Violent protests force rethink on land sale in Panama
PANAMA CITY (REUTERS) - Panama's government could abandon plans to sell state-owned land in Latin America's largest duty-free zone and instead raise commercial rents, the finance minister said on Wednesday following a backlash of violent protests that killed three people.
The dilapidated port city of Colon, which depends economically on the duty-free zone near the Panama Canal, descended into chaos after Panama's National Assembly last Friday passed legislation allowing the land sale.
"If the opinion of Colon is to cancel the sale of the land, that is what we will do," Finance Minister Frank de Lima said in an email to Reuters on Wednesday. "We need to have peace and calm return to Colon."
Heavily-armed police now patrol Panama's second biggest city, which has been under an indefinite curfew since a 9-year-old boy was shot dead there on Friday.