Hydro protestors jailed, released

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Hydro protestors jailed, released

Indigenous leaders have pledged to keep protesting against planned hydroelectric projects in Bocas del Toro until they are stopped.

Police released 50 demonstrators Friday who were taken into custody Thursday after a protest turned violent. Protestors had been seeking to prevent equipment from entering the hydro site. The protests had been going on for about two weeks, but the first reports of violence came on Thursday.

About 150 indigenous families have been impacted by the project, which includes a dam and hydroelectric power plant near Charco La Pava on the Río Changuinola. The company AES Changuinola is doing the work.

The protest seems to be centered around the company’s plan to relocate those displaced by the project. Indigenous leaders say homeowners have not received documents or titles to the new property promised them by the company, so they returned to the work site to reclaim their land (inside La Amistad Panama Biosphere Reserve).

“We will keep protesting until we reach President Martín Torrijos and a solution to the problem is forthcoming,” said indigenous representative Willy Abrego.

Other leaders warned that the demonstrations are likely to become increasingly violent.

AES Changuinola is a subsidiary of a U.S.-based company, AES Corporation. The company plans to build three hydroelectric dams on the Río Changuinola. These projects have been widely criticized by both residents of the area as well as by local and international environmental groups.

The Miami Herald Panama, 5 de enero de 2007

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