Yesterday the Ngobe indigenous leadership in a press conference announced that the government has until Friday to suspend the works on Barro Blanco. If not, they'll take to the streets again.
Minister Fabrega today made frantic attempts to contact the Ngobe representatives. However, a member of the "coordinadora" told us that they will not respond to him until Friday, when they expect a clear "yes" or "no".
The Ngobe leaders, including cacica Silvia Carrera, have been holding consultations among the population about what to do about the dam, which is being built and will be finished even though negotiations are still ongoing under an agreement reached last year.
The response of the Ngobe has been overwhelmingly against further negotiations as they only serve as a tactic to gain time and finish construction. The Ngobe want action. There is massive support for protests.
"The battle against Barro Blanco will not be decided at the negotiating table but in the streets", one leader said during one of those meetings where Bananama Republic was as an observer.
Fabrega, meanwhile, left for Chile today. He might have to come back soon.
UPDATE: The Martinelli government knows what's coming and has started broadcasting propaganda for hydroelectric dams in Panama.
It is quite likely that without action, the Ngobe would have been faced with a fait accompli which is the worst possible position for negotiation. A suspension of construction to negotiate a deal in which the Ngobe are fully compensated whatever the (unintended) consequences of the dam not only is fair but might be the lesser cost. Infrastructure is both costly and vulnerable so even investors would lose if a deal isn’t reached and they could forget similar projects.
Regarding propaganda, the example set by the Japanese govt is worth mentioning: they revamped their dress code so the air conditioners could be turned higher – that saved a lot of electrical power. For obese officials, whose (bad) health condition became too apparent, it was an incentive to lose weight.
The only acceptable solution is for the dam to be demolished and the area already torn apart by the construction be restored to its original condition. Anything less would simply be an excuse for governments around the world to take further advantage of indigenous peoples and then try to buy their way out with cash.
Their are not any “(unintended)” consequences of the dam. The government and the company knew that the original environmental impact statement was nothing but used toilet paper when it was submitted to the UN for the “Carbon Credits”. It is strongly suspected that the UN knew that was the case as well and only re–opened the case after incredible pressure from environmental and indigenous groups from around the world.
The long term consequences are already materializing. The indigenous people of Panamá on the comaracas and the indigenous peoples around the world have begun repudiating any agreement with the UN and their respective governments for use of their land for supposed “green” projects that are given “Carbon Credits”. That, in and of itself, would have prevented this entire fiasco. The project, whose electricity generation is not needed in Panamá’s power grid and cannot be sold internationally because of the lack of an international grid, would not be economically viable without the “Carbon Credits”, which is why the company and the government lied on the environmental impact statement. To gain the “Carbon Credits” was essential to gaining international financing.
If you look up the carbon credit docs on the UN website, it states right there that the project wouldn’t be viable without those credits.
The UN is not a mediator, but an interested party in this conflict.
One correction though: They can easily sell electricity to Costa Rica. The powerlines are right there.
The Transnational Banks and Corporations have given the career criminal Politicians, friends and associates’ of Panama a lot of extensive incentives in the form of stocks, bonds, cash, and heavy principle only loans if these “Carbon Tax Credits” are made viable through these 31 dam building projects!
These Political incentives are also contingent upon the connecting of the Panama Electrical Grid to the Colombian Electrical Grid!
These Dam building projects are all too necessary for the foreign mining interests to continue to exploit the Gold, Copper, silver, and lead that presently resides with the Comarca.
“Carbon Tax Credits” means death, complete lost of Human Rights, and Ancestral lands granted by Law and Constitutional Authority for the Indigenous peoples of the Comarca of Panama and the rest of the world!
Panama does not need these hydroelectric projects. This is, as stated above about carbon credits.
Several UN member states supposedly in favor of carbon credits, also are in favor of exploitation of Arctic oil and gas and are willing to take great risks to harvest methane hydrates in a warming (=destabilizing) ambiance. Just investigate the sudden military importance of the Arctic for NATO. That might serve as indication that contrary to the US propaganda, there’s a shortage of cheap oil and it was at the base of the 2008 (and counting) recession. And despite the recession, a barrel of oil still is at ~100 $.
From that perspective, hydro has a future. With about 60% of electrical power in Panama supplied by hydro and the rest via burning fossil fuel, increasing the amount of hydro indeed could prevent a price hike. So before exporting a surplus, it might be a good idea to phase out production via oil and gas and also to attract investment for fast electric transportation by rail – which has a future too. One of the unintended consequences of hydro is that with too many woods destroyed, rain could be less and when a tipping point has been passed, much less. Hence the importance of a regional environmental study instead of one on a single project.
What is happening to many indigenous communities (not just in Panama) is that their way of life is destroyed: they aren’t compensated in any way but driven off their land: instead of being protected by the UN as “living green already”, they have become its victims. This is a valid enough reason for large-scale action.
It’s a bit amazing to see that labor law in Panama has a likeness to that in several EU countries but when it comes to the behavior of corporations, US styled Mafia rules are applied.
There are rivers in Chiriqui with no less than three or four concessions in them for dams. The Tabasara, where Barro Blanco is being built, has two, the other one being a bit further downstream, after another river enters it. At that level of destruction, you can not possibly call it “green” any more.
The green solution would be to have more energy conscious practices, notably in the city. An unfathomable amount of electricity is being wasted in cooling of buildings for example. A place like the Trump Club could almost cut its cooling cost in half had they used geothermal or heat exchange with sea water. Nobody seems to have any idea about saving electricity, there are no plans and no policies other than “more”.
Nothing in Panama is built with any type of Energy savings standards Period! The only that is green in Panama is the money and the jungle, well what is left of it any way!
One wonders how this Martinelli Cartel Government is going to power the Metro subway of death. The Six large shopping centers in Panama already consume over 75% of the electrical power available. The AC systems in Panama (homes, apartments, and office buildings) are never cleaned; the filters never changed or clean properly! Panama wastes over 40% of its electricity through dirty AC units, shopping center lighting and cooling, and unregulated management of the rest of power grid, just like it wastes 60% or more of the fresh potable water supply daily!
Got photos of one on Rio Fonseca.
Dire Straits, a Counterbalance report on hydroelectric projects in Panama, includes the deceptive practices of the transnational corporations involved, the deceits committed, and the people affected. A highly readable, eye-opening report.
Thanks for posting that link. I brought it to the attention of the EU environmental commissioner with the suggestion that the EU might have been misled because the small print of the plan already suggests damage, unlikely to be endorsed by the EU as “environmentally friendly”.
Now if the Bugle had guns, putting a stop to government abuse would be a lot easier.
That’s the dumbest comment I’ve read in a long time. You must be out of your mind if you think that the Ngobe would ever be able to outgun SENAFRONT or Aeronaval. It would be a bloodbath.
Thats what some people said when the Americans revolted against the mighty British empire in 1776. I don’t think Senafront would stand a chance against a bunch of drugged up Bugle with blowpipes let alone real guns. Ever heard of Guerrilla warfare? The Ngöbe defied the Spanish for many centuries without the use of guns.
You’re talking about hundreds of years ago, as if warfare hasn’t changed. Guerrilla warfare isn’t gonna work – ask the FARC. Maybe, and just maybe, 4GW, as I mentioned before.
But it’s easy to say that they should just take up guns without having skin in the game. I would take you seriously if you’d be there with them and take the downside if you’re wrong. So how about it?
One of the definitions of fascism is “merger of corporations and govt”. A fascist govt tries to provoke, in order to justify militarization and subsequently to proclaim martial law as a pretext to confiscate whatever is profitable. A good example how that is developing is the USA.
From that perspective, armed resistance will be met with extreme violence if just because corporations can make a profit from that too.
What still might help is to wake up people to the fact that like in Nazi Germany, when they remain inactive, the govt will go after them too so the fate of the Ngobe will be theirs one day.
A peaceful action not mentioned yet is hijacking popular terrestrial TV channels. When prepared well, viewers hardly notice and will see something that otherwise would never have passed (pro-corporate) censorship. Complete, programmable TV transmitters can be had for less than $120, see
A proper antenna with enough gain, directed (from a rather inaccessible spot) at the target area would be all to inform a community, which would think to have been watching a “govt approved” program.
FARC are losing because nobody likes living under communism
Nagorno-Karabakh: rebels won
Libia: terrorists won
Another thing: you’d immediately assume it would be all out war. But simply setting equipment on fire with molotovs would already cause international media attention, which is what they need. Closing down the inter-americana and kidnap government officials would also help a great deal. Do you think this government has the capabilities to do something about it? I don’t think so.
The Ngäbe Bugle have little, and so when they have been pushed into difficult lands and marginalized, mocked by empty agreements which have not been honored they have little to lose. Here is an article about one Ngäbe community struggling to develope sustainable tourism in the shadow of the Rio Fonseca hydroelectric project. They have been assured this project will not flood or affect their community. Right.