Government minister bows to indigenous pressure

Date of publication: 
2 March 2011

Panama’s Minister of the Presidency Jimmy Papadimitriu, was forced to climb down on Tuesday (Mar 1) when negotiators representing indigenous groups battling against Law 8, which changed mining regulations packed their bags and left meetings meant to resolve outstanding issues.

They had asked for talks with people at the top of the political pyramid and were not happy with what they got.

By the evening, Papadimitriu, who claimed he had been busy, was on his way to Felix in Chiriqui. to meet with the Ngabe-Bugle delegation and participate in the dialogue between the government and groups opposed to the recently-approved mining reforms.

The newly created committee members are negotiating to bring an end to weeks of protests over the reforms, which are opposed by environmentalists and indigenous groups. The protests reached a head over the weekend when demonstrators closed multiple sections of the Pan-American Highway, stranding motorists for hours.

The negotiations are being moderated by officials from the Catholic Church, who queried the power of the government representatives who had no presidential guarantee to enforce agreements.

During meetings on Wednesday, the indigenous leaders were reported to have demanded the return of a Spanish journalist, who wrote critical columns for La Prensa, and was expelled from the country after signing a “voluntary” departure document. In Spain he said that he would have faced strong sanctions, and imprisonment had he remained. He had been accused by President Martinelli of acting against Panama law in taking part in anti-mining protests.

Critics, internationally, and in Panama. said the expulsion was politically motivated.