An elderly man attacked protesters blocking the Panamericana highway, about 80 kilometers from the Panamanian capital. This was reported by the EFE agency, which also published a video of the incident on Tuesday.
According to CNN, the man probably lost his temper while waiting in a line of cars that formed because of the protest. As seen in the opening video, the man reached the roadblock and began clearing the obstacles that were blocking traffic. He shouted at the protesters the whole time. Other shots then show the men who have already been shot. One was dead at the scene, the other died after being taken to hospital. The police subsequently arrested the shooter.
The arrestee is 77-year-old retired lawyer Kenneth Darlington, who has dual citizenship in the US and Panama, the New York Post reports, citing Newsroom Panama and Agence France-Presse.
Protests accompanied by road blockades erupted in Panama after parliament on October 20 extended a copper mining permit for Canada’s First Quantum Minerals (FQM) in an abbreviated procedure. It operates the largest copper mine in Central America in Panama. Thanks to it, Panama is the 14th largest producer of this metal, ČTK summarizes.
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Their goal was to protect nature, to which they often have a personal relationship, and the people who live there. But for various reasons, they paid for it with their lives. The highest number of murders of conservationists last year occurred in Latin America, according to Global Witness.
Unions and associations of indigenous people are demonstrating against the extension of mining. They point to the negative impact of mining and request the annulment of the parliament’s resolution. Teachers’ unions are particularly active in protests. The Washington Post mentions that those shot Abdiel Díaz and Iván Mendoza were teachers.
Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo expressed his condolences to the families of dead protesters, saying that such a crime “has no place” in society.
As a result, Panama’s public schools have been closed since October 23, and teachers are threatening not to return to work until parliament reverses its decision to extend mining. Private schools have mostly switched to distance learning. The protests have a serious impact on tourism and the transport of goods. According to the newspaper El País, the capital and other parts of the country are partially paralyzed by the protests.
In an attempt to calm the situation, the parliament approved a moratorium on the extension of mining licenses at the beginning of November. However, it does not apply to the authorization for FQM. The extension of the license for FQM will also be dealt with by the Supreme Court, to which a number of citizens appealed, according to which the decision violates the constitution.