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Vincentian Family prayers requested for indigenous people of Panama

by | Feb 29, 2012 | Vincentian Family | 4 comments

Vincentians in Panama ask the Vincentian Family to include the indigenous Ngäbe and Bugle people in prayer at a critical time in their lives. Please ask that God may touch the hearts of those who hold political and economic power, allowing them to understand that no project is more important the life of a people. A classic conflict between commercial interests and indigenous people.


At the beginning of February 2012 thousands of Ngäbes y Bugles came down from the mountains to protest the government’s breaking of an agreement made the year before that would prohibit the destruction of indigenous lands and society thought the imposition of open-pit mining and hydro dam projects.

After several days of a road block standoff, the government viciously attacked the indigenous families with excessive force that left two indigenous dead from police gunshot and hundreds wounded.

An agreement was signed on February 7th, though the mediation of the Catholic Church, that opened a negotiation table between the government and the indigenous.

The conversations have come to a crucial moment as the government refuses to halt the construction of a specific project.  Thousands of indigenous are now coming back down from the mountains to hold vigil at various points along the Inter-American Highway.  If the government once again goes back on its promises, the indigenous will protest again. Violence will follow.

The Vincentians have accompanied the indigenous Ngäbe people of Panama for more than thirty year in the Soloy Mission.  These years have been marked by great joy of living amongst a faithful people and great hardship in accompanying a people who are continually oppressed by governments and companies that do both respect their dignity as human beings and a people with a distinct and beautiful worldview.

Monday, February 27th, negotiations between the Ngabe Bugle people and the national government continued in Panama.  However as a result of the confrontations that arose from the rejection of the mining project, it is foreseen that these talks will be very difficult.  On the one hand, the Indian leaders are demanding a halt of the construction of the hydroelectric project in Barro Blanco.  On the other hand, the government continues to state that the project has no effect on the Indians’ land that is part of the territory that has been set aside for their use.  In fact, the project will effect about 7 hectares in an area adjacent to their land, an area on the Tabasará River.  This project is being built by the company Generadora del Istmo and is being financed by Honduras.

Further background….On May 31, 2011 the members of the April 10th Movement in defense of the Tabasará River and legal representatives brought their case before the Third District Court of Justice.  A request was made to reject the Environmental Impact Study of the Hyrdoelectic Project.



  1. John

    We are praying for the Vincentians and all of our Nagbe and Bugle brothers and sisters as always.

  2. Joe Fitzgerald, CM

    Brief update…
    On Thursday, February 2nd, at approximately 2pm, while the government and indigenous Ngäbe were in dialogue within the National Assembly building, the police began to shoot pellets and rubber bullets at the indigenous who are holding vigil outside the gates of the assemble. The Ngäbe at the negation table were helped to safety by the bishop who is acting a mediator.

    The head of security, responded that they only used paint guns, yet the Red Cross confirms that four taken to the hospital have pellets in various parts of their bodies.

    The Ngäbe holding vigil in various parts of the country blocked road until the chief asked for the roads to be open close to midnight.

    In separate press conferences – the government affirmed its position to continue the dialogue and the Ngäbe asked that the negotiations be moved to another site (possibly the archdioceses headquarters) and that the President of the Republic be present at the negotiations.

    We continue to ask for prayers that a just solution he agreed upon and that the thousands of Ngäbe holding vigil near the Inter-American highway can return to their village in peace.

    Peace, Joe Fitzgerald, CM

  3. Joe Fitzgerald, CM

    Press Release in Regards to Dialogue between Indigenous Ngäbe and Panamanian Government:

    This morning, at the American Cooperative Institute in Panama City, a meeting was held with the mediator, observers, the Ngäbe Coordinator, the General Chief and other traditional authorities.

    The following was agreed upon:

    • Continue the dialogue.

    • At the request of the Ngäbe Coordinator, Traditional Authorities and with the agreement of the Government, the dialogue moves to the United Nations offices in the City of Knowledge, beginning tomorrow, Saturday March 3, 2012, at 10: 00 am.

    • At the request of the Ngäbe Coordinator, Traditional Authorities and with the agreement of the Government, the United Nations assumes the role of facilitator of the process.

    • In order to keep the community informed and to avoid conflicting statements, at the end of each session a joint communiqué to be published by the mediation.

    We hope to have the support of the general public, especially the Media in order to achieve the ultimate goal of peace through consensus and peaceful respectful dialogue.

    + Fr. José Luis Lacunza Maestrojuan, O.A.R.
    Obispo de David
    Presidente de la Conferencia Episcopal de Panamá

  4. Jennifer

    Very interesting article

    The World Bank estimates that forcible “development-induced displacement and resettlement” now affects 10 million people per year. According to the World Bank an estimated 33 million people have been displaced by development projects such as dams, urban development and irrigation canals in India alone.

    India is well ahead in this respect. A country with as many as over 3600 large dams within its belt can never be the exceptional case regarding displacement. The number of development induced displacement is higher than the conflict induced displacement in India. According to Bogumil Terminski an estimated more than 10 million people have been displaced by development each year.

    Athough the exact number of development-induced displaced people (DIDPs) is difficult to know, estimates are that in the last decade 90–100 million people have been displaced by urban, irrigation and power projects alone, with the number of people displaced by urban development becoming greater than those displaced by large infrastructure projects (such as dams). DIDPs outnumber refugees, with the added problem that their plight is often more concealed.

    This is what experts have termed “development-induced displacement.” According to Michael Cernea, a World Bank analyst, the causes of development-induced displacement include water supply (dams, reservoirs, irrigation); urban infrastructure; transportation (roads, highways, canals); energy (mining, power plants, oil exploration and extraction, pipelines); agricultural expansion; parks and forest reserves; and population redistribution schemes.

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