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Monday, September 01 2014 @ 07:14 AM EDT

Fishermen in Rio Hato Prepare For Possible Eviction

FishingFishermen off the coast of Rio Hato will have a crucial week. Many fear the authorities will use Holy Week to carry out the eviction order in La Pacora, because the Justice of the Peace in Rio Hato, acting on instructions issued by Governor Fernando Nuñez Fabrega, reopened a case file that had been closed. The situation has caused disquiet in the community, who do not understand why the governor prefers the development of tourism for the benefit of foreigners, when fishing in Pacora along sustains some 300 families who, during these days, have stopped working to be on alert faced with any order.

History: Nelier Chong, an old fisherman, arrived in Pacora when he was 4 years old. His father took him there in 1942 when, along with others, he started fishing at this beach, and since then three generations of fishermen have been using this beach. He says he has been in this area his whole life, and it is unfair that now the authorities want to throw them out of there, after the authorities, based on measurements and drawings, determined they are not on private property, but on protected state land (that can't be given away or sold to someone else for development.)

Griselda Watt, an inhabitant, said La Pacora, Las Guías, and the surrounding areas are towns of working people engaged in fishing, who know if residents are evicted the beach area will be closed, and they will be out on the street with nowhere to get their daily bread. She added it was unfortunate that the governor says there, on that beach, there are no fishermen and they have been treated like they are criminals and intruders, which she considers disrespectful. She warned that they are peaceful people, but they will not allow the authorities to throw them off of the beach.

Meanwhile, Severiano Rodriguez, who has 38 years of age, has been a fisherman all of this life. "If there were no fishermen here, then who takes tons of fish to the markets every day? Mr. President, come here and see how we work. It's not fair that after you promised us titles for these lands that now they want to throw us out, as it is happening here, in Santa Clara, in Farallon, in Pedasi, and the coasts of Veraguas," he said. He believes it is pitiful that the authorities, headed by the governor, attempt to perform an eviction without providing alternatives. "It is just that, under the guise of developing tourism, the coastal people are forced to leave the beaches, though in many countries these are activities that go together," he says.

The conflict is still present, since the meeting held on Tuesday at the offices of the Governor of Cocle ended without agreement. The governor initially said they have presented several alternatives to the fishermen so they could leave the privately owned property they occupy, among them that the Ministry of Housing would build new homes for the few who actually live on the beach, and who suffer from floods at high tide. They also proposed the construction of a dock to place their boats and granted entry to the beach so they can engage in artisanal fishing. (Mi Diario)

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