Panama to regulate prices of 72 food items to ease rising living costs

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PANAMA CITY — The Panamanian government announced on Monday it will regulate the price of 72 food items following weeks of angry protests and street blockades demanding the government take measures to stem the quickly rising cost of living.

Across the dollarized Central American nation protesters have been blocking roads and even stopping trucks from delivering food, a pressure tactic in the three-week-old protests as inflation accelerated to 5.2% in the year through June.

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That is up from annual inflation of 2.6% in December 2021.

“With the regulation of the 72 products, the cost of the basic food basket would decrease by 30%, a savings of more than $80,” the president’s office said in a statement, after the government and powerful unions, with the Catholic Church acting as a mediator, reached an agreement.

President Laurentino Cortizo’s government has already put in place price controls on a dozen food items and austerity measures for public institutions that included 10% of government workers.

But demonstrators are demanding more be done, including curbs on public spending, greater transparency and more investments in health and education.

Cortizo’s government first set the price of gasoline and diesel at $3.95 per gallon, and then lowered it to $3.25, in a failed attempt to stop the nationwide demonstrations.

Negotiations are ongoing and the government has asked protesters to end the street blockades in the meantime, but demonstrators have refused to do so until an agreement on all demands is reached. (Reporting by Elida Moreno in Panama City Writing by Valentine Hilaire Editing by Anthony Esposito and Matthew Lewis)

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