The Panamanian government’s decision to sell land in the free-trade zone at the Caribbean entrance to the Panama Canal has sparked violent protests. Clashes with police the streets of the sea-port of Colon reportedly left 15 people wounded.
According to Venezuelan state TV channel Venezolana de Televisión, there have been at least 25 protesters detained by police. Information about a 15-year-old person killed in clashes has found no confirmation.
Curfew has been enacted in Colon immediately after the clashes when protesters were burning tires to block the streets.
Facts about Panama Canal:
Panama Canal was constructed between 1880 and 1914.
Between 1904 and 1913, a total of 56,307 persons were employed during the construction of the Panama Canal. Nearly 20,000 French and 6,000 American workers died during the completion of the Panama Canal.
The length of the Panama Canal is 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the deep waters of the Atlantic to the deep waters of the Pacific.
A ship takes an average of eight to 10 hours to transit the Panama Canal.
At the end of fiscal year 2011, 1,015,721 vessels had used the waterway since its opening on August 15, 1914.
Between 12,000 and 15,000 ships About 40 ships cross the Panama Canal every year.
The Canal transports 4 per cent of world trade.
Demonstrators in Colon believe the government’s decision to sell state-owned land in the Colon Free Zone (CFZ) will hit those who work in the free-trade zone and affect the income of many citizens of the country. The protesters insist the law is unconstitutional.
The head of the Colonense Broad Movement, Felipe Cabezas, told the AP news agency,"We do not want the land to be sold because these are assets that belong to Colon."
President Ricardo Martinelli said those instigating protests are protecting “small-minded interests” of their own and that sale of state-owned land will benefit the country.
The law supposes creation of a “social investments” trust that would manage 35 per cent of the revenues received from the sale of the land just outside the former Panama Canal Zone.
The larger, 65 per cent, share will go to the country’s central government.
he free trade port of Colon is one of the largest in the world. In operation for over half a century now, the port hosts over 2,000 companies doing business in the profitable free-trade zone.
In 1999, the United States passed control over the Panama Canal to the Panamanian state. Since then the waterway linking Atlantic and Pacific oceans is the principal source of the revenues for Panama.
It is expected that in 2014 the works on expansion of the waterway will be over just ahead of the Panama Canal’s centenary.