Panama’s government and indigenous leaders reached an agreement on Sunday to clear protesters from part of the Panamerican Highway in exchange for lower fuel prices, but other parts of the strategic route were blocked by protesters demanding more concessions.
The government released footage of the agreement being signed at a church in Far West Chiriqui province, where much of the Central American country’s food is produced, and a blocked section of highway being cleared.
Two weeks of uprisings in Chiriqui and elsewhere in Panama over high prices and corruption have made it difficult for the country to feed.
Despite the deal, much of Panama, which connects the country of 4.4 million people to the rest of Central America, remained crowded on Sunday with large trucks and banners waving protesters.
“Panamanians deserve respect, it’s a joke,” said Luis Sanchez, a spokesman for organizations promoting the protest.
Hundreds of people gathered on the beach to protest in Panama City. They were all black, in contrast to the white suits worn by lawmakers during official ceremonies.
Lawyer Jacqueline Hurtado told AFP the cost of the food “is more than it earns. We have a huge social problem.” “People are fed up and have taken to the streets to demonstrate to change things.”
Retired Ileana Arango said: “In my 68 years of life, I am tired of seeing governments promise, go up, steal, go down, follow next and here we have everything, medicine, education, food. There is a shortage.”
The government and delegations of protesters met again at a school in the city of Santiago de Veraguas, 250 kilometers (155 mi) southwest of Panama City.
“We call on all sides that today we are able to reach an agreement and above all clear the roads,” government ombudsman Eduardo LeBlanc said in the talks.
An agreement was reached on Saturday to lower the price of gasoline, but protesters are ready to cut prices of about 40 consumer products and drugs.
“We’re fighting,” said farmer Juan Morales, who was protesting in Capira near Panama City.
Year-on-year inflation in Panama was recorded in May, with an unemployment rate of around 10% and fuel prices rising by about 50% since January.
Despite its dollar economy and high growth figures, the country has a high rate of social inequality.
The economic crisis has led to fuel shortages in some parts of the country, and products to sell at stalls in the capital’s food markets.