PANAMA. The indigenous Naso people who have been camping in Cathedral Plaza in front of the Presidency for months calling for the closu...
PANAMA. The indigenous Naso people who have been camping in Cathedral Plaza in front of the Presidency for months calling for the closure of a hydroelectric plant on their traditional land in Changuinola, were evicted by anti-disturbance police yesterday.
The Naso, who had chained themselves together, say that they were forcibly and illegally removed from their land in March this year by a combination of local authority personnel, policemen and the Ganadera Bocas SA company.
They said that in the process 300 people were made homeless, and 29 homes, 7 community buildings, and their crops were destroyed, and their livestock taken.
They also say that the National Environmental Authority (ANAM), the Public Services Authority (ASEP) and the Energy Secretary were complicit in the irregular awarding of the concession to the Colombian company, Empresas Publica de Medellín (EPM) without consulting the Naso people.
In June this year ANAM awarded another concession of 1,198 hectares of traditional Naso land to EPM to build a dam.
The Naso also say that construction of the hydroelectric plant on the River Bonyik by the EPM has destroyed a large section of protected primary forest bordering the International Friendship Park (PILA).
They say that fish, shrimp and other waterlife have been severely affected due to the diversion of the river. The Naso say that Ganadera Bocas SA’s claim to the land dates back to a 1911 concession given to the United Fruit Company but that their claim goes back further since this land has traditionally belonged to their people for much longer.
The Naso’s claims are backed up the Public Defender and the United Nations who agree that the eviction was illegal and violated the Naso’s fundamental freedoms and traditional rights. They are also appealing urgently to the government to resolve the situation.