Panama: indigenous Wounaan finally get land title

After a 30-year struggle, on June 4 two indigenous Wounaan collectives in the eastern Panamanian province of Darién received titles from the government to their traditional lands. Puerto Lara and Caña Blanca were the first communities to benefit from Law 72, which was passed in 2008 to recognize indigenous communities that were left out of the process in which Panama created five comarcas, large, semi-autonomous regions for many of the country’s indigenous peoples. Thousands of Wounaan and Emberá are awaiting titles in another 39 communities. Indigenous people in these communities say the lack of titles has left their territories open to invasions by ranchers and loggers. (Rainforest Foundation, June 1; RF, June 5)

Two people were killed and at least three injured in two clashes between Wounaan and loggers on Mar. 30 near the Wounaan community of Platanares. Community members had approached a tractor being used by loggers working for the Maderera company to cut Cocobolo timber, an endangered variety of rosewood. One of the loggers shot Platanares leader Aquilino Opúa, who managed to return to the community but died there soon afterwards; community members then attacked the loggers, and a tractor driver, Ezequiel Batista, was killed. (Rainforest Foundation, March 31; Intercontinental Cry, April 4)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 10.

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