FIVE children died as a result of inhaling teargas during excessive police repression in Bocas del Toro in July. That is one of the more gruesome conclusions of the National Ombudsman (Defensor del Pueblo) in its long awaited report (PDF) about the riots that broke out in and around Changuinola as a result of Martinelli's sausage law. The report cites medical forensic evidence to back up its conclusion.
The Battle of Bocas left in total 10 people dead (among which these five children), 716 wounded (of which 44 policemen) and 67 people were shot in the eyes (of which 2 or now permanently blind).
The report blames the way the government rammed the sausage law through the assembly as one of the main reasons why protests ensued, and calls Security Minister Raúl Mulino "arrogant".
Other conclusions are that the police used excessive force to repress the protests; the government and its institutions failed to cooperate adequately with the Ombudsman investigation, the indemnifications of the victims has been totally insufficient and in general the government committed serious violations of human rights and the rights of children treaty.
True to form, Martinelli denied any responsibility for the Battle of Bocas. Ranting and raving, he blamed "an opposition party" and "a labor syndicate" for the riots and claimed that those who hold the government responsible "are afraid to blame those who are really culpable". The group of people who still take him seriously is however reduced to basically himself and a few hangers-on.
ELECTION DEBACLE IN COMARCA
As if the backlash this report will have isn't enough already, the government is actively seeking yet another conflict with Panama's indigenous people that is about ready to get completely out of hand.
Last Sunday, elections were held in the Ngöbe-Buglé comarca that were boycotted by the population. Unclear rules, changing dates at the last moment, holding elections when a large part of the population is away working on coffee plantations, rain preventing people from traveling to the voting booths - these are just a few of the reasons given by human rights observers for the fact that turnout was hardly 20%.
Even so, the government claims the elections were a success and legitimate. That is however not what the population thinks. Indigenous leaders and a majority of the Ngöbe population do not recognize the results of the elections, and the first protests were being held today in David.
It is a public secret that Martinelli wants to gain control over land and water rights in the semi-autonomous comarca to sell it out to mining companies. It is consistent with his irresponsible and reckless style of government to risk another war with the indigenous people or even an indian uprising.