Ngöbes win mining battle, environmentalists lose

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The Panamerican highway will be unblocked

Hot off the wires: Papadimitriu and leaders of the Ngöbe Buglé have reached an agreement. The Panamericana will be re-opened. The government will abstain from persecuting those who participated in the protests (those detained in Ancón have already been freed).

Most important: The government will pass a law that explicitly prohibits exploration and exploitation of mineral resources in the Ngöbe Buglë territory.

This effectively splits the resistance against mining in Panama, because the authentic protests of the Ngöbes  have now accomplished what snotty environmentalists, unions and other "civil society" groups, despite being better "educated" and having more resources, have not: To keep their lands free of open pit mines.

Having thus dealt with the hardest and most effective protest against its mining plans, Martinelli & Co now only face these other groups which traditionally don't accomplish much for reasons we described here previously. Effectively, they've given up on Cerro Colorado's copper deposits to be able to mine about everywhere else in Panama. There is a gold concession next to that of Petaquilla that holds more gold than that of PTQ itself, surveyor reports seen by Bananama Republic show.

13 thoughts on “Ngöbes win mining battle, environmentalists lose

  1. My compliments. You’ve been spot-on in your analysis over the last days, saw the division ahead and were the only journalist honest and courageous enough to write about it. And indeed it panned out exactly like that. If only these blah blah groups would listen!

  2. Environmentalists lose? Do I detect a hint of satisfaction here? I couldn’t care less about them, what really concerns me is that the environment has lost, and now Panama’s beautiful countryside will be sold off and raped. It’s not all about snide politics.

    Surely it’s a numbers game anyway – the Ngobe far outnumber environmentalists. This is why the Naso – who are just fierce and spirited as the Ngobe – were unable to keep hydro-electrics out. There just weren’t enough of them. And now what happens to all the Ngobe living outside of the Comarca? Is this even a victory for indigenous rights? What kind of a victory is this, exactly?

    • @ExiledBrit:

      Environmentalists lose? Do I detect a hint of satisfaction here? I couldn’t care less about them, what really concerns me is that the environment has lost, and now Panama’s beautiful countryside will be sold off and raped. It’s not all about snide politics.

      The environment loses, because the environmentalists, as usual, didn’t have their act together. They lost, just like they lost in Bocas last year – which was basically the same dynamics and the same mistake. That’s what angers me tremendously. They’re the worst activists I’ve seen in a long time, basically all they do is yell, “look at me being on the right side of the issues”. They’re wasting everybody’s time with their ineffective protests, their lack of strategy or tactics, their refusal to think any further than their own pathetic egos. Anyone could see this coming from miles away, but they just kept their feet firmly planted in the sky. Name me ONE battle they have ever won by themselves in the last ten years or so. Just one. Our governments are the number one threat to our environment. These groups are number two, because of their refusal to become effective at what they purport to be doing. Try talking with them, have a meaningful debate or conversation. It’s like talking to a wall.

      Surely it’s a numbers game anyway – the Ngobe far outnumber environmentalists.

      That’s an unfair comparison. The Ngöbe are a people, and they do not at all outnumber the rest of the Panamanians. Yet they accomplished what Panamanians haven’t, by simply being smarter, better organized and willing to sacrifice.

      What kind of a victory is this, exactly?

      There will be no mining in the Ngöbe Buglé comarca, which is not just a fairly big piece of Panama but also covered by forest. It’s a victory for indigenous rights because it protects self-determination. It’s a victory for the environment because no Canadians or Koreans can pollute the water and dig big holes. I’m surprised I need to explain this.

  3. I understand your frustration at the environmental movement when the results ‘speak for themselves’.

    I agree, on a global level, the environmental movement is something of lame duck. Green Peace et al have sold out and bought into corporate-sponsored green washing, the ship is sinking and no one seems to care.

    But its not fair to tar everyone with the same brush.

    I haven’t met many ‘activists’, but I have met plenty of worthwhile scientists, environmentalists and conservationists – many of them affiliated to groups and NGOs – who are doing useful things here in Panama.

    Victories tend to be locally important. I can cite a dozen small-scale projects that do a good job in protecting the countryside and wildlife. They are not at all ego-driven. The conservation of the Sendero Quetzales was one small success that readily springs to mind.

    You said: “The Ngöbe are a people, and they do not at all outnumber the rest of the Panamanians. Yet they accomplished what Panamanians haven’t, by simply being smarter, better organized and willing to sacrifice.”

    Yes, I am aware of this, but actually your own comparison is unfair, as there are roughly 150,000 Ngobe, and perhaps, at a guess, 5,000 environmentalists in Panama. Not all Panamanians are environmentalists and there just isn’t the manpower for a mass occupation of the Interamericana, although it’s clearly a very effective strategy.

    You said: “There will be no mining in the Ngöbe Buglé comarca, which is not just a fairly big piece of Panama but also covered by forest. It’s a victory for indigenous rights because it protects self-determination. It’s a victory for the environment because no Canadians or Koreans can pollute the water and dig big holes. I’m surprised I need to explain this.”

    Everything you say is true and good, but there was also the sense that this fight might actually limit some of the worst excesses of this government. I saw lots of Naso protesting alongside the Ngobe, who obviously had similar hopes – they have now been cut out of the deal. My point is that this is something of a hollow victory.

    The Canadians and Koreans will just dig holes and pollute streams outside of the Comarca. The poor people unfortunate enough to live in the vicinity of these projects will have no way of defending themselves because their most powerful ally has done what everyone else does and just looked after itself.

    None of this feels quite right to me and no formal law has actually been passed yet anyway. Everything is still on the table. Personally, I think nothing will really change for the indigenous peoples until Panama enters a proper demarcation process.

    Also, unless this deal covers hydroelectrics, I guarantee that Martinelli will screw the Ngobe as hard as he possibly can.

    • @exiledbrit:

      Yes, I am aware of this, but actually your own comparison is unfair, as there are roughly 150,000 Ngobe, and perhaps, at a guess, 5,000 environmentalists in Panama. Not all Panamanians are environmentalists

      Not all Ngöbe are environmentalists either. If you want to compare things, you need to set Ngöbe environmentalists against the Panamanian ones, and then you’ll probably find that there are much more Panamanians organized in any group as environmentalists than Ngöbe. The latter are just better organized. In the capital these groups are afraid to block streets. But that’s how the Ngöbe won this, and they were just getting started!

  4. Me gustan los puntos de vista de Exiled Brit. El movimiento ambiental pierde batallas, pero la guerra la está ganando. El nivel de conciencia ambiental en Panamá, ha subido de manera significativa, en medio de una sociedad profundamente indiferente e irresponsable de sus propios problemas. Pero los tiempos están cambiando rápidamente. Más rápido de lo pensado.

    Yo que he visto esa evolución con mi propios ojos.

    Recordemos además, que vivimos en un país con una institucionalidad corrupta, que diezma hasta los más fuertes remezones que hacen los ambientalistas. El pueblo Gnobe tiene fuerza, más de lo que ellos mismos se imaginan.

    Si la justicia funcionara, no dudaríamos en detener este ley con una de las tres demandas interpuestas.

    Yo no creo que esto sea ganancia de unos y pérdida de otros. Es simplemente el momento evolutivo de este tipo de movimientos en nuestra sociedad.

    Un día seremos más civilizados, donde no tengamos que arengar en la calle para que escuchen nuestra posición, relativa al bien común y al ambiente que nos sostiene.

    Los sátrapas como Martinelli y la gente sin cálotas que le adulan, y los similiares que vengan, serán extinguidos por simples medios naturales de filtración de sólo gente sabia, buena, honesta y consagrada.

    • @A. Rodriguez:

      El movimiento ambiental pierde batallas, pero la guerra la está ganando.

      Donde? Hay menos polución? Menos deforestación? Menos basura? Menos minas? El mar es más limpio y tiene más pescado?

      Lo tragico es que la mayoría de los Panameños esta en contra de la mineria, pero los ambientalistas no logran convertir esto en un cambio concreto, y los indegenas si. Lo logico seria que los ambientalistas se preguntan qué error estan cometiendo cada vez.

  5. @Editor – I agree the environmental groups should take civil disobedience lessons from the Ngobe. Perhaps we could set up some guerilla training camps in the Comarca?

    However, I maintain numbers are also important. The Naso are even more fierce than the Ngobe, and yet they have failed to secure their own Comarca or keep out the hyrdroelectric corps. The government defeated them by splitting them, so if numbers weren’t important, the government would not keep pursuing such ‘divide and rule’ tactics.

    Nice to see Martinelli apologising anyway. It’s not often you see a politician say sorry. What a clown.

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