Panama protesters gear up for Bush visit

PANAMA CITY – As if Pres. Bush doesn’t have enough critics at home, his planned Nov. 6-7 visit to Panama could expose him to militant students and trade unionists who oppose his neo-liberal trade policies and handling of Iraq. “We will give a warm welcome to the greatest genocidal killer on earth," university leader Javier Vasquez told Prensa Latina last week.

In anticipation of trouble, the government recently closed some schools and cracked down of protesters. As Vasquez sees it, the current Panama government obeys the mandates of "Emperor Bush," but most Panamanians don’t agree. Protests are expected to resume before the U.S president arrives, focusing not only on the visit but also on the recent rise in fuel prices and a possible increase in bus fares.

A coalition of trade unions and social organizations, headed by the Panamanian Human Rights Committee, is also planning anti-Bush actions. "The visit should not take place because Bush is persona non grata in Panama and in the entire world. He is a human rights violator," said Father Conrado Sanjur, who leads the National Movement for the Defense of Sovereignty. One key complaint is that free trade “will asphyxiate our economy," he told Prensa Latina.