News | Economy | Culture | Opinion | Lifestyle | Nature
Noticias | Opiniones | Archive | Unclassified Ads | Home

Volume 15, Number 18
December 6, 2009

news

Also in this section:
Slow and untidy Panamanian exit from PARLACEN
Gaffe, rejection of Honduras mark Latin American Parliament session here
Black Latin Americans want to be counted
Naso land claims talks appear to be designed to fail
Bosco Vallarino's sinking legal and political fortunes
Establishment environmental groups fall out with Martinelli


King Valentín Santana (center), at the head of delegation of protesters who were thrown out of their homes in San San Druy. Archive photo by Eric Jackson

Government chooses Naso delegation that's likely to deadlock
Talks on Naso comarca to begin December 11
by Eric Jackson

The Naso, an indigenous group whose traditional homeland is along the Teribe and San San rivers and their tributaries on the Bocas del Toro mainland, is the only nation in the Americas with a monarchy. However, succession there doesn't work as European monarchies do. The king, always a member of the extended Santana royal family, has broad powers, but gets his mandate by popular election, subject to popular recall. It has frequently been the case that when the national government changes, the Naso will choose a new king appropriate to a new political situation.

The more recent twist in Ngobe politics is the selection of kings by Colombian millionaires with the connivance of the Panamanian national government. Hidroecologica del Teribe SA, a subsidiary of Empresas Publicas de Medellin, is building a hydroelectric dam in Naso country, on the Bonyic River, which comes down from the Talamanca Mountains and flows into the Teribe River, which then flows into the Changuinola River, which in turn empties through the San San Pond Sac wetland. The dam project would create a reservoir up to the edge of the La Amistad International Park. For a variety of reasons it has drawn opposition from national and international environmentalist groups. Locally, it has drawn opposition from Naso who stand to be directly flooded off of their lands, or to lose their water supply and be forced out in that way.

The $50 million project is economically marginal in its own right, but according to the dubious science upon which carbon trading schemes are based, hydroelectric dams reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (Put in a new dam, however, and the rotting vegetation under the water gives off methane, a carbon-based greenhouse gas.) The Colombians would make their dam profitable not so much from the sale of electricity but from the income derived from polluting industrialized country companies via the carbon bond scheme.

Tito Santana, then king of the Naso, signed an agreement with the Colombians and the national government in 2004. The agreement was immediately repudiated by the Naso General Assembly, which also deposed Tito and replaced him as king with his uncle, Valentín Santana. The Torrijos administration, however, at the insistence of Colombians, refused to recognize the decision. So on January 4, 2005, Naso loyal to the General Assembly and King
Valentín converged on the Naso village of Seiyik and joined with the community's 400 inhabitants to run Tito and his family out of the royal residence there. Tito Santana has lived in exile in the Changuinola community of El Silencio ever since.

In the wake of Tito's ouster, the Torrijos administration and the PRD-dominated Electoral Tribunal revised the list of members of the Naso General Assembly to eliminate
Valentín's supporters and add Tito's supporters and called for a new General Assembly. Valentín's backers boycotted the session, which the PRD administration recognized as legitimate. Nearly every indigenous organization in Panama recognizes Valentín as the true king of the Naso.

Then came Mario Guardia, whose Ganadera Bocas bought a piece of land from the United Fruit Company years ago, that bit of real estate on the San San River coming with the Naso communities San San and San San Druy long established on it. The people in those communities support
Valentín, and with Tito's support Guardia prevailed upon the Torrijos administration to send in the cops so that his company could bulldoze the Naso community and make way for cattle. The Martinelli administration has ratified that action and now faces demands from Guardia to raze the oldest part of San San on the one hand and a low-intensity war with dispossessed Naso on the other.

So what to do? Begin talks with the Naso about one of their long-standing demands, the creation of a comarca (semi-autonomous commonwealth). That process starts on December 10.

However, the Ministry of Government and Justice still treats Tito as the king of the Naso.

The solution is fairly evident --- a new Naso General Assembly, convened under international rather than PRD supervision, to settle the issue of who speaks for the Naso. It almost certainly wouldn't be Tito.

The Martinelli administration knows better than to continue the Torrijos administration's pretenses about Tito. There's no way that violent confrontations would be anything but aggravated by that. So they came up with a halfway measure: at the talks there will be 10 Naso representatives chosen by Tito and 10 by Valentín. Presiding over the talks will be Leopoldo Archibold, a Cambio Democratico deputy from the Ngobe-Bugle Comarca and president of the National Assembly's Indigenous Affairs Committee.

What's likely to happen is that on key points --- like Guardia's demands --- the Naso delegates will be split and the Martinelli administration will side with Tito's faction. There are several ways out of this result, some of which are in the hands of Mr. Martinelli or Mr. Archibold, some of which could happen as the result of shifts in one or both of the Naso delegations.

But the director of Indigenous Policy at the Ministry of Government and Justice, José Isaac Acosta, still insists on calling the
Valentín supporters puppets of foreign non-governmental organizations. (He means international environmentalist groups --- agents for Colombian corporations are exempt from that charge in government circles.) Thus in a press statement the Valentín camp said that it would participate in the talks, but isn't expecting much progress to result from them.

Also in this section:
Slow and untidy Panamanian exit from PARLACEN
Gaffe, rejection of Honduras mark Latin American Parliament session here
Black Latin Americans want to be counted
Naso land claims talks appear to be designed to fail
Bosco Vallarino's sinking legal and political fortunes
Establishment environmental groups fall out with Martinelli

News | Economy | Culture | Opinion | Lifestyle | Nature
Noticias | Opiniones | Archive | Unclassified Ads | Home



Tankless Water Heaters --- http://www.eztankless.com/
Panama Hotel: Luxury apartment rentals in Casco Viejo, Panama City
Panama Real Estate: Original travel and investment articles on The Panama Report
Make the Executive Hotel your headquarters in Panama City
Find the boat of your dreams through Evermarine


© 2009 by Eric Jackson
All Rights Reserved - Todos Derechos Reservados
Individual contributors retain the rights to their articles or photos

email: editor@thepanamanews.com or

e_l_jackson_malo@yahoo.com

Cell phone: (507) 6-632-6343

Mailing address:
Eric Jackson
att'n The Panama News
Apartado 0831-00927 Estafeta Paitilla
Panamá, República de Panamá