A Country Under Siege

As most of you know, that have followed Chiriquí Chatter for some time, I try to stay away from things in Panama that I consider political in nature. My main goal has always been to try to reflect what it is like to live in this beautiful country.

There is a Chinese Proverb which says, “May you live in interesting times.” We, who are living in Panama, are experiencing that proverb in full force.

I feel it is difficult for an outsider to understand what is going on. Much of what is presented by the media is not presented without bias. That is better understood these days because of the Internet and it is not something that is unique to Panama.

Still, it does make it difficult for foreigners that have moved to Panama to digest. One typically wants to trust the local news and believe that truth will win out.

Since I have moved here and intend for this to be my final frontier, I would like to think that Panama’s best days are in front of it. The current situation is putting much of my past optimism in a tittering position.

I am not a Panama historian and only have gut feelings about what is going on. I don’t intend on sharing my opinions because of my limited time here. However, I do have some cautions for others that are new to the country like me.

If you are not perfectly fluent in Spanish and have not immersed yourself within the country and culture, then try to avoid voicing your opinion. Facebook can be a great thing, but only if the “wiser” write and “willing to learn” read.

What I will say is that everyone needs to exercise extreme caution so that you don’t wind up being collateral damage. Avoid going anywhere close to protesting areas. It would be a good time to have some emergency provisions. Keep a low profile.

Hopefully reason will win out, but when underlying political factions find it to their advantage to have chaos, then chaos will continue.

I have asked several Panamanians, that I trust, for their opinion of the situation. The feedback from those that I consider well educated is one of grave concern. That is why I believe it is extremely important for those living here as guests of the country to avoid the temptation of throwing allegiance to one side or the other.

The one individual that gave me the best synopsis, wrote the following:

This is a long story, in fact too long to cover it here.  I’ll try to squeeze the content in a few sentences.  Martinelli is a rich man who turned against his own class supporting the humble social classes of Panama.  This had never happened in this country since it was born.  He has made made many enemies both from the right and from the left.  The Panameñista Party is angry because he dismissed Juan Carlos Varela as the Secretary of State, many rich businessmen who paid no taxes, the PRD party which lost the last the elections, and the communist labor unions of Frenadeso and several  Communist education unions.

The Ngnabe Buglé Indians have been manipulated by the radical left to topple Mr. Martinelli’s regime and take over the country.  This has been organized for several years.  The media has cooperated with them (TV-2, Canal 4, Telemetro, and La Prensa).  They are constantly attacking the President.  The owners of these communication companies were forced to pay corporate taxes.  Some examples are Copa Airlines, the banking industry, the Colon Free Zone, the liquor industry and Bobby Eisemann an important stockholder of La Prensa.

Former governments received generous political donations from these strong economic groups and exempted them from paying taxes.  Martinelli stopped this romance.

If Martinelli is dethroned, I’m afraid Panama we go backwards at least forty to fifty years.  All its gains will be lost and the Panama Canal could fall into left wing political parties hands.  I’m closely monitoring the situation.  It doesn’t look good.  More riots are expected during the week.

This is my personal perspective of the situation  and I don’t like it a bit.

Again, I don’t like to get into the political side of Panama in this blog. However, the current protests that are going on are affecting everyone in the entire country and I can’t ignore it.

Mail forwarding companies are not working. Gas stations are without gas. Medical supplies are missing. Food products are being prevented from being distributed. Tourists have been held captive. The David airport is packed. Buses are not moving across the country. The Paso Canoas border is closed. This is a country under siege.

I hope this is settled soon, but I am not as optimistic as I would like to be.

42 thoughts on “A Country Under Siege

  1. Thanks for your observations. I thought I was the only one who was totally confused by what is going on. From monitoring the blogs and web sites, it seemed like everyone else had it ‘all figured out’.
    Ironically, I had explained to a visitor passing through last week that one of the things I loved about Panama, more precisely David, was that it was the most peacefull environment I had ever experienced. Peace and tranquility seemed to permeate everything. I am having a hard time envisioning violent behavior here. Guess I got a wakeup call.

  2. I agree with DonRay. Stay out of the fray. Be smart and keep your opinions to yourself. I will say, however, Panama would be well served with a Ferry System similiar to the Alaska Marine Hiway. Since the country is surrounded by water, what better way to transport products and passengers btween the many ports; from Puerto Armulles to Bocas del Toro.

  3. I’m an idiot but I see no mention here of mining contracts or hydro projects.
    But, if the commentary above is accurate, these are secondary issues.
    Why is the unrest seemingly at work in so many places at once? Summer is
    not even here in the northern climes.

    Indigenous peoples everywhere are & have been dealt horrible hands regardless of if they’re being used for the white man’s temporary gains or not or simply genocided.

    For some, history is not methodically flushed down the memory hole by those
    who are threatened by it. For some, the collective mind is not so easily diverted by ridiculous & ever present mindless diversion.

    Social conscience & the ‘golden rule’ have not advanced beyond the stone age in large part..and THAT may be an insult to that era & those who lived in it.

    Interesting times? Only if you are an amused and distant spectator.

    May the just man win.

  4. How politically biased view of the present situation! The inclusion of Article 5 in the Bill 415 establishes a special regime for the protection of mineral resources, water and environmental issues in the Comarca de Ngäbe Bugle which the present government wants and probably will abolish. The indigenous people want to protect their land from greedy exploitations of the mining and hydro-electric projects which were approved without their voice or vote. These demonstrations have very little to do with right or left, if any at all.

  5. Just as an observation: Most Panamanians complain very loudly (both sides) about political things here. They will do it to your face expecting you to side with them. If, however, you voice one opinion that is contrary or not in line with their passion of the moment…..you are a bad foreigner…so keep your mouth shut…….sort of like, I can kick my dog but you can’t. This has happened to me at just about every socio-economic level…..so don’t learn the hard way.

  6. Excuse me, but I’ve seen this article before, though the locations, names and dates may be different.
    I saw it in the 60’s, when all over the southern USA, African Americans and their white supporters were being arrested, fire hosed, beaten up and sometimes killed for protesting against racial segregation and denial of the right to vote. Then, it was “outside agitators are stirring up our negroes…they are happy the way they are, they don’t want to vote, they LIKE segregation….” No, they didn’t.
    I saw it in the 70’s, when farm workers were being arrested, fire hosed, beaten up and sometimes killed for daring to demand union representation, a fair wage, and decent living conditions in California’s fields. Then it was “communist agitators, stirring up the farm workers,” who “just want to be left alone to work stoop labor for a few dollars a day in the fields.” No, they didn’t.
    I saw it in the 70’s and 80’s, all over South and Central America, when hundreds of thousands of ordinary people (including nuns and priests) were arrested, beaten, raped and murdered, with the active complicity of the US government, for daring to demand basic human rights: the right to keep their land, the right to organize religious communities, the right to teach their children to read and write. Then, it was “communists” and “radicals,” stirring up the people, who were really happy living under oligarchs and having their land taken away for debt. No they weren’t.
    And now, in Panama, we are hearing the same thing: Its “the PRD” and “the Panamanistas” and “outside agitators” who are “stirring up the indigenous people. Mining? What’s that?” (Note that the word “mining” does not even appear in the article!) “You say the people don’t want to be stripped of their land, their water poisoned, their homes destroyed, so that foreign governments and corporations can mine on their land? What nonsense!” No, it isn’t, and yes, they mind.
    Will political forces in opposition to the current administration try to take advantage of the situation for their own ends? Of course they will (though I am not at all confident that a PRD government or a Panamenista government or any other political party’s government would not have taken exactly the same step…because money talks. In Panama, the rich and powerful seem to get what they want, regardless of which party is in power, or at least that is how it looks to me.) That goes without saying.
    But the fact that opposition forces will try to use this protest to gain political support does not mean that the people who are protesting are their pawns. These people are protesting because the government is planning to take from them – in violation of an explicit promise – their land, mine it, turn it into a toxic waste dump that will be unable to sustain life for decades. Its that simple. The land is the only thing they have. They can’t eat and drink promises. And because they have no other remedy…they can’t afford to rent, lease or buy any politicians..they chose to engage in massive civil disobedience.
    The police responded, by many accounts, with violence. And that, in turn, has led to some of the protestors also turning violent. That is a sad thing, because sustained non violent protest is the most effective form of social change ever invented. It brought the mighty British empire to its knees in India. It may fail in Panama, if rock throwers and arsonists are able to take over what was a peaceful, non violent (if mightily inconvenient) movement. And that would be a sad thing, for everyone. Police violence soils the government. Protestor violence soils the movement. It takes great courage to persist in non violence. But non violence and sincere dialogue (meaning no more lies) are the only thing that will stop this disaster. Now would be good.

  7. Susan is right on point. The quoted individual has a story 100% different from what I am hearing from native Chiricanos. They support the Ngobe people and their right to be left to their lives without their land sold out from under them.
    Many campesinos here have suffered from hydro projects which they could not stop and understand both the need for electricity and destruction these projects cause.
    If anyone in government actually cared, there are better ways to build hydro projects that are not as destructive environmentally. Blaming the indigenous for the greed of politicians is nonsense.

  8. The quoted individual is a Chiricano. The opinion was consistent with the majority of opinions I have received from many people. While I respect the right to all to have their opinion, I do not condone violence on either side of the argument.

    One intention I had was to remind others that the state of argument that is currently going on can continue to change moment by moment. If you are a passerby you still may be affected by broken windows, burned cars or the operation you are waiting on being postponed as has currently happened to some U.S. citizens in the Regional hospital.

    My advice is still to stay clear of all areas in which protests are going on. Don’t lose that message with your desire to pick sides.

  9. Hi,
    My bride is a Chiricana (and Boquetaña) and she agrees with the individual that Don Ray quoted. Lots of behind the scenes stuff going on.
    jim and nena
    fort worth, tx

  10. I spoke with my taxi driver today and he, who also has worked for many years at the hydroelectric plant, agreed that at least two of the new plants have been built for the purpose of selling the energy out of the country for profit. He also stands behind the protests and believes that there is definitely outside political influence fueling the whole situation.

  11. Hello Don;
    Having lived here going on 15yrs, this is not the first time that people have
    been in the streets for one reason or another.
    The best way I found out to know what is going on day to day is to
    keep in tune with the national television stations, as at least that way
    I will know what areas to stay away from.
    The best way to deal with these type of situations is to keep abreast
    with the news and stay far away from the affected areas.
    It has worked for me and have been safe ever since. Hopefully this
    will go away and the on going communications will resolve the problems.
    Having read many articles via internet, it also gives me a better picture
    of what is going on.
    To everyone, have a good evening and be safe.

  12. Don,
    I got this just in from another Panamanian National. Her reply is
    below and backs you completely. There must be some kind of disconnect between the North Americans, who are critical of the Martinelli Adminstration who have been living here a short time, and those +50% who voted for him in the last election, as the reply shows below, who have lived here all their life
    and know Panamanian politics more keenly than Ex-pats do. Comparing Martinelli and the issues with Indigenous Peoples with the American Civil Rights Movement, Cesar Chavez, and other incidents is indicative of a “smear by negative association with a broad brush,” besides being not very relevant.

    The biggest problem that I have, along with the wanton destruction of property
    as seen in pictures and videos in Volcan, are the illegal road closures. These closures disrupt and threaten the well-being of a couple million others from getting necessary services and life-preserving and emergency services as Susan did finally point out as “inconveniences.” Humph! I remember my first Indian/Suntracs road closure/protest last year that made me miss a doctor’s appointment for my first and only baby girl. It made me quite upset. I am only glad it was not an emergency. But the experience convinced me that a 5% minority has too much power when they can do this to others, with no compassion, to those who are innocent of wrongdoing to them and have no role in oppressing them and are struggling, like them, to make a life.

    It’s pathological behavior as there is no accountability for their actions. The
    Government can clean up the roads, fix the many damages, pay reparations for those harmed and apologize, but the 5% offer nothing except to leave the 95% alone…until next time…

    As I stated above, Don Winner of the Panama Guide states exactly the same thing. He is someone who has spent a great deal of his life here and has also came up with the same conclusions.
    Here is the reply:

    Re: Cross Post from Chiriqui Highland Society…
    Name protected for Privacy

    Tuesday, February 7, 2012 7:02 PM
    I am Panamanian and the brief summary of the whole situation is “right on target.” Martinelli has done more for Panama than all the ones before who just benefited and filled their pockets. Thank you for your objective and fair insight.

  13. A people has been marginalized. Disenfranshised. Discounted. Their basic dignity has been not only ignored, but persecuted.

    They load up their families and their meager possessions on a collection of leaky vessels and begin an arduous journey to a new, unexplored land where they hope to pursue their lives and livelihoods unencumbered by those that would rule them unfairly …. oh, wait — that’s not an option anymore ….

    This is only peripherally about politics. This is about humanity. Sure, it’s a bummer to be inconvenienced. It costs money! Our best-laid plans are delayed! Why the hell should we care about THEM?!?

    Maybe we should have paid a little closer attention to our Dr. Suess when we were kids …..


  14. Hi:
    I am Panamanian-American and your friend’s brief summary of the whole situation is “right on target.” Martinelli has done more for Panama than all the ones before him who just benefited and filled their pockets.
    Thank you for passing along an bjective and fair insight.

    I may add, most all of the concessions were awarded by previous government administrations.
    Edemet-Edechi and Elecktra concessions will expire either this or early part of next year. Draw your own conclusions.
    As the Spanish saying goes:” En mar revuelto, ganancia de pescadores”, “Amanecerá y Veremos”

  15. With apologies to the good doctor.

    You may not take the indian’s land,
    it belongs to them, you understand.

    They don’t have much, they live for free,
    they live by themselves, so let them be.

    They farm, they hunt, they gather fruit,
    they don’t have guns, it’s darts they shoot.

    Do not take their trees, their rivers, their land,
    just give them some peace and they won’t take a stand.

    jim and nena
    fort worth, tx

  16. Not sure about the hydro plant , but as far as mineral rights or mining…we as Americans ‘listen’ to that differently…here from Wiki (not always 100% correct on all things)

    “Mineral Rights History
    The United States is the only country in the world where mineral ownership can be vested in individuals as opposed to government.

    Mineral rights by definition are the legal right to explore for and produce the natural resources located below the surface of the land. The origin of these rights in the United States are varied and interesting. ”

    So, the “rights” are basically around the world , the governments….I assume the Ngobe Bugle are part of the Panamanian “country” and governed by the same government , as my understanding is that they are not on “reservations” as many native Americans in the US

  17. Wow! History repeats itself over and over again. First the Spanish conquistadores, then the Americans and their “Go west young man” and Manifest Destiny mentality, now the Amazonian Indians, the Mapuches in Chile or the Panamanian Aboriginal groups ( just to mention a few). When will quit denying the original owners of this continent their right to life, liberty and happiness? I guess we refuse to learn from the past and we are quick to point fingers at those we believe to be directly responsible. What seems to be missing in this equation are the real powers behind the government’s drive to lift the laws banning mining in the Comarca. Perhaps out of convenience or just plain ignorance, no mention has been made of the big foreign mining consortiums (Canadians, Americans, British, etc.), which since the 70’s have been salivating over the idea of been able to mine one of the biggest copper deposits in the World. The mining methods some of these companies want to use are so damaging to the environment, that if they ever get their way in Cerro Colorado, the landscape of our province as we know it today will end looking like the Atacama Desert in Chile in a matter of 30 years or so, all in the name of greed. The recent events, although somehow tragic, are of extreme significance for the future of this province. Yes, we may be a country under siege, but the assault is not coming from within and this will not be the last barrage.

  18. Wow……….best commentary section of all time in chiriquichatter…I am gratified to discover that there are so many thinking people out there in the english speaking community……..it is a complex issue, without doubt, and confusing to even the brightest and most attuned among us. I am encouraged that some of you out there endeavor to see the big picture……..Im pleased you are here and paying attention………………………………..

  19. Don Ray:
    Not sure the accuracy of the original comment. What I can tell you is the Country can not be run as a Supermarket. Freedom of press is needed and, if Martinelli can not take the heat (the critics from the press) he better get out of the kitchen. One thing I disagree is with the closing of streets and highways.
    I pray for Peace in Panama!

  20. Have a Panamanian friend who spoke today with his brother. His brother told him the Ngobe-Bugle have AK 47s or some such weapons….machine guns ? Could this be true?

  21. I cannot tell you how disappointed I was with your selection of a right-wing so-called “well educated” acquaintance to summarize the recent protests.
    Protests such as took place always have good reasons behind them. And anyone who has followed Panamanian politics to even the slightest degree can see how erroneous, and one-sided, this person’s analysis was.
    You are usually fair and even handed, Don Ray, but certainly not this time.
    For a counterpoint interpretation, you might want to point your readers to what the Panama News has been reporting
    or select a variety of Panamanian news sources, and compare the coverage and examine the serious reasons behind this protest.
    Discouraging people from seeking news by claiming the media and the protesters are being manipulated by the ‘radical left’ is preposterous, and I don’t know why you would fall for this, or at least pretend to.
    Your first instinct — to not “get into the political side of Panama in this blog” was the correct one.
    Especially if the alternative is to pick a Martinelli supporter, and critic of the protestors, to represent your blog’s point of view — and this without even discussing the reasons for the protests.

  22. MamaDog, well, if they do have AK’s, then they had the good sense not to break them out………gotta give the indigenous folks some credit here for coming together in a big way……and speaking out in a collective voice against the desecration of their abode and natural environment……Martinelli may be a competent administrator and a get it done kine guy, but he is essentially a city slicker without a great deal of regard for nature…..seems to see everything in terms of dollars and cents……and also seems to be intent on converting Panama into a police state according to the globalist agenda……..anybody out there have any more info on the American military bases established in the Darien on the Colombian border, which were never even announced or made known to the Panamanian people? Whose idea of democracy is this?

  23. The Panama News is not a credible source. The American individual running it is an ex-ultra leftist radical who was a former SDS Weatherman. He is an admitted bi-polar unmedicated personality. Another describes him as “unstable.”
    Don Winner, of the Panama Guide, calls this person a “serial slanderer.” Winner, who was just featured on CBS’ 48 Hours Mystery, and is a CBS News consultant, also added that he is ” lazy, inaccurate, biased, unethical, and does morally questionable ‘reporting’ which has been his trademark for years.”

    It may be wise to check some folks out and see what kind of agenda they really have before citing them as authoritative sources on the situation in

  24. I think you missed, at least partly, my point, Allan.
    I recommended The Panama News
    as a “counterpoint interpretation” to the right-wing interpretation of Don Ray’s so-called “well-educated” Panamanian acquaintance.
    And also went on to recommend readers, as an alternative, “select a variety of Panamanian news sources, and compare the coverage and examine the serious reasons behind this protest.”
    Certainly, your recommendation (The Panama Guide) might be one useful component of this variety of sources.
    But I urge readers to check others as well (including, if possible, Spanish-language Panamanian publications).
    And, since you raised it, further encourage readers to do their own research about The Panama Guide and its publisher, Don Winner, and about the long-running Winner/Jackson dispute and name-calling; It is complicated, and neither Winner nor Jackson should be believed — despite the inflammatory rhetoric of both — without checking the history of their arguments.
    It will take some time for anyone serious about checking this to sort it out.
    And there is not likely to be universal agreement at the end.
    But that’s often the way it is with things (including the recent protests), despite our desire for quick, simple, one-stop answers.

  25. Thanks for the polite response and added information.

    At this point, I choose to believe Don Winner. His view matches the input
    that I have in developing my own information… from Panamanians.
    My sources are consistent, here with Don Ray’s source; with another Panamanian, Vicky Wilson; Larry Mathews Blog observations; Larry Rubenstein’s comments; William Lipton, President of the Volcan Town Meeting, remarks’ and Bob Gregory of The Thinkers Round Table, plus others.

    The TV news at this time is so biased and unfair. It makes think I am back during the Watergate scandal where the Press just didn’t report the news… they were in overkill, which helped start the phrase, “liberal media.” You have to watch… Government sponsored TV… to get past the hysterics at this time. Some of the print media is no different. Jackson also worked for one of those and has contributed to one other, if not more.

    So, for me, that hurts their credibility. After all, many of them are sensationalist and appeal to superficial intelligence to gain revenue. I don’t think that their readership is necessarily the kind that is lent to serious research.

    I think the best conclusion, until more information is developed, is to not take sides. Both sides are wrong or have made mistakes. It should not be difficult however to note, that when known Communist front organizations such as Suntracs, Frenadesco, and a couple of teachers unions, plus outside agitators from other countries are part of the protests, that hurts the credibility of the Ngobe. They would be much better served without such confluences. There are plenty of Ngobe folks who can pull their own weight without having the stigma of such radicals, anarchists and nihilists, to determine their own self-determination.

    Which I am all for.

    What I do not like, is the illegal road closures and paralyzing the country over
    rumor, fear and apprehension. Not only are a couple hundred Costa Ricans,
    Argentinians, Canadians, Europeans and others held hostage… but Americans and Panamanians were held against their will and lost their freedom of movement for days in Volcan and Bocas Del Toro… And the other
    three million Panamanians who had their lives, livelihoods and their psyches
    disrupted. “Loving your Neighbors” is not denying them freedom of movement and endangering their safety in not being able to access emergency travel.

    In a Republican Democracy, the rule of Law has to take precedence over uncontrolled emotional response. Otherwise, democracy on its own, which Thomas Paine described as “the most vile government,” ends in mob action. This is what I have been witnessing the last few days, especially in the senseless destructive outburst in Volcan, which is why Don Ray terms Panama, a “nation under siege.”

    Indeed, it was. And that, is the biggest concern I have, as some radicals talked openly of civil war. This is hardly a solution for anyone and reasonable voices must prevail. Eric Jackson’s vituperative voice is not one of them.

  26. With all due respect, Allan, you cannot declare it is best “to not take sides” and in the next breath include a one-sided rant calling those you disagree with “Communist front organizations” or “outside agitators from other countries,” etc.
    This is the oldest tactic in the book, using the same meaningless scapegoat terms that have been around for decades.
    And with all due respect, why do your “Panamanian” sources (” . . . another Panamanian, Vicky Wilson; Larry Mathews Blog observations; Larry Rubenstein’s comments; William Lipton, President of the Volcan Town Meeting, remarks’ and Bob Gregory of The Thinkers Round Table,” not to mention Don Winner) all have non-Panamanian-sounding names?????
    Sort of odd, don’t you think?
    Do you talk to any Panama-born Panamanians with Latin-sounding names?
    Have you ever discussed any issues with any indigenous people?
    Are you fluent enough in Spanish, or indigenous languages, to even have a chance to learn about disparate views?
    Of course, you (and everyone) can choose to believe whomever you want.
    But you should not pretend one thing while merely propagandizing for another.

  27. I don’t wish to participate in opinions about the current disruptions except to say that not all Panamanians have “latin” sounding names.

    Folks like the Bradleys, the Kants, the Thomas’, the Denhams, the Laws’, the Wrights, the Kellys, the Matthews’, the MacIntyres, the Collins’, the Elliots, etc helped build Boquete and the surrounding areas in Chiriqui Province.
    jim and nena
    fort worth, tx

  28. I guess that is a good question. As Jim pointed out people like Ms. Wilson are
    The advantage I have though, is that I am married to a professional, well educated, Panamanian woman with a Master’s Degree that keeps me quite abreast of the events here in Panama. I have come to understand a great many things about Panama through her and have adopted her viewpoints considerably.
    She agrees with the source of this article and the view of the woman above.
    My father-in-law was a local political activist who was nearly imprisoned by Noriega. He doesn’t like fascists much.
    I am not sure how much Panamanian TV you watch but when you see “hammer and sickle” flags and the familiar “red clothing, bandanas and banners” paraded by the trade unions and other groups down here, it is not necessary to take sides to objectively see the communist influence being wielded here. Then, in the media, it is admitted that such, are indeed, communist organizations. One head of a Teacher Union, who I know of personally as this is a small country, freely admitted in a TV interview that he is an avid admirer of Chavez in Venezuela.
    The “meaningless scapegoat terms” you disparage as ancient history are alive and well.
    Then again, I guess such things are in the eye of the beholder.
    When I came down to live several years ago, I planned to live a quiet life. However, events have caught with me and many in the Ex-pat world and this solitude has been disrupted. I certainly did not have an agenda when I came down here and I surely don’t have one now except to live my life one day at a time in the twilight of my life without government upheavals and societal turmoil.
    I think that is a fair expectation, don’t you?

  29. I am glad for both you and your wife that you seem to share similar political and worldviews, Allan. It should make both of you happier at home.
    Not all educated people, and not all Panamanians, and not even all ex-pats share the same views, of course.
    And there are many logical reasons for this.
    Lumping “fascists,” “hammer and sickle flags,” “red clothing” (really?), “Chavez,” “teacher union” etc. into one pot (or commie plot) boggles the mind a bit, but only if you actually think about it.
    My point about consulting only people with gringo-sounding names was meant simply to question what range of opinion, and what facts, you are actually exposed to, or willing to consider.

  30. It seems that I have become a focal point for your comments instead of any real argument or disagreement. To get past this, I would like to quote a synopsis of the recent meeting in Volcan in which the community agreed on a course of action and a consensus of the Protests that occurred in their area.
    Here is the synopsis:
    “The objective of the community meeting is to bring together the entire Volcan and Cerro Punta community and have a town meeting to re-establish the town’s security and start an action plan to solicit donations with the object of reconstructing the police sub-saltation of Volcan and Cerro Punta, and to better the public areas of our community.

    Proposals Presented for the reconstruction de Volcan Cerro Punta:

    1. Security: The community of Volcan and Cerro Punta was invited to come together for a meeting to formally give back to the authorities the police sub-station and to reestablish the town’s security. The media was invited as well.

    1.1 Ask for 16 police personal to the Volcan Sub-station

    1.2 Ask for 9 police personal to the Cerro Punta Sub-station

    1.3 Invited the Native Indian authorities to be present at this meeting, so they know where the community stands with respect to total road closures and vandalism in general.

    1.4 Ask for the establishment of neighborhood watch program and to ask the help of the individuals who already have the knowledge of this program and help implement this program in our entire community; such as Sargent Itza, Mr. Daniel Chavez, and Mr. Luciano.

    1.5 Establish a telephone network of all neighbors in case of any emergency in our community.

    1.6 Invited the tourism authorities to solicit the presence of tourism police in Volcan and Cerro Punta.

    2. Maintenance:

    2.1 Solicit the Hydro-electric Companies to have corporate responsibility to our community since they have caused damage to our roads with the transportation of material and equipment for their projects for the exclusive benefit of these corporations, this is why a donation of $10,000 per each Hydro electric company for repairs of public infrastructure is requested.

    2.2 The Construction of wide sidewalks for the transit of people and bicycles for the entire main road of Volcan and Cerro Punta.

    2.3 Build rock planters at the entrance of the town with long lasting plants. Create a responsible group for the beautification and gardening of our town, we propose that Haydee Janson and Carla Black for this task.

    2.4 We proposed for consideration the reconstruction of the Central Park of Volcan. We have the support and authorization of the Honorable Mayor of Bugaba – Dr. Joaquin Castillo. There will be a quote and architectural plans for this park.

    3. Marketing Put into action a domestic and international plan with the Authority of tourism to promote the high lands in all the medias possible …

    Work Plan: Once we have the sufficient funds, with the donations of the community and businesses, there will be a plan in place so the necessary funds can be distributed for the reconstruction and arrangement s of the different public structures that were destroyed, and the beautification of the public areas and the sidewalks.


    We cannot wait for the government to do anything for our community of Volcan and Cerro Punta. We have to take charge and start doing what we need to do.

    Thanks to all the community people who got involved in the cleanup, construction and donations of the different entities that were vandalized.

    Call to the community to unite so this does not happen again, our entire community is the one that really suffers.

    Thanks to the expat community for all their help and support, the Mayor made the proclamation that all expats residents become sons and daughters of the Community of Volcan. He will have a certificate made.

    It was voiced that the burning and the looting were done by thugs and hooligans and not by the Ngobe people at large. 8 people were arrested for the vandalism. Asked the community at large to keep helping the authorities with denouncing whoever commits a crime. Do not let these criminals get away with this kind of activities.

    The Volcan and Cerro Punta communities do not agree with a similar situation in the future of total closing of the road and any type of violence, vandalism or looting. As a community we support the Indian’s cause but not by the means that were carried recently.

    The community was asked to make the police an ally, a friend. To stop by the station and get to know them personally, to see if they have any needs or simply to share coffee with them and to say hello and thank them for what they do.

    Many civic and nonprofit people thank everyone for coming and helping restore our town.”
    Mr. Lawson, I fully support and agree with this Declaration. Will you join me in supporting this and be in solidarity with the residents in Volcan and Cerra Punta?

    If so, then I think our differences are much more along lines of semantics than any deep fundamental divisions in which thinking and articulate people can compromise, tolerate, or at least to agree to disagree in a spirit of uniform cooperation. The problem is really bigger than you and I, and has been around for sometime. It is really about the policies of the National Government in how they affect the aspirations of the right of self-determination as defined by the Ngobe People.
    Thanks for reading.

  31. Sorry if I made it sound like you were the focal point of our discussion, Allan.
    I started out replying to your posting only because of your promotion of Don Winner’s inflammatory accusations against the Panama News website publisher, and what I took as a misinterpretation of my original posting.
    We can, and probably should, simply civilly agree to disagree, as our views differ, as does our selection of facts which support those views.
    Regarding your query about support of the Volcan community’s meeting, whatever they agreed on is the business of those at the meeting, and the community’s direct residents.
    I did shudder a bit (as you possibly guessed I might) at their lumping together of protest-caused “road closures and vandalism in general” (Sec. 1.3), but they may have had different things in mind in combining those words than I took from reading them.
    It sounds like you think we should call an end to our exchanges (it is, after all, Don Ray`s blog and not ours), and I agree.
    You can safely post a reply (if it’s not t-o-o outrageous, again in my opinion) to this post, and I will not reply again — as much as it pains all of us to give anyone else the last word. (Mainly, I guess, because giving someone the last word prevents us (in this case, me) from having the last word.)
    If Don Ray is checking these postings, I can only urge him not to post political viewpoints in the future, as they just tend to set off exchanges which do little or nothing to illuminate a subject.
    I fear that if truth be told, we (myself included, of course) may post such comments not so much to illuminate, but more to seek support of the like-minded, while intimidating others into agreement or, at the very least, silence.
    Take it away and wrap this up, Allan . . . .

  32. Don, you are the bogger and as long as the comments are balanced, you have the right to inform all US citizens…even if political opinions are included. In Panama, like any other place on Earth, politics is everything.

  33. I am a Panamanian from Santiago who has lived in the United States for almost 20 years. I have seen what happened in the U.S. when they abandoned nature for production and profits. We do not need to turn our Country into another Detroit or Gary,Indiana. The native peoples of Panama are our national treasures, not the mines which international corporations want to dig. We must not permit foreign money to purchase our culture and we, the Santiaguenos, the Children of Uraca, stand with our brothers and sisters against this unpresidented attack upon our traditions.

  34. Now I know why you don’t talk about politics in Panama- it’s a touchy subject. Protests have occured in Panama for many years. It is common to have “illegal road closings” as a peaceful form of protest. They occured off and on throughout the past decade. I’m sorry it escalated to a serious level this year. It’s wise to remind ex-pats to avoid protests and take the same precautions you would at home to prepare for emergencies.

  35. Please be more specific, what do you mean that the USA abandoned Nature for Production??? About the natives in USA; I believe that they live much better than their equals in Panama…and about Foreign Money, I wonder how much foreign money american retirees inject in Panama’s economy!! or How about the Panama Canal, is it for profit or for tourism???

  36. I don’t understand the “abandoned nature for profits” remark either.

    One thing I do know is that cheap electrical hydro-power in the U.S. helped contribute to the richest nation the world has ever known. Up until the most recent time, everyone in the world, as well as a Panamanian from Santiago, wanted to be an American and share in the unprecedented prosperity and burgeoning middle class that their respective countries could not duplicate. The only reason Detroit or nearby cities are undesirable is that
    their employment base has relocated to other countries primarily because of government polices.

    The National Park System in the United States has preserved many sites for
    posterity and are enjoyed by millions. So much for “abandoning nature” there.

    If the Ngobe People are such “national treasures,” …then why do their children have a 50% and more malnutrition rate? Why do 95% of them fall below the poverty line and 86% live in extreme poverty? Why do they have such high
    illiteracy rates and fail to take advantage of the educational opportunities available to them? Indeed, the illiteracy rate among the Ngobe is on par with Rwanda. Source: The World Bank.
    This illiteracy rate is highest among the Ngobe women who are little more than chattel in bar room disputes and machete duels. Moreover, alcohol addiction is a serious problem for the Ngobe to the detriment and welfare of their families.

    The Ngobe have the right to self-determination. But it appears to me that
    royalties awarded to the tribe, from existing hydro-electrics, and from proposed mining ventures, estimated to be in the Billions of dollars, would
    do a great deal to improve the lot of the Ngobe into which they can emerge
    from the despair of extreme poverty, ignorance, illiteracy, disease, high infant mortality rates, indigence and alcoholism into a self-sufficient people like other Indian tribes in Panama.

    If such “traditions,” as are referred to, can cause such societal misery on a people like the Ngobe at the current scale, then these “traditions” need to be re-thought as such concepts are destroying the Ngobe People. Their Cacique admits herself, that her race is “dying.” If so, then changes need to be made in which her People can reverse the conditions in which they are in presently and instead, preserve themselves as a true national heritage.

  37. If you are a Panamanian living in the United States, you learn that it is wise to listen more than talk about local issues. You really do not want to get the old “Whose Canal is it?” argument going again. Try taking a walk.

  38. Remember that what you or I might think about the way any native people live, it is their life. It is my understanding that the native peoples in the United States were pushed off their lands by people using financial improvement arguments. Now it saddens Panamanians to see the same arguments being used against our native traditions and national customs.

  39. Well said Joe…. and as for myself, I’m not condoning any wrongdoings made by the Spaniards, or other Europeans in America, however let’s not hide the facts that Los Pueblos Originales (original native people), had consistent wars among the different tribes…and as for the Nahualts in Mexico and Quechuas in Peru, they used other conquered etnias to employ them as slaves or human sacrifices. I love the Original Natives and they deserve respect.. but they were not saints or angels..and their internecine quarrels could equal whatever happened during la conquista.

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