Panama has been rocked by a series of intense protests in the past two weeks, with tensions reaching a deadly climax on Tuesday. Reports indicate that two demonstrators were shot and killed by an elderly man who grew frustrated with the ongoing anti-mining protests. This shocking incident, captured in a chilling video shared on social media, highlights the growing unrest surrounding a controversial mining contract awarded to Minera Panama, a subsidiary of a Canadian mining company.
The mining contract, which allows for the extraction of copper over a period of 20 years, has been the focal point of the protests. Critics argue that the open-pit copper mine, surrounded by pristine rainforest, poses significant environmental risks, including potential water contamination and irreversible damage to vast areas of land. In exchange for annual payments of $375 million, Minera Panama secured the rights to utilize 32,000 acres of land.
Environmentalists, indigenous groups, and various unions have united in opposition to the mining project. They not only express concerns about the potential environmental impact but also allege corruption and backroom dealings between the government and the mining company. Panama’s citizens, already grappling with rising inflation and the effects of climate change, feel that their natural resources are being sold off without considering their wellbeing.
The protests have had a crippling effect on Panama’s economy, with roadblocks set up by demonstrators leading to the halt of business activities and daily losses of around $80 million. Furthermore, the unrest has caused the cancellation of significant events, including celebrations commemorating Panama’s independence from Colombia in 1903.
President Laurentino Cortizo has defended the mining deal, emphasizing its potential to generate jobs and revenue for Panama. However, as the protests persist, the government has attempted to quell the crisis through concessions. Last week, a moratorium on future metal mining was passed by congress, and a national referendum on the mining project was announced for December. The Supreme Court is also reviewing the contract’s legality, providing a glimmer of hope for opponents who believe that the deal could once again be deemed unconstitutional.
Regardless of the outcome, the protests have already tarnished Panama’s reputation as a stable and politically reliable nation in the region. The deep-rooted grievances expressed by the demonstrators have exposed underlying discontent and frustration, revealing a nation grappling with environmental concerns, socio-economic issues, and allegations of corruption.
What is the main cause of the protests in Panama?
The main cause of the protests in Panama is the controversial mining contract awarded to Minera Panama, a subsidiary of a Canadian mining company. Critics raise concerns about the environmental impact and allege corruption in the deal.
What are the potential risks associated with the mining project?
The mining project poses risks such as water contamination and irreversible damage to large areas of rainforest in Panama.
How has the mining project affected Panama’s economy?
The protests and roadblocks set up by demonstrators have caused significant economic losses, estimated at around $80 million daily. Business activities have come to a standstill, impacting local businesses and farmers unable to transport their crops to market.
What actions has the government taken in response to the protests?
The government has passed a moratorium on future metal mining and announced a national referendum on the mining project. Additionally, Panama’s Supreme Court is reviewing the legality of the contract.
What is the potential outcome of the protests?
The outcome remains uncertain. However, there is hope among the protesters that the Supreme Court’s examination of the contract’s legality could lead to the cancellation of the mining deal.