Over a year ago, the San Lorenzo agreement was signed between the Ngobe leadership, the government, the church and Genisa - the company behind the controversy ridden Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam that's being built just outside the Ngobe comarca, but close enough to flood part of it. The deal came after days of heavy battle between Ngobe protesters and the police that paralyzed the country and put the Martinelli government on the brink of collapse.
That agreement included a verification mission by all parties to see if what Genisa claimed - no villages would be flooded, nobody would have to be displaced, no environmental damage, no significant archaeological damage etc. - was actually true. Experts came in, water levels were measured, the commission traveled through the affected area, and guess what? Everything Genisa had said turned out to be a lie. The report is here available for download.
But this verification mission was only half of the agreement. What follows is the peritaje, the stage where experts assess how bad exactly these lies are and, if possible, put a value on the graveness of Genisa's lies.
So, what's the problem, you think? The problem is this: These processes take lots and lots of time. The verification mission took about a year from putting it together to final report. And meanwhile, construction of Barro Blanco continues 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It's scheduled to be completed in September of this year. In other words, the dam will be built long before the negotiations about the dam will be finished.
So, the government (Martinelli is a shareholder of Barro Blanco) and Genisa are just using the agreement as a shield behind which they push through completion of the dam no matter what the outcome of all these investigations and verifications may be.
This was obviously never how the agreement of San Lorenzo was intended, and the Ngobe people are understandably getting impatient. They repeatedly asked the government to have construction suspended while the agreement was being implemented. However, today again the answer of the government was "no".
So now what? The Movimiento 10 de Abril (M-10), the most militant opponents of Barro Blanco, has already said in a statement that they have no confidence any more in the UN-led process as set out in the San Lorenzo agreement. Some of them launched protests, and there have been skirmishes with the police and SENAFRONT, which patrols the area around Barro Blanco.
Your Bananama Republic was present at various meetings in the comarca over the last days, and it became very clear that a vast majority of the population is willing to take to the streets again to stop the Barro Blanco dam from being built. It certainly looks as if this whole affair will be culminating into a violent climax.