Panamanian security forces fired tear gas shells and rubber bullets again on Wednesday (23 January) to disperse Panama City students protesting strongly against the high cost of food prices.
GV Students occupying College building
GV Guardsmen in military vehicles
GV Students on College rooftop, with armed guardsmen watching from ground (2 shots)
GV Student running in school grounds PAN ACROSS TO guardsman walking down street
GV Students hurling stones at guardsmen from inside college compound
GV Guardsmen at fence having shot tear gas grenades
GV Students throwing stones as they run deeper into school grounds while gunfire breaks out
GV Guardsmen closing in on school perimeter
SV PAN Police vehicle TO female professor mediating with guardsmen
GV Guardsmen returning to vehicles as mediation talks continue
GV Students move towards fencing throwing stones at cars and kicking dustbins into road (2 shots)
GV Guardsmen redeploying around College
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Background: Panamanian security forces fired tear gas shells and rubber bullets again on Wednesday (23 January) to disperse Panama City students protesting strongly against the high cost of food prices. On Tuesday (22 January) twenty-seven students were injured when one and fifty of them in the Panama suburb of Paitilla clashed with National Guardsmen during an anti-government protest.
SYNOPSIS: The National Guardsmen moved in after the demonstrators set fire to two cars. The guardsmen began by firing tear gas grenades but soon resorted to shotguns. Many students took refuge in their school building.
Panama faces grave economic problems with a foreign debt of about three billion (U.S.) dollars -- an all-time high -- which takes more than half the government revenue to service it.
There is labour unrest caused by high prices, low wages and the stringent labour laws. Inflation is steadily rising and unemployment spreads as the development rate slows down.
Stoning by the students provoked the bullets and the guardsmen closed in.
Teachers attempted to intercede to stop the protest, trying mediation with the guards. One teacher along with twenty-seven students was injured in the foray.
Some guardsmen withdrew for mediation.
But the students continued to vent their fury with stones. Opposition parties are demanding more political freedom and less government repression. Their protests will take another form when elections for an expanded National Legislative Assembly take place next summer. They say they will boycott them to deny the government the trappings of democratic legitimacy.