Today was Day of the Martyrs in Panama, and there were protests everywhere. The highway was closed by activists, and marches for or against various issues were held all over the country – all that against the backdrop of a deepening financial scandal surrounding our president Ricardo Martinelli.
Those who have been following that scandal – about Ricardo Martinelli being caught doing insider trading with shares in the Petaquilla mine – will probably have thought about how Martinelli was similarly caught being a silent shareholder in the controversial Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam.
Protests last year cost several lives, and finally it was agreed that a commission headed by the UN and the church would verify what the consequences of that dam really are for the Ngobe population living in the area.
Well, that report came out, and it confirms what we have been saying all along: Genisa, the government, and the investment managers of the Dutch bank FMO that partly finances the deal have been lying their asses off.
You can download the report here, and if you go to the conclusions you’ll see, for example, that they conclude that with the construction of the dam, the little arable land that the communities have will be lost, and that this will have a significant impact. Furthermore, it’s not clear what the people who live there will have to eat if the dam is built, given the loss of land and the fact that fish species typical for rivers will disappear once it turns into a lake.
Another conclusion is that there are no plans to solve these problems, that there haven’t been any studies done to assess flooding risks and similar issues.
Mind you, this report was already watered down severely because Genisa and the government had to sign off on it as well. When yours truly was in the area, it turned out that the UN measurements showed that villages would be flooded while the developers and financiers claimed nothing of the sort would happen.
And what has been the response of the government? Predictably, they just ignored the findings of the UN commission in which they themselves participated, and instead declared, with typical arrogance, that dialogue about Barro Blanco is now over.
However, that is not for them to decide. Protests will continue as they did today, against Barro Blanco and several other hydroelectric projects. The Dutch investors may face legal action against their plans to fund one of the pet projects of Panama’s corrupt president and his henchmen.