Target: Ricardo Martinelli, President of Panama
Goal: End violence toward tribal protesters at the Barro Blanco Dam construction site
The indigenous Ngabe people of Brazil have been subject to violence at the construction site of the highly controversial Barro Blanco Dam. Last month, a 20-year-old man was killed after protesting the dam’s construction. Indigenous peoples have been actively protesting the dam since its inception, but they have been increasingly suppressed for doing so.
GENISA, a Honduran company, is responsible for the project’s completion. The dam will essentially destroy the tribal lands of the Ngabe people–lands where they have dwelled for generations. Starting with the spring rains, the Tabasara River will overflow, flooding indigenous peoples’ homes and communities, displacing as many as 8000 individuals. Officially, this land has been protected since 1997 by Panama Law 10 and Articles 48 and 127 of the Panama Constitution. Nonetheless, construction of the dam continues. In 2011 CIAM Panama, an environmental NGO, filed a lawsuit against the National Environmental Protection Authority, which approved the dam’s construction. The NEPA appealed the case, and it has been sitting dormant for the last year.
Aside from the obvious environmental degradation caused by the dam, its construction violates the basic human rights of indigenous peoples. Furthermore, tribal protesters have been subject to increasing violence in recent weeks. Earlier in the spring, three demonstrators accused of releasing tear gas in a crowd were arrested and beaten in custody. Last month, a 30-person protest was dispersed with shotgun fire and rubber bullets. Ask the leaders of Panama to end violence toward tribal protesters at the Barro Blanco Dam construction site.
Dear Mr. President,
The construction of the Barro Blanco Dam has been an issue of contention among the 8000 indigenous people who will be displaced by the flooding of the Tabasara River. Understandably, many of these tribal people have decided to protest the dam and its construction, exercising their democratic right. They believe that the dam itself violates the constitution, which protects indigenous people in Panama and the lands on which they have resided for generations.
These are serious human rights issues that should be taken into consideration by the government of Panama. However, regardless of whether or not the dam is constructed, the Ngabe people have the right to protest something in which they do not believe. Ngabe protesters have recently been the victims of violence at the hands of police and armed security. Last month, a man who was only 20 years old was pursued and killed after a dam protest. Only a day before, a 30-person protest was dispersed with shotgun fire and rubber bullets. I urge you to end the violence committed toward tribal protesters. It is their democratic right to protest the Barro Blanco Dam, and they should not be violently suppressed.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Fowler&fowler via Wikimedia Commons