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Cablegate: Panama Views From the Field: Indigenous

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 PANAMA 002986

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE


DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN; INR/IAA


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM EAID PGOV PINR PM LABOR HUMAN RIGHTSPOLMIL
SUBJECT: PANAMA VIEWS FROM THE FIELD: INDIGENOUS
DEVELOPMENT AND IAF PROGRAMS

REF: PANAMA 00914


-------
SUMMARY
-------


1. (SBU) PolOff recently traveled to several remote
indigenous areas of Panama, which are among the least
accessible, least developed, and poorest parts of the
country. With little economy to speak of aside from
subsistence agriculture, indigenous groups focus on capturing
development grants. PolOff accompanied Inter-American
Foundation (IAF) Representative John Reed and IAF Program
Monitor Alexis Pino on their visit to four IAF grantees
working with three indigenous groups: the Ngobe, the Kuna,
and the Embera. Whether because of dispersion, partisanship,
or jealousy, each indigenous group presents a development
challenge. The IAF currently administers $2 million in grant
projects in Panama through nine different projects (see annex
A). 44 of Peace Corps' 132 volunteers serve in indigenous
areas in Panama (see annex B). End Summary.


--------------------------------------------- -
NGOBE-BUGLE COMARCA: DISPERSION AFFECTS ACCESS
--------------------------------------------- -


2. (SBU) About five hours west of Panama City, past
numerous small towns with their Chinese-run local stores,
PolOff arrived in San Felix, principal administrative seat of
the indigenous Ngobe-Bugle comarca (reservation). Located in
Chiriqui province, San Felix is one of the few towns of any
size with road access and electricity leading into the
comarca. Because San Felix has electricity, the coffee
cooperative benefiting from the IAF project can use its
coffee roaster and bag sealer. To actually visit one coffee
grower, PolOff struggled by Toyota Land Cruiser vehicle up a
mountain on a steep, muddy, and rocky road for over an hour.
One of the 29 Peace Corps volunteers in the comarca also
worked with the coffee cooperative.


3. (SBU) Working with in the Ngobe-Bugle comarca is a
challenge because project specialists and the Ngobes
themselves need to travel long distances for instruction.
The approximately 126,000 Ngobe-Bugle comarca residents are
dispersed throughout the 6,673 mountainous square kilometers
of the comarca (8.8% of Panama's national territory) and
neighbors are far from within shouting distance. Although a
Ngobe crafts group runs a $50,000 craft center off the
highway about twenty minutes from San Felix, one Ngobe woman
approached PolOff about creating a craft center in the
comarca. One accomplished Ngobe artisan said he travels a
full day on foot through the comarca just to reach the
current craft center. The route from his house to the craft
center is too rough for cars or bicycles, even if he had one.


--------------------------------
KUNAS YALA COMARCA: PARTISANSHIP
--------------------------------


4. (SBU) A week later, after about an hour flight northeast
of Panama City in a puddle jumper, PolOff landed on a postage
stamp with a landing strip that is the Kuna island of
Porvenir. The Kuna have 49 communities, 46 of them on tiny
Caribbean islands surrounded by sparkling turquoise water
that are sandbars with a palm tree. But they're not
deserted. Imagine Gilligan's Island if a modern cruise liner
had run aground. Every bit of space on the islands is
occupied by the comarca's 36,000 inhabitants and their
thatched huts. Despite having a strip of comarcal land
approximately a hundred miles long along the malarial
Caribbean coast (it's not called the Mosquito Coast for
nothing), the Kuna live all together. Like Gilligan's
Island, about 15 minutes after the "castaways" presented a
united front to PolOff, the "Howells" pulled PolOff aside to
advocate their own political party and narrow interests. A
Kuna observer present in the comarca in the lead up to the
May 2004 national elections confirmed this strong Kuna
political partisanship.


5. (SBU) The highly organized and communal Kuna maintain
their culture through traditional governing structures, such
as the General Congress and the Cultural Congress.
Both of these traditional bodies have their own NGOs to
facilitate donors. The IAF museum project works with one of
these NGOs which also receives technical assistance from the
Smithsonian's Museum of the American Indian. Peace Corps
formalized its relationship with the Kuna in an agreement
signed in 2003, and Peace Corps had 11 volunteers working
with the Kuna Yala in FY 2004.


-------
COMMENT
-------


6. (SBU) Although the Cultural Congress and General
Congress are meant to be nonpartisan, individual members
often have their own party affiliations. Cultural Congress
members lean toward the governing PRD, a left-center party.
In the Kuna's open and communal society, these affiliations
are well known and can lead to allegations that the
Congress's NGO is favoring party members in project
implementation. Some members of the Cultural Congress's NGO
are also members of the Cultural Congress. Members of the
Cultural Congress also confirmed that the two traditional
Congresses coordinate only minimally with the two (non-PRD)
national legislators from the comarca. The Cultural Congress
members explained that Kuna communities view the legislators
merely as patrons for sponsoring local projects, not as
advocates for the community as a whole. This partisanship
and parochialism make a voting block among all indigenous
legislators less likely because Kuna legislators and Ngobe
legislators are from different political parties and serve
different communities.


------------------------------------------
EMBERA IN CHAGRES: SUCCESS BREEDS JEALOUSY
------------------------------------------


7. (SBU) A convenient hour-ride north of Panama City in
birders' paradise Chagres National Park, 300 Embera have hit
the development jackpot, leaving jealous non-Embera in their
wake. After a twenty-minute trip through the lush, tranquil
park by motorized canoe guided by two young Embera men
dressed in tourist-freindly body paint and brightly colored
loincloths, the people of the village Embera Drua greeted
PolOff - in costume and ready to put on a show. The men
played traditional Embera music on wooden flutes. The women,
clad in colorful skirts, torsos bare save for body paint and
jewelry, waved. Embera men spoke to PolOff in good Spanish
and the women taught PolOff some Embera phrases. When cruise
ship excusions visit Embera Drua, the villagers told PolOff,
the village's cut is $15 a head, half of it profit. The
Embera Drua also sell handicrafts to visitors at good prices,
so much so that Embera relatives in the Darien now supply the
group with many of the crafts for sale in the village.
Because some visitors want to give money directly to Embera
Drua children, the Embera Drua created a foundation to use
the money for community projects. And Embera Drua leaders
said that seven of ten of their children going to secondary
school are on scholarships with Youth Ministry in Panama
City. Six more children will be on scholarship next year. A
Peace Corps volunteer worked in Embera Drua recently and two
Peace Corps volunteers worked with the Embera in Chagres in
FY 2004.


8. (SBU) The Embera Drua have disproportionate success
because they are easily accessible to tourists and technical
assistance (such as the IAF funded tourism project) and hold
a near-monopoly on the "indigenous cultural experience" in
idyllic surroundings. The IAF Embera project involves 300
people in three villages who settled within Chagres National
Park in the 1970s, before new settlement was banned to
protect the Canal watershed. Most of the other 20,000 Emberas
live in more remote areas east of Panama City. One NGO
worker in Chagres not associated with the IAF project told
PolOff that non-indigenous Panamanian colonists are jealous
of the amount of attention and help the Embera receive in
Chagres, especially because the colonists far outnumber the
Embera.


-------
COMMENT
-------


9. (SBU) Jealousy remains a source of conflict between
non-indigenous colonists (i.e., traditional Latin subsistence
farmers) and the Embera given the Embera Drua's obvious
economic success. Colonist tensions with Embera-Wounan over
land, not tourism, led to violence in August with
Embera-Wounan subsistence farmers near Chiman, a remote town
about 150 kilometers to the east of both Chagres and Panama
City.


---------------------------------------
ANNEX A: CURRENT IAF PROGRAMS IN PANAMA
---------------------------------------


10. (SBU) The IAF currently monitors $ 2 million in grants
spread over 9 projects in Panama. The IAF plan for Panama
focuses on ethnic groups and environmental issues. IAF
grants for Panama average $230,000 per project and generally
last two or three years.


GRANTEES VISITED IAF TOTAL DURATION
---------------- FUNDS PROJECT


KOSKUN KUNA (Kuna) $89,325 $127,225 1 Year
FUNDAMUJER $327,717 $835,222 4.5 Yrs
APANAB (Ngobe) $157,782 $276,848 3 Yrs
AFOTUR (Embera) $217,500 $356,895 2 Yrs


RECENT GRANTEES
---------------
FUDIS $294,200 $622,200 2 Yrs
PROVERDES $225,000 $409,380 3 Yrs
ADEMIP $189,800 $279,950 3 Yrs


OTHER GRANTEES
--------------
PRODES $286,900 $1,048,207 3 Yrs
IDAPEHM $278,505 $610,226 2 Yrs
--------- ---------


TOTAL $2,066,729 $4,566,153


---------------------------------------
ANNEX B: PEACE CORPS AND THE INDIGENOUS
---------------------------------------


11. (SBU) In FY 2004, the Peace Corps had 44 of its 132
volunteers (PCVs) working in indigenous areas in Panama, with
resources totaling $676,700.


INDIGENOUS NO. OF PRO RATA OTHER
AREA PCVs BUDGET GRANTS
---------- SHARE


NGOBE-BUGLE 29 $435,000 $13,100
KUNA-YALA 11 $165,000 $ 600
EMBERA IN CHAGRES 2 $ 30,000 $ 0
EMBERA NON-CHAGRES 2 $ 30,000 $ 3,000
-- -------- -------
44 $660,000 $16,700


WATT

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