Homes smashed in Bocas eviction
PANAMA. On March 30, a group of police officers in compliance with Ganaderas Bocas, S. A. brutally evicted residents of the Naso indig...
PANAMA. On March 30, a group of police officers in compliance with Ganaderas Bocas, S. A. brutally evicted residents of the Naso indigenous communities of San San and San San Druy in Bocas de Toro, according to local residents.
Eliseo Vargas, member of the Naso Foundation called the eviction a “terrorist attack,” destroying an entire community out of misconstrued claims that they were squatters invading private property.
“These are areas that were first occupied by our ancestors, before the Panamanian state was even established. We are not invaders,” argued Vargas. “We are not only talking about devastated lands, but our culture and traditions,” he said.
According to Vargas, for more than 38 years the Naso community has been requesting the government to legalize the community and create a Comarca, yet up to this day they haven’t received a fruitful response. A bill reached second debate at the National Assembly during Mireya Moscoso’s administration, but was stalled by lawmakers’ refusal to grant Naso leaders responsibility over any activity taking place within what would have been a 160,000 hectares Comarca.
Today, according to Vargas, hundreds of people are facing complete devastation, with no houses (they have been completely bulldozed), no food security (their fields have been destroyed), and no personal belongings. Additionally, an ancestral cemetery was completely wiped out.
Two of the affected, Dioserina Tobal from the San San community and Tony Vargas from San San Druy, travelled to Panama city recently to tell their stories.
According to Tony Vargas, “It was violent the way the government along with the company came to evict us. It has been a hard experience, we are indigenous people, but also human, our children were mistreated, beaten.”
Vargas claims that the authorities gave his community of around 192 people only 10 minutes to leave before bulldozing their homes in an attempt to hide the community’s existence. “What do you think we were able to remove from our houses?” he asked.
“They threw tear gas at us. And the only road that leads to the town, to the clinic, was closed,” he said, adding that they couldn’t take their children to get help.
Eliseo Vargas added that for a while now, the company has controlled the community’s access to town.
Diocerina Tobal, from the San San community, made up of 35 adults and 25 children, suffered a similar ordeal. She is now living on the beach, blaming the government for what her family has suffered. “The Ganadera attacked us. We have no school because everything was destroyed. What are we to do?” she pleaded.
According to Tobal, the company will go to extreme measure in orders to instill fear in them. She claims that on Saturday April 4, around 3:00 p.m. shots were fired at them.
The three Naso members argue that although they have received support from civil society, government officials have done little for them.
Mayor Virginia Abrego had promised last July to take on their cause and promote a dialogue, yet they haven’t heard from her since.
Representatives from MIDES (the Social Development Ministry) were supposed to travel to the region, but never arrived, Vargas claimed.
Additionally, local authorities tried to offer food bags, but wanted to take pictures, which raised suspicions among the Naso people.
“We felt they were mocking our community. As if food bags were going to solve the problem,” claimed Vargas.
Ricardo Raul Vargas, Panama’s ombudsman and UNICEF representatives travelled to the region yesterday to assess the situation.
The Naso community is considering taking legal action, and the three representatives traveled to Panama said they are willing to go to extremes to make their case.