Editorials: Land tenure progress; and Today’s kids

El Himno Istmeño is the national anthem, but we also have original nations here, with anthems of their own. Here Emiliano Caisamo plays the Embera anthem. Archive photo by Eric Jackson.

A tiny start on a huge land tenure problem

Over what was a long holiday weekend for most Panamanians, MiAmbiente made an important policy change on behalf of some of the original Panamanians. They reversed the Varela administration policy of blanket opposition to the land claims of indigenous communities that are outside of the comarcas but within protected area. It came as a belated response to an old injustice, wherein the Inter-American Human Rights Court ruled that Guna and Embera communities that were flooded out by the Bayano Dam are owed compensation, even though their traditional lands were within parks or protected areas. The environmental ministry will now drop objections to collective land title claims that had been stalled for five years.

The existence of the resolution has been reported in La Estrella, but so far MiAmbiente has not seen fit to publish it on its website. We don’t know how far the new Cortizo policy will go, or whether it will affect the work and attitudes of other government ministries or agencies.

The post-invasion decades have been times of massive land-grabbing and massive issuance of land titles based on bogus premises, most of all based on supposed rights of possession to lands that nobody in the chain of claims ever lived upon or worked in any way. The Varela administration left us with some 38,000 land titles and a lot of those need to be investigated. Some of them are on their faces gifts to political figures and their families.

And Panama’s first nations? They have reasonable claim to everything, but they are a minority. A proper set of negotiations has never been held. The notion that things that are collectively owned by a community or a nation may be grabbed with impunity is a bit of hidalgo culture that needs to be relegated to the past, not only to protect indigenous land rights but everybody’s land rights.

Greta Thunberg addresses this past September’s climate march in Montreal. Wikimedia photo by Lëa-Kim Châteauneuf.

Kids these days!

There are outstanding examples like Greta Thunberg, who will fall short of sainthood and unconquerable genius, much to the notice of oil company execs, FOX News and vulgar demagogues in high offices. No matter. She’s done the world a great service and deserves the honors she’s getting. She and her peers in so many places and situations give their elders hope for posterity and the planet.


For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.

Hosea 8:7


Bear in mind…

The history of men’s opposition to women’s emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself.

Virginia Woolf

Today we see something very different and far more sinister. Nihilistic forces are dismantling policies to protect our air, water, and climate. And they seek to discredit the pillars of our democracy: voting rights and fair elections, the rule of law, the free press, the separation of powers, the belief in science, and the concept of truth itself.

Paul Volker

The best protection a woman can have is courage.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton            


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