Different communities from the native Embera and Wounaan tribes of Panama are appealing their land-rights cases to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington D.C. They applied separate “collective land title” applications to the Panamanian government in 2013 and have been practically put on hold by the government.
For the past 5 years the government has kept them stalled by neither granting them the documents that would officialize the land-rights, nor rejecting any of the separate applications, which impedes them from re-submitting their requests.
Because some of the territories overlap with national parks, the government has argued that this kind of remapping is complicated and takes time, but experts say that even with complications this process should not take longer than a year.
Meanwhile, in all 8 of the territories awaiting land-rights, invaders have been violently clashing with natives in order to take resources from the lands. These invasions, mostly by loggers and hired thugs, have become more and more aggressive in the past 5 years, causing concern to all those worried about the rights of the indigenous populations and about the environmental impact of unregulated extraction. The World Bank released a report in 2017 about the situation concluding that “worrisome levels of conflict, violence and aggression” are happening “without there being a response from the State.”
Many experts have come forward in the defense of the indigenous peoples, explaining that if the government was truly worried about conservation they would grant the land-rights as quickly as possible. Not only are the indigenous communities actually worried about preserving the forests, but they are willing to do preservation work that the government doesn’t have the funds to.
If Not Us Then Who is an charity and a media collective focused on reclaiming and strengthening indigenous culture in Panama and in the world. Here is a very cool video they made about indigenous culture and the Emberá tribe in Panama.