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The Panamanian government is imposing what indigenous movements call a “dam epidemic” after Law 8 to amend the Code of Mineral Resources was repealed. The law aimed to attract foreign investment in the sector. The mining threat gave way to the threat caused by big hydroelectric projects.
The repeal of the law to promote transnational mining by Ricardo Martinelli’s administration in Panama is a victory of the Ngöbe-Bugle indigenous people, and the result of intense mobilizations that were brutally repressed by the Panamanian police and army.
The reform of the Mining Code violated the indigenous peoples rights provided under Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO). The law promoted mining exploitation in indigenous territories.
The coordinator of the Movement in Defense of Territory of Bocas del Toro Archipelago, Feliciano Santos, told Real World Radio that under Martinelli’s administration there have been terrorist and military acts against native peoples, although he focused part of his electoral campaign on the promise of respecting their rights.
Real World Radio interviewed Santos during the 6th Mesoamerican Meeting of the Latin American Network Against Dams, and for Rivers, their Communities and Water (Redlar) held from September 22 to 25 in the Costa Rican community Tres Equis de Turrialba, Cartago province.
In late 2010 and in early 2011, the Panamanian government sent the National Army to the streets to repress anti-mining demonstrations that were taking place along the Caribbean coast of Panama.
A press release issued in August by peasant, indigenous, trade union and ecologist organizations in Panama reads “during Ricardo Martinelli’s administration the efforts to continue with the transnational privatization plans have increased”. The press release highlights that the basins of Chiriquí, Bocas del Toro, Veraguas provinces and the Ngöbe-Bugle village will be the worst affected.
Santos said that despite “all the government and corporations’ talk of progress and development to build energy megaprojects, the communities have only received repression and arrests”.
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