Ongoing Violation of Naso and Ngobe Peoples Rights

by February 16, 2010

A shadow report has been submitted to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) detailing Panama's ongoing breach of obligations to the Indigenous Naso and Ngobe Peoples, under the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)

Authored by the Alianza para la Conservación y el Desarrollo (ACD Panama), the 29-page report details Panama's numerous violations of the ICERD, including their failure to recognize Indigenous territorial rights, their violation of the Naso and Ngobe's Civil and Cultural Rights and their refusal to protect the Indigenous peoples from violence.

To demonstrate the "pattern of discrimination" and abuse, the shadow report focuses on three Naso and Ngobe communities:

First, the few Ngobe villages that live along the Changuinola River within the La Amistad Biosphere Reserve, who are facing the destruction of their villages, and the loss of their food and water supplies to make way for the Chan-75 Hydro dam.

According to Cultural Survival, the Panamanian government has stepped up their effort to build the hydro dam since the 2009 ruling by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which called for the suspension of all activities connected to the project.

The Shadow report also focuses on the Naso communities of San San and San San Druy, who have been repeatedly "denied the recognition of a Comarca, or semi-autonomous territory, which Panama has granted to other indigenous groups," explains the report. "Due to this lack of protection for their territorial rights, the Naso communities of San San and San San Druy have been repeatedly invaded and destroyed by employees of a ranching company that claims legal title to a portion of their ancestral lands."

A situation that has been largely overlooked by the international community, the village of San San Druy was demolished in Nov. 2009, after the Ngobe refused an order to voluntarily abandon their territory. Since that time, says the World Rainforest Movement, the villagers have been living in protest camps both in Panama City (in Cathedral Square) and in San San Druy, where they continue to seek a solution to the land dispute.

Finally, the report looks at the struggle of Ngobe villagers in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, where, the report states, "a series of poorly drafted laws meant to encourage tourism development and real estate speculation in Panama has instead resulted in the dispossession and often violent eviction of indigenous Ngobe residents."

"All three of these cases have resulted in threats and physical violence against indigenous
individuals and communities, sometimes on the part of a private party and sometimes by State police forces that the government of Panama has sent to aid private companies. In all three areas, houses, crops, and other property have been destroyed by heavy machinery. Police have occupied the areas in order to protect 'private property interests.'"

Further, "Community members have lost their possessions and even been injured and hospitalized
as a result of police violence. Many families have been displaced and their standard of living has decreased significantly."

While not explicitly mentioned in the report, at least two Ngobe have also been killed. The Spanish website Resistencia Naso reports that the body of an 11-year-old Ngobe boy was found in December 2009, on the property of a cattle rancher in Bocas del Toro.

The boy, who last seen heading into the nearby forest on Dec. 17, had two fatal machete wounds to his head and other wounds to his belly, his knees, and he was missing three fingers.

Several days earlier, according to the report, the foreman of one of the local cattle ranches threatened a group of kids who were playing in the forest, warning them that if he found them again he was "going to kill with machetes". Around the time of the child's death, a witness also saw three men wearing blood-stained clothing. All four men were questioned and later released by police. No arrests have been made.

According to a recent Press Release from the Naso, another Ngobe was murdered in December "at the hands of a farmer." However, as with the case of the murdered child, no one has been arrested and the police have made no public statements.

In their statement, the Naso denounce Panama's inaction toward these two murders and the ongoing abuses and violations of their human rights. They also call on the international community to assist in their efforts to steer the Panamanian government "in the right direction."

Download the Shadow report:

What You Can Do

1. Sign a petition in support of the Naso communities of San San and San San Druy: Here's some video footage of the eviction.

2. Send a letter to Panama's environmental agency, ANAM (who first commissioned the dam), urging them to halt construction of the Chan 75 dam and set up a process that guarantees the Ngobe's human rights. CONTACT: Javier Arias, General Administrator of ANAM - TEL: 507 500-0814 FAX: 507 500-0820 EMAIL:

If you know of any other petitions or ways to support the Naso and Ngobe Peoples, please leave a comment at:

  • BJ Douthwright
    February 16, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Thank you for providing the story on the report & events surrounding. Wondering why the two murders would have been left out of the shadow report?

    So, who is Panama anyway? I'm immediately given to presuming that 'Panama' is a colonial entity state just like all other 'countries/states' named in connection with the 'Americas'? It seems the only semi reformed 'country' with regard to international recognition of indigenous rights might be the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela?

    So, am thinking that it could be something for all indigenous people of these continental areas to begin to come together & make a stand=the first big push, as in a forceful example to put the world on notice, by looking thoroughly at 'Panama' & if it can be shown to in fact be=have come into existence/been born out of the historical interests of European colonizers-- also presuming it would likely have been Spanish colonizers in this case?-- That we can, en masse, by the invitation of the indigenous owners of that territory, first collectively declare Panama to be finished=historically no longer recognized to exists as a country/state & then if necessary we can all go there to enforce this solidarity! Something like this probably should happen/should be happening + I think it would be very very effective in the case of 'Panama' since it would entail closing the canal there=closing off one of the major means that colonial interests have made to make their theft that much more efficient an enterprise.


    • February 17, 2010 at 1:29 pm

      Wondering why the two murders would have been left out of the shadow report?

      I was actually wondering the same thing, Billy Jack. I'm guessing it's due to a problem with communication. It's possible ACD Panama doesn't even know about it yet.

      So, who is Panama anyway?

      It's a colonial state, for sure. It was a Spanish colony from the 1500s till the 1830s. And the whole time they were busy gutting the region of its gold (all of which went to Spain). And now the state is no different from Brazil or Guatemala.

      In any case, it would be good to see something happening in Panama, like a Mobilization (similar to what we've seen in Colombia, Chile, and Peru in the last 2 years). I don't think we could ever shut it down though. The solidarity just isn't in place, especially if we step out of the Condor region. They could take this path: but I think Panama would scoff at them and just continue treating the Naso/Ngobe like they are animals, which is exactly what they are doing now. And then use of violence would follow. Colombia and the US might even step in to support the government.

      I really think the mobilization is the way to go. It worked in Peru, Chile, and Colombia. They were tentative victories, I admit, but we have to build ourselves up, slowly and surely, before we can become mountains.

  • BJ
    February 21, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    That is an inspiring link. It is great to know that a whole lot of achievements and just self recognitions by indigenous nations is happening more & more regularly nowadays. The thought is feeling concerned for indigenous who at least appear to be the most vulnerable to colonial-corporatist exploitation-genocide, and I guess also just beginning to completely wonder about whether all of this can even be real, I mean it reportedly is real yet boggles the mind nearly to the point of disbelief... & the wonderment with the ecological threats that the world 'may be' facing... since Kopenhagen it's still a period of abject cynicism for me, no longer sure- less than 50/50 confidence that the wear-with-all does exist to turn the necessary corner, even if we may already be well into a death spiral by the sounds of things from some quarters... but it is difficult to even have any faith in facts coming from 'experts' about what the threats may actually be, or maybe the 'climate change' crises was a globalization scheme after all? Basically wondering what would be a 'clincher' of evidence to make it clear to indigenous that unless full solidarity is taken up the life we've known & are responsible to protect is certainly going to be lost & with everyone of course, I just don't have any clear sense of any of the environmental picture anymore, does it indicate that we're into uncharted territory & so much is changing so fast that no one can have much a of a clue anymore? so... there's still the human cause!
    Learning about Bolivia's political developments has also been a huge inspiration just recently!!!


    • February 22, 2010 at 1:58 pm

      I hear you, Billy Jack. Personally, I have never accepted the way the climate change is being portrayed. Industrial society is certainly having an impact on the climate; but even so, climate change itself is a naturally occurring environmental process. If the climate didn't change, the planet would die.

      The whole thing seems more like a distraction to me. Cheap media gimmicks (like nonsense about cow farts contributing to climate change), have drowned out the reality; and everybody is wasting time making impassioned pleas to a bunch of over-rated sociopaths who are deliberately trying to cash in on the whole thing.

      As well, while everybody's focusing on "the possibility" of catastrophic climate change (which is certainly a possibility, though a far-off one) they are ignoring what's happening here and now. The situation with the Ngobe/Naso is a good example. Who's speaking out? I should be able to mention every big NGO, everybody connected to the UNDRIP, every solidarity group, and every left wing news group.

      The same goes for Indigenous People in Kenya. Some groups are quick to point that they're victims of climate change. There's been a massive drought there for several months now. Elders in Kenya have stateds that droughts in the region are pretty common historically, but the current drought is the longest they've ever known. And so, they were made into poster children for the effects of climate change: Videos were produced, articles were written, and many groups traveled to Kenya to see the devastation first hand: whether it's starving children or dead animals because there is next to no food or water left.

      But, when the government starts to physically kill the same population with machine guns; or threatening to displace tens of thousands "to save the forest" or to "make way for a new safari"... there is a blanket of silence. A few people and groups poked their heads out, but, beyond them, only two NGOs were consistent and public in their support. And I haven't seen any statements from solidarity groups, or, I'm sorry to say, from other indigenous communities.
      Maybe it's becasue they're in Kenya, or because they aren't hearing about what's happening. I'm not sure. In any case, it's troubling. Maybe even more troubling than the attacks themselves, because the attacks are "par for the colonial course." It's how corporations and governments have always responded when people are in their way.

      In any case, I'm really not too sure about a clincher at this point. I've always thought that it would come down to "necessity": either we come together to support and defend our collective need to live----or we are all, collectively, done. After all, the exact same thing is happening to practically the whole population. The only difference I can see is the industry behind the threat, the severity of the threat, and the amount of time before the threat becomes a reality. But there are some "social/political" roadblocks that are getting in our way.

      I'm going to end on that note, Billy Jack, but I have a few other thoughts I'd like to share. I'll come back a little later. Respectfully, A.

  • BJ Douthwright
    February 22, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    To continue, I'de first like to come back to not having said again as I really had to about the importance of finding a way of ensuring that the two murders are fully reported, fully investigated and that any 'overarching' UN type of an 'authoritative or lead' 'intergovernmental' organizational body answers fully to these two murders as well...


  • Thunderspirit
    February 23, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    I will check into this in the coming days if these things are true i will truly feel sorry for Panama city.For their will be powerful repercussions for these injustices.


  • Thunderspirit
    February 26, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Unless justice is upheld for those children and all the people of the Ngobe a great and powerful storm system will wreak havok on Panama city either it be a cyclone,hurricane or a 8.1 earthquake Panama city will feel the wrath of the ancestors for these injustices.Such punishment will happen within the next year.Unless justice is met and the opression stops.


  • Billy Jack Douthwright
    February 27, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    Interesting, Thunderspirit, that you bring a 'spiritual diving' assessment to this. I come at it from an 'ecological' perspective & yet, either way, it is interesting how the viewpoints might agree?!


  • Thunderspirit
    March 5, 2010 at 6:05 am

    Ecological perspective is good of you yes,but when opression and murder of little one or any of my innocent and good people take place,intervention is nessesary.For some of these leaders think they are above the laws of nature and the prime creator which they are not,for natures law supercedes that of man's and the creator's law superceds that of all.They all must come to this realization,that powerful forces are here watching all that is happening.What irks me the most is the leaders with dark skin and black hair for they are traiturs to their own people when they choose outside industry over their own people and lands.As is with this case and others around the world.


  • Billy Jack Douthwright
    March 8, 2010 at 12:26 am

    I am frankly irked by the racist terminology of judging people with the associations of "dark skin" and "black hair", and am equally irked by the notion of invoking the suggestion of a "prime creator", sheesh! If those are the kinds of notions you base your ethical and moral determinations upon, then it completely falters in my view.
    It may be good sense to be intellectually skeptical and conservative on a phenomenon as serious as human caused 'global warming/climate change' but there appears to be just far far too much evidence now to try and deny that it is underway. In my view it's the world's glaciers that make it most apparent. Have you had a look at images of what has been happening to the Kilimanjaro ice field? The antarctic glacier fields? The Himalayan region glaciers? Iceland's glaciers? Unless what has been recorded is all just science fiction( and it's the fact that I haven't been to those ice fields myself that remains as the only possible shred of a doubt I have left about whether or not this phenomenon is the most serious threat), then sorry but I personally am getting close to certain that life as we've known it is already doomed, meaning that I really do not see there being any evidence that the presently unfolding catastrophe can even be slowed down now. And, it looks like it may be the mass death of ocean life that is going to suddenly begin catching us unawares + and I'm definitely not a scientist, only an interested watcher/analyzer, but it just does appear as possible-probable that at some point and perhaps soon things may get bad for reasons caused by a catastrophic event such as an Asian food shortage. There are already countless throughout Asia who live precariously yet have been scrounging by, but I'm talking about an abrupt shortage severe enough that it will mean many will die and effectively nothing to be done about it... I do think it is only conscionable that in case this is a possibility with increasing probability , we have to know about it and be trying to understand this when we talk about political struggles...
    It might seem like getting off topic but it's not because all this is totally interconnected. The shipping enabled by the Panama Canal, the massive levels of overconsumption of natural resources... really, how is it that anyone can still drive around in their private fossil fuel burning vehicle these days. So let's just say that global warming remains an if, but people have had plenty, decades,of advance warning about it, so, if the so called tipping scales are or get underway, will people who have lived lives of overconsumption have some kinds of remorse? Will that kind of morality perhaps matter less in a desperate world where everything is falling apart & no one knows if they much less their children will have even a 50/50 survival prospect?
    the other side of it are the so called elites, people with a lot of 'money', etc., you get the impression that they have the impression that they will somehow come out alright through it all? Ya well sorry, we're talking about a downward spiral where nobody does well, when things are headed in a direction where you, probably not me but you & them, will look around and realize you may not any longer know how to live/survive or indeed know if you even want to any longer?... So stop dreaming that somehow things are going to be OK. I'm an incorrigible optimist but this is how I understand this picture today!


  • Thunderspirit
    March 11, 2010 at 6:44 am

    Hey billy boy:This is a living planet son,and us Shamans and the medicine people of the world,must do our works in peace we must be able to access the sacred sites to do our ceramonies again.Your intellect does not impress me it is your kind that r the reason our beloved planet is in distress.I realy don't care what you think,for that is your problem you think to much and don't feel enough,and it is not global warming it is climate change at the same time that the planet has been turning on its axles for sometime now.Just slower then last can complain all you want but action is needed and those of us who have the power to bring about said action will do so with or without your permission.Yes you are correct that the elite as they call themselves and seems you do too is their fault.This we all know this even they know.So don't insult my intellect or power for you have no idea who i am and if you do then you would know that i am a protector and a creator but i am no fool.Do not underestimate the power that is now here.They think we have no control they think we are alone in this,us black haired dark skinned people but we are not we are one with this living planet even the very universe itself i say prime creator because as i wrote earlier i am A creator but not THE prime creator that is why i use such terms.So get off your high horse smart white man and let me get on with my works.I should of never commented on your post it was inane to think you were compassionate or understanding.Go back to your nice big house and beat it!!Let the poor but powerful do our thing.


  • Billy Jack Douthwright
    March 12, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    My name can easily give the impression that I am 'white' & this is because I was 'adopted'~'stolen' by the colonial society and raised by English colonial settlers here in my own territory. I am in fact On^yota a:ka and accordingly, with all four of my biological grandparents being On^yota a:ka, this is what & who I am!
    I'll admit I know I came across as dismissive of your using what to me is racist and generalist types of descriptive terms for our people, I do not approve & will not approve since I always refer to individuals and peoples by their nation's identity including their own cultural references when & where known to me. I am not suggesting & certainly did not suggest that you or anyone should even think you need another's 'permission' to express yourself as you wish, go right ahead I'm all for that, just do not expect that when your statements do come across as either racist, or even racially divisive, and/or constrained with western ideas about 'creation' that your point of view is at all likely to in anyway immune to being shot to smithereens by anyone else who takes issue with such terms!


  • Billy Jack Douthwright
    March 12, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Also, I do invite open discussion & sharing in the area of spiritual forces which I know very well are at work & this is because I myself posses exceptionally powerful-potent creative talents, so we are possibly, even perhaps probably, much more alike than you might've been guessing at? Anyway, this is to again emphasize that my comment earlier on in this thread about there being likely collusions of different kinds of reasoning available to us all, was entirely sincere on my part...


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