Protesters from the Ngobe-Bugle tribe block a road during a protest in El Vigui, Panama, Thursday, February 2, 2012. Members of the Indian tribe blocked roads in two provinces on the border with Costa Rica in a dispute over mineral exploitation on their lands.

Panamanian Indigenous Fight Back Against Threatened Eviction

Rick Kearns

Indigenous leaders in Panama have answered an eviction order with an ultimatum.

In early February, the Panamanian government had announced plans to evict 3,000 indigenous Ngöbe-Buglé families from their territory as part of the construction of the Barro Blanco hydroelectric plant on the Tabasara River.

The Genisa Company, that is constructing the dam, denied they had any plans to evict anyone but the affected indigenous community took action.

Activists immediately organized protests against the order, asserting that the eviction and the entire project were illegal and on March 6, Ngöbe-Buglé leaders issued their own ultimatum.

Indigenous activist Ricardo Miranda, leader of the April 10th Movement, gave notice last week to the businesses involved with construction of a hydroelectric plant.

"If the Barrio Blanco project is not canceled within 15 days we will proceed to a new resistance struggle on the national level with all of our organizations," said Miranda at a press conference in Panama City on March 6.

He added that they have sent their advisory to the Panamanian government and that they have requested a ruling from the Panamanian Supreme Court.

The struggle between the Ngöbe-Buglé community and the Generadora del Isma Company (Genisa) along with the government has been ongoing since plans for the hydroelectric plant were announced in 2010, including a variety of protests and police actions.

RELATED: Massive Indigenous Protest in Panama Spurs Accord With Government

In the last four years indigenous leaders have received support from a variety of groups in Panama as well as international figures such as James Anaya, Special Rapporteur for the United Nations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

After his visit to Panama in July of 2013, Anaya noted that the indigenous community had not been adequately consulted according to international law.

RELATED: Rights of the Ngöbe-Buglé Trampled in Hydro Power Grab

“From my visit to the Ngöbe-Buglé community and my dialogues with Ngöbe representatives it is clear that there is strong opposition to the Barrio Blanco project, as well as a lack of clarity and adequate information about the impacts,” Anaya stated.

“The Ngöbe people should have been adequately consulted before authorizing the sale of the hydroelectric project,” he continued. “In any case, and in accord with international norms related to the rights of Indigenous Peoples, they should not proceed with the flooding of the lands of the Ngöbe people.”


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