Decree to sell permits to use protected areas rescinded

“More than a month of protests, complaints, pronouncements and a lawsuit for annulment have borne fruit: MiAmbiente announced that it will repeal the disastrous Executive Decree 141, which would grant accreditation certificates for land use in protected areas.” CIAM – the Center for Environmental Litigation – reacts to the decree’s retraction. Photo from the Twitter feed of ANCON – the National Association for the Conservation of Nature.

MiAmbiente rescinds Decree 141 after protests from several directions

by Eric Jackson

The Ministry of the Environment (MiAmbiente) has called off the sale of permits to use the nation’s protected areas and national parks for private purposes.

The loudest and best organized opposition was from a national environmentalist movement that showed rare unity. The prospects of parks and national forests being clear-cut for strip mining, cattle ranching or industrial farming set off many an alarm, and these were heard outside the usual activist ranks. As environmentalist, architect and former Panama City deputy mayor Raisa Banfield put it on her Twitter feed, “To this we added the stand of men and women in Donoso, who demanded from the president the repeal of the disastrous 141. It was not good for the environment, nor for the people, only for the mining company.”

As the furious six-week environmentalist campaign came to a boil, remote farming and fishing communities began to organize, with support from leftist groups and lawyers. For them, rights of possession accrued from sometimes decades of living and working where they were stood to be erased by people waving documents indicating a government concession. It’s a very old land grab game in Panama that has in particular displaced many fishing villages. Almost always the concessionaires are politically connected. Often there is a plea that it’s for a tourist resort that will protect or improve the environment and bring jobs to an impoverished area. Rarely do the displaced people see any benefit at all from their expulsion.

With a lawsuit attacking the decree’s constitutionality before the Supreme Court and the threat of farmer and fisher road blockages in Colon province and elsewhere, on December 10 the Cortizo administration threw in the towel.


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