Negotiations between the Panamanian Government and the Ngobe Indigenous People resume today. The Ngobe demand the passage of a law that protects their lands from strip mining and the construction of hydroelectric dams without regard to environmental consequences. The government has indicated willingness to ban strip mining but still insist on the hydroelectric development. The Ngobes contend that any development within their territory must have their consent and bring benefits to their population.
The Ngobe People, the indigenous group with whom we work in our ministry in Cienaguita, are currently engaged in a fight for their survival as a people and their right to self-determination. Just over a year ago, the Ngobe led the fight against two controversial laws enacted by the Panamanian Assembly that would have restricted workers’ rights to organize and opened the door to widespread strip mining of their ancestral lands. When their peaceful protests were met with brutal repression in which men, women and children were fired upon with tear gas canisters, rubber bullets and shotgun pellets, they rose up en masse and ten thousand Ngobe descended from the mountains and shut down the Pan-American Highway until the government repealed the offending laws. At that time, almost a year ago, President Ricardo Martinelli promised to enact a special law explicitly protecting the Ngobe homeland and their natural resources.
To learn more, read my February newsletter.