An environmental tsunami floods Panama against mining

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Panama City, Oct 27 (EFE).- Many say they have never seen a protest like it, a tsunami of environmentally-minded protesters who flooded the main avenues of Panama City shouting "no" to a mining contract that damages the biodiversity and gives extensive land to a Canadian company.

"We are patriots, we do not sell countries," sang the thousands of protesters in a sea of ​​Panamanian flags, without symbols of political parties or unions, united by the common objective of achieving the repeal of the legal contract between the State and the Mining Panama company. subsidiary of the Canadian First Quantum Minerals, ratified a week ago by the president, Laurentino Cortizo.

After the signing of the contract on Friday came a weekend of a certain calm that was broken on Monday, with daily demonstrations against the mining agreement that concluded with clashes between a few and the Police.

But no protest brought together as many protesters as today's, 50,000 according to the organizers, who thanked loudspeaker in hand for the massive and peaceful presence of this human wave during the kilometers of travel through the Panamanian capital.

On the other side of the loudspeaker, at many moments of the march, was a petite young woman with a hurricane inside, Camila Aybar Monteaguado, a digital-environmental activist, in her words, and who encouraged the thousands of participants with slogans and speeches.

"We young people (...) are taking over the street and we are not going to leave until a mining contract that was not consulted with the citizens is repealed, which is totally abusive and with which in just three days the Panamanian Government approved the 40-year destruction of our country," Aybar told EFE minutes before starting the march.

The young activist criticized that this contract "approves that a mining company can have the largest copper mine in all of Central America in a country that is not mining, and in a location that is a protected area known as the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor that contains the richest biodiversity of 8 countries."

Aybar insists that "the economic benefits of this destruction are not worth it," which is why the 'Panama is Worth More Without Mining' movement, an umbrella of around 100 environmental organizations, will not stop until the agreement is repealed.

Just before the march began, it was announced that the Panamanian president would give a speech to the nation about the mining contract, the second in less than a week.

In the first he said that the mining agreement was a problem inherited from other administrations, and that what they achieved with successive changes was to reduce concessions and establish minimum income of 375 million dollars to the treasury, in addition to generating 9,300 jobs.

"I expect from the (new) announcement of our president, missing and corrupt, a mining moratorium, which stops mining activity throughout the country, to really begin the process of repealing the contract (...) We are not going to stop with the moratorium, we are going to stop when the contract is repealed, when the contract ceases to exist," the activist said.

Halfway through the march, at 6 p.m., Cortizo spoke, but the activist's request was only half heard: he announced the prohibition of new metal mining concessions while saying he was open to "talking" about the controversial contract. miner.

The disappointment was huge for the thousands of protesters who heard his words echoed by the organizers' mobile speakers. Immediately a large waterspout fell.

Among the protesters was also the renowned environmental activist Ricardo Wong, president of the PRO-MAR Foundation and the Panamanian Committee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, as well as a member of the organizing group.

Wong explained to EFE that an important point of the collective unrest is that "most of the articles (of the contract) go against the Panamanian State. It seems that it was written only by First Quantum."

"It is more than a mining contract, you are giving them a port, you are giving them electricity generation, you allow them to build developments, shopping centers, that should not be within a mining contract. It is seen that it is something out of the ordinary. We do not understand it. ", said.

And Panama is very sensitive to anything that involves the transfer of territory, after living for almost a century with the Americans after the construction of the Canal, which they managed and controlled until the year 2000.

"You are giving a transnational company exorbitant benefits for no logical reason, and they have never been justified," he said.

Moncho Torres

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