President Juan Carlos Varela Monday witnessed the beginning of the $500 million urban renewal project in Colón.
The work is being done by the consortium Nuevo Colón, comprised of the Panamanian firm Cusa and the Brazilian firm Odebrecht. It was awarded in June and includes the construction of 5,000 houses and improvements to water and sewage systems.
The event was held in a park on Avenida Central. It was attended by hundreds of people and included displays of the area's Afro-Caribbean culture. It culminated with a fireworks show.
"Long ago, I dreamed of this day in which we will move together to recover the city of Colon and rescue its cultural heritage," Varela said. "We will develop the great tourist and commercial potential that this city has."
The president also said he will push for the approval of a law to make the city a duty-free zone. That move is expected to help tourism in the city, which has a large cruise port.