The Sala Quinta battle has, as expected, seamlessly evolved into yet another mining battle as the Ngöbe people are blocking roads in protest against the repeated attempts by il capo Martinelli to start mining operations in their semi-autonomous comarca, despite earlier promises and agreements to the contrary.
Instead, the @protegeryservir Twitter account has been showing a steady stream of messages calling for dialog and a peaceful resolution to the conflict. The picture, posted by the police, shows Subcomisionado Eric Amaya talking with protesters, without any back-up.
This contradicts the rhetoric coming from the government, with for example minister Jorge Ricardo Fábrega stating during a special state broadcast that there will be no dialog, and government deputees throwing around wild allegations on how the opposition is paying the protesting Ngöbe. Not to mention Martinelli's drunken tweets.
Despite the government's and its batshit crazy supporters' attempts to spin the indigenous uprising as a sort of vandalism by a small minority group, fact is that polls have consistently shown over the years that around 80% of the entire population is against open pit mining in Panama. The higher the profile of this battle becomes, the more decisive it will thus be for Martinelli's political survival.
The union of banana plantation workers has declared its solidarity with the Ngöbe protesters, and threatens a strike if the government doesn't meet their demands.
That would indeed mean a carbon copy replay of the Bocas del Toro protests in 2010, and the police doesn't seem to be willing to be blamed and shamed again for the type of brutal aggression it displayed back then.
It is significant to note that the police apparently has the maneuvering space to distance itself from the violent rhetoric of Martinelli and his fellow mobsters as the "Cambio" train is rapidly losing steam, has little to no (international) credibility left and is besieged by other protests as well - such as that of the victims and their families of state-supplied poisoned cough syrup who have never received any help from that same state.
But what about a reported clash between the police and protesters during the night, which left seven people injured? The police tweeted about that saying that the local mayor denied this ever happened. Which might suggest it was indeed an incident that's out of line with the police's determination not to use excessive force. Time will tell.