The violence against the Ngöbe uprising may be over since an agreement was reached yesterday, but many questions remain to be answered and issues are unsolved.
Why was all the violence necessary in the first place, if the government after days decided to negotiate and give the Ngöbe what they wanted anyway?
Why did Panama have to live through such a violent episode for the third time already during Martinelli's administration, each time related to mining and exploitation of water resources? To recount: The first time was Bocas 2010, with one of the main issues being a law that would eliminate environmental impact studies for mining projects deemed of national interest. The second time was with the Ngöbe in 2011, about mining in their reservation. The third time was over the last week, when the government tried to break its promise of no mining and no hydroelectric plants in Ngöbe territory - and again they were touting "national energy interests" as the reason for the slaughter.
What interests are big and important enough for the government to have so many people killed and wounded?
La Estrella, in a great hard-hitting investigative piece today, gives us an important piece of the puzzle. The newspaper names two well-known Panamanian entrepreneurs, Gabriel Btesh and Felipe Virzi, as the men behind a big hydroelectric project that has been in the works for years and would seriously affect the Ngöbe reservation.
Btesh and Virzi are well known in the wonderful world of Panamanian megacorruption and crooked deals. La Estrella also calls them out as the driving forces behind a high-profile land scandal in Paitilla, where a flower salesman showed up as the supposedly legal owner of an extremely valuable piece of land which was then transferred for pennies to them.
Both gentlemen are good friends - and probably business associates - of our president Ricardo Martinelli. Virzi is even related to Martinelli. President Doens of the opposition PRD party told La Estrella that the duo had approached him on behalf of Martinelli, proposing that he tone down the opposition in exchange for money.
The violent repression of the indigenous people defending their land and their livelihood went together with endless government spin, repeated by other "friendly" entrepreneurs like Juan Francisco Kiener, president of the Syndicate of Panamanian Industrialists, threatening skyrocketing electricity prices and even daily blackouts if building hydroelectric dams in the territory of the Ngöbe would be prohibited.
However, La Estrella reports that the Btesh-Virzi plant, if built, would only generate 4.5% of Panama's national consumption, according to the project's own studies. On top of that, no less than 17 such plants are already under construction in Chiriqui, outside the comarca.
Those indisputable figures did however not stop Jimmy Papadimitriu yesterday evening from stating that the water resources in the Ngöbe reservation would be protected "as long as that doesn't endanger the energy security of the country" - a revealing glimpse into what Martinelli et al may try next in their quest to enrich themselves, their families and their associates.
Luckily, the Ngöbe are not to be fooled again. The National Assembly is going to be in session from 2:00 PM today to discuss the mining law, this time with the clause that prohibits mining and exploitation of natural resources in their territory. Large groups of Ngöbe have surrounded the parliament and have assembled in various places throughout the country, ready to take action if the agreement turns out to be yet another government lie.
But even if they keep their word, the question is if we really want to live under a government that maims hundreds of people and kills several more, just to safeguard the corrupt business deals of its associates who are already filthy rich. One of the most distasteful pictures of yesterday - except for the photos of the killed teenager, shot at close range with a rifle - was the one showing the National Police cordoning off Super99 supermarkets. They weren't protecting lives, or banks, or women and children; they stood there, protecting the stores of Ricardo Martinelli.
And that is not a state of affairs anyone should tolerate.