Panama: Fishermen Clash with Police in Anti-Mining Port Blockade

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By Marco Echevarria

In Panama, a confrontation between local fishermen and the National Aeronaval Service (SENAN) occurred on Thursday, as police forcefully intervened to disperse protesters blocking the entry of a vessel at Punta Rincon International Port. The port, under the control of Canadian company First Quantum Minerals, has been the site of ongoing protests by fishermen from the Caribbean town of Donoso, adjacent to the Cobre Panama mining project.

For more than two weeks, these fishermen have been obstructing access to the port in protest of a contract between President Laurentino Cortizo’s administration and Minera Panama. Videos circulated on social media showed SENAN pursuing the fishermen at sea, with visuals of tear gas deployment and reports of three individuals injured by police-fired pellets. A helicopter was also reportedly involved in the police action.

The conflict escalated Thursday morning when Aeronaval Police began escorting a coal ship to the Minera Panama port. Authorities cited concerns of “spontaneous combustion” aboard the CSL Tarantau, which had requested emergency docking to safeguard the crew. However, the fishermen alleged that there were two ships attempting to dock — one for mineral extraction and the other transporting coal.

On Friday, in light of the clashes with protesters, SENAN decided against the emergency entry of the ship, citing the fishermen’s use of stones and makeshift objects. SENAN has since called on the Panamanian Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the fishermen, dubbed “The Warriors of the Sea,” for actions deemed “violent, reckless, and contrary to peaceful coexistence.”

This incident is part of larger, intense protests against Minera Panama, marking some of the most significant demonstrations in Panama in recent decades. Public outrage was ignited following President Cortizo’s signing of a contract renewing a 20-year extendable concession for the exploitation of Central America’s largest open-pit copper mine.