Broken Promises Fuel a New Wave of Anti-Mining Protests in Panama (Intercontinental Cry)

This February 5, 2012 article details the murder and injury of indigenous protesters following their opposition to a Canadian-owned mining project in the context of government breaches in environmental protections. 
 
A petition calling for the protection of protesters is here

[From the article:]

An indigenous Ngobe protester was killed by a gunshot wound to the chest during confrontations with the police this morning, 5th February, in San Félix, Panama. It has been confirmed that three more people have been hurt with local residents insisting many more are injured. In flat contradiction, the Security Minister Jose Mulino has stated that his officers are not carrying guns.  In retaliation to the death, Ngobe protestors have set light to a police station in San Félix.

Since 30th January, demonstrators have been positioned at various points along the international Interamerican highway using branches, pieces of wood, metal and rocks to block the road. They are protesting against the government’s decision to remove a law that would provide environmental protection to their lands. The police continue to deny that there has been any violence, although on Thursday 2nd January there were reports of up to 7 people injured in attacks involving tear gas.

Early 2011 saw similar actions by thousands of Ngobe who protested the government’s amendment of the national mining law 415, which would have allowed for the commission of mines and other projects in the region. In March 2011, after talks between government officials and Ngobe leaders, it was agreed that article 5, which will protect the entire Comarca from exploration and exploitation, would be written into the mining law 415. Read the full article on Intercontinental Cry.

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2 Responses to Broken Promises Fuel a New Wave of Anti-Mining Protests in Panama (Intercontinental Cry)

  1. I have been in Bocas del Toro, a town on the Caribbean coast of Panama, taking a 6 week Spanish course at a local school. I arrived at Escuela Hable Ya on February 4, 2012, and experienced first hand the impact of a blockade. By about the middle of the month, local markets were running short on vegetables and other supplies that have to come in by trucks from David, a larger urban center, by the Transamerican Highway. The indigenous people agreed to lift the blockade for the carnaval period, but now that this is over, there are rumors the blockades will be set up again. During this time I could not make calls into Canada and I heard (no official source confirmed however) that the Panamanian Government cut communications for their own strategic reasons. An operator in Panama City told me I could not make a collect call to a Canadian number (my bank back home) because collect calls to Canada were suspended ‘at this time’. No further reason could be provided by the operator or a local telecommunications office in Bocas. Information is hard to come by.

    I have contributed to a website via email that the Canadian Embassy in Panama City
    manages for travelers, having registered with that service before leaving my home, Vancouver, B.C. The woman who initially thanked me for some information I sent about communications problems to Canada has been noteably silent since, after I inquired about the blockade and possible Canadian involvement in that affair.

    The tourist industry is clearly impaired by the blockade but almost no one I spoke with in Bocas Del Toro knew anything more about this communication issue, and few of the tourists in hostels or hotels I spoke with knew anything about the current political/human rights crisis involving the indigenous peoples. My guess is that unless the blockade is resurected and has an even stronger impact on the local economies that depend on tourism, the Government may renege on its unsigned (to date from what I have been told) agreement(s) with the indigenous peoples.

    One person I met was quite well aware of the blockade and why it was justifiable, a member of the Panamanian opposition group living in Bocas (Odalis Aranez of the Partido Revolutionario Democratico de Panama), but with my limited Spanish -recall I am in Panama to learn the language- and her limited English, we have not been able to exchange on much further to date.

    A resurection of a blockade I heard from one unoficial source, might extend beyond the Bocas Del Toro, Boquete, and Chiriqi regions closest to the Costa Rican border. If this happens, the only way out of the Bocas resort region woulod be by plane since Bocas has an airport. However, ground transportation would be halted, including possible blockade of international ground transit on the Pan-American highway.

    It’s instructive to be caught in the middle of this political struggle, and an embarrassment for me as a citizen of Canada, whose current Government, the right-wing Harper regime, is playing this game with corporate interests in Panama to the detriment of the poorest peoples of the country.

    Juergen Dankwort, Ph.D.
    February 25, 2012
    (traveling currently in Puerta Veijo, Costa Rica)
    membership@ivsi.net
    http://www.ivsi.net
    I.V.S.I. Vancouver, B.C.

  2. Hola amigos

    Further to my previous commentary on this topic, the native Panamanian blockade is back up, impacting ground transportation, especially around Vigui and the border between the provinces of Vereguas and Chiriqi. According to several media sources, tne lane at San Felix intersection and a lane leaving David towards Panama City are closed. Closures and protests are also occuring at Salado, close to San Felix and Tole.

    In the meantime, the Coordinating Committee for the Protection of Mineral Resources & the HUman Rights of the Ngobe Bugle People are in negotiations with the Panamanian Government. Church organizations are mediating while the SUNTRACS union and university students as well as environmentalists are supporting the Natives based on reports by Estrella and Telemetro. Additonal information is available from La Prensa, including their archives detailing, for instance the murder of a pro-Native demonstrator in Panama City earlier this month.

    For those not familiar with the background on this struggle involving the indigenous peoples of Panama and Canadian mining interests, a recent article in the Dominion does a thorough job of providing this. This is the link: http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/3968

    These events have also been detailed in English in an online “expat” journal called the Panama-Guide. While the updated information is timely in information about disruptions, accidents and other news, especially to non-Spanish speaking folks, unfortunately the editor, Don Winner, is extremely reactionary relentlessly coloring each report about the struggle with his “Editor’s comment.” If you want to see what I am claiming, here is the link to the ezine: http://panama-guide.com/

    One strikinjg example of his extreme views is shown in his commentary on the journalists who wrote the above-linked Dominion article. Displaying his ignorance for what constitutes credible and professional journalism, Don commits the classic error any journalism 101 student knows to avoid: denouncing a report and even the magazine by asserting it is biased. Claiming to be objective as a journalist/reporter is highly dubious, unrealistic and pretentious, and is something I alert my media students to spot within the first week of class. Respected journalists for this reason do not make such claims, knowing the value of an article lies in the depth and quality of its research, plus its fair and balanced presentation of its findings. In fact, the most credible reporters are transparent about their bias or how they frame a story, and journals, magazines and newspapers are generally known to exist on political continuums.

    It’s quite shocking to me to read such blatant reactionary views by a person who edits what is boasted to be the leading online English source of news and information for folks in Panama, while unashamedly condemning the indigenous peoples of the host country in their struggles for human rights. As a North American visitor to Panama, I would exercise much greater respect and refrain from such vitriolic attacks that even include a denunciation of the Canadians who researched the crucial elements that became their published piece in the Dominion.

    As a firm linked to the Pana-Guide.com for the purpose of advertising, I would reconsider the wisdom of being associated with such extremism.

    For those who want to do their own analysis, this link takes you to the Jan. 27, 2012 Panama Guide editor’s inflamatory article titled:
    Panama Expels Canadian Political Activist and Journalist Rosie Simms
    http://www.panama-guide.com/article.php/20120127123925349

    Juergen
    (in Bocas del Toro, Panama, February 28, 2012)

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