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Indigenous Resistance in Panama to Canadian Mining

Interview with Guna and Rappahannock actor/playwright Monique Mojica

by Isaac Oommen

Indigenous Resistance in Panama to Canadian Mining

On March 1 I watched Guna and Rappahannock actor/playwright Monique Mojica perform her show Chocolate Woman Dreams the Milky Way as part of the Talking Stick Festival in Vancouver. The show is about a Guna granddaughter who can only heal from personal and historical trauma by connecting with her powerful feminine forces in her culture.

After the performance I sat down with Monique to talk about indigenous resistance in Panama to Canadian mining companies.

About a month ago, thousands of people from three indigenous nations – the Guna, Emberra-Wounan and Ngobe-Bugle – blocked the Pan-American Highway demanding the government honour legislation protecting Indigenous rights from mining and hydroelectric concessions in their respective territories. Two Ngobe-Bugle men were killed and dozens injured in an ensuing police crackdown.

“Panama City is the most frightening city I've been to,” said Mojica, speaking of a country whose geo-politics is shaped by the famous canal.

Vancouver-based Petaquilla Minerals and Toronto-based Inmet Mining have proposed or opened projects in Panama.

“Canadian complacency is murderous,” Mojica sums up. “There is a nationalistic knee-jerk reaction that things like this are only done by Americans."

She sees the same kind of work at play in governments pairing mining giants with NGOs/charities, the latter of whom are sent in to develop the communities in exchange for the extraction companies being there.

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