Panama’s logistics sector is losing about $200 million a day due to road blockades, amid protests that have been going on for four weeks against a mining exploitation agreement signed between the State and a subsidiary of the Canadian company First Quantum. Minerals.
Hugo Torrijos, president of the Logistics Business Council (COEL), assured that the accumulated losses “are incalculable” since the closure of the main highways, including the Pan-American Highway, which connects with the rest of Central America, impacts not only the flow of goods to supply the local market, but also to hundreds of vehicles with regional cargo that have been stranded.
“These losses are already translating into job instability, an increase in unemployment, and a shortage of inputs,” explained the president of COEL on Monday, at a press conference.
In 2015, the logistics sector had 135,000 jobs, to date it has grown by 30%, which is equivalent to nearly 200,000 direct jobs.
This Monday First Quantum Minerals reported that it had reduced mineral processing at its Panamanian deposit, since protests against the project were causing blockages at a port.
The president of COEL acknowledged that many groups are analyzing the suspension of contracts. “It is something that is latent on the table, but has not been approved. However, we want to prevent this from happening because otherwise there will be more poverty and misery for the country and we do not want this,” Torrijos warned.
Torrijos warned that the losses are not only financial in nature, since they also affect the physical, mental, and emotional health of some 4.5 million inhabitants, since at least four Panamanians have died in the midst of the protests, including two people, who They were shot at by an armed man while participating in a march led by the teaching sector on a road in Panama Oeste.
Added to all this is that the crisis affects the country’s profile and brand, Torrijos assured, since Panama is recognized as a logistics hub worldwide, and there is fear that after the current crisis there will be a flight of users.
“Unfortunately, it is being greatly harmed by the closure of land routes, which prevent the transit of import cargo, export cargo to and from Central America, as well as cargo that connects by air. What has cost us so many years achieve, that prestige of the Panama brand in the world, is collapsing,” he added.
For her part, Yira Poyser, president of the Maritime Chamber of Panama, said that the road blockades are affecting and threatening the integration of the entire Panamanian logistics ecosystem that has been trying to manage the water crisis in the Canal.
“The stoppage in our sector has had a double impact, because we already have to see ourselves through our Panama Canal, which is suffering a water crisis, and it was not now that we found out, there were already many studies that reported this, and not “We are preparing for this moment,” said Poyser, in the same press conference on Monday.
He added that the Panama Canal, being the largest source of the economy and the active pillar of the country, is experiencing a gradual decrease in transits.
“Until there is talk of reaching 18 transits for our dry season, so the only one that is standing up for the country so that this cargo does not go to Colombia or Mexico is the railway system and the land transportation system, and “If that pillar is being affected or paralyzed, how much more are we losing as a country?” Poyser argued.
Meanwhile, protests have been on the rise since the end of October, after the government approved the contract law that grants Minera Panamá a 20-year extendable concession to operate a gigantic copper mine, which represents, according to the company, close to of 5% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
At this moment, the population has left the final decision on the case in the hands of the Supreme Court of Justice. This State body has admitted some eight claims of unconstitutionality against the mining contract, but while the legal processes are being carried out, the protesters have declared a “permanent vigil” outside the Court, awaiting the rulings.