Panama: Indigenous Bocas people to fight till death to protect culture & land from cattle & mega projects

The curtain of 2009 opened on a heart wrenching scene of conflict over
the native people’s longtime demand for respect of their territory and
natural resources. As they watched heavy machinery demolish their
houses and tear up their land, residents of San San Druy in the
northern province of Bocas del Toro brandished machetes, bows and
arrows, spears, and Molotov cocktails to ward off intruders.

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With nearly 10% of its 2.3 million population composed of six
indigenous groups. The Naso, estimated at something less than 4,000 in
all, are among the many original descendants of the country who have
maintained close ties to their language, traditional culture, and
natural heritage. They depend on hunting, gathering, fishing, and
small agricultural plots for their subsistence.

They live in hand-built thatch houses and travel in hand dugout wooden canoes or on foot. It is incumbent on them to protect Mother Nature for their own survival. In the era of globalization their livelihood has been increasingly threatened by megaprojects such as the Bonyik Hydroelectric Dam proposed by Empresas P├║blicas de Medellin (EPM), as well as by coastal retirement developments and by expansion of the livestock industry.

Displacement has compelled some members of the 11
Naso communities to work in the banana plantations that have made
multinational corporations famous in Central America.

The degradation is particularly egregious in the case of the Naso, considering that their customs are an integral part of a biosphere reserve that
encompasses the Amistad International Park and the Palo Seco Forest
Reserve, two protected areas in the Teribe River Basin, which are part
of a UNESCO Natural Heritage site and of interest worldwide.

But to make matters worse, the officials responsible for the morass of
federal laws and institutions governing land use are inept, if not
negligent, when it comes to administering justice under the
circumstances. Apparently more pressure still needs to be put on the
Panamanian government to find a fair way out for all stakeholders,
including the mega diverse and endemic wildlife of the privileged
ecosystem in Bocas del Toro. People who want to help can join a letter
writing campaign using a sample message and contacts provided at Abia
Yala, Pacha Mama blog spot (see below).

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Comments (1)

HouseJanuary 29th, 2010 at 11:42 am

This projects are killing the nature. Houses
need to be build for humens can not be build on virgin forest lands. I think people need to consider nature more and put their own property project as second priority.

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