The momentary crisis seems to have been resolved . . . for the moment. The larger crisis, and long-range problem for Panama, is the marginalization of Indigenous folks and the great disparity of wealth. Although the law may appear to proclaim equality for Panamanians, the fact is that in the National Health Centers and Social Security Hospitals Indians will be shunted aside and care given first to Latino Panamanians. It has always been that way and the Indians know it. While it is noble, worthwhile and important for the Indigenous people to preserve their traditional lifestyles, they also need to be respected and treated as equals. Their culture and values may be different, fine, but they are just as Panamanian as everyone else and need to be treated equally . . . or so it seems to me, admittedly a gringo guest. If it weren’t for the Indigenous . . . would the Spaniards ever have come back? Would Europeans have ever discovered the “South Sea” or what is today the Pacific? Would there be a Panama Canal? And just imagine a world without cruise ships! You think folks would pay good money to sail on the likes of the NINA, the PINTA and the SANTA MARIA. I’ll be the food and the entertainment sucked.
At 6:15 pm yesterday afternoon, with the signature of the general chieftain, Silvia Carrera, the agreement of San Lorenzo ended the anxiety of the Ngäbe Bugle people on the item they required to be included in the special law on mining. Prior to the signing, and behind closed doors, applause could be heard coming from the classroom of the Manuel Tapiero Miranda Technical Vocational Institute, located in San Lorenzo. With a “Hallelujah!” the bishop of the diocese of David, Jose Luis Lacunza, opened a press conference in which he revealed to the country the ten points contained in the agreement.
After seven days of protests, road closures, and even violent days that left two dead, it was agreed that the National Assembly will give urgent attention – starting today – to the notoriously thorny Bill 415 to discuss Article 5, which prohibits mining and hydroelectric projects in the traditional territories (comarca) of the Ngäbe Bugle people. It was also agreed that the Ngäbe Bugle people would cease their protests, that the riot control police would withdrawal from the area, that cellular telephone communications would be restored, that the protesters who had been arrested would be released, and the family members of Jerome Rodriguez Tugrí, who was killed in the protests, would receive compensation. It was also agreed that the complaints filed in the Public Ministry related to recent events would be withdrawn, and that human rights organizations would be asked to conduct a thorough investigation of what happened.
The Catholic Church will continue in their role as a mediator and guarantor in the process of dialogue, with members of the Evangelical Church participating as observers, and as rapporteur the United Nations and the rector of the University of Panama.
Warning – After reading the agreement, the chieftain Carrera thanked Lacunza and said she believed this time the agreement will be fulfilled, and they would not see a repeat of what happened last year. “Our people had to be suppressed in order to enter into this dialogue … I hope (the government) will fulfill what is agreed here in this document; I’m going to sign it, but I hope we will not have to be closing roads in the following days, because people have told me that we do not want hydroelectric projects and we do not want mines.”
For his part, the Minister of the Presidency, who led the official delegation of the dialog, said: “We mourn the death of a Panamanian as was Jeronimo Rodriguez Tugrí. The national government will take all measures to compensate the family … something that is very difficult to do when a parent dies, as was Mr. Rodriguez (…) we are willing to speak to the Coordinator, with the chieftain and the monsignor. ”
“My gratitude to everyone who composed the table,” said Lacunza.
The Indigenous leaders posted on the side of the Pan-American highway reacted with cheers when listening to their leaders, while the business sector expressed the importance that the entire society learn the lesson of resolving conflicts through dialogue. (Prensa/Panama-Guide.com)