Panama launched a "unique" plan for the development of indigenous peoples in the region, since for the first time it is in agreement with all the ethnic groups that originated in the country and is financially supported by international organizations such as the World Bank (WB).
"It is a plan not drawn up in consultation with the indigenous peoples of Panama, not with their participation, but drawn up by them and for them, with that knowledge that only they have of their realities and their potential," said the Panamanian vice-president and chancellor, Isabel De Saint Malo
The plan has an initial financing of 85 million dollars, the WB contributed 80 million and the Panamanian Government 5 million, and in the short term it will focus on urgent investments in water, sanitation and health, which were selected by the indigenous people themselves.
"I am sure that there will be other countries that follow the steps that we have started together, and we should feel very proud of that," De Saint Malo added.
In Panama there are about 400,000 indigenous people, representing about 11 percent of the total population.
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 the age of five, according to the latest official survey.
The WB Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean, Jorge Familiar, indicated that indigenous peoples "benefited less" than the rest of the population from the "profound" social transformation that the region experienced a few years ago as a result of high economic growth and the high price of raw materials.
"If we are going to be serious in the eradication of poverty in our region and in the fight against inequality, we have to address those cases of historical exclusion," the executive warned.
"There are few projects in the region that have the relevance that this has (...) If we do this project well, I am sure that we will be able to replicate it in the rest of the region," he added.
According to the last censuses of 2010, there are about 42 million indigenous people in Latin America, which represents 7.8% of its total population.
Proportionally, Guatemala and Bolivia are the countries that harbor the largest number of native population, followed by Peru, Mexico and Panama.
The majority of Panamanian indigenous people live in the five regions that currently have legal recognition and autonomy: Embera-Wounaan, Guna Yala, Ngäbe-Buglé, Madugandi and Wargandi.
"This plan is thanks to the struggle of the indigenous peoples and it is an advance, what we need in more autonomy, it is said that the regions bring poverty, but the regions mean health and schools," said Maximiliano Ferrer, one of the chiefs of the Guna Yala region.