Anti-mining protests in Panama have led to a tragedy. Horrifying footage of two people being shot was leaked on social media.
Protests have been taking place in Panama for several weeks against the opening of an open-pit copper mine. The authorities have decided to contract Minera Panama a local subsidiary of a Canadian mining company First Quantum Minerals. The deal allows copper to be extracted from the mine surrounded by rainforest for the next 20 years and can be extended for another two decades.
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Thousands of Panamanians took to the streets to vent their anger and express their opposition to the government's actions. CNN reports that these are the largest demonstrations in the country since Manuel Noriega's dictatorship in the 1980s.
Climate activists and environmentalists warn that the reopening of the mine can lead to contamination of drinking water. In addition, 32,000 acres of land around the mine will be devastated. The mining company has pledged to pay US$375 million a year for access to copper in the region. Panama’s government explain the decision to open the mine was made for it to bring thousands of new jobs to the country and raise more revenue.
Protests in Panama united people
The economic and social situation in Panama is currently quite tense. The protesters point out that the government is selling off nation’s natural resources while Panamanians are severely affected by climate change and a huge jump in prices caused by inflation rate. According to an IMF report in April 2021 Panama was among the top countries with the highest inflation (along with Switzerland and Japan).
"Panamanians are suffering from lack of water, suffering from droughts, principally in the central provinces, animals that die, harvests that don’t happen," climate activist Martita Cornejo commented for cnn.com.
Protesters regard the government's deal with the mining company as outright corruption. The reopening of the mine is opposed by environmentalists, activists, teachers, construction unions and indigenous groups.
Panamanians have been revolting against the government's decision for several weeks. The roadblocks could bring local businesses as much as 80 million dollars loss daily.
Lawyer shoots two activists
A video of an elderly man shooting activists protesting against the opening of a copper mine has gone viral on X (Twitter). The shooter first wanted to force them to remove a blockade preventing him and other drivers from entering the highway to the capital. Eventually he opened fire. One victim died on the spot, the other on the way to hospital.
The perpetrator turned out to be 77-year-old Kenneth Darlington, an American lawyer. Local police arrested the man at the scene. He is currently in custody.