General Congress of the Ngäbe Bugle Requests Meeting with UN Special Rapporteur James Anaya During Visit to Panama

Justice and Corporate Accountability Project (JCAP) - MiningWatch Canada

(Ottawa/Toronto) The General Congress of the Ngäbe Buglé Indigenous and Campesino People has solicited a meeting with UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, during his visit to Panama starting today.

The traditional leadership of the Ngäbe Buglé cite violations of their right to self-determination in connection with proposed transnational hydroelectric, mining and tourism projects. The most contentious of these include the Barro Blanco hydroelectric project, as well as the Cobre Panama open-pit copper mining project, jointly owned by Canadian firm First Quantum and the Korean company LS-Nikko Copper Inc.

The congress alleges that in 2010 the Panamanian government imposed its own electoral system in their semi-autonomous administrative area, known as a comarca, in the northwest of Panama in order to facilitate access to natural resources. They further denounce state-led repression and violence during recent protests, as well as failure to respect their right to free, prior and informed consent over proposed developments.

“We would like to explore how to overcome existing obstacles for the full and effective protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of our people, in accord with your mandate,” concludes the letter to James Anaya signed by traditional leadership from the Ngäbe Buglé comarca along with members of several movements and committees.

The Ngäbe Association ‘Rey Quibian’ is one of the signatories of this letter. This group represents indigenous communities that are threatened with displacement from First Quantum’s massive three pit copper mine project in the northern district of Donoso, outside of the Ngäbe Buglé comarca.

MiningWatch Canada, the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project (JCAP) and Professor Daviken Studnicki Gizbert at McGill University made two submissions to the Special Rapporteur’s office in support of the General Congress’ letter.

The first provides background on the infringement of the right to political self-determination of the Ngäbe Buglé as a result of the passage of Decree 537 in June 2010. The second provides an overview to human rights abuses related to the imposition of industrial mining projects in connection with Canadian interests in Panama dating back three decades.


  • Shin Imai, Justice and Corporate Accountability Project, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, (647) 524-2312
  • Dr. Daviken Studnicki-Gizbert, McGill University, (514) 398-4400 ext 09370
  • Jen Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada, (613) 569-3439