Panama Riots Stop Cargo Flow

Thursday October 25, 2012

Rioting in Panama has interrupted the flow of cargo at the Manzanillo International Terminal, shipping company APL Ltd. says.

The riots, which began after the nation's legislature agreed to a measure allowing privatisation of lands in the Colon Free Zone on the Panama Canal, have blocked the access road to the terminal.

Rail and gate operations were suspended early Tuesday morning, although marine operations at the terminal are running normally.

President Ricardo Martinelli responded to the riots, in which a 10-year-old boy and two adults have died, by saying his is willing to cancel plans for the sale of the land, the Associated Press reports.

"If the people of Colon don't want the land in the duty-free zone to be sold, the sale will be canceled," Martinelli wrote on his Twitter account Wednesday.

Despite government efforts to quell the public protests, residents burned tires in the streets Wednesday and carried signs reading "Colon is not for sale."

The new legislation would allow export-import businesses buy land that they currently lease in the duty-free zone, but protesters have said the government should instead raise the lease charges and invest the money in Colon.