Indigenous people from the Ngäbe-Buglé region today lifted the blockades of the Interamerican highway and decided to resume dialogue with the government after clashes with riot police that took place on Wednesday night, which left several injured.
"Traffic has been restored, we have been talking with the leaders, we are going to meet with them," said Panamanian Security Minister Alexis Bethancourt.
A group of indigenous people blocked the Inter-American Highway on the second day of a trip to San Juan, in the western province of Chiriqui, to demand that the government build more roads in the region, one of the poorest areas in the country.
The Government explained on Thursday in a statement that, after "repeated calls for the opening of the Inter-American highway," it decided to deploy a police operation "with the minimum use of force" in which at least 9 policemen were injured "resulting from the blunt items thrown by protesters."
"We strongly reject the attacks that occurred on Wednesday and will take the necessary criminal measures against those responsible for these events that do not represent the feelings of the residents of these communities," it said.
The Panamanian Government recalled in the same statement that "there are works of social interest in process, such as a new school and access roads."
The Ngäbe-Buglé community, located in the Panamanian Caribbean and one of the five autonomous indigenous territories that exist in Panama, is one of the poorest areas of the country.
According to a study published by the World Bank last year, there are the 10 territories with the highest levels of general and extreme poverty throughout Panama.
In Panama there are about 400,000 indigenous people, who represent around 11% of the total population and who are grouped into 7 main ethnic groups: Emberá, Wounaan, Guna, Ngäbe, Buglé, Naso and Bri-Bri.
Although the Central American country is one of the fastest growing in the region, the situation of indigenous people is precarious: poverty affects 96.7 percent of the people and chronic malnutrition affects 72 percent of children under five years, according to the latest official survey.