Gandásegui, Baru farmers dispossessed

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Baru
Farm destruction in Baru. This story was broken by another small online medium, Bayano.

Varela bashes Baru farmers on his way out

by Marco A. Gandásgui, hijo

President Juan Carlos Varela says goodbye to the presidency without fulfilling many of his promises. Perhaps his only legacy will be having established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. He was very cautious — his opponents accused him of moving at a turtle’s speed. At the last minute, with only a few weeks left to finish his term, he unsuccessfully tried to pass a set of political measures in the National Assembly without support from the other caucuses or even from his own party.

The worst decision was to wait until he had a few days left in the Palacio de las Garzas and send militarized police to Barú to evict hundreds of farm families from their lands. What kind of advisers does President Varela have? The eviction of farmers from their lands is a practice that dates back to the first half of the 20th century in Panama. In those days the Guardia Nacional was used to suppress — sometimes taking lives – those campesinos who obstructed the landowners’ plans.

The president decided to send in troops from the National Frontiers Service (SENAFRONT) to fulfill functions that don’t really belong to that organization and evict the farm families. Will that leave us with another officer like Torrijos, who got tired of receiving orders that didn’t meet the country’s needs and rebelled? A Panamanian president giving orders to militarized police to repress farmers who resist being expelled from their lands to accommodate Del Monte, an US multinational company. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries companies like this deceived everyone by saying that giving up lands to foreigners was the way to progress. We learned that these stories were wrong.

If President Varela and his team want to do business, they should sit down and talk with those affected. If the proposals of the American corporation are no good, they must be rejected without harming the farmers and much less pitting their brothers and children in uniform against them.

According to the online news medium Bayano, “Despite the continual complaints made by farmers to all media, the authorities of the district of Baru and the province of Chiriqui have never submitted any document that says where the eviction order comes from. They only arrive with their machinery at their farms, accompanied by police and the SENAFRONT, for the purpose of destroying the farms with full force, fury and impunity.”

Yet more incredible is that the corporation joined the government’s destructive mission. “The tractors of BANAPIÑA, a subsidiary of the transnational Del Monte, fitted with mechanical shovels, entered the Rodolfo Aguilar Delgado Cooperative’s palm oil farm, which is in full production,” Bayano reported. “There they destroyed the crops and the South Burica farmers’ meeting hall.”

When those affected asking the justice of the peace, Ulzana Valzdez, to show them the legal order for this action, she told them them that they had to go later to her office to ask for it, but meanwhile the destruction of the crops continued.

Acording to Bayano, afterward they went to the La Ceiba farm, where they destroyed the Persian lime trees and coconut palms belonging to farmer Alexander López. On this same farm they destroyed farmer Felícito González’s plantains and other crops.

The rabiblanco media haven’t reported on the destruction wrought by the government and Banalpiña. The company’s arrogance brings back memories of the old banana company, in another era. They made sure that the destruction of the agricultural crops of the farmers of Barú continued until the last plant disappeared and all the farmers were arrested and expelled.

Bayano reported that “the spokesman for the Association of Pro-Land Farmers of Barú, Marvin Wilcox, said that dozens of families have been affected by the total destruction of their farms.”

According to Bayano, “what the peasants of Barú are living through can be described as dehumanizing, subject to actions that violate the basic rights of the human beings like food and the right of every citizen to work the land in a dignified, peaceful and continuous manner.”

In January 2019, President Varela received Pope Francis, who celebrated World Youth Day in Panama along with 300,000 pilgrims. He closes his mandate by repressing humble Panamanians to favor the Del Monte corporation, one of the richest multinationals in the world. With one hand, he destroys what he does with the other.

 

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