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By Order of Friars Minor in Panama

We perceive the destruction of the forests and the contamination of mother earth, due to the insatiable ambition for minerals. In this regard, in the last meeting held by the Secretariat of the Bishops of Central America, they stated that "A development model continues to be promoted in which profit is privileged and the excessive desire for profit by sacrificing natural resources."

The Franciscan friars of the Parroquia Nuestra Señora de La Candelaria, in the district of La Pintada, province of Coclé, summoned by the Municipal Council of the district in question, on March 13, 2009 in Villa El Carmen, to discuss the issue of mining, we want to express our feelings and thoughts.

As Franciscan brothers we are called to promote the care of nature, especially of Mother Earth, which sustains us with abundant fruits. The Lord granted Saint Francis of Assisi the grace to work, to praise and love nature; In this way he became a brother to all men and women, with great ecclesial density he exhorted families to take care of the entire creation. Saint Francis of Assisi was appointed patron of ecologists by His Holiness Pope John Paul II, in happy memory, on November 29, 1979. The Order of Friars Minor, aware that a large part of humanity is still subject to indigence, injustice and oppression, we feel called "to establish a society of justice, liberation and peace in the risen Christ" (cf. CCGG art, 96, 2).

Panama, with its varied nature, is part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (MBC), which includes 768,000 km2 of land and landscapes and extends from the Mayan jungle in Mexico to Darién, it is considered one of the regions of the planet with the greatest biodiversity, 10 % or 12% of all the world's biodiversity. Unfortunately, this region is currently moving in the context of a fierce advance by business interests towards the capture of areas that until now had been out of the market. This is a reality that greatly concerns us in Panama. Specifically, we refer to the “ambitious project that was backed by a Republic Law Contract that the Petaquilla Minerals company signed with the State in 1997, where it was granted to extract, exploit, benefit, process, refine, transport, sell and commercialize gold, copper and other minerals ”, (Cf. Burica Press 11/12/07).

Paradoxically, that same year, at the Central American Summit of Presidents of July 1997, held in Panama City, the CBM project was adopted. This project is an important interconnection system for protected areas and its objective is to halt the loss of biodiversity in the region. "However, Panama leased 13,600 hectares of this area to exploit and extract minerals for 20 years and even with the right to an extension for 40 years" (Idem).

As a consequence, we perceive the destruction of the forests and the contamination of mother earth, due to the insatiable ambition for minerals; All this is the result of the absence of inadequate policies to protect the environment, and as a consequence, human dignity is trampled on and the sovereignty of our peoples is not respected. In this regard, in the last meeting held by the Secretariat of the Bishops of Central America, they affirmed that "A development model continues to be promoted in which profit is privileged and the excessive desire for profit by sacrificing natural resources" (Managua, March 2009 ).

The worst of the case is that, as far as royalties are concerned, the company leaves a pittance, the resources are taken to other countries, and the areas are irreversibly contaminated with cyanide and other highly toxic substances. We ask ourselves: Where is respect for the contents of the country's Magna Carta? Because we can literally read: “The State and all the inhabitants of the national territory have the duty to promote social and economic development that prevents pollution of the environment, maintains ecological balance and avoids the destruction of ecosystems.” (Cf. Constitution of the Republic, Art. 119).

We consider that progress and the quality of the environment are not mutually exclusive. The securities, being securities, are not negotiable. There is great concern in many families located in the towns surrounding the mining exploration and exploitation site in the district of Donoso, province of Colón adjacent to the district of La Pintada, province of Coclé, with unfortunate consequences that are already affecting water resources, where fish and other animals have already died, according to the testimony of the peasants who live on the banks of the San Juan and Molejones rivers (cf. La Prensa 04/10/09; 04/18/09). These are voices that challenge us and demand that we take radical measures so that we responsibly assume decisions oriented towards the common good. We understand the common good as “it is the sum of conditions that allow individuals and collectivities to achieve their own perfection more fully and quickly”. (Gaudium et spes, 26).

It is not possible to speak of sustainable development excluding ethics in the economy and in the progress of peoples, therefore "The deepest and most serious sign of the moral implications, inherent to the ecological question, is the lack of respect for life, as seen in many polluting behaviors ... Economic interests take precedence over the good of each person, and even that of entire populations. In these cases, the pollution or destruction of the environment is the result of a reductive and unnatural vision that sometimes configures a true and his own contempt for man "(John Paul II, Pastores Gregis, 70).

Therefore, given the constant contamination and depredation of the environment that we are perceiving, according to the complaints presented by the peasants; We believe that it is necessary to take some measures that benefit the entire population. One of these measures is the one already recommended by our Bishops: “It is necessary to transform the Mining Code taking into account ecological balance and the promotion of the common good. We have to make an interest in life prevail, over private interests that propose false progress, at the cost of deterioration in the living conditions of the surrounding communities. We reaffirm what has been said above: "We believe it is appropriate to review all the legislation that regulates mining activity in our country, so as to guarantee an authentic sustainable development in the ecological, economic, personal and community aspects" (Pastoral Letter # 16, January 2001 ). We cannot allow that, from ethical and moral principles, the environment that the Lord, the Supreme and Total Good, gave us to administer it responsibly be destroyed.

It will be necessary not to forget the teachings of a great thinker of ancient Rome, who affirmed: "History is the teacher of life" (Cicero). Therefore, whoever does not know history is condemned to repeat it. How successful would it be to take into account the valuable contributions of the patron of Governors and Politicians, Saint Thomas Moro in his work Utopia for the search for social justice in our days, especially in favor of the poorest. It is also necessary to keep in mind the prophet Amos, who vigorously denounces the social injustices of his time; We quote just a small part of his message which deeply questions us: "Woe to those who turn justice into poison and drag the law to the ground, hate the one who judges rightly in court and detests the one who testifies with truth!" (Cf. Am. 5.7).

More than five hundred years ago, those who discovered these lands began to take gold and other valuable minerals to other countries and today, again, with advanced technology, they continue to take the resources of our mother earth that cries blood. The Latin American bishops denounced in the Puebla Document in a prophetic way that: "The poverty that characterizes our countries is not something fatal or wanted by God, but rather the fruit of certain economic, social and political situations and structures ... that produce wealthy each Richer and richer at the expense of poorer and poorer poor…! (Puebla # 30).

Finally, we make an invitation to the entire Panamanian community, to the authorities at all levels, to the institutions that have a serious moral duty to care for the environment, so that we commit ourselves to defend Mother Nature and not allow natural resources again are looted. Legality is not the only limit demandable from the rulers. In what is in the interest of all citizens and in the decisions emanating from the institutions, ethics in public affairs is also an inescapable imperative for those who draft and apply the law; indeed, not everything legal is ethical. Therefore, we request the repeal of the agreement - Law February 9, 1997-.

Due to all the above, we emphatically oppose the execution of these projects that cause death and we reaffirm our option to seek new alternatives that respect and promote a better quality of life and lead to a healthy human coexistence (Jn. 10,10) .


Order of Friars Minor in Panama, April 22, 2009. On the day of our Mother Earth.

Communiqué about the mining exploitation addressed to All men and women of good will by the Order of Friars Minors in Panama.

• Cc.
• Diocese of Penonomé.

Episcopal Conference of Panama.

• President of the Republic and his Cabinet of Government.
• National Assembly.
• Government of Penonomé.
• Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe in C.A., Panama and Haiti.
• Commission for Justice, Peace and Ecology of C.A., Panama and Haiti.
• Municipality of La Pintada.
• Petaquilla Minerals.

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