Leila Shelton-Louhi, 24 April 2009
Stranded in the wilderness, the sounds of bulldozers continuing, wiping out vegetation & trees that might provide some measure of refuge and relief, evidence of their existence being obliterated.
Another native mesoamerican homeland succumbs, human beings dispossessed and left to their own devices with the clothing on their backs and nothing more. No mercy, no compassion, no chance to run to the fields to dig up the yucca and ñame, roots they’ve planted to sustain them, no chance to cut down the bunches of plantains or bananas, no chance. Only terror as the government troops descend on them, launching teargas. Many succumb in pain and agony from its effects, especially the children. None are allowed to escape.
Men,women and children, the elderly, cruelly forced to watch as their homes with all their possessions, their community center, their church and every other structure is crushed by the machines. They are forced to watch as holes are dug in the ground, into which the debris is shoveled and covered up, wiping out all traces of their existence and of this crime, as the process of yet another human holocaust evolves and repeats itself, moving through the mountains, village by village.
This is not a story of another time and place. This is Panama today… April 24th, 2009. This is how the legal system works today for the poorest of the poor in the mountains. This is how land disputes and “inconveniences” to “development” are handled for those who lived here before Columbus showed his face around these parts. This is how it goes for the little guy when his ancestral homeland becomes a “valuable resource” in the sell-off underway of Panama’s land and natural resources and just about anything, tied down or not.
This is the part no one wants to see and everyone hopes to excuse with platitudes about “land rights” and “investment opportunities”, and shrugs of resignation.
This blatant violation of human rights cannot be swept away no matter which government gave what land to whom when and with which right concocted to do that.
These matters need settling in courts.
The bulldozers were still at work, burying, hacking at the newly-created modern wilderness – ensuring that not a tree remained in it under which to take refuge – when an international group of attendees of the 5th Mesoamerican REDLAR Conference held in Boquete, Panama arrived to investigate reports of yet another attack on natives of the beleaguered Nasso tribe. (An account of that visit is on www.ChiriquiNatural.com along with other information and a translator.) This is not the first community decimated; it is the latest. The hostile reception these visitors received from the perpetrators was as palpable as the sorrow and misery of their bewildered victims, deprived of all tranquility and their ancient way of life. (Also view http://www.almanaqueazul.org/naso-desalojos/)
First we drive those whose ancestors were here before ours into reservations, then we talk about how wonderful it is to have “our natives” commune with and preserve nature and all the ancient knowledge mankind has been losing, then suddenly they’ve served their purpose, provided their photo ops, and it’s time to make a quick buck.
This is outrageous. Attitudes of those thinking they are doing the world a favor by banishing people from their homeland, eradicating their “pagan” civilizations for blocking “progress”, cannot be tolerated. We cannot, by our inaction, support the effort to sweep this “inconvenience” away. Or, will we simply watch and wait? ...since, after all… they are “only indians”.
POSTSCRIPT: On May 12th, 2009 reports were received of arms taken up against more defenseless villagers in Panama by those continuing to invade their ancestral lands.