Feb 7, 2012

It's a Truce, not a Resolution

The expat community in Boquete, as well as many  Panamanians, are of the impression that an agreement was reached today that resolves the dispute between the indigenous peoples of Chiriqui and the Panamanian government.  Oh, if it were only that simple...  What did occur today was an agreement that the Indians would stop protests and begin negotiation if  the government met specific baseline conditions.  Below is my  translation of an article published by TVN-2,  Panama's national news station.

The Indians and the government reached an agreement today that puts an end to the protests begun by the Ngobe Bugle community more than a week ago.  The mediator, Montsignor Lacunza read  the Ngobe demands which are now part of that agreement.  Among these were the immediate release, without charge, of those persons detained and held in custody during the protests,  a return to their baseline status, urgent attention to those Ngobes who were injured or affected during the clashes, and permanent indemnification to the family of Jeronimo Rodriquez, who was killed during confrontations.   (My comment: Jeronimo Rodriquez is the 26 yr old man who was shot in the left chest.  In prior posts I wrote that his name was Guillermo Moctezuma and later Jeronimo Montezuma, because that's what the television stations originally reported.  Somewhere in the mayhem, his name was changed or corrected to Jeronimo Rodriquez.)  The Indians also demanded cessation of repression and persecution of the demonstrators, the Indian chiefs,  and members of the office of the National Coordinator.  This also included the dismissal of cases that were forwarded to the Public Ministry and dismissal of indigenous prisoners.   Petition was made for the re-establishment of cell phone service, immediate withdrawal of the riot squads,  and implementation of a thorough investigation by human rights organizations regarding what occurred during the demonstrations.  Additionally they want to maintain the Catholic Church as the mediator and have as observing parties the Evangelical Church, the Rector for the University of Panama, Gustavo Garcia de Paredes, and the United Nations representative.

Before signing the document, the chieftess Silvia Carrera,  expressed her gratitude to Montsignor Lacunza, who functioned as mediator in this conflict, and implored the government to keep it's promise regarding the pact. 

For his part, the Minister to the Presidency, Demtrio Papadimitriu, assured that the government will take measures to compensate the family of the deceased Jeronimo Rodriquez, and reiterated the disposition of the government for dialogue.   

Papadimitriu explained that today's agreement pertains to dialogue begun this morning   regarding the Mining Law as based on last year's agreement in San Felix relevant to the prohibition of exploration and exploitation of mineral and water resources on lands of the Indian comarca

The Minister also assured that they will proceed with the liberation of the Indians detained during the confrontations in David, Santiago, and Panama

For their part, the Indians promised to end the protests currently being organized.

Essentially what has been agreed upon is a "cease fire" while negotiations continue.  This initial agreement couldn't have come at a more opportune time.   The Boquete police had been forewarned that barring some kind of agreement today,  there would be another demonstration in Boquete center and the target would be the Boquete Police Station.  Several of the businesses in the area, including Banco Nacional,  boarded up windows and doors.  The police moved all equipment, records, desks and furniture from the police station to the Feria Building in preparation for the event.    What I found most interesting was that the required agencies and personnel were forewarned in Boquete, unlike what transpired in Volcan.    Panamanians have told me they believe the additional consideration shown to Boquete reflects an improved relationship the community has with the indigenous.  Volcan is a large agricultural area and the indigenous are farm laborers for agrobusinesses.  In Boquete the Indians are better assimilated. 

It remains to see what will happen regarding the issues at hand.  As I've previously mentioned, the Panamanian populace has been unhappy with the current administration for awhile now.   It's amazing what the indigenous have been able to accomplish with so little arms and so few numbers.   Tomorrow's scheduled Day of Protest would have been interesting  because it would have included many organizations and groups sympathetic to, but not part of, the Ngobe community's goals.  My guess is the current administration would rather this not be blatantly revealed.  It is also my guess that the result of future negotiations will be much more transparent this time around.    Hopefully they will go smoothly.