Indigenous Naso receive new support from the Parliament of Panama for “comarca”

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  • Fri, 02/22/2019 - 13:48
  • EFE

The Naso people, one of the seven indigenous ethnic groups living in Panama, is backed by the Parliament, which rejected a presidential veto and approved the creation of its district, although everything points to the fact that it will be Supreme Court will have the last word.

The Panamanian Parliament approved on Wednesday night "for insistence" a law that protects that territory and that was previously vetoed by the Panamanian president, Juan Carlos Varela, informed this Thursday official sources.

The National Assembly, of 71 deputies and of the opposition majority, approved Law 656, by which the Naso Comarca is created in the mountains of the northwestern Caribbean province of Bocas del Toro and it is expected that Varela will send it to the highest court to decide whether or not its creation proceeds, or that it changes his mind and sanctions the law.

"We have the right to have a territorial security that recognizes our region, we are a people with a culture of our own", said the leader of the Naso, King Reynaldo Alexis Santana, to Acan-Efe.

The law was approved by Parliament last October, but vetoed two months later by Varela, for being "inconvenient and unconstitutional".

The president argued that the initiative needs to be more discussed because the delimited land covers more than 125,000 hectares of La Amistad International Park, a lush natural reserve that is part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor.

"We have no hope that the government will sign the law, but we will continue to press and we will organize meetings with the seven presidential candidates (in the elections next May) to make sure we are on the agenda of the next government", Santana said.

The law establishes that the Naso people, composed of some 5,000 people, "will perpetually own the rights and will enjoy" a territory of more than 160,000 hectares in Bocas del Toro, which in practice implies that the Government will be obliged to ask for authorization to undertake any type of work.

The creation of the region, which will be the sixth in Panama, is a historical claim of the Naso, who have been ruled for centuries by a kind of assembly monarchy and claiming to be the only people in Latin America with a king.

In Panama there are about 400,000 indigenous people, who represent about 11 percent of the total population and are grouped into seven main ethnic groups: Emberá, Wounaan, Guna, Ngäbe, Buglé, Naso and Bri-Bri.

Many of these people live in the five indigenous regions that currently have their own legal recognition and autonomy: Emberá-Wounaan, Guna Yala, Ngäbe-Buglé, Madugandí and Wargandí.

Although the Central American country is one of the fastest growing in the region, the situation of indigenous people is precarious, as poverty affects 96.7% of the population and chronic malnutrition affects 72% of children under 5 years of age, according to the latest official survey. 



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