Thursday, February 23, 2012


Michigan Peace Team (MPT) staff and volunteers are working in high gear to arrange an Emergency Response to Panama's  Ngabe-Bugle Comarca (autonomous indigenous tribes or “reservations”), after receiving a last-minute request for assistance.  The Peace Team has been asked to arrive within days, as negotiations and demonstrations regarding mining rights on native lands resume next week.  For two weeks, MPT will provide observation and reporting of human rights violations to the United Nations, and offer protective accompaniment to people who are threatened with police violence as they attempt to nonviolently protest the proposed destruction of their lands via mining. We will follow the lead of local Ngabe leaders, and are also coordinating and partnering with Costa Rica Peace Team.

Previous rounds of negotiations between the Ngabe-Bugle tribes (headed by first woman tribal leader Silvia Carrera) and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli's government have stretched out over many months. The Ngabe-Bugle people have opposed government mining on native lands and appealed through the Panamanian court system.  Recently at least one decision (a law that would provide environmental protection to their lands) is reported to have been overturned.  Nonviolent demonstrations against mining on indigenous lands have met with police violence (tear gas, rubber bullets, and other weapons labeled of U.S. origin).  Locals report that the government has cut cell phone reception on at least one occasion. There have been seven deaths acknowledged by the Panamanian government in relation to this matter, and many more reported by local civil society organizations.  Indigenous people and their supporters have reported hundreds of injuries at the hands of police and an unknown number of arrests.
We're hoping to send a team of at least 4 people.  Airfare will be approximately $1000 each, plus an average of $15/day for food & lodging per person for the two weeks that they'll be there. If you have been through the MPT nonviolence training and are interested in joining this team, please contact  Nicole Rohrkemper (our International Teams Coordinator) immediately at (586) 419-1070.
All of MPT's peace teams, including this emergency peace team, are funded by donations from the general public....And we could really use your help!  As you can guess, this emergency request was not part of our original 2012 budget. People wishing to make a donation to support this emergency team may do so via our website or by clicking HERE, or (of course) by sending a check with "Panama Team" on the memo line. 
Thank you so much for extending your help to these friends of peace!
With sincere appreciation....
 - All of us at MPT

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