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Wednesday, September 18 2019 @ 04:18 pm EDT

Protest Against the Expansion of the Canal

Protests & Demonstrations This morning a group of Campesinos marched slowly down Balboa Avenue, blocking traffic for awhile, carrying signs and shouting slogans. In short, they were protesting against the plans of the Panamanian government to expand the Panama Canal. Their primary concern is the Law 44 from 31 August 1999, which (as far as I can tell) gives the ACP the power to annex lands in the Panama Canal watershed when necessary for the proper management of the canal. There are plans to build three hydroelectric projects, on the Cano Sucio, the Rio Indio, and the Rio Cocle del Norte. The Director of the ACP, Aleman Zubieta, has said that people would have to be relocated if they live in areas to be flooded. Basically, these people are against the dams, and against being relocated. But the strange part is that within the demonstration there were signs for and against the canal expansion. Go figure.

This shot gives about the best view for estimating how many people there were in total in the protest. This is about the last half of the entire crowd. Maybe 100 to 150 total?

There were enough to completely block Balboa Avenue, and the traffic backed up as predicted. This lady in the Mercedes Benz has had enough, and is turning off of Balboa to get away. Nice juxtaposition of the campesinos protesting in Marbella with Paitilla as a background, ticking off the rich lady in the Benz...

This guy was trying to drive on the sidewalk to get around the protest.

Did you know that 14 March was the "International Day for Action Against Dams" ? I didn't. The bottom line says "for rivers, water, and life."

The group marched down Balboa Ave, repeating the slogans chanted by the leaders into the loudspeaker.

They are protesting against new hydroelectric dams. This one says "Our Lands Will Be Defended."

This sign says "Campesinos Coordinated Against Dams, Sector Chiguiri Arriba. The fight is fighting"

The "CCCE" has got to be the abbreviation for "Campesinos Coordinated Against Dams" and these guys are from the area around the North Cocle River. They are against the Law 44.

This one just says "Say No to the Referendum"

The Colon Province coveres a large part of Northern Panama, all along the Coast. Many people think of "Colon" as only the city, and forget how large the province is.

More of the same, lots of people...

"Modernize the Canal - Yes. Flood our lands - No"

"Yes to Life, No to Dams."

Victoriano Lorenzo made several appearances during the demonstration, like on the bottom of this sign.

Victoriano Lorenzo is considered one of the great heroes of Panamanian history, although his story and motives are sometimes debated by different sectors in his homeland. Born when the isthmus was still a part of Colombia, Lorenzo died during the Thousand Days War during which Panama gained its independence for which it had been fighting since 1830.

Born sometime around the 1870s to poor campesinos in what is now the province of Cocle, Lorenzo was considered a Cholo, of predominantly indigenous blood with drops of Europe and Africa but with a more Hispanic cultural background.

An elected official outside of the provincial capital of Penonome, Lorenzo was quick to take arms at the advent of the Thousand Day War in alliance with the Liberals led in part by the great Panamanian patriot Belisario Porras. He led troops in a Pacific coast skirmish which killed a Conservative mayor and garnered him arms from the Liberals. He commanded his troops into battle in Aguadulce in January of 1902, in which over 750 troops were killed or wounded on both sides, and his Liberal allies claimed 700 prisoners. Later that year, when hundreds of Liberal troops came from Nicaragua, Lorenzo sent his secretary, Papi Aizpuru, to meet them.

Becoming one of the most wanted men by the Colombian central government, General Lorenzo and his wife, Lorenza Ibarra, led his soldiers to a base in the mountains known as La Trinchera, where he turned to guerrilla war to advance his cause, and averted many assassination attempts by white Conservatives and traitors.

The Liberal General Benjamin Herrera, who had fought alongside Lorenzo in Aguadulce but had been paid off by Conservative Bogotá, lured Lorenzo into an ambush. Captive, he was rushed through a kangaroo court and prepared for execution. Victoriano Lorenzo was executed on May 15th, 1903, within six months from Panama's independence from Colombia.

A hero during his day, Lorenzo has become a national legend today. But questions remain, both about Lorenzo's ultimate motives and his death. Lorenzo is considered by some to have waged a war that was ultimately with independence in mind, while others see it as a class war against white elites. There are also claims that United States troops took part in Lorenzo's killing, although there is no known evidence.

Today, several monuments and plaques exist in Cocle and Veraguas in Lorenzo's honor, and official events celebrating his life and remembering his execution are held both at the commemoration of his death and on the November 3 Independence Day. Panama's controversial figure Hugo Spadafora organized a contingent of his countrymen to fight against Nicaragua's Somoza regime in 1976 known as the Victoriano Lorenzo Brigade.

So, the canal expansion is still a long way off, all sides will be heard from in the debate leading up to the referendum.

They were handing out these fliers, which call Martin and the ACP liars, and accusing them of wanting to take away their lands to expand the canal and build hydroelectric dams.

Backside of the flier.

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