Get ANAM to respect Ngobe people's rights in Panama

The situation for the Ngobe people living along the Changuinola River in western Panama has deteriorated. AES-Changuinola, the affiliate of the American energy giant AES Corporation that is building the Chan 75 hydroelectric dam on Ngobe territory, has installed generator-powered light towers, and construction is now taking place around the clock. The Ngobe living nearby report that on top of their fear of losing their homes and way of life, they are stressed by the constant noise and light that makes it impossible for them to sleep at night. 

Meanwhile, the area remains under siege. The Ngobe have no electricity, no cell phone reception, and no access to the Internet. Police prevent any outsiders from reaching the Ngobe communities. Even the UNESCO delegation that recently visited Panama to investigate the dam's environmental consequences was prevented from entering the zone. While Ngobe villagers are still free to leave and return, the trip out is arduous. The only way they know that supporters want to talk with them is if the outsiders risk arrest by approaching the police patrols. Ngobe villagers who witness these confrontations then know to send an emissary to a nearby town to meet with their supporters.


The courts in Panama continue to stall all action aimed at protecting the Ngobe.  Most significantly, Panama's Supreme Court has still not ruled on whether it has jurisdiction to consider an amparo petition (similar to an American habeus corpus petition) that our on-the-ground partner, the Alliance for Conservation and Development in Panama (ACD), filed in December.


Efforts by Cultural Survival to persuade the AES corporation to adopt a more socially responsible approach have also been rebuffed. In February, Cultural Survival board and staff members contacted senior AES corporate officers and an AES board member, but in each instance we were dismissively redirected to the company's public relations bureau.


Lacking remedies in Panama and through the corporation, Cultural Survival and ACD have now taken the battle to the international arena. Last week we filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, alleging violations of the Ngobe peoples' human rights. Along with that petition we appealed to the commission to go directly to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for an order calling on Panama to halt all work on the dam until the Ngobe are properly consulted and their rights are respected. You can read that petition on Cultural Survival's website.


We also are launching a global letter-writing campaign to persuade Panama's environmental agency, ANAM, which commissioned AES-Changuinola to build the dam, to halt construction and set up a process that guarantees that the Ngobe peoples' human rights, now and in the future, are respected.

You can join this effort by sending letters or emails of concern to:


Dra. Ligia Castro de Dones
Administradora General

Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente
C-0843
Balboa Panamá, Rep. de P
anamá
Tel:  (011) 507-500-0814

Fax: (011) 507-500-0822Email: l.castro@anam.gob.pa


PETITION LETTER:


Distinguished Administradora General:


The Ngobe villagers living along the Changuinola River in western Panama are suffering grave violations of their internationally recognized human rights as a result of construction of the Chan-75 hydroelectric dam.


Police have abused, injured, and arrested individual Ngobe for protesting the denial of their right to fully participate as a community in all decision-making relating to road and dam construction, and to the communities' future.  Construction is now proceeding around-the-clock even though Ngobe lands have still not been surveyed, demarcated, or titled.  Construction crews are indiscriminately bulldozing Ngobe homesteads and farms, and individuals who protest are hauled off to jail.

Until these human rights violations are addressed and the Ngobe villagers are given a fair and equitable voice in negotiations, dam construction must stop.


I urge you to use your authority to stop the construction and set up a process that guarantees that the Ngobe peoples' human rights are respected now and in the future.

Sincerely yours,

[Your name]
Dra. Ligia Castro de Dones
Administradora General

Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente
C-0843
Balboa Panamá, Rep. de P
anamá
Tel:  (011) 507-500-0814

Fax: (011) 507-500-0822Email: l.castro@anam.gob.pa


PETITION LETTER:



Distinguished Administradora General:



The Ngobe villagers living along the Changuinola River in western Panama are suffering grave violations of their internationally recognized human rights as a result of construction of the Chan-75 hydroelectric dam.



Police have abused, injured, and arrested individual Ngobe for protesting the denial of their right to fully participate as a community in all decision-making relating to road and dam construction, and to the communities' future.  Construction is now proceeding around-the-clock even though Ngobe lands have still not been surveyed, demarcated, or titled.  Construction crews are indiscriminately bulldozing Ngobe homesteads and farms, and individuals who protest are hauled off to jail.

Until these human rights violations are addressed and the Ngobe villagers are given a fair and equitable voice in negotiations, dam construction must stop.



I urge you to use your authority to stop the construction and set up a process that guarantees that the Ngobe peoples' human rights are respected now and in the future.

Sincerely yours,

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