After over a week of protests, marches and rioting that led to three deaths in Colon, the National Assembly on Friday approved on first reading a bill to kill a controversial law allowing the sale of land in the Colon Free zone.
The government sponsored Bill 72 had been rushed through a week before with Assembly president Sergio Gálvez taunting opposing legislators to go and moan in the cemetery. Soon after a nine year old boy became the first of three to die from gunshot wounds as heavily armed riot police and border patrol forces confronted rioting crowds,
President Ricardo Martinelli, who was on a trip to Japan and Vietnam, responded to the riots with conflicting Twitter messages as business leaders, civil groups and unions called for action.
The Assembly dominated by the Martinelli led Democratic Change party seemed stalled, awaiting the return of their leader.
But as the Panamanian capital and Colon ground to a halt on Friday, with construction workers blocking key intersections and marching on the Assembly, the legislators took action and Minister of the Presidency Roberto Henríquez, announced that the Commission of Commerce had approved on first debate a bill to withdraw the project they had endorsed the previous week and to fast track it through the Assembly. , Gálvez said that at on Saturday, the plenary of the Assembly will meet to discuss the bill on second debate, and on Sunday it will vote on final approval.
This, says La Prensa is the fastest the bill can be moved through the Assembly.
Earlier, Henríquez had told the media that the introduction of the bill would have to wait until President Ricardo Martinelli returned to the country, but widespread rioting and looting associated with demonstrations against the law caused the government to act more quickly.
Meanwhile in Panama there was some looting in Calidonia, and some government vehicles were damaged. Images on TV showed a Ministry of Education (Meduca) employee loading stolen goods into a government vehicle. Around 100 arrests were made,
While early morning traffic was at a standstill in many parts of Panama, including Corridor Sur, where scores of Metro Bus passengers walked back to the city, by noon the flow resembled a quiet Sunday and in the evening there was no rush hour, amd Metro buses which had been pulled out of service began to return on some routes.