Crisis in Panama

/Naso villagers plead for help

On March 30, more than a hundred Panamanian police officers in riot gear leveled a Naso village in response to a peaceful protest by Naso and Ngöbe villagers who oppose hydroelectric dams that threaten their homelands. Hundreds of people were left homeless and destitute.

/Police advance on Naso villagers

The police were sent into the area by the governor of the province, and, using tear gas and heavy equipment, demolished dozens of homes, a church, and the Naso cultural center in San San Durui. Five police units continue to cordon off the area, and they have orders to arrest indigenous leaders. The Naso in San San now have no shelter, food, or even a way to keep their frightened children out of the rain, and they cannot leave because of the police cordons. There are now 150 adults and 65 children without any kind of shelter, and eight children were hospitalized for exposure to tear gas. The government has said it will only give people materials to rebuild if they promise to move away from their territories, which the government considers to be "invaded lands."

/A Naso house flattened by police

The situation is critical, and the Naso urgently need your support. Cultural Survival is asking people to do three things that can help stop this outrageous situation:

First, and most immediate, please contribute whatever you can afford here so that we can send immediate relief support to the Naso whose community has been shattered. Your donations will also help us pursue our ongoing, and increasingly successful, legal battle on behalf of the neighboring Ngöbe, who were uprooted in the same manner 16 months ago.

Second, we need you to send a respectful letter to Panama's attorney general expressing your concern over the decision by the governor, Esther Mena de Chi, to use police action in the Naso communities and asking the attorney general to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the situation immediately. A sample letter can be found here.

 

Please send letters by mail, fax, or email to:

Lcda. Ana Matilde Gómez RuilobaProcuradoría General de la NaciónApartado postal (P.O. Box) 0816-06747 Zona 1 PanamáRepública de Panamá Fax: [011] 507-507-3413

E-mail: rigoberto.gonzalez@procuraduria.gob.pa

 

Copies of letters should be sent to:

Ricardo VargasDefensoría del Pueblo de la República de PanamáAvenida Nicanor de Obarrio (calle 50)Edificio Don Camilo, planta bajaApartado Postal 0832-1695,Republica de PanamáFax: [011] 507-500-9817E-mail: quejas@defensoriadelpueblo.gob.pa

Third, we need you to post comments on YouTube. The AES Corporation, which is building the dam threatening the Ngöbe, has posted a video that claims their project is making the lives of Indians much better. In fact, the Indigenous Peoples were never involved or consulted in any plans for the dam, and the company is using unscrupulous methods to take the land and break up communities. The Indians are not, in any way, better off, and it would be helpful if you could post comments to that effect here and here.

For more information about the Ngobe and Naso cases, please go to the Cultural Survival website: http://www.cs.org/. Click the "Search" option and, for the best results, type in "Ngobe."

Thank you for taking these actions; you are making a huge difference in the lives of people who feel alone and powerless.