Target: President of Panama Ricardo Martinelli
Goal: Stop construction of the Barro Blanco dam, which violates human rights standards
Due to the proposed construction of the Barro Blanco dam, the indigenous Ngabe-Bugle peoples of Chiriqui Province in Panama face the destruction of their life-sustaining river, which is hugely important in their daily lives for fishing, cooking, sanitation and drinking. The dam will also flood homes and religious and cultural sites. The project was approved without consultation from the tribe, though the Ngabe people have opposed the dam, staging peaceful protests with activist groups sympathetic to their cause.
A protest demanding consent from the Ngabe people for projects in their territory has already led to tragedy. Violent backlash from police led to the deaths of three protesters and left more than 100 wounded. A government compromise was reached prohibiting mining and ensuring no additional hydroelectric projects would be approved without the tribe’s consent. The Barro Blanco dam, however, is to continue as planned.
Without consent or consultation from the indigenous people, the building of this dam is in violation of international human rights laws. A lawsuit challenging approval for the dam was brought to Panamanian courts by Movimiento 10 de Abril, a Ngabe activist group. Earthjustice, Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense and the Center for International Environmental Law filed a friend-of-the-court brief in conjunction with the lawsuit.
Sign this petition, stand up for the rights of the Ngabe-Bugle tribe and demand the tribe’s consent for all government projects which will directly affect its people, including the Barro Blanco dam.
Dear President Ricardo Martinelli,
The government of Panama agreed to obligatory consent from the Ngabe-Bugle people for the approval of all government projects which would directly affect them. However, the government refuses to discontinue the Barro Blanco dam project, which the tribe has actively deplored. This action is not only in contempt of Panamanian law, but also international human rights laws.
The dam will displace members of this indigenous group, put sites of religious and cultural importance under water and threaten the cleanliness of a water supply by leaving the Tabasara River stagnant. The government of Panama has a responsibility to protect its citizens, especially its indigenous population, as their reliance on the environment leaves them particularly vulnerable.
I urge you to respect both Panamanian and international law by prohibiting the construction of this dam, which will put the fragile ecosystem of these indigenous people at risk.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Desi Burgos via Wikimedia Commons