Panama President destroys indigenous communities and claims “success”
Said one anonymous witness:
“While we [were] praying in the church, and in the presence of various pastors visiting from other regions, a heap of people arrived from the company, the police, SINAPROC, and they told us that we would have to leave there because it was the property of the company and it was to be flooded.”
“They told us that there was an eviction order–that we would have to die if we would not move. We continued praying and then they pulled us away and started to break up and tear down the houses. They killed the dogs, chickens, pigs, and even the parrots that we had. They grabbed the children and women and carried them to the bus. There were many against us and some ran away. One companion was stripped naked in front of her children and husband…”
Some 30 Ngäbe protesters were rounded up that day and transported to the nearby town of Tolé where they were detained for approximately 36 hours without due process.
Police confined the protesters to Tolé’s Catholic Mission Center and reportedly failed to explain to the priests exactly what had occurred. In fact, none of the detainees were formally charged or permitted to seek legal support. Some of them alleged injuries to their legs and arms, but no medical care was dispatched.
While the protesters spent a gloomy night incarcerated in the Mission, Panama’s civil protection services distributed sacks of rice and other sundry ‘gifts’ to nearby communities not directly impacted by the dam in an apparent effort to create further division between the communities.
The next day, at around 11:00am, without any regard for domestic protocols or international human rights law, Generadora del Istmo (GENISA) closed the gates on their 29 MW hydroelectric dam and commenced flooding the Tabasará River basin. As the water levels rose, farm plots were washed away and witnesses reported a massive fish die-off.