The Washington Post
Friday, May 11, 2001; Page A42

Scores Injured in Panama Riots

Bus Fare Protest Ignites Worst Disorder Since '89 Invasion


PANAMA CITY, May 10 -- Twelve people were shot and more than 100 others were treated for injuries as protesters and police clashed during the worst night of
rioting and looting in Panama since the 1989 U.S. invasion, police said today.

Police arrested 67 people, including 16 minors, after a protest against a bus fare increase turned violent and thousands of stone-throwing students and workers
battled with police and looted stores late into the night Wednesday.

"This is the first time we have seen looting since the aftermath of the invasion," Interior Ministry spokesman David Salayandia told the Reuters news agency.

A police spokeswoman said an officer was one of the 12 people shot; five other policemen were treated for injuries.

Because of the unrest, the Panamanian government canceled school across the city, Panama's capital.

The trouble flared as protesters, enraged at a 25-cent, or 66 percent, hike in bus fares imposed last Thursday, attempted to storm barriers around the presidential
palace in the city's old quarter. Forced back by tear gas fired by riot police, protesters marched on the nearby National Assembly, throwing stones at police and
passing buses, and lighting fires in the street.

The street violence later spread to nearby Santa Ana and El Chorrillo districts, and protests turned into looting as rampaging groups smashed their way into six shops.

                                               © 2001