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Protests Spread To Panama As Inflation, Gas Prices Strangle Developing World
Zoya Stafienko via Getty Images

Widespread protests have gripped Panama for weeks as residents grow frustrated over high gas prices and rising inflation.

Protesters — organized by teachers’ and construction workers’ unions, among other activists — have blocked the nation’s capital, Panama City, as well as other cities and the Pan-American Highway, according to the Associated Press. Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo has stated that he understands citizens’ concerns and pinned the high prices on COVID and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The nation’s top Roman Catholic clergyman, Jose Domingo Ulloa, moderated talks between protest leaders and government officials last week. Ahead of the talks, Cortizo agreed to freeze the price of gas and a handful of basic goods, as well as devote $150 million to subsidizing fuel expenses. “Together we can find viable and feasible solutions to the problems affecting our society,” the government of Panama said in a statement, per Bloomberg.

Consumer prices in Panama are expected to rise by 3.1% in 2022, according to data from the International Monetary Fund. Fuel costs were capped at $3.95 per gallon last week after eight consecutive days of protests, per the BBC.

Panama, which uses a currency pegged to the dollar, derives much of its economic output from service industries and agribusiness. The U.S. Embassy in Panama advised Americans to “exercise caution near any large gatherings or protests and maintain situational awareness,” noting that national police have been known to use tear gas and riot control munitions to disperse crowds.

News of the protests in Panama follows a collapse of the government in Sri Lanka, which occurred as residents grew frustrated over food and fuel prices — thereby exacerbating tensions between majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned his post and fled the South Asian country on a military jet as protesters occupied the Presidential Palace.

Global oil prices have indeed spiked since the beginning of the Ukraine invasion on February 24. As of Monday morning, Brent Crude has surged from roughly $99 to nearly $106, while West Texas International crude increased from under $93 to almost $102 over the same time frame. Prices for regular unleaded gas reached $4.52 in the United States on Monday, according to AAA, with Europe facing even higher prices.

Russia and Ukraine produce a combined 30% of the world’s traded wheat, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute, leading to a rise in worldwide food prices. Roughly half of African wheat imports come from Russia and Ukraine, with some nations importing “more than one-third of their wheat from the two countries,” according to a United Nations report released in March. Some countries — such as Egypt, Somalia, Laos, and Benin — import more than 80% of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine.

Earlier this month, the Biden administration vowed ahead of the Summit of the Americas to provide another $331 million in food security and humanitarian aid for Latin American nations.

“This contribution will complement the United States’ existing commitment to providing life-saving humanitarian assistance, responding to acute food insecurity, and advancing capacity-building activities that bolster disaster preparedness and response” across Latin America and the Caribbean, a White House statement said.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Protests Spread To Panama As Inflation, Gas Prices Strangle Developing World