Gathered in Tole, Province of Chiriquí, in our ordinary meeting of the Indigenous Ministry of the Diocese of David, we analyzed the recent developments at the Pan American Highway at the junctions of San Felix and Vigui.
1. On Monday, February 7, 2011, several thousand indigenous Ngóbe came down from the Comarca to protest the Government’s intention to impose open-pit mining projects on Ngóbe lands, as well as other parts of the Country. Those present at the demonstrations (Robert P. Carpenter, Delegates Chito Garcia and Nestor Acosta Vigui, P. Joseph Fitzgerald, Fabio Pinzon and Caribbean Choy San Félix) indicate that the people demonstrated peacefully, speaking beforehand with the authorities about the intentions of the march. However, but there was a time when the riot police made the decision to clear the road and attacked the unsuspecting population with tear gas, rubber bullets and shot guns. In the case of San Felix, the protesters had not even occupied one lane of the Pan American Highway, as was their intention, when they were violently repressed. There was clearly a disproportionate repression of the riot police against the unsuspecting population, resulting in serious incidents of wounded and arrested.
2. The indigenous Ngóbe people, along with any other peoples or social groups, have the right to protest and be heard. Given the confusion and manipulation of information, it is irresponsible and disrespectful to the people Ngóbe for the government to respond to the protests by stating that the protestors are paid or acting under political banners. At the rally were people from all political parties and religious beliefs. The Ngóbe are the protagonists of their struggles, are informed and have made decisions on projects affecting them.
3. We, as Catholic Indigenous Ministry, support the legitimate manifestations of the Ngóbe because:
• Open pit mines in our bio-diverse territory, are NOT a model of development that promotes a healthy relationship between humankind with God's creation. The environmental and social damage these projects cause cannot be mitigates with the false expectations that are promised to the people. The Catholic Church has spoken clearly: "Not every investment is desirable. This is the case of mining ... " (Press the Panamanian Episcopal Conference, 01/13/1911)
• There are no mechanisms of meaningful participation which respect the Ngóbe as protagonists of their own development. The lack of respectful dialogue has resulted in the imposition of false development through state violence. The Ngóbe people are informed of the reality mining, do not agree with these projects and are not convince of the benefits of these projects.
4. As Catholic Indigenous Ministry of the Diocese of David we request that the competent authorities initiate a thorough investigation of the events of February 7, 2011 and support the petition of the leaders of the Comarca Ngóbe-Bugle Comarca which asks the Assembly to withdraw the proposed reform of the Mining Code until there is a genuine dialogue and participation on this sensitive issue. We reiterate our commitment to accompany the indigenous people in their legitimate claims and participate in peaceful demonstrations organized by the indigenous leadership in defense of their rights, their land and their lives.
Jesus the Worker Mission Center, Tole, Province of Chiriquí, Panama
Rev. Carlos De la Cruz (Coordinator) and the Indigenous Mission Teams of the Diocese of David.