Feb 8, 2012

Status Quo

Below is a copy of an announcement sent out to the expat community by Price Peterson, a long time resident of Boquete and warden to the US Embassy.  It is clear, concise, summarizes the current status quo in Panama, and addresses the unfounded fears of too many expats. 

Good morning EX-pats,

 Below you will find the normal message from the US Consul regarding problem areas. Several folks have asked for a little more explanation, so I shall try. 
The agreement reached yesterday was two things ; (1) that there would be no reprisals against the Ngobe-Bugle protesters and (2) the two sides would continue meeting. You will recall  that the issue here is that the Ngobe want included in the new mining law, clause #5 which prohibits both mining (especially open pit) and new hydroelectrics within comarcal (reserve) areas. In a statement following yesterday’s meeting, the Minister of the Presidencia (Sr. Fabrega) asserted that the government would not yield on their freedom to build new hydroelectrics and implied that they were fine with the prohibition on mining. It should be kept in mind that Mt. Fortuna, within the comarca, has one of world’s largest copper deposits.
Now what happens. Remember, we went through all this a year ago – agreements were reached, etc., but when it came to legislation the process has been very slow and, according to the Ngobe, promises have been broken. It is doubtful that the Ngobe will accept government promises again. Thus, the Nacional legislature has declared itself in permanent recess  until an agreement is reached. This is a tacit acceptance that nothing will happen, legislatively, until not only an  agreement is reached, but that it is enacted into law.
            Meanwhile the Ngobe will be very much on a standby basis and  ready to go back to protest if they feel additional pressure on the government is needed. I would urge the ex-pat community to focus on just what it is that the Ngobe want. You will note that their targets have been passive civil disobedience on the roads or aggression against government offices – police stations, corregidurias, etc. Last night in Boquete, in recognition of this, the fire department moved their vehicles  up to the alto and out of harm’s way, only the Banco Nacional boarded up, and the police did whatever they could to defuse things – not confront. These protests, as in the past have been very TARGETED and the Ngobe have no argument with the civil or ex-pat society. The small amount of looting that occurred in Volcan was apparently local characters taking advantage of the situation and not including the Ngobe movement. 
In summary, my message would be that you have little to fear –this is not rich vs. poor or military vs. civilian. It is   Ngobe-Bugle vs. the President. We’ve lived with the Ngobe for many years and they are very slow to rile, but once riled, they are persistent. As was pointed out re; the ‘occupy ‘  movement, when they occupy, they are here to stay!
Price  Peterson
Hacienda La  Esmeralda
Boquete,  Panama