The Idea Of A Referendum On Hydroelectric Issue Gaining Momentum

Monday, February 13 2012 @ 05:40 PM UTC

Contributed by: Don Winner

The idea of ​holding a national referendum to approve or reject hydro electric projects in the Ngäbe-Buglé region gained strength yesterday among the sectors seeking to reach a consensus on the controversial Article 5 of Bill 415. One of those who made a statement on the issue was president Ricardo Martinelli, who said via his Twitter account if there is no agreement on the issue of hydro power, there will be a referendum to determine if the "hydro electric projects can be built in areas annexed or adjacent to the Ngäbe-Buglé region, or if the (restriction) should only apply to the Ngäbe-Buglé region itself." The president added "no law is above the decision of the people who cast their ballots in a national referendum for or against a proposal. That is democracy."

Following Maqrtinelli's announcement, the Minister of Trade and Industry Ricardo Quijano and the Minister of Government Jorge Ricardo Fabrega, who are participating in the special committee appointed to try to seek a consensus, said if for some reason their talks fail and they cannot reach an agreement on the issue of the generation of hydro electric power, then it will fall to the Panamanian people to decide through a national referendum the fate of the hydro electric projects. "There are people who are considering the possibility of a national referendum so that all of the Panamanian people can decide what's what," said Quijano, who did not rule out the possibility of other alternatives which could also be used to address the issue. He said for now they are focused on seeing if the rewritten Article 5 is approved in order to reconcile all interests.

About the proposal (for a possible referendum), the General Chieftain of the Ngäbe-Bugle region, Silvia Carrera, said her people are not willing to convene a referendum at this time. She added this is not what Martinelli promised, and what the people are asking for respect for the law that protects them. On Wednesday, February 15 at 2:00 pm, the government representatives, National Assembly Deputies, and the leaders of the indigenous Ngäbe-Buglé Indians will meet again to discuss the aspects related to hydroelectric projects in the region. At Carrera's request, the subcommittee approved a two-day recess, time when the indigenous representatives traveled to the Ngäbe-Buglé region to participate in the funeral of Jeronimo Montezuma, who died during protests in the province of Chiriqui.

The subcommittee approved the wording of the first paragraph of Article 5, which now says "cancel all of the concessions granted to either individuals or companies, either foreign or domestic, for the exploration and exploitation of mineral resources in the Ngäbe-Buglé region and annexed areas ... ".

March - While inside of the National Assembly the alternatives to amend Article 5 are being discussed, on the grounds outside of the Palacio Justo Arosemena, the members of the Ngäbe-Buglé ethnic group coordinated a march that ended at the Presidency of the Republic, in protests against the two people who were killed during the demonstrations. The Ngäbes and the Buglés hold the authorities responsible for the deaths of these two people. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: If no agreement can be reached on the issue of hydro electric power in Panama, then the government will hold a national referendum which will pass by a wide margin. Hydroelectric power is clean - if you're not generating power in Panama with hydro then you're burning coal or oil or some other kind of fuel. There are only about 100,000 Indians in the Ngäbe-Buglé region, who are trying to hold back the development of the entire country with a population of more than 3.3 million people. So fine - if they don't want mining or hydroelectric projects on their lands, then no problem. However they are trying to force a ban on all mining and hydroelectric projects in "annexed areas" and "adjacent areas" and "places where there are Ngäbe-Buglé communities." These are the issues that will probably not be resolved in this committee. Martinelli is signaling that, if there's no agreement, then he will hold a referendum, win it, and then he will have the backing and support of the Panamanian people to enforce their will, for them. Remember this "Chieftain" Carrera won a recent (rigged) election with only 27% of the vote - because for the most part the election was boycotted. As such she only actually represents about 27,000 people - or only 0.81% of the Panamanian people. No, she's not going to be able to enforce her will on this one.

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