The Roads are Open
Whew! Life is returning to normal in Panama. There were protests for over three weeks that shut down the Panamerican Highway, the only highway through the country. Panama City was running out of perishables that come from Chiriqui, the western province where we live. We were running out of gasoline, diesel, and cooking gas among other things. Everything came to a halt because nothing and nobody could move through the country. We were fine but it was very hard for many people who couldn’t work, which meant lost pay which they needed to take care of themselves and their families. Many people were stranded and there were pictures of tourists walking miles to the airport. Once in a while a roadblock would open for a few hours for humanitarian reasons and people would line up at gas stations hoping to be one of the lucky ones who could buy $20 worth of gas. But even if trucks could get through one roadblock, they might be stopped at the next one. Produce was rotting in the streets because it spent so long in transit. It was quite the mess!
It seemed like everyone was protesting everything. It started with government corruption and high gas prices, but then teachers, health care professionals, labor unions, indigenous groups, and others all joined in with their various concerns and demands. The government finally decided to gather in a central location and invite representatives from all the groups to sit down and try to reach agreements, and these talks are still ongoing. But, a couple days ago the protesters announced that the population had suffered enough and they were going to reopen all the roads. It seemed like almost overnight, the country woke up again! Things were moving around, people were getting what they needed, and you could almost hear the country breathe a big sigh of relief.
Today we decided to venture out to the gas station and supermarket. Everything looked great! We were able to fill up our gas tank with no waiting. When we passed by on our way home there were maybe three cars in line and a gas tanker arriving with more fuel. That was a wonderful sight.
The supermarket looked good with plenty of eggs, milk, and other supplies. The meat supplies looked low but there was still enough to give a shopper choices. The freezer aisle though… the trucks must have just arrived because the aisle was jammed with piles of boxes and many workers putting things away in the freezers.
We also stopped by PGT, our mailing service. They said they received nothing until yesterday when everything arrived all at once. They were very busy sorting through all the packages and notifying customers that their things had arrived.
I hope everyone is able to get their issues sorted out so everyone can continue to enjoy a more normal life now. You don’t realize how much you rely on things until they aren’t available. If you have no gas in the kitchen, how do you cook? If you have no gas in your car, how do you get to work? Our neighbor who works at the hospital was driving whatever family car had gas so he could make it. It feels really good now to see that people are able to do what they need to do.
Then… I see a news link on Facebook. Protestors have closed the road in Penonome (central Panama) ☹️ Hopefully everyone is where they need to be and fairly well restocked, and any other closures are short and not so troublesome.
But, on a positive note, through all of this hardship and frustration, nobody was killed. A few were hurt one time when some very frustrated farmers tried to push their way through a roadblock. The only property destroyed was a police car by some kids who weren’t even a part of the protests. I can only imagine how much worse it must be to live in a war zone, or even through protests in other places that have turned destructive and violent. We feel very fortunate to be in the good country.