Disputes Over Mining Rights Prompts Travel Alert for Western PanamaFebruary 7, 2012 By: Joe Pike
The U.S. Department of State issued on Sunday a travel alert for citizens traveling to Western Panama, specifically along the Pan-American Highway.
According to the alert, disputes over mining rights in Western Panama have led to violent confrontations between indigenous groups and Panamanian security forces.
“These confrontations have resulted in continued disruptions and demonstrations along the Pan-American Highway near the San Felix area in Chiriqui (Ngobe Bugle region) and elsewhere in Panama,” according to the alert. “There are reports of violent confrontations between the Panamanian police and protestors in the San Juan, San Felix, Horconcitos, and Vigui areas. There are further reports of demonstrations in the areas of David and Changuinola and of possible demonstrations in the Panama City area..."
The U.S. Embassy urges American citizens to avoid travel along the Pan-American Highway in Western Panama at this time. While the Pan-American Highway is reported to be open, protesters continue in their attempts to block it with rocks, trees, and burning tires at various points between Chiriqui and San Felix.
Protesters have been reportedly throwing rocks at passing vehicles. Panamanian security services continue to use tear gas and other riot control measures. American citizens are urged to avoid areas of demonstrations, to defer traveling to and within areas known to have current protest activity, and to exercise caution in any area of confrontation between police and protestors.
Other protests on this or other issues may occur with little or no warning. The Embassy continues to caution its employees and all U.S. citizens to exercise heightened security awareness and avoid crowds and any areas where there are demonstrations or where confrontations could occur.