[QODLink]
Americas
Panama suspends plan to sell public land
Responding to ongoing protests that have left two dead, government suspends sale of land at duty-free zone in Colon.
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2012 18:55
Demonstrators have protested since Friday against plans to sell public land to import-export businesses [Reuters]

Panama's government has suspended plans to sell public land in one of the country's poorest areas, but disgruntled locals in the city of Colon have continued their protests in a dispute that has left two people dead.

The protesters object to legislation signed in to law on Friday, and now on hold, that would let export-import businesses buy land they are now leasing in Colon's duty-free zone.

Under the law, 35 per cent of proceeds from land sales in the zone would go to a trust run by Colon authorities to make social investments, while the rest would go into the national treasury coffers.

After protests erupted, the government said it would put 100 per cent of the proceeds into local social development, but the concession failed to satisfy demonstrators.

"While the initiative is being discussed the government will not move forward on land sales; in other words, sales are postponed," government spokesman Luis Eduardo Camacho said late on Tuesday.

President Ricardo Martinelli said in his Twitter account that "if the people of Colon don't want the land in the duty-free zone to be sold, the sale will be cancelled."

Tear gas

Heavily armed police used tear gas and fired shots in the air to disperse rioters who have been protesting since Friday.

"We are demanding that the law be struck down. We do not want 100 per cent. We do not want the lands to be sold," Felipe Cabezas, leader of the Colon Broad Front, which is leading the demonstrations against the government, told RPC Radio.

Frank De Lima, the economy minister, said he still hoped a deal could be worked out in Colon, where two days of strikes have taken a heavy toll on the local economy.

More than 3,000 companies operate in the duty-free area, moving $29bn worth of goods in 2011 and bringing $1.7bn to the country's gross domestic product.

Martinelli appealed for calm, saying in a TVN-2 television interview that the law would benefit the province of Colon.

He accused "agitators" of opposing it for political reasons and "small-minded interests".

342

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Muslim volunteers face questioning and threat of arrest, while aid has been disrupted or blocked, charities say.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
ISIL combatants seeking an 'exit strategy' from Mideast conflict need positive reinforcement back home, analysts say.
European nation hit by a wave of Islamophobia as many young fighters join ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
Featured
Lack of child protection laws means abandoned and orphaned kids rely heavily on the care of strangers.
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Since she was 16-years-old, Scottish Nationalist Party's Sturgeon has strove for independence from the UK.
Armed group's ransom success with German hostages marks a re-emergence, as authorities investigate ISIL links.
Western nations are moving into the resource-rich country after decades of disinterest, challenging China's interests.