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Panama in Protest

In the "Cult of Escapism": Panama in Protest

Monday, February 6, 2012

Panama in Protest

You probably havent heard about the protests in Panama since I havent been able to find mention of them on CNN or the BBC. Heres whats going on.

(By the way im on my new kindle in site which has built in 3G. Thats how ive scanned the news, thats how im wiritng this and thats also why there will be almost total neglect of punctuation except periods cause those are easy to do on a kindle. I also apologize for any spelling errors as it takes a long time to move up to and fix an error and I dont have the patience.)

Last week, the government changed an article in the anti-mining legislation and then tried to force it through the equivalent of the senate. The legislature would allow minig and hydroelectric activities in the semi autonomous indigenous Comarca in which I live.

This has been a sensitive topic for years, with the Ngabes pushing for NO mining and the government making various concessions and deals and promises with companies and individuals. They seemed to drop the issue last year after fierce protests from the Ngabes, who blocked the Interamericana highway for a week. This prvented vegetables from getting to Panama city and gas from getting to the west of the country and tourists from leaving. After riot police crackdowns turned violent, the UN chastised the president for abusing the indigenous. More protets followed and he refused to use violence and instead made an agreement.

The Ngabes now claim he has completely disregarded the agreement and he claims to have done nothing wrong.

The protests started with simply blocking one lane and allowing cars to pass in the other. The government repeatedly invited the heads of the Comarca to discuss the issue in Panama City in the presidential palace. The leaders refused claiming that the government would try and bribe or trick them behind closed doors. So they waited in the Comarca, inviting the government to come talk in front of the press and public. As far as I know, the sides are yet to sit down in the same place and talk.

So the Ngabes closed the road and the president gave them a deadline to reopne. They did not comply. He sent in the riot police yesterday and they clashed with thousands of Ngabes for most of the day. There are many injured and four dead, including a youth from my town who I did not know. The roads are technically open but no one is  traveling them because the police are still occassionally clashing with protesters and using tear gas and rubber bullets and rock salt. The protesters are also throwing rocks at passing cars.

Im totally fine - my town is an hours drive from the highway and the protests. Many many people from my town are there and its extremely quiet here. I cant do any work and can barely visit with people as theyre all camped by the highway. All volunteers in the area are on Standfast which means stay where you are. Luckily Im in my town. Some others happened to be in transit and are stuck in provincial capitals. Im writing his from my hammock.

No one knows what will happen next. If the government deals,the protests will stop. If they dont, there will be more clashes. Today the protests spread from the west of the country all the way to he capital and almost every province has protesters somewhere, supporting the Ngabes.

Im nervous because if this gets worse, ill probably have to leave site for a while. Theres also unofficial talk of removing volunteers from the Comarca.

Heres hoping the two sides can come to an agreemnt, for everyones sake.


At February 6, 2012 at 3:53 PM , Blogger Anya said...

Stay safe Jack! Sending good wishes to you and the people in your area.


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