Tag Archives: panama

Ngäbes protest hydroelectric dam

24 Mar

Ngäbes block the highway in protest of potential hydro projects

“It was not nice work, but given the pattern of the country’s development, it had to be done.” – John Steinbeck, East of Eden

After an early February victory against proposed mining projects, the indigenous Ngäbes (pronounced naw-bey) continue to struggle to prevent construction of hydroelectric dams that could negatively impact their environment. Negotiations continue, now with UN involvement, but it seems unlikely the Ngäbes will be able to stop hydroelectric construction much longer.

The struggle of one indigenous group in one small Central American country may seem irrelevant in the face of more publicized world issues, like Jeremy Lin, but their fight represents a consistent human choice to sacrifice the environment in favor of economic development.

Hydro in Panama

Panama’s government has its sights on 31 hydro projects by 2013, including seven near the borders of indigenous territory. The government claims that the projects will reduce national energy costs and increase national income through export. However, these have proved inadequate motivators for the indigenous of whom only 1% have electricity and who already do not trust the government to compensate them for absorbing the potential environmental impacts. 

While it is difficult to say exactly what negative impacts will result, previous hydro projects on indigenous land in Panama resulted in displacement due to flooding, increased mosquito breeding grounds (in a country with a dengue problem) and submersion of trees, vegetation and farmland.

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Spanish Journalists Arrested in Panama, Expelled, for Involvement in Indigenous Anit-Mining Protest

11 Mar
anti mining protest

Indigenous protesters take to the streets in Panama to protest neo-liberal mining policies.


Gómez Nadal and Pilar Chato, journalists with Panamanian national daily La Prensa and contributor to the Spanish daily El País, were arrested Saturday in Panama City during a demonstration in front of the National Assembly by members of the indigenous group Ngäbe Buglé who were protesting reforms to a mining law, according to local and international press reports. They were covering and documenting the detention of demonstrators when they were arrested by Panamanian police, press reports said. The two reporters were detained for nearly 48 hours, in three separate detention centers, Gómez Nadal told CPJ. He said that they were accused of “disrupting public order,” and harassed by authorities.

Indigenous and environmental groups throughout Panama have been staging massive protests against reforms to the mining code, approved by Martinelli in early February, according to international press reports. Agence France-Presse reported that clashes between protesters and police erupted around the country when demonstrators set up blockades along the Pan-American Highway and demanded that Martinelli reverse the legislation. The protestors claim that the reforms, which include the increase of royalties paid to mining companies, will jeopardize the environment.

On Monday, authorities said in a statement that Gómez Nadal and Chato could be expelled from Panama for posing a threat to public order, according to press reports and CPJ interviews. Later that day, the journalists accepted voluntary repatriation instead of deportation and left the country for Spain.

Journalist Gomez Nadal under arrest.