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Almost 50 arrested after protests in Panama

TENSIONS remained high in Panama after nearly 50 people were arrested in clashes with police in protests over constitutional reforms on Wednesday night.

Details of the arrests were posted on social media on Thursday with no official report published and no statement from the government.

University of Panama authorities said that at least 47 people had been arrested after hundreds took to the streets of the US client state for the fourth consecutive day to demonstrate against proposed changes to the constitution.

Among those held is former presidential candidate Richard Morales who last Sunday warned that a solution to the crisis would not be found in the state institutions, backing calls for the establishment of a new constituent assembly.

He said on a Sunday television programme that the solution within the institutions immersed in the political crisis will hardly arise and advocated an “original constituent assembly.”

The new plans would see Panama’s Congress able to change the country’s national budget and oversee investigations of judges and prosecutors.

Tensions were inflamed on Tuesday when parliamentarian Jairo Salazar blocked gay activists from entering parliament.

Panamanians responded by storming the headquarters of the ruling Revolutionary Democratic Party.

Those protesting complained of a heavy-handed response to the protests from the police who they accused of using “heavy-calibre weapons” to quell the unrest.

National Police director Alexis Munoz denied weapons had been used but admitted that “the necessary force was used to repress these people.”

The demonstrations have been largely led by students who have been joined by trade unions and others to form the new National Front Pro-Constituent Assembly. 

They oppose a reform package put forward by President Laurentino Cortizo which includes changes to the justice, health and education systems and issues relating to the environment and decentralisation.

A number of those held complained of being abused by the police, with video footage appearing to back their claims. They were taken to different police stations across Panama City and interrogated.

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