Retirees in Panama protest president’s veto of pension boost


Dozens of retirees marched Friday in the Panamanian capital to demand an increase in pensions after President Juan Carlos Varela vetoed a bill that would have increased monthly payments by up to $60.

“Mr. President, open your heart. We want the increase, we don’t want bonuses, please, we want the increase,” retired police officer Oscar Coop told reporters.

The retirees, some in wheelchairs, mounted their protest in a downtown square near the presidential palace.

Varela vetoed on Wednesday a bill mandating a pension increase of between $35 and $60 a month.

The legislation, approved by the National Assembly in October, stipulates that the increase will be financed with a 7 percent tax on remittances from foreigners working in Panama and a 5 percent levy on the net profits of slot machines and other forms of gaming.

The government, which said it vetoed the bill because of the funding mechanism, formed a high-level commission, set to meet Friday, to seek “a responsible and sustainable economic formula to respond to the fair aspirations of retirees and pensioners.”

“We are asking for an increase and it has been very well specified where that increase has to come from,” Coop said. “We hope that the proposal that comes out of the presidency today is concise and precise and we will put it to a vote among the retirees.”

The Panamanian Association of Business Executives was one of the organizations that harshly criticized congress for approving a tax increase “without a process of consultation or in-depth analysis.”