The participants referred to Ricardo Martinelli, president of Panamá, as a killer. There are three confirmed deaths of natives as a result of confrontations with the Policia Nacional ordered into the area by the Martinelli administration.
The natives from the Ngöbe Buglé Comarca or reservation set up blockades and halted traffic on the Pan-American highway for 200 hours. The government of Panamá and native representatives reached an agreement Tuesday afternoon, but the protest here already had been scheduled.
A few protestors with flags, banners and homemade signs created a buffer between vehicles and the other participants to guide the traffic and keep their fellows safe. Opposite them was a steel barrier that blocked the protestors access to the Panama Embassy. The steel fence was backed by armed police officers. No one was allowed on the other side.
Ramón Lamboglia Castillo from the Asociación de Reservistas de Costa Rica, said that the Panama ambassador wasn’t a representative of the republic but rather an ambassador of Martinelli. Lamboglia had fought against Manuel Noriega with a weapon in his hand and lost a son, he said. He said he was ashamed of the Panamá government and the abuse toward the native peoples. His organization is the reserve element of the Fuerza Pública.
There have been false accusations said one of the speakers. Specifically, he referred to the reporting about kidnappings and violence used by the Ngöbe people. A family who was there said that those reports were lies. Some Costa Ricans who were trapped in the blockade said Sunday, however, that they felt they had been kidnapped.
Eventually four protesters were allowed into the embassy to present their views.
The Centro de Orientación Indigenas joined the protest around 10 a.m. The members had come from Los Santos, San Marcos de Tarazú. Candelario Gomez Galindo, a spokesman for the organization, said he had family and friends that participated in the protests in Bocas del Toro. He said the organization wants Latin American governments to respect all mankind regardless of ethnicity, age, or social class.
“ We are all united with our brothers in Panama. We are human, not animals. We are human beings,” he said.
Protestors chanted against the Martinelli administration, against mining projects, and for native rights.
The protestors were a coalition made up of different people from union leaders, student organizations, native groups, indignados to young and old people. They were joined by legislators Carmen Muñoz Quesada from the Partido Acción Ciudadana, and José María Villalta Flores-Estrada from the Partido Frente Amplio.
The protests in Panamá stemmed from legislation that would allow hydro projects in the watersheds of the reservation. The government there has agreed to review the legislation.
The native leadership says they were not consulted and that a prior agreement forbids such use. Martinelli denies that is the case.
Some protesters Wednesday were against mining. That has been a major issue in Costa Rica. The native peoples in Panamá also oppose mining on their land, but Martinelli has said that mining was not going to be pushed.