Panama: police back up cattle company to evict indigenous community

After two hours of resistance Nov. 19, some 150 troops of Panama’s National Police entered the Naso indigenous community of San San Drui in Bocas del Toro province, using tear gas to allow bulldozers and other machinery of the Ganadera Bocas company to destroy several small structures at the settlement of La Trinchera. The structures had been recently rebuilt after a similar confrontation at the contested piece of land in March. Naso leaders say the police had no judicial order to carry out the eviction, but had the political support of the provincial governor, Simón Becker, and Justice Minister José Raúl Mulino. The eviction leaves some 200 people without shelter in the middle of the rainy season. Two remaining structures at the settlement were destroyed by the cattle company’s machinery the following day, with the area still occupied by police troops.

Naso leaders report that the official ombudsman (the Office of Administrative Contention) of the national government in Panama City refused to receive a complaint they tried to file asserting that the mas eviction was illegal. Javier Viquez, a lawyer for the Naso, accused Gov. Becker of “acting like a troglodyte.” Indigenous leaders say they will file a complaint with the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR). The conflict over the land dates back to the 1960s. (TeleSUR, Nov. 22; Panama Profundo, Nov. 19, 20; COPODEHUPA, Solidaridad Naso, Nov. 19)

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