“We have not seen the reality of which they speak. It is completely false what they have said to the media. Here, the fact is we are suffering, but at the international level they say that everything is good…”
Santos Morales, ex-resident of Guayabal
In 2007, the Panamanian government awarded a concession to AES Changuinola, a subsidiary of U.S. based energy giant, AES Corporation, to build Chan I (75), a 233MW dam on the river Changuinola in the Bocas del Toro province of Panama. From the outset, AES Changuinola’s operations were marked by allegations of coercion, bribery, intimidation, and of violating the Ngäbes’ right to ‘Free, Informed and Prior Consent.’
In March 2008, The Alliance for Conservation and Development (ACD), an environmental NGO based in Panama City, and Cultural Survival, a U.S. based NGO working for indigenous rights worldwide, submitted a 25 page petition to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) detailing the alleged abuses.
In November 2009, the IACHR requested that the government of Panama order the suspension of construction pending further investigations. The government ignored the request, construction continued and in June 2011 the dam gates closed, inundating 1,394 hectares of land.
The project has been hailed as nothing short of a major success by AES Changuinola, the U.S. Ambassador to Panama, and the Panamanian government, another example of how well AES can work for Panama. AES Changuinola speaks of itself, to its shareholders, and the Panamanian public as a responsible, accountable, and ethical company that, as well as bringing economic and social benefits to one of Panama’s most impoverished provinces, has improved the lives of some 6000 people.
But this is not the reality for many Ngäbe. When the Ngäbe speak, they speak of family divisions, unfulfilled promises, forced evictions, violence, isolation, and poverty. This short film does not represent all of those who have spoken out against the company – many have done so anonymously – but it does represent the reality that many Ngäbe in the Changuinola river valley are facing.
With your help we are hoping to encourage AES Corporation to live up to its own image as a ‘responsible’ company that ‘honors its commitments.’
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