Roadblocks against biodiversity – “Bio-what??”

The Panamanian Parliament and the President have agreed to a big concession for copper mining to a Canadian miner.

Protests have been starting everywhere, but no response from the government. The ultimate way here in Central America is to make roadblocks. What is the real cause of these massive protests?

Just at this time some fellow sailors had to go from the harbour to Panama City. A ride of 300 kilometers. How did that work?

The roadblock

Maggie and Peter left early in the morning and tried it. For more than an hour it was going fine. But suddenly, after some 100 kilometers, you could see a thin string of smoke over the forest. Getting closer, there was a roadblock. Some burning tyres on the road with a piece of timber, some people next to it sitting laid back on some chairs, and on the road a line of cars waiting. Just waiting.

A roadblock consists of some burning tyres and a piece of lumber. It is so effective in Panama because alternative roads are rare. What can you do else than wait?

What to do, how to avoid, how to get to your destination now?

As a backpacker, you simply step out the car and pass the roadblock by foot. But, when the police or army is there, the atmosphere gets aggressive. Then you can be robbed, beaten, whatever.

Also protesters need sleep. So you can try to get through in the night and hope to get to your final destianation. There are some risks.

First, gangs could take over control and they will ask a bribe, a ‘passage fee’. You recognize them because they wear masks. They want a dollar, could be five or ten. If they are drunk or drugged, it gets tricky.

The further you go, the better. But,  suppose you have to go back and new roadblocks have appeared? Then you get trapped between roadblocks and that is the worst thing to happen.

We saw a pickup truck with fruit and vegetables passing a roadblock. Perhaps there has been passing a small bribes here to the protesters in the form of fresh fruit?

More about this

Is the corruption the cause of the protests?

In the Western papers you could read the cause of the Panamanian protests was about biodiversity. Is it?

Peter interviewed some Panamanians. A protester, a taxi driver and an employee of the Copa (Colombia-Panama) Airlines. The main question: what is the cause?

In general, it has hardly to do about the concession that the Government gave to this Canadian mining industry. For the people that appeared only to be the straw that breaks the camels’ back. The drop that made the bucket overflow.

The interviewees voted different, but they all agreed that these roadblocks are necessary and they all hope the number will expand.
Here some shared answers to the questions.

 So is it about corruption
“Man, believe me, they are all corrupt. So yes and no.”

But the former president (Mr. Martinelli) has just been sentenced for 12 years behind bars, because of corruption.
“Man, that is just politics, to get him away, because he is a threat. Believe me, all parties are corrupt. The mining company buys politicians as much as it is necessary to get that concession.”

So It is more subtle
“Former president Martinelli was corrupt just as anyone, but the difference is, he also did good for the country. The economy got better, there became more jobs, and he started setting up a pension law. So that was OK. But under the new president we see nothing going our way and he doesnot get that message. ”h?

So the anti-corruption regulations of the new president is nothing worth?
“In one way it is even worse. It fights the small corruption, the bribes of small people, who have problems paying the school tuition for their children. This hurts, because the big companies and the government can still do what they want. Like now with this concession to the Canadian copper miner.”

Our Western papers mention the motive of the protest that the mining concession gives damage to the biodiversity.
“Bio- what??”

The situation two days after these interviews the roadblocks have multiplied. Every red dot is a roadblock. It is even difficult for the authorities to keep Panama City clean, so it is getting serious.