Feb 6, 2012

Border Closure

The demonstrations continue in Panama City and Chiriqui.  The Costa Rica-Panama border crossing at Paso Canoas has been closed to emmigration from Costa Rica for all but Panamanian citizens.  This is being done at the behest of the Costa Rican president as a safety measure for citizens of that country and for citizens of other foreign countries until the riots and unrest is resolved.       

The US embassy in Panama also issued an emergency warning to US Citizens as follows:

The U.S. Embassy in Panama City alerts  U.S. citizens to continued disruptions and demonstrations along the Pan-American Highway near the San Felix area in  Chiriqui (Ngobe Bugle region) and elsewhere in Panama.   There  are reports of violent confrontations between the Panamanian police and protestors in the San Juan, San Felix, Horconcitos and Vigui areas.
While the Pan-American Highway is reported to be open, protesters continue in their attempts to  block it with rocks, trees, and burning tires at various points between Chiriqui and San Felix.  Protesters have been reportedly throwing rocks at passing vehicles.  GOP Security Services continue to use tear gas and other riot control measures.  There are further reports of additional demonstrations in the areas of David and Changuinola, and of  possible demonstrations in the Panama City area beginning on Monday, February 6, 2012.  American citizens are urged to avoid areas of demonstrations, to defer traveling to and within areas known to have current protest activity, and to exercise caution in any area of confrontation between police and protestors. 
Other protests on this or other issues may occur with little or no warning.  The Embassy continues to caution its employees and all U.S. citizens to exercise heightened security awareness and avoid crowds and any areas  where there are demonstrations or where confrontations could occur.

The movement seems to be gaining momentum. The Panamanian public is sympathetic to the indigenous issues as well as against mining and hydroelectric activities in general.  The police are being viewed as repressive and the show of force has prompted more organizations to rally in support of the movement.  Educators, labor unions, syndicates and attorneys have expressed opposition to strong arm tactics and are pushing for dialogue and negotiation. 

There was a new confrontation this afternoon along the road from Boquete to Volcan.  Indians who were part of the highlands industrial and agricultural sector proceeded to take control of the area.  Police attempted to disband them, but ended up having to flee when the crowd turned on them with sticks and stones.   They burned the building housing the police station, and dismantled cars, as well as police motorcycles, to use as shields.