Bernal, Let’s have a national referendum on this copper mine contract

This ever-expanding hole in Panama’s forest, from which toxic sludge leaks into the water. CIAM photo from 2018 – it has gotten worse.

For a referendum on mining

by Miguel Antonio Bernal V.

To be able to speak of democracy in our times, citizen participation is a prerequisite. Otherwise, one of the main political rights of the citizen, which is the source of public power, is being violated.

The prevailing authoritarianism, protected by the militaristic constitution imposed 50 years ago on our country, is supported by the erroneous belief that the exercise of the vote is a right and a duty, but only to participate in the designation of representatives in the government: representantes, mayors, legislators, the president.

In this amputated and kidnapped democracy in which we live, the right of citizens to participate in the making of decisions of general interest, through means of direct democracy that are inherent to them as citizens, such as the revocation of mandate, town meetings, popular consultations, citizen assemblies, plebiscites and referenda, among others, have been cut off.

A basic instrument of citizen participation today is the referendum, a political right through which citizens intervene directly to express their will in any public matter that may affect the state.

In a matter of great transcendence like mining in Panama — in this specific case the contract signed by the Panamanian government with the First Quantum mining company — went behind the backs of the citizens. It’s therefore necessary that we demand a referendum so that, through it, and in use of our political rights, we Panamanians can all decide in a participatory and democratic manner what to do about the exploitation of our mineral resources.

We still have time to redouble our efforts to achieve citizen participation in this decision. The prevailing authoritarianism seeks to impose it on us, but that clearly goes against our interests as a country, as Panamanian citizens.


Contact us by email at

To fend off hackers, organized trolls and other online vandalism, our website comments feature is switched off. Instead, come to our Facebook page to join in the discussion.

These links are interactive — click on the boxes