Panama: The indigenous people of Ngabe Bugles, who were opposing to the flooding of their lands, were repressed

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Source: Resumen Latinoamericano / The Dawn News / May 23, 2016

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Ngabe Bugles women with typical dresses


The indigenous people of Ngabe Bugles who were opposing to the intentional flooding of their lands to build a dam on the Tabasará River, were repressed. More than 200 units of the National Police cowardly acted against entire families.

From Barro Blanco, comrades of the Ngabe Bugles community reported on the incursion of heavily armed police units, backed by helicopters.

Police officers arbitrarily detained more than 90 residents of El Tabasara who were opposing the filling-in of the Barro Blanco dam in the hydropower project, among them, young people, women and children. The project, which will have a capacity to produce 28 megawatts, is rejected by indigenous Ngäbe-Bugle people and by peasants, who have also suffered the police repression, because they fear the loss of their lands and the destruction of Tabasará river, which will supply the dam.

We demand the immediate release of all those unfairly detained, those who were imprisoned due to living on the Ngabe Bugle land, which was legally delimited on March, 1997.

This information was sent by the indigenous leader Celio Guerra from the Unión Campesina Panameña UCP [Panamanian Peasants’ Union] FRENADESO CLOC LVC.

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Barro Blanco Hydroelectric Dam Threatens Indigenous Communities, Panama

Despite both local and international opposition, the Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam project on the Tabasara River in the Chiriqui Province of Panama remains a source of controversy. If completed, the nearly $80 billion project will displace indigenous Ngobe families and result in significant impacts on the local communities – including flooding cultural, religious, and historical sites.

Neither the Panamanian government nor the company building the dam, Generadra del Istmo S.A. (GENISA) adequately consulted the indigenous communities that will be affected by the project, in violation of the community’s right to free, prior, and informed consent. The dam also threatens to violate the human rights to property, housing, food, water, culture, and education. Further, once the dam is completed, the Tabasara River will be converted from a functioning source of water and food into a stagnant lake ecosystem. The Ngobe have formed a strong campaign (“la lucha contra Barro Blanco”), which CIEL supports in coalition with other national and international NGOs.

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Barro Blanco project is a prime example of how policies intended to solve one problem can cause unintended but devastating impacts on local communities and ecosystems– in this case, a hydroelectric dam designed to reduce carbon emissions will cause irreparable harm to the Ngobe people whose lives and livelihoods depend on these lands and resources. Barro Blanco is registered and thus eligible for carbon credits under the UN’s carbon offsetting scheme known as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Established under the Kyoto Protocol, the CDM has no standards to protect against human rights abuses and does not provide a means for affected people and communities to register complaints.

CIEL has supported local communities working to ensure that projects like Barro Blanco are in compliance with national and international law. At the international level, CIEL highlights the case of Barro Blanco to expose the human rights concerns that must be anticipated and addressed before funding flows or accreditation is given from climate finance initiatives (like the CDM) or development banks (in this case the German Investment Corporation (DEG), the Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO), and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CBIE).

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Free Tabasara
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