Panama: Two People Killed In Wounaan Indian Conflict With Loggers In Chimán


Don Winner, 2012


One Indian and a tractor driver were killed, and three others were injured in clashes between natives and loggers in Platanares, Chimán, last Friday (March 30). The Indian was identified as Aquilino Opúa, while the tractor operator's name was Ezequiel Batista, said today on the channel 2 TVN morning news broadcast, Alina Itucama a spokeswoman for the Wounaan Congress and Leonidas Quiroz, legal counsel of the Congress.


Maria Batista, Ezekiel's sister, said the Indians attacked her brother up on the tractor and that he had no weapons, but there was a burst of gunfire. Both victims left children behind, some with health problems. Both Maria Batista, as well as Itucama y Quiróz, demand justice.


The incident occurred when the Indians tried to burn the machinery that was being used to cut colobolo timber, a species threatened with extinction. Itucama blames the director of the National Environmental Authority (ANAM) Lucia Chandeck, because she said they knew about the conflict but did nothing. The conflict is not just over land, but rather over the timber, which has been taken to the National Environmental Authority (ANAM), the Land Authority (ANATI), and the Ministry of Government. Itucama denounced the indiscriminate felling of cocobolo in an interview on News AM last week.


In response the Deputy Minister of Government, Javier Tejeira, expressed regret and said it falls to the Public Ministry to initiate investigations. Tejeira said they had tried to avoid any conflicts by holding meetings with those involved, and he said it was unfair to blame Chandeck. Both Tejeira as the Director of Watersheds in the ANAM and Gerardo Gonzalez, said the ANAM suspended all logging permits in the area two weeks ago, and they were going to resume after Easter. They said some people feel misinformed, and others thought they were being mocked. Gonzalez said the situation had reached such an extent that the ANAM officials had to be accompanied by the National Police. Both officials announced that at 2:00 pm this afternoon they would be traveling to the region, and that Chandeck would also participate. (TVN)


Editor's Comment: I know that article didn't make a whole lot of sense. This is what happened. There are companies who have been logging in a relatively remote area located in the extreme Eastern end of the province of Panama. Last Friday, 30 March 2012, two people were killed at a logging camp located in Platanares, Chimán. All last week the Wounaan Indians in the area have been making increased demands, calling for an end to the logging in the area. The government responded by cancelling all logging permits that had been granted to different companies in the region. All of these operations had been shut down and the logging equipment removed, except for two camps. This incident occurred at one of the two camps where there was still logging equipment and personnel present. Last week some Indians went to this camp and set fire to several pieces of equipment, trucks and bulldozers. In response the company hired an armed private guard. When the Indians returned to try to burn more equipment, the armed guard opened fire, killing Aquilino Opúa. Seeking revenge, the Indians then returned and murdered the tractor operator Ezequiel Batista. Now with one person dead on each side, the government officials have "woken up" so to speak, and they will be going down there today to sort it all out. And like the man said, it will be the responsibility of the Public Ministry to figure it all out, investigate all of these incidents, and make the appropriate arrests.


Source: Panama Guide External link

Map location of Chimán District, Panama

Tags: Panama  Wounaan  logging  forests  environment  

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