PANAMA CITY – Workers from one of Panama’s main power plants protested Thursday at the Ministry of Economy to demand that the government prevent a possible closure of the partly state-owned installation.
“We are aware that there are intentions of closing Bahia Las Minas on Dec. 31 and we want to prevent it. The plant’s current economic situation is the result of terrible management by the government,” Ariel Muñoz, of the SITIESPA electrical workers union, told EFE.
He said that the Panamanian government has a 49 percent stake in the plant, while the remaining 51 percent is owned by the private firm Celsia, a subsidiary of Colombia-based Grupo Argos.
Celsia is willing to reach an agreement to keep the power plant open, though “the government has shown no interest in accepting their terms,” Muñoz said.
According to Muñoz, the closure of the plant, which is located on the Caribbean coast, would leave more than 500 people without work and confirm the Panamanian government’s plans of withdrawing its involvement in all energy companies and making “the sector 100 percent private.”
“The electrical system as such is already privatized, but the government continues to participate in many companies. There is a strategy of financially strangling these companies to be able to say that the government cannot manage them and that they must be closed,” he said.
According to information published on Celsia’s webpage, Bahia Las Minas “is the largest power plant in Panama,” generating 280 MW of power.
In 2016, the latest year for which statistics are available, Panama got 60 percent of its electricity from hydropower and 32 percent from conventionally fueled plants such as Bahia Las Minas.