Use this email template and the contacts below to demand justice for the Ngäbe today.
I am writing to express my deep concern for the situation regarding the Changuinola I (Chan 75) hydroelectric project in the Bocas del Toro province, Panama, constructed and managed by AES Corporation’s subsidiary, AES Changuinola.
The state of Panama and AES Changuinola moved forward with the project despite opposition from numerous local community members and the submission of a petition to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) outlining several human rights violations committed by AES Changuinola and its subcontractors. In fact, from the outset the project has been marked by allegations of violence, intimidation, and coercion, all of which are well documented in the IACHR petition.
It has been two years since the completion of the dam and according to witnesses, not one of the four promised resettlement communities is 100% complete, as promised, and community projects remain unfinished. Several Ngäbe are still without new homes.
AES has backtacked on its earlier agreement to build one of the four communities, Guayabal. At least 27 families lived in Guayabal, and they are refuting AES’s claim that the families decided to live in other communities. The former residents of Guayabal are still waiting for their promised resettlement community.
To date, the exact number of uncompensated or under-compensated Ngäbe is unknown. Several Ngäbe who signed compensation agreements are still waiting for their payments and are living in substandard conditions. There are also two families that are still waiting for AES to pay any compensation for the forceful destruction of their farms two years ago.
On AES Changuinola’s website, it states that AES ‘seeks to ensure the supply of food and economic sustenance [for the Ngäbe] in the long term.’ However since the inundation, many people have been struggling to survive, their protein source and cultivable land severely diminished. Residents have lost land, are unable to access their farms due to lack of affordable transportation, or have been forced onto poor land, unsuitable for cultivation.
AES claims that it has provided water transport, but several residents state that they have to contract private transport that is unaffordable and this has isolated communities who once relied upon the river for navigation. The Ngäbe have lost their main source of protein because the dam created an insurmountable barrier for migratory fish species.
According to witnesses, AES Changuinola’s ‘Food Security and Economic Sustainability Program’ was never completed. The vocational training sessions provided by the company, meant to prepare Ngäbe communities for wage labor, failed. As a consequence, Ngäbe community members have been forced into poverty and there is what has been described as a ‘food crisis.’
The Becker family, who feature in AES Changuinola’s media campaign as an example of ‘participative resettlement,’ alleges that they were forced from their land. Their case is documented in the IACHR petition. Contrary to the image portrayed in the media campaign, the Becker family is now living in impoverished conditions in a suburb of the city of Changuinola.
This situation is very worrying, especially as AES Corporation prides itself on being a ‘socially and environmentally responsible’ company that ‘honors commitments.’ It would appear that AES Corporation and its subsidiary AES Changuinola are violating their own ‘code of conduct.’
Therefore we are urgently requesting that AES Corporation:
- Carries out a comprehensive assessment of all compensation agreements signed between AES Changuinola and Ngäbe community members.
- Negotiates compensation agreements with the two families who have not yet entered into any agreements with AES two years after the destruction of their farms.
- Makes good on all compensation agreements.
- Makes good on the promised construction of four resettlement communities, including Guayabal.
- Provides affordable water transport, as promised, for communities living on banks on the reservoir.
- Ensures that the ‘food crisis’ brought about as a result of the inundation is resolved and that future Ngäbe communities are able survive, fulfilling AES’s promise to ‘ensure the supply of food and economic sustenance in the long term.’
We urge AES Corporation to live up to its image as a committed and responsible company and take immediate steps to redress the above concerns.