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14 April 2011 | |

Taking it to the Streets

Panama: Indigenous peoples demonstrate against Martinelli’s plans

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The relationship between Ricardo Martinelli’s administration and indigenous communities is not the best, up to the point that the plans to reform the mining code and the advance of hydroelectric megaprojects have caused serious conflicts.

This time, the conflicts are taking place in Chiriqui province, in the border with Costa Rica, one of the most complex territories in terms of the relationship of the government with the indigenous people.

The Ngabe Bugle people from Kodriri region have been blocking the entrance to the hydroelectric project Barro Blanco on Tabasará River. The demonstrators, according to Radio Temblor are demanding the company to stop building the dam. They state that Martinelli’s administration has not complied with the promise of taking into account the opinion of the indigenous people and peasants with reference to these infrastructure plans.

According to newspaper Estrella, after meeting with Minister Roxana Mendez who went to the occupation site yesterday, the indigenous people agreed to leave the road, although they will set up a campsite by Tabasara River.

Spokesperson of the demonstrators Manolo Miranda said the company started the works without the communities knowing what was happening, and stated that he will call the 17 thousand indigenous people that will be affected by the dam to join the protest.

The native peoples also say that the company responsible for the project, Genisa, is acting illegally since they submitted an Environmental Impact Assessment that expired on May 2010.

They also warn that the Ngabe Buble communities will be flooded with the dam, that old trees will be lost and that some species, such as the blue frog from Tabasara could disappear. The same would happen to several fish species that are important for the Ngabe Bugle people.

Photo: Radio Temblor

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