After six years of protests against construction of the Chan-75 dam, including a case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the American engineering company AES and the Panamanian government closed the dam’s floodgates on the Changuinola river. As the water rose forming the reservoir, the last remaining Ngöbe families were forced to abandon their homes on the riverbanks.
“We have not signed any agreement…with AES or the Panamanian government,” said Bernardino Morales, one of the men who saw his home destroyed by the rising water. Morales and several other Ngöbe families were holding out against intense pressures to negotiate their compensation and resettlement with AES. Now the company has rendered them homeless. “This project is harming us; it is destroying our life and the land God gave us,” Morales said.
Cultural Survival’s campaign partner organization in Panama, the Alliance for Conservation and Development, issued a statement saying, “AES’ closing of the floodgates on the Changuinola River—authorized by who knows who and regulated by who knows what—only confirms our failure as Panamanian society to be capable of . . . safeguarding our heritage for the present and future generations . . . . Although it was not possible in this case to prevent the damage, we remain obligated to demand justice . . . and keep working to prevent further damage to the populations and the environment.”