1,000, according to Notimex) marched on Jan. 9 in Panama City to commemorate the 34th anniversary of the so-called "Flag Riots" and to protest US-led plans to build a Multilateral Anti-Drug Center (CMA) in Panama [see Update #413]. Demonstrators stopped to protest in front of the US embassy in Panama City, where they threw red paint balloons at the white facade of the building; burned a US flag and an effigy of a US soldier (which according to Panama City daily La Prensa represented US president Bill Clinton); and chanted anti- imperialist slogans like "Yankee animal out of the Canal" and "Gringos go away." On the ground, walls and trees near the US embassy, demonstrators painted slogans against the CMA, which they argue will merely prolong the presence of US troops in Panama. Other protesters carried signs with the image of Argentine-Cuban guerrilla leader Ernesto "Che" Guevara and sang Latin American protest songs. Marchers made another stop at the headquarters of the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), where they again threw paint at the building and burned an effigy, this time representing Panamanian president Ernesto Perez Balladares. The march ended with a ceremony at the cemetery where national hero Ascanio Arosemena is buried. [Notimex 1/9/98; La Prensa (Panama) 1/10/98; El Panama America (Panama) 1/10/98]

Many people were upset that the official holiday marking the Flag Riots was moved to Jan. 12 as part of a change in the Labor Code approved last October, which shifted observance of some national holidays to the following Monday in order to give workers a three-day weekend and thus promote local tourism. "The government's intention is to eliminate these dates from the calendar and transform them into regular days so that Panamanians forget these events," said Conrado Sanjur, coordinator of the Organizations Against Military Bases (OCBAM). "To eliminate the Jan. 9 holiday to benefit the business sector is an offense to the memory of the martyrs," said Sanjur. Labor and Social Welfare Minister Mitchell Doens said the change in observance of the official holiday shouldn't affect commemoration of the date. Doens added that authorities enforced on Jan. 9 other measures that apply to the day of national mourning, such as a ban on selling alcoholic beverages and playing happy music on the radio, and the closure of discotheques and bars. [Notimex 1/9/98; LP 1/6/98]

The Jan. 9 holiday commemorates the day in 1964 when a group of Panamanian high school students tried to raise the Panamanian flag next to the US flag at Balboa High School in the Canal Zone. The students were demanding compliance with a bilateral agreement signed the previous year which established the right to fly the Panamanian flag next to the US flag in US-occupied territories. Canal Zone residents responded by attacking the students; the incident sparked three days of protests and clashes with US troops that left at least 23 people dead, 400 wounded and over 500 arrested--almost all of them Panamanian. Panama broke off relations with the US for three months following the riots. [Notimex 1/9/98; LP 1/10/98, 1/11/98; Panama: A Country Guide, by Tom Barry (published in 1990 by the Resource Center)]

Weekly News Update on the Americas * Nicaragua Solidarity Network of NY 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012 * 212-674-9499 fax: 212-674-9139 http://home.earthlink.net/~dbwilson/wnuhome.html * wnu@igc.apc.org