Panama rentals
   
News | Economy | Culture | Opinion | Lifestyle | Nature
Noticias | Opiniones | Alternativa con Miguel Antonio Bernal
Archive | Unclassified Ads | Front Page and Update Links
Volume 18, Number 1
February 6, 2012
Learn Spanish Online with Habla Ya's Skype Spanish Lessons



news special

Also in this section:
Mining standoff gets more desperate on both sides
Wild legislative session ends in partial Cambio Democratico retreat
Latin America in US political discourse
"Notables" propose a much longer constitution
US Food Safety Modernization Act to affect Panamanian exporters
Martinelli pretends that a fax from a company under investigation absolves him
Another indigenous uprising over mining
Mexico: The drug war's invisible victims
CBC fixer and translator turned away at Tocumen
Growing instability in Panama
WE'RE NUMBER 113! WE'RE NUMBER 113! (in press freedom rankings)
Mexico's drug war: not another Colombia
OAS institution of Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression comes under attack
Bosco Vallarino resigns
First suspect jailed in Fernández slaying released, two other suspects arrested

Many things that used to be in a Panama News Briefs feature of the website have now migrated to our constantly updated Facebook page


Ngabe protesters destroy the El Volcan police station.
Photo by Otramerica


Government, on the defensive about lies and hit by strikes, rioting and repudiation, starts to back down

Disorders spread throughout Panama

by Eric Jackson

"We're only producing deeper wounds," Foreign Minister Roberto Henríquez pleaded before the reporters and videographers, calling for an end to violent confrontations that he helped to gin up with his false claims of an international hostage crisis on the eve of a bloody police crackdown on Ngabe protesters who were barricading the Pan-American Highway. In this statement he finally broke with the government's previous denials that there had been any agreement about mining and water resources in the Ngabe-Bugle Comarca and adjacent indigenous communities, and agreed to talks with the Catholic Church as mediator. It appears that these talks will happen.

Earlier in the day, developments in the legislature, in international diplomacy and among the Ngabe leadership set a framework in which talks might take place:
  • Legislator Raúl Hernández, president of the National Assembly's Commerce and Economic Affairs Committee, announced that Law 415, a set of changes to the Mining Code whose Section 5 would have implemented last year's agreement on mines and water resources --- before his committee cut out that section --- would be withdrawn from the full legislature's agenda and sent back to committee. It was the elimination of Section 5 that sparked the current unrest.

  • Ana Villa, a rapporteur for the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights, offered her organization's services as a mediator in the dispute between the national government and the Ngabe-Bugle Comarca.

  • The Indigenous and Farmers Coordinator, an umbrella group of rural anti-mining and anti-hydroelectric dam groups in the comarca and surrounding communities, issued six conditions on which it would agree to talks. These include the withdrawal of police from the conflict area; the release of those arrested; an end to government persecution and prosecution of indigenous activists and leaders; the re-establishment of cell phone services in the comarca; the Catholic Church as a mediator; and the United Nations rapporteur, a representative of Evangelical churches and the rector of the University of Panama as observers.

Meanwhile across Panama the previous day's police actions set off a firestorm of protests. In El Volcan, a crowd of some 7,000 Ngabe gathered, blocked the road into town, fought with and ultimately routed the police and went on to destroy the local police station and set fire to the corregiduria. On the other end of the country, Embera and Wounaan protesters blocked the Pan-American Highway in Darien while Kuna protesters blocked the road at the Bayano Bridge and in Ipeti in the Madugandi Comarca. In Colon, members of the SUNTRACS construction workers' union fought a pitched battle on the Transistmica in front of the Policlinica Hugo Spadafora (the old Coco Solo Hospital), which broke up with the police firing birdshot and the clinic being evacuated due to the effects of tear gas. SUNTRACS and its allies also blocked the Pan-American Highway off and on in Aguadulce, Anton and San Carlos, while in Chiriqui around the scenes of the previous day's battles people kept coming down from the hills of the comarca and in small groups many of them sought to disrupt traffic by throwing stones at cars from spots along the Pan-American Highway. The roads to and through Bocas del Toro were blocked in several places by Ngabe protesters. There were demonstrations in many places, including a large march by Panama City's indigenous inhabitants through Calidonia and to Parque Porras, and a free concert given by about 20 musicians in support of the Ngabe side in the park next to the legislature.

Ricardo Martinelli has rarely shown his face during the crisis, but he did send out his surrogates to justify the previous day's crackdown. This, however, turned against the administration when Security Minister José Raúl Mulino, who was attempting to make the case that he had to lie about the government turning off  the cell phones (he alleged sabotage) in order to thwart "extreme leftists" when he was confronted with a series of photographs taken by La Estrella's Eliezer Oses. These pictures of an officer drawing and firing a pistol contradicted Mulino's claims that an indigenous student who was killed in San Felix the previous day could not have been killed by police because the cops at the scene had no lethal weapons. The Martinelistas deployed their "call center" propagandists to allege that the photos were photoshopped fakes, but eventually they backed down and said that the officer would face disciplinary proceedings. While Mulino backed down on that issue, the Augustinian Friars in Tole issued a statement responding to his allegations of the previous day that they had engaged in inciting violence. The day turned into a public relations rout for the government.

As the sun got low in the sky the day after the police crackdown, the SITRAIBANA banana workers' union in Bocas del Toro voted to go out on strike in support of indigenous demands, and called on the rest of the labor movement to join in a general strike. The Martinelista call center and attack video people kept up their barrage of claims about foreigners loyal to Hugo Chávez and opposition plots, but the tide of public opinion was flowing against them by the time that Henríquez came out to talk to reporters.


Embera and Wounaan protesters block the Pan-American Highway in Arimae, Darien.


Musicians rally to the indigenous cause in the park next to the legislature.
Photo by Otramerica






    

Also in this section:
Mining standoff gets more desperate on both sides
Wild legislative session ends in partial Cambio Democratico retreat
Latin America in US political discourse
"Notables" propose a much longer constitution
US Food Safety Modernization Act to affect Panamanian exporters
Martinelli pretends that a fax from a company under investigation absolves him
Another indigenous uprising over mining
Mexico: The drug war's invisible victims
CBC fixer and translator turned away at Tocumen
Growing instability in Panama
WE'RE NUMBER 113! WE'RE NUMBER 113! (in press freedom rankings)
Mexico's drug war: not another Colombia
OAS institution of Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression comes under attack
Bosco Vallarino resigns
First suspect jailed in Fernández slaying released, two other suspects arrested



© 2012 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 or

thepanamanews@gmail.com

phone: (507) 6-632-6343

Mailing address:

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

Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/thepanamanews