Ever since last October 20th, organizations, social movements, and thousands of people have been demonstrating in the streets throughout Panama. They are protesting the 40-year prolongation of the contract that allows the Canadian company First Quantum Minerals to continue extracting copper from a mine located in a protected biological corridor. This prolongation was passed by Congress in a fast track procedure with no public consultation.
The government’s response has been repression of the protests with the use of force, including arbitrary arrests, tear gas, and other assaults perpetrated by state security forces. The most lethal of theseattacksare clearly the assassinations of schoolteachers Abdiel Díaz, Tomás Milton CedeñoandIván Rodríguez. In the face of state violence, a wide variety of teacher associations, social movements, and peoples’ organizations have declared an indefinite strike in the country.
These protests are relevant to Mesoamerica as a whole and to struggles waged by communities and rights defenders worldwide.They represent a broad popular movement that challenges the extractive model and “green” capitalism, both of which reflect a colonial perspective in which Mesoamerican countries are considered apt sites for the plunder and dispossession necessary to ensure the energy transition of the “First World.”
We of IM-Defensoras hereby express our emphatic rejection of the violence and offer our condolences to the families of the comrades who were assassinated. We stand in solidarity with their honorable struggle and demand an immediate end to all repressive acts against them.
We especially recognize the leadership and contribution of women human rights defenders in Panama, who have been active in the recent protests on behalf of many different organizations and communities.
We sincerely hope that the Supreme Court will comply with its obligation to rule in favor of the claim of unconstitutionality of Law 406, thereby allowing for the termination of the contract with the Canadian corporation, and establishing a reference point for winning a total moratorium on mining in the country.