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Anti-mining protests that have roiled Panama for the last two weeks turned deadly on Tuesday when a man allegedly shot and killed two demonstrators, according to police.
A chilling video posted by bystanders on X, formerly known as Twitter, showed a disheveled elderly man apparently frustrated with the logjam trying to force the protestors to remove a barrier blocking the Pan American highway about 50 miles south of the capital, before pulling out a pistol and opening fire. Panama’s National Police later said they arrested the suspected gunman at the scene of the shooting.
The unusual scene of violence is the latest flashpoint in some of the largest protests to hit the Central American nation since Panamanians flooded the streets en masse to demonstrate against the dictatorship of Manuel Noriega in the 1980s.
For weeks, tens of thousands of protestors have vented their fury at a controversial mining contract given to Minera Panama, the local subsidiary of a Canadian mining company, to extract copper, a key component in electric car batteries.
The contract allows Canada’s First Quantum Minerals to restart an open-pit copper mine surrounded by rain forest for the next 20 years, with the possibility of extending for another 20 years.
Environmentalists say the mine could contaminate drinking water and devastate tracts of the 32,000 acres the company negotiated use of, in exchange for yearly payments of $375 million.
Panama’s government has promised, however, that the mine will bring thousands of jobs in addition to the badly needed revenue. First Quantum Minerals did not respond to CNN’s request for comment on the protests.
Opposition to the mine has united environmentalists, indigenous groups and teachers’ and construction unions who see allegations of backroom dealings between the government and the mining company as further evidence of widespread official corruption.
The protestors accuse the government of selling off the nation’s natural resources at the same moment many Panamanians have been hit with the costs of rising inflation and are feeling the impacts of climate change.
“Panamanians are suffering from lack of water, suffering from droughts, principally in the central provinces, animals that die, harvests that don’t happen,” environmental activist Martita Cornejo told CNN en Español.
“The government did not guage the opposition from Panamanian society to a mining contract.”
But former US ambassador to Panama John Feeley said while much of the outrage is real, the new contract announcement has also presented an opportunity for some groups to try to force their own concessions and win sweetheart deals from the government.
“This is the horrible thing about Panama: Even when you protest corruption, you are probably facilitating it as well,” he said.
Weeks of road blocks set up by protesters have shut down the country, preventing farmers from bringing crops to market and sequestering Panamanians in their homes. According to Panama’s association of company executives, the standstill inflicts $80 million in daily losses to local businesses. Celebrations to mark Panama’s independence from Colombia in 1903 were also widely cancelled last week.
Panama’s President Laurentino Cortizo has defended the mining deal after its announcement on October 20, saying the agreement would create jobs and revenue for Panama.
The mine had provided a rare economic bright spot for Panama where tourism has been slow to recover from the pandemic and the drought has reduced traffic though the Panama Canal, which is expected to a cause a drop of revenue of $200 million in 2024.
“We made the right decision, not the easiest one,” Cortizo said. “After a difficult and complicated negotiation for more than two years, a contract was agreed in 2023 between the company Minera Panama and the Panamanian State, which guarantees much better terms and conditions for the country.”
But as the protests have dragged on, Panama’s government has offered concessions that have done little to deflate the crisis: Last week, congress passed a moratorium on all future metal mining and Cortizo called for a nationwide referendum in December on the controversial project.
In 2017, Panama’s Supreme Court declared another contract to operate the copper mine as unconstitutional, forcing the mining company and government to renegotiate the deal.
Opponents now say they are hopeful that an announcement by Panama’s Supreme Court this week that it is examining the legality of the contract could once again kill the deal.
Whatever the resolution to the crisis, it may be too late to repair the damage done to Panama’s reputation in the region as a rare bastion of political and economic stability.
An organizer who advocated for the release of these chickens has been convicted of a felony. The jury was not allowed to see footage of animal suffering.
DXE message, 11/2/23:
“After 6 days of deliberation, the jury has found animal rescuer Wayne Hsiung GUILTY on three of the four charges in the #SonomaRescueTrial. This includes felony conspiracy and misdemeanor trespass at Sunrise Farms and misdemeanor trespass at Reichardt Duck Farm. The jury could not reach a unanimous verdict on the felony conspiracy charge from the Reichardt action, resulting in a “hung jury” mistrial on that charge.
Wayne was cuffed and immediately taken into custody. He has a sentencing hearing set for November 30th. He will be in jail until then, without bail. We will be mobilizing at the sentencing hearing to support Wayne and defend the #RightToRescue. Please join us on November 30th in Santa Rosa.Help us tell the world about this breaking news by sharing our posts on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Wayne will be appealing this conviction, and this means he has the chance to establish case law in the appellate court. Winning an appeal would not only vindicate his actions but also set a legal precedent that would impact future animal rescue cases.
The mass open rescues at Sunrise Farms and Reichardt Duck Farm that led to this trial were last-resort efforts to aid animals after the authorities ignored repeated reports showing clear evidence of criminal animal cruelty. If the jury had been allowed to see the full extent of suffering at these factory farms, they might have understood that the intent of our actions was not to commit a crime but simply to aid severely neglected animals. This conviction won’t stop us from taking action we know is legally and morally right to aid suffering animals.
In fact, immediately after the verdict, DxE activists went straight from the courtroom to the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office to report new footage from Sunrise Farms and Reichardt that shows sick, injured animals are still languishing at these facilities.
While the District Attorney has been wasting taxpayer money putting animal rescue on trial for the past seven weeks, DxE investigators have been busy documenting violations of animal cruelty laws and rescuing individuals in need of emergency medical care.
Today, we are sharing the stories of two of the animals we’ve saved in the past several weeks, Elsie and River, and we are demanding that the Sonoma County District Attorney finally address the rampant criminal activity at Sunrise and Reichardt. You can help by sharing our video about these breaking rescues on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. And stay tuned for more ways you can support.
Farm’s Phone Number: (707)-762-6314
Related: action at Sunrise Farms
Proposed dismantling of Russia from PostRussia forum.
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