Panama: Indigenous Mining Protest Blocks Pan-American Highway

Todo lo acordado con los indígenas ha sido cumplido. Ahora elementos foráneos desean que no haya hidroeléctricas. Eso hará triplicar la luz

Everything agreed on with the indigenous people has been fulfilled. Now foreign elements don't want there to be hydroelectricity. That will triple the light.

That's how President Ricardo Martinelli of Panama made excuses via his Twitter account (@rmartinelli) [es] for the road closure that on February 3, 2012, marked its fifth day. The indigenous people of the Ngäbes Buglés region have blocked the Pan-American Highway up to the Chiriqui Province to demand that the government comply with the agreement reached last year with regard to mining in the region.

The closure has caused millions of dollars of losses as this is the main transportation artery for the country. It has also caused hundreds of people to be trapped in the massive congestion, leaving them without water or food. As reported in La Prensa [es]:

Cientos de viajeros y conductores de vehículos de carga atrapados por el tranque de la vía Interamericana, en el distrito de La Mesa, clamaron por ayuda de las autoridades de la provincia de Veraguas, debido a que después de cuatro días de protesta se han quedado sin agua y comida.

Hundreds of travelers and freight drivers trapped by the blockade of the Pan-American in the district of La Mesa, cried out for help from the authorities in the Veraguas Province, because after four days of protest, they have been left without water and food.

Up until now, the government has chosen to ignore the protests and look for alternate routes for transporting people and goods, like the so-called “Air Bridge” that would transport people and goods by air.

Woman wearing a nagua (skirt), typical dress of the Ngöbe-Buglé in Chiriqui, Panamá. Image by Flickr user Lon&Queta (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Woman wearing a nagua (skirt), typical dress of the Ngöbe-Buglé in Chiriqui, Panamá. Image by Flickr user Lon&Queta (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

The shaky image of Ricardo Martinelli's government appears even worse on social networks, where people have repudiated the apathy and arrogance with which the president and his team have handled the situation, although there are also those who see the attitude of the indigenous people as self-centered and showing little concern for the country.

Roberto Troncos B. (@tronky22) [es] writes to the president:

@rmartinelli Es inadmisible q un sector de la población nos tenga de rodillas, pero tmbn es inconcebible que no se tenga vías de solución

@rmartinelli It's unacceptable that one segment of the population can bring us to our knees, but it's also inconceivable that there aren't any ways to resolve this.

Jaime Correa (@JCorrea1293) [es] is upset by the autocratic manner of the president and states that he often confuses this with controlling his supermarket chain (Super 99):

Martinelli todavìa sigue pensando y creyendo que Panamá se administra como un Super 99 y que al ser presidente, es dueño de los recursos

Martinelli keeps thinking and believing that Panama can be run like a Super 99 and that as president he owns all the resources.

Fermin Osorio (@MeisterBrake) [es] on the other hand, thinks that people are exaggerating a little to point to Martinelli as being responsible for everything bad that happens:

Todo lo que hace martinelli ta mal, fren en mi opinión el a echo muchas cosas y buenas, también sus defecadas pero bueno.

Everything that Martinelli does is bad, in my opinion he has done many things and good things, even some mistakes, but oh well.

Maria Moreno (@ascadelia1986) [es] Maria compares the current government with Manuel Antonio Noriega's dictatorship:

est gobierno esta peor q el gobiern o d noriega nadamas falta q martinelli salga planeando y alzando el machete

This government is worse than Noriega's, all that's left is for Martinelli to come out plotting and raising his machete.

Daniel Acosta (@Daar05) [es] states that all politicians are responsible for the crisis the country is currently in:

Yo siento que toodos los de la politica en Panamá son culpables de lo que ocurre! Martinelli debe buscar rapido alguna solucion!!!!!

I believe all the politicians in Panamá are to blame for what's happening! Martinelli needs to find an answer quick!!!!!

Blogger Erick Simpson Aguilera shares his perspective in his blog Pma507pty [es]:

Finalizo solidarizándome con la lucha de los hermanos Ngäbes por la defensa del territorio nacional, el cual el gobierno autócrata de turno pretende vender a las mineras canadienses y coreanas, para depredar y saquear nuestra riqueza natural. Y, haciéndole un llamado al gobierno en el sentido que, no insista en mantener al país al borde de la ingobernabilidad y el caos, dando al traste con la imagen de Panamá, afectando las inversiones, el turismo, y el crecimiento económico que experimenta la nación; lo cual evitarán si dialogan con las autoridades Ngäbes Buglés y aceptan formalizar legalmente, la no exploración, ni explotación minera, ni hídrica en la Comarca.

I end up supporting the fight of the Ngabes brothers in defense of their homeland territory, which typically, the autocratic government means to sell to the Canadian and Korean mining companies, to rob and plunder our natural wealth. And, issuing a wake up call to the government in the sense that, do not insist on keeping the country on the verge of ungovernability and chaos, ruining the image of Panama, affecting investment, tourism, and the economic growth the nation was experiencing; which would be avoided if they talk to the Ngäbes Buglés authorities and agree to legally formalize no exploring or mining operations, nor hydro in the region.

Although the solution seems far away right now, Panamanians have not lost hope of finding a solution beneficial to all.


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