Conflicts & War

Indigenous groups block roads in Panama in protest over land titles

Bayano, Panama, Jul 20 (EFE).- Indigenous groups on Wednesday set up roadblocks on several points of the Inter-American Highway – the Central American portion of the Pan-American Highway – to demand land titles and access to new gasoline subsidies.

One of the blockades occurred at the bridge over Bayano Lake, around 100 kilometers (62 miles) east of Panama City, where dozens of indigenous people dressed in traditional garb shouted slogans such as “our land won’t be sold, our land will be defended.”

“(Non-indigenous) settlers are invading our lands … felling trees, contaminating the environment. We’ve preserved the lake … We’re the protectors. And then the invaders come,” the spokesman for the Madugandi indigenous region, Linares Garcia, told Efe.

The National Coordinating Body of Indigenous Peoples in Panama (COONAPIP), which comprises seven of the country’s native peoples, on Tuesday announced the “indefinite closure” of roads running through their territories starting Wednesday.

That organization said it is demanding “collective title to their territories as established by Law 72 of 2007” and the eviction from those lands of invaders and settlers.

The protest was the latest in a series of actions across Panama by labor groups and indigenous organizations over a span of more than two weeks.

Earlier nationwide demonstrations to demand lower prices of fuel and food triggered supply shortages of those basic items in different Panamanian cities, including the capital. EFE


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