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Indigenous people must have say in exploitation - UN

Any exploitation of natural resources in indigenous areas must be agreed upon with the residents says the UN Special Rapporteur on indigenous issues.

James Anaya, speaking on Friday, July 26 was referring specifically to the hydroelectric project in Barro Blanco, which is currently being developed on the Tabasará River within the limits of the Comarca Ngäbe-Buglé. His statements came after the completion of a tour of the indigenous communitiesof the country.

Anaya urged the Ngabe-Bugle people and the government to resume the dialogue on the Project, although he questioned the fact that the state has already awarded the concession for the construction of the hydroelectric project without previously consulting the residents.

Anaya said "any exploitation of indigenous natural resources in the territory must be agreed upon with the natives."

He said that both the government and the company responsible for the project [Genisa] have a responsibility to respect and protect the rights of the Ngabes.

In this regard, he said, the government must strengthen its public policies in favor of the indigenous peoples in a manner that is consistent with international standards.

Elio Guerra, president of the Ngäbe-Buglé General Congress, charged that there is a division among communities within the region created by the government of President Ricardo Martinelli.

According to Guerra, they have appointed new delegates and held parallel conferences to negotiate agreements that are "harmful" to the interests of indigenous peoples.
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