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The Panama Canal Expansion Project

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0021273/00001

Material Information

Title: The Panama Canal Expansion Project Transit Maritime Mega Project Development, Reactions, and Alternatives from Affected People
Physical Description: 1 online resource (258 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Rosales, Martin Renzo
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2007

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: america, anthropology, central, conflicts, development, ecology, economics, ethnography, globalization, latin, logistic, maritime, mass, media, megaproject, movements, multisited, panama, political, publicity, shipping, social
Anthropology -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Anthropology thesis, Ph.D.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: The confrontation between residents of Panamanian rural communities with the Panama Canal Authority and, indirectly, with the International Maritime Trade is the raison de entre for this study on the impact of global maritime trade on rural communities, and the dynamics of local resistance to development projects. Such aspects are the result of the Panama Canal Expansion Project. Since 1999, the Panama Canal Authority, the government agency responsible for the management of the waterway, was taking steps toward the physical expansion of the Panama Canal. This megaproject is an important and conflictive early chapter in the geography of globalization, especially the space-time compression considered to be fundamental to it. At the beginning of the 20th century, the construction of the Panama Canal served to the economic and military consolidation of the USA reducing the time of connection between its East and West coasts. At the beginning of the 21st century, the increasing dimensions of the vessels that navigate some routes connected by the Panama Canal demands its widening. The magnitude of the works could be as transcendental to Panama as the construction of the waterway one hundred years ago with possible huge impacts on the human, ecological, and economic landscapes of the isthmus. This project will require the construction of a new set of locks that would require the use of colossal amounts of water, much more than the 52 million gallons used presently to move each passing ship through the waterway. As new sources of water not related to the present canal were considered as possible source of water for the new project, this alternative created a conflict with rural communities that claimed that their water resources were going to be alienated by the Panama Canal Authority for the benefits of international maritime trade.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Martin Renzo Rosales.
Thesis: Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2007.
Local: Adviser: Oliver Smith, Anthony R.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2007
System ID: UFE0021273:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0021273/00001

Material Information

Title: The Panama Canal Expansion Project Transit Maritime Mega Project Development, Reactions, and Alternatives from Affected People
Physical Description: 1 online resource (258 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Rosales, Martin Renzo
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2007

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: america, anthropology, central, conflicts, development, ecology, economics, ethnography, globalization, latin, logistic, maritime, mass, media, megaproject, movements, multisited, panama, political, publicity, shipping, social
Anthropology -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Anthropology thesis, Ph.D.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: The confrontation between residents of Panamanian rural communities with the Panama Canal Authority and, indirectly, with the International Maritime Trade is the raison de entre for this study on the impact of global maritime trade on rural communities, and the dynamics of local resistance to development projects. Such aspects are the result of the Panama Canal Expansion Project. Since 1999, the Panama Canal Authority, the government agency responsible for the management of the waterway, was taking steps toward the physical expansion of the Panama Canal. This megaproject is an important and conflictive early chapter in the geography of globalization, especially the space-time compression considered to be fundamental to it. At the beginning of the 20th century, the construction of the Panama Canal served to the economic and military consolidation of the USA reducing the time of connection between its East and West coasts. At the beginning of the 21st century, the increasing dimensions of the vessels that navigate some routes connected by the Panama Canal demands its widening. The magnitude of the works could be as transcendental to Panama as the construction of the waterway one hundred years ago with possible huge impacts on the human, ecological, and economic landscapes of the isthmus. This project will require the construction of a new set of locks that would require the use of colossal amounts of water, much more than the 52 million gallons used presently to move each passing ship through the waterway. As new sources of water not related to the present canal were considered as possible source of water for the new project, this alternative created a conflict with rural communities that claimed that their water resources were going to be alienated by the Panama Canal Authority for the benefits of international maritime trade.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Martin Renzo Rosales.
Thesis: Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2007.
Local: Adviser: Oliver Smith, Anthony R.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2007
System ID: UFE0021273:00001


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THE PANAMA CANAL EXPANSION PROJECT: TRANSIT MARITIME MEGA
PROJECT DEVELOPMENT, REACTIONS, AND ALTERNATIVES FROM
AFFECTED PEOPLE


















By

MARTIN RENZO RO SALES


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
2007





































O 2007 Martin Renzo Rosales


































To my family, friends, and fellows of the Central American and Missouri Provinces, and of the
Puerto Rican Region of the Society of Jesus who have supported me.









ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I want to express my gratitude to the chair and members of my supervisory committee for

their valuable support and guidance. I also want to thank to the people of the communities of

Lim6n de Chagres, Boca de Uracillo, and Santa Maria in the province of ColC~n, Panama. I am

also indebted to the pastor, assistant priests, members of the Hispanic community, and staff of St.

Augustine Parish in Gainesville, Florida, and to the Claretian missionaries serving the

communities of the Costa Abaj o in the Province of Colon, Panama.











TABLE OF CONTENTS


page

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS .............. ...............4.....

LIST OF FIGURES .............. ...............7.....

AB S TRAC T ........._. ............ ..............._ 10...

CHAPTER

1 DEVELOPMENT, POLITICAL ECOLOGY, AND THE PANAMA CANAL
EXPANSION PROJECT INT THE CONTEXT OF GLOBAL CAPITALISM ................... ...12

Introducti on ................ ....... .......... .. ............ ..... .... ... ... .......1
Preliminary Elements of the Conflict: Global Commercial and Maritime Trends,
National Development Needs and Management of Natural Resources ................... ...........1 5
Methodological Aspects of the Research ................. ...... ....... .... ....... ........ ....... 1
Historical and Personal Relationship with the Obj ect of Study ................. ................. 19
Methodological Tools and Process............... ...............21
Anthropology and Maritime Processes .................. ........... ...............29 ....
Anthropology of Development and Megaproj ects Assessment ................. ............. .......3 1
Megaproj ects: Definitions and Impacts ................. .......... ............... 35. ...
Primary and secondary effects of megaproj ects ................. ......... ................3 7
Development, megaprojects. and political ecology .............. .....................3
Social Movements in the context of political ecology ................ ......................43
Rationality and ethics of development megaproj ects ................. .......... ...............47
Panama Canal Megaproject: Rationality and Texts .............. ...............51....
Panama Canal Megaproj ect: General Overview. ................. .. ........... .... ... .. .......... ......5
Expansion of the Panama Canal: Global and Local Agents and the Maritime Factor ...........55

2 TRANSIT INT PANAMANIAN LANDSCAPES INT GLOBAL AND LOCAL
PERSPECTIVE .............. ...............60....

International Trade and Panamanian History .............. ...............63....
Transit in Panama during Colonial Time............... ...............64..
Modernity and Transport Megaproj ects in Panama ................. ...............66........... ..
Panama railroad ................. ...............66.......... ......
French canal............... ...............70.
Panam a canal. ............. ........ .. ..... .... .. ........7
Ecological, Socio-cultural and Economic Impacts of the Construction and
Functioning of the Panama Canal ............... ... .....___ ......__ ...........7
Forced Relocations and Controversies with Local People............... .................8
The Panama Canal and the Panamanian Transit-Centric Economic Model ................... ........85
Background of the Panama Canal Expansion Megaproj ect ................. ........................88












3 GLOBALIZATION, TRADE AND MARITIME TRANSPORTATION ...........................92

Maritime Transportation: General Characteristics .............. ...............94...
Containers and Containerization: Revolutionary Global Impacts .................. .. .............. ....96
Post Panamax Megaships, International Port Facilities, and the Panama Canal ..................1 00
US East Coast Retailer Mega Centers and West Coast Ports Bottle Necks ................... ......102
Trends of Transit through the Panama Canal in Perspective ................. .......................110

4 PANAMA CANAL: GLOBAL TRADE AND PANAMA' S NATIONAL DESTINY .....116


The Panama Canal Authority .................. ...............117...............
The Media and the Publicity of the ACP ................. ...............123.............
Influence of the ACP on other Panamanian Agencies................... ................ ......... 133
Water Resources and the Expanded Panama Canal Watershed .............. ......................4
The Inter-Institutional Committee for the Watershed .............. ...............149....
The Third Set of Locks ................ ...............153........... ...

5 LOCAL COMMUNITIES AND ORGANIZATIONS: GENERAL
CHARACTERI ST IC S. ................. ...............168......... ......


Lim on de Chagres........... . .............. ...............16
Coordinadora Campesina Contra Los Embalses (CCCE) ................ .........................183
The CCCE and the Catholic Lay Leadership ............... ...............188...
Social Proj section and Internal Dynamics of the CCCE. .............. ... ........... ..............193
La Gran Asamblea Contra La Inundaci6n/Frente Campesino Contra los Embalses ............203
Residents of the Old Watershed ................. ...............205......_....
The Catholic Church ........._._.._......_.. ...............207....
The Illueca-M anfredo Group ................. .. ........ .... ...............215.....
The Campaign in Favor of the Expansion of the Canal ................. ....... ....... ................2 16
The Media and the Resistance Movement against the Expansion of the Canal ..................218

6 CONCLU SION............... ...............23

LI ST OF REFERENCE S ................. ...............241................

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .............. ...............258....











LIST OF FIGURES


Figure page



1-1 License plate: Panama, 1999............... ...............57..

1-2 Identification Card: Panama 1999 .............. ...............58....

1-3 National Passport: Panama, 2005. ............. ...............58.....

1-4 Cover of a 5th grade language textbook. Panama, 2007............... ...............58..

1-5 Cover of a 10th grade textbook. Panama, 2007. ............. ...............59.....

1-6 Geo-strategic inter-oceanic location of Panama and the Panama Canal ................... .........59

2-1 Location of transit routes in Panama during colonial times. A) Map of Panama. B)
Detail of transit. Sources: Instituto Geografico Tommy Guardia and Historia de
Panama (Castillero Reyes 2003). .............. ...............90....

2-1 Continued ................. ...............91.......... ......

3 -1 Container ship ................. ...............112......... ......

3-2 Bulk Carrier ................. ...............112...............

3-3 Tanker ................. ...............112......... ......

3 -4 Ferry ................ ...............113......... ......

3-5 Cruise ship ................. ...............113...............

3-6 Trends in total transits and TEU' s through the Panama Canal. Source: Panama Canal
Authority. ................ ...............113................

3-7 Panama Canal share of container market from Asia to US East Coast. ................... .......1 14

3-8 Panamax container ship at Miraflores Locks ...._.. ................. .. ......_..........11

3-9 Main ports of the United States and North America. ....._.._.. ........_.. ................1 15

4-1 Cluster of activities directly and indirectly linked to the Panama Canal. Source ACP...157

4-2 Advertisement of the ACP aimed to high school students. Source: Diario La Prensa....158

4-3 Advertisement of the ACP. Source: Diario La Prensa. .....__.___ ........_._ ..............159

4-4 Front page of the ACP 2002 Yearbook. Source: ACP ................. ................. ...... 160










4-5 Cartoon in Diario La Prensa: January 8th, 2005. Source: Diario La Prensa ..................160

4-6 Cartoon. Critica Newspaper: May 21st, 2005. Source: Diario Critica. ...........................161

4-7 Cartoon in Diario La Prensa: June 1st, 2005. Source: Diario La Prensa. ................... .....161

4-8 Crossection of the Panama Canal. Source: ACP. ................ ............... ......... ...16

4-9 Area of the watershed of the Panama Canal in comparison with the area of Panama.
Source: ACP............... ...............162..

4-10 Old and New Watersheds of the Panama Canal. Source: Panama Canal Authority........ 163

4-11 Map of the lakes planned to be built in the expanded Panama Canal watershed.
Source: ACP............... ...............164..

4-12 Dimensions of the Panama Canal Locks. Source: Mark Brooks. ................. ........._.....165

4-13 Ironic cartoon about the publicized surveys that mention the maj ority of the
population is going to vote in favor of the expansion of the canal despite not having
any information about it. La Prensa, April 28th, 2006. Source: Diario La Prensa..........166

4-14 Ironic cartoon about the lack of money for medical services in Panama when it was
reported that the ACP has set apart more than 500 million as reserve for the
expansion of the Panama Canal. La Prensa, April 28th, 2006. Source: Diario La
Prensa ........ ................. ......._._. .........16

4-15 Ironic cartoon about the language used for the ACP's Master Plan. La Prensa, May
2nd, 2006. Source: Diario La Prensa. ............. ...............167....

4-16 Cartoon Panama America. May 4th,2006. Source: Diario La Prensa. ............................167

5-1 Cruise ship passing through the Gatun Locks. The road that is obstructed by the ship
is the only one that connects both sides of the Panama Canal in the Atlantic side. ........222

5-2 Drawbridge across the Gatun Locks. Gatun, Col6n. ............. ...............223....

5-3 Deforestation at the margins of the Indio River due to ranching. ................. ................ 223

5-4 Deforestation in the surroundings of Limon de Chagres from Cerro Las Marias. ..........224

5-5 Pluvial terminal in Lim6n de Chagres. ............. ...............224....

5-6 View of the Center of Lim6n de Chagres from Cerro Las Marias. ............. .... ........._...225

5-7 Publicity for the referendum in Panama City, October 2006............... .................25

5-8 Publicity billboard for the referendum Panama City, October 2006 .............. ................226










5-9 Publicity Billboard in Panama City: October, 2006 .............. ..... ............... 22

5-10 Publicity during the referendum .............. ...............227....

5-11 Advertisement in favor of the expansion of the Panama Canal ................. ................. .227

5-12 Ironic cartoon against the workers threatening to work against the expansion of the
Panama Canal. El Panama-America: June 12th, 2005............... ...............228.

5-13 Cartoon alluding to the threat of a negative vote at the referendum. La Prensa:
June l2th, 2005 .............. ...............228....

5-14 Headline of the Panama America, regarding the first reaction of the peasants after the
approval of Law 44. ................ ...............229........ .....

5-15 Collage of newspaper headlines and articles about the protests of the peasants in
Panama City in 2003 ......_. ................ ........__. ........22

5-16 Demonstration of the CCCE at the Administration Building of the ACP. November
2002............... ...............230.

5-17 Demonstration of the CCCE at the ACP Administration Building. ............. ..... .........._.230

5-18 Flier distributed by the CCCE depicting a peasant' s hat floating on the water as a
symbol of the consequence of the possible flooding of their lands by the ACP. ............23 1

5-19 Front page of the Document about the Democratization of the Decisions regarding
the Panama Canal. Pastoral Social-Caritas. Panama, 2002. ............. .....................3









Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

THE PANAMA CANAL EXPANSION PROJECT: TRANSIT MARITIME MEGA PROJECT
DEVELOPMENT, REACTIONS, AND ALTERNATIVES FROM AFFECTED PEOPLE

By

Martin Renzo Rosales

August 2007

Chair: Anthony Oliver-Smith
Major: Anthropology

The direct confrontation between residents of Panamanian rural communities with the

Panama Canal Authority and, indirectly, with the International Maritime Trade is the reason de

entree for this study on the impact of global maritime trade on rural communities, and the

dynamics of local resistance to development projects. Such aspects are the result of the Panama

Canal Expansion Proj ect. Currently, the Panama Canal Authority, the government agency

responsible for the management of the waterway, is taking steps toward the physical expansion

of the Panama Canal. The collateral impacts of this proj ect would include the forced migration of

whole communities, the reconfiguration of the ecological landscape of an important area of the

provinces of Col6n, Panama, and Cocle, and the replacement of traditional activities of rural

people by other activities related to the expansion of the waterway.

The Panama Canal is an important and conflictive early chapter in the geography of

globalization, especially the space-time compression considered to be fundamental to it. At the

beginning of the 20th century, the construction of the Panama Canal served to the economic and

military consolidation of the USA reducing the time of connection between its East and West

coasts.









At the beginning of the 21s~t century, the increasing dimensions of the vessels that navigate

some routes connected by the Panama Canal demands its widening. The magnitude of the works

could be as transcendental to Panama as the construction of the waterway one hundred years ago

with possible huge impacts on the human, ecological, and economic landscapes of the isthmus.

This proj ect will require the construction of a new set of locks that would require the use of

colossal amounts of water, much more than the 52 million gallons used presently to move each

passing ship through the waterway. As new sources of water not related to the present canal are

considered as possible source of water for the new proj ect, this alternative is creating a conflict

with rural communities that claim that their water resources are going to be alienated by the

Panama Canal Authority for the benefits of international maritime trade. What are the forces

that drive these contradictory perspectives? How extremely opposed are they? How are these

forces articulated in the national and international sphere? What are the implied criteria of

development that are present in the Panama Canal expansion project? Which elements are

shaping or reinforcing the agency of the resisting communities? What are the particularities and

links of this resistance in the context of global resistance movements?









CHAPTER 1
DEVELOPMENT, POLITICAL ECOLOGY, AND THE PANAMA CANAL EXPANSION
PROJECT INT THE CONTEXT OF GLOBAL CAPITALISM

Introduction

On October 22, 2006, a national referendum was held in Panama in order to decide about

the implementation of the project of widening the Panama Canal. On that event, seventy- eight

percent of the voters gave their approval to what could be the most important megaproj ect in the

history of that country since the construction of the waterway almost one hundred years ago.

Due to the colossal dimensions of this proj ect, the complex series of socio-economic dynamics

related to it, its status as a national cultural icon, and the fact that the Panama Canal has been the

key point of articulation between Panamanian and international economic dynamics, the

expansion of this waterway becomes an interesting vintage point to study the interaction of

global and local processes when they are mediated by the construction of a maritime

megaproj ect.

This study begins with the contention that, despite the fact that the Panamanian

Constitution establishes that any decision regarding the expansion of the Panama Canal has to be

approved by the people of Panama through a national referendum,' the Panama Canal Authority

(ACP) -the autonomous Panamanian agency responsible for the management of the Canal- and

the Panamanian political and economic elite have already decided to implement the expansion of

the Panama Canal regardless of any previous public consultation and discussion of the

consequences and costs of the project. Within the context of this decision framework, I argue

that the ACP has pursued in advance the control of land and water resources needed for the

expanded waterway, privileging international and global economical imperatives over any other



SCf. Article 325, Title XV of the Constitution of Panama.









local considerations and interests that might be equally demanding; however, the achievement of

this obj ective has been limited by the actions of local rural agents.

In more specific terms, this case is a description and analysis, from an anthropological

perspective, of the process of articulation of contemporary global maritime transportation trends

with Panamanian economic and political interest groups in order to promote the expansion of the

Panama Canal and the Panama Canal watershed. This is also a study of the resulting conflict that

these proj ects of expansion created with local rural communities over the control of lands and

water resources and how different Panamanian groups of power perceive, promote or question

specific discourses on trade, development and local rights in relation to the management of

natural resources. In general, this conflict is framed and shaped by a diverse set of factors such

as the evolution of global maritime trade and the shipping industry, the rationality and impacts of

megaproj ects, the history of the Panamanian transit-centric economic model, the character of

Panamanian politics and groups of economic interests, and the resistance activities of marginal

rural social actors to top-down decisions that affect their survival.

Because of the amount of work implied, organizational complexity, economic cost,

requirement of labor, transformation of the ecosystem, and the social impacts attached to it, the

expansion of the Panama Canal reintroduces Panama into the circuit of world class megaproj ects.

As such, I argue that this expansion seems to follow a specific sort of rationality and process of

implementation that tend to prioritize technical and economic concerns over other aspects

equally or more relevant, like, for example, the reconfiguration of the ecological, cultural and

economic landscapes of important areas of three provinces of the republic of Panama and the

relocation of several communities. These claims have been made also by a group of peasants

from different communities located in the highlands of the provinces of Panama, Col6n and









Cocle that were going to be affected by the proj ect. In order to challenge what appeared to be a

top-down proj ect that seemed to be imposed upon them; peasants from those communities

formed a grass roots organization called the Coordinadora Campesina Contra los Embalses

(CCCE). This organization assumed an active role demanding a change in the decision making

process apparently forged in a context of the world shipping industries, a scenario quite distant

from the peasants' reality as practitioners of subsistence agriculture. With this attitude, the

CCCE set a national precedent in Panama by challenging the almost unquestionable status of the

main national icon, the Panama Canal, and opened the door for a wider discussion, in which

other actors took part, about the tangible impacts of the waterway for the rest of the country.

Additionally, and despite the fact that the result of the referendum gave the public seal of

approval to the proj ect of expansion of the Panama Canal, there was room for analyzing, from an

anthropological perspective, the factors and dynamics that contextualized the definition of the

limits of the expanded watershed of the canal, one of the most controversial components of the

proj ect of expansion of the waterway. Considering this panorama, some questions came to mind:

What were the forces that drive the alternative perspectives about the expansion of the Panama

Canal and the Panama Canal watershed? How opposed were they? How have these forces been

articulated in the national and international spheres? How were global and local rationalities

presented? What was the criterion of development that was implicit in the Panama Canal

expansion proj ect? Which elements were shaping or reinforcing the agency of the communities

challenging the logic of this proj ect? What were the ethical implications found in the

implementation of thi s proj ect?









Preliminary Elements of the Conflict: Global Commercial and Maritime Trends, National
Development Needs and Management of Natural Resources

The Panama Canal Expansion Proj ect was considered by international and Panamanian

Eigures as a technical and economic challenge that Panama had to ponder seriously in view of not

only the role that this waterway has played in global maritime trade, but also in consideration of

the impact that such an eventful project will have for the Panamanian economy (Alvarado 2005,

p.5, Arias 2003, p.5). The discussions regarding the expansion of the canal have acquired a more

public and urgent tone since the year 2000, when the waterway was transferred to Panama after

almost one hundred years under the control of the United States.

Several arguments were used to justify the expansion of the Panama Canal. It was

claimed, for example, that Asian economic expansion in general, and particularly the

overwhelming surge of the Chinese economy, has increased the size of the markets on that side

of the globe and, consequently, the volume of trade between the Atlantic and the Pacific that

moves through the waterway. It has been observed, as well, that the evolution of maritime

transportation technology, which includes the phenomenon of containerization, has radically

transformed maritime transport services. As a result, naval companies from Asia and Europe

have been building bigger container ships that can carry more cargo per voyage. However, a

growing number of these ships are too big to pass through the original Panama Canal. Officials

of the ACP have argued that, if the Panama Canal is not expanded by the first decade of the 21s~t

century, the new mega-ships would seek alternative routes, which will compromise the

international relevance and national economic profitability of the waterway (Alvarado 2003,

Ardito Barletta 2005, Economist 2004, Martinez Laso 2001, pp.254-255). In order to meet this

demand, the ACP proposed the construction of a third set of bigger locks.









The operation of the proposed new locks for the Panama Canal will require, among other

factors, the use of colossal amounts of water, much greater than the quantities needed for the

functioning of the present waterway. The original watershed of the canal has been providing

enough water to satisfy the needs of the waterway during almost one hundred years. In fact, each

transit through the canal requires the pouring of 52 million gallons of water, for an average of 40

transits per day. However, some environmental phenomena, like El Nifio, which has produced

occasional shortages of water in the watershed, have raised concern about the risks of not having,

in the long term, enough supply for the additional requirements of an expanded waterway. In

1999, in order to face this possible shortcoming, the ACP expanded what is known as the

Panama Canal watershed with the purpose of building what were called "hydraulic proj ects" in

the rivers Indio, Canio Sucio, and Cocle del Norte (1999, ACP/URS-D&M/IRG/GEA 2003,

CEASPA 2002). This expansion included areas, which contain lands and rivers that have been

serving several rural communities. However, these lands and rivers did not have any geographic

or hydraulic connection with the activities of the Panama Canal. Not only the decision to expand

the Panama Canal watershed to an area that was not linked at all to the activities of the Canal, but

specially the way this decision was implemented through a hurried legislative process without

a previous consultation with the residents of the area- ignited a set of actions and reactions from

peasants, agents of the Panama Canal Authority, and other Panamanian citizens (Antinori 2001,

p.22, CEASPA 2002, p.73).

Besides the discussion around the expansion of the watershed, I could appreciate the fact

that the decision to expand the Panama Canal was promoted in Panama through the presentation

of two combined discourses: one that appeals to the urgency to update the waterway to the level

of the current and future trends of global maritime trade, and another that claims that national










development depends on the ineludible decision of widening the waterway (Hoffman 2005,

Jordan 2005, Martinez Laso 2001, pp.254-255).2 However, critics have pointed out that this

proj ect will not solve the persistent economic inequality promoted and imbedded in the

Panamanian model of economic development and will impose an extreme economic burden on

the country. In fact, with a cost estimated by 2006 at 5.2 billion dollars, the expansion of the

canal will require an investment that could be equivalent to nearly 60 percent of the gross

domestic product of Panama. This represents a financial dimension without parallel anywhere

else in the world's contemporary or past history (Hoffman 2005, p.32).

The elements of the discussion analyzed in this document are presented in a socio-political

moment and academic context when the understanding of development, the rationality and

impacts of megaproj ects, and the consequences of economic globalization are under a great deal

of scrutiny because of the persistent doubts about who receives the benefits and pays the costs of

development projects (Appadurai 1996, Cardoso 1972, CEASPA 2002, Edelman 1999, Escobar

1995, Hoogvelt 2001, Hughes 2002, Niesten & Reid 2001, Ocampo & Martin 2003, Schaeffer

1997, Stiglitz 2002, Tortosa 2001). Considering the persistent social and economic inequality

that pervades Latin America despite the implementation of development policies and proj ects, it

will be interesting to document the initial stages of the decision making process of the Panama

Canal expansion megaproj ect. This effort will provide a historical reference of a so-called

development proj ect that can be confronted with future evidence of its concrete impacts on

Panamanian socio-cultural, economic and political landscapes.





2 This opinion was addressed by an article in the section of Finances in the Panamanian newspaper La Prensa, on
November 24, 2005. According to this article, the Panama Canal could produce incomes in the range of 10 billion
dollars between 20014 and 2025.









Methodological Aspects of the Research

The process that I followed to be introduced into this discussion, and to collect and analyze

the relevant data, was especially influenced by several factors that, directly and indirectly,

connected me with this case. I had to admit, from the beginning, that my selection of this topic

responded, partially, to my concern about the ethical aspects involved in the decision making and

implementation processes of development proj ects that have been performed by Panamanian

political and economic elite at the cost of more vulnerable people.

I think that we, as scholars, have a special responsibility that goes beyond the exposure of

new findings of scientific knowledge for the consumption of academia. In this regard, I consider

that there is a need to relate even more our academic activity with the reality of countless people

whose fate has been marked and is decided by those with more economic and political power.

The reality of suffering, caused by injustice and the way power has been used by those

possessing it, is an aspect that should not be ignored if we, scholars -and specially social

scientists- want to make a contribution worthy of relevance. In this regard, I coincide with the

position of Marc Edelman when he says that "understanding the human tragedy of contemporary

Third World is better served by social scientific practice that attempts, however imperfectly and

incompletely, to document and to come to grips with the forces creating, resisting and

reconceptualizing change" (Edelman 1999). However, understanding is one step that needs to be

followed by concrete actions that are especially demanded when human suffering is in front of

our eyes. In this opportunity, I intend to make a contribution to the exposure of another case in

Latin America in which powerful agents and their discourses about development are promoted

but also contested by traditionally marginal groups. I want to present also specific examples of

how any discussion among stakeholders of different levels of power and perspectives, not only

could be challenging to one another; but also how they face their internal contradiction.









I intend to contribute as well, to the anthropological study of maritime trade and shipping

activities by addressing their impacts on human contexts and scenarios different from those often

studied in coastal locations. From the methodological perspective, by presenting the

complications I faced when I was trying to keep track of a process with high socio- political and

economic implications, I also want to document, once again, the difficulties that anthropologists

face when we try to get involved in a public discussion within a socio-political context that sets

limits to critical opinions regarding development projects.

Historical and Personal Relationship with the Object of Study

My interest in this conflict originated from the online news I read, while studying in

Gainesville, Florida, during the summer of 2001. At that time, I read about the claims that a

group of Panamanian campesinos were presenting to the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) after

the National Legislative Assembly legally defined the new limits of the Panama Canal

watershed. When I read about the people involved and their claims -which at that time had been

underway for at least one year- I realized that I was quite familiar with their geographic, historic

and political contexts, thanks to several factors that related my personal experience with the

history of the Panama Canal and the people affected by its expansion. One of my grandmothers

was born in the town of Matachin in 1893.3 That was one of the twenty-one villages that were

submerged under the waters during the construction of the Panama Canal between 1904 and

1914. That was the reason why she was among the first group of people that had to be relocated

during the construction of the Panama Canal.





3 It is said that this name comes from the Spanish expression "Mata Chino" ("Chinese Killer") and alludes to the
great number of Chinese workers who died because of the harsh work conditions during the construction of the
Panama Railroad in the 1880's.









I was born in Colon, a city that, since its foundation, in 1852, has been linked to the trans-

isthmian transit through Panama. Colon City was built to serve as the Atlantic terminal for the

Panama Railroad, the first inter-oceanic transport megaproj ect of the Americas, which preceded

the Panama Canal as a mean of transportation for people and commodities between the Atlantic

and the Pacific oceans. The house where I was raised was located less than 200 meters from

Limon Bay, the Atlantic entrance or exit of the Panama Canal; therefore my earliest child

memories of the outside world are connected to the view of ships going to or coming from the

Panama Canal when passing through this bay.

In 1987, when I was doing my undergraduate studies in Economics at the University of

Panama, I completed a three-month internship at the Accounting Division of the Panama Canal

Commission (PCC), the bi-national agency that preceded the Panama Canal Authority in the

management of the waterway. That was my first and only direct opportunity to learn, as an

insider, about the professionalism and work discipline demanded by the US managers of the

Panama Canal. It was also my first intercultural work experience. I was a Panamanian Spanish-

speaking student working in Panama under the supervision of US citizens who did not speak

Spanish, in an institution that was controlling an important Panamanian resource. Despite the

fact that the common language among my coworkers was Spanish, all official documentation had

to be written in English. The $400.00 monthly salary I earned -minimum wage at that time at

the PCC- practically doubled the average salary of the Panamanian employees who, with the

same or more preparation and experience than me, worked for the Panamanian government.

The historical conflictive relationship between Panama and the United States, thanks to the

presence of the Canal, was stressed even after the signature of the Torrij os-Carter treaty, which,

in 1977, established a specific deadline for the transference of the waterway to the Panamanian










jurisdiction on December 31Ist, 1999. According to one article of this treaty, the US had the right

to intervene militarily in Panama in case the security of the Panama Canal was at risk.

Because of this provision, and in order to depose the Panamanian dictator Manuel Antonio

Noriega, the US government decided to invade Panama on December 20th, 1989, arguing the

need to guarantee the security of the waterway, defend Panamanian democracy and the security

of American citizens resident in Panama. Despite the dubious legitimacy of those reasons, the

invasion was launched demanding a high toll from Panama in terms of human lives. Two of my

brothers were among the hundreds of casualties produced by that invasion. By July 1990, one

and a half year after j oining the Jesuits, I was sent to work in a mission of evangelization in the

area of Rio Indio. During that mission, I visited about 12 communities where I could meet

several lay leaders of the Catholic Church.

Eleven years later, in 2001, when I was doing my Ph. D. studies in Anthropology at the

University of Florida, I read about the conflict about the expansion of the Panama Canal in

online reports from Panamanian newspapers. In one of these reports, I read that some peasants of

the region of Rio Indio were protesting against the construction of a lake in that area. I later

knew that, among the leaders of the protest against the creation of the new lake were some lay

leaders of the Catholic Church whom I had met during my visit to that region as a Jesuit novice.

Since then, the curiosity for this issue that involved people I knew, encouraged me to contribute

to this discussion about the implications of the expansion of the most emblematic Panamanian

icon and about the role that anthropology could have in the critical analysis of this proj ect.

Methodological Tools and Process

The aspects that I covered in this dissertation were based on information gathered from

different sources, and applying different methodologies of data collection and analysis. I

approached this discussion mainly as a case of political ecology ethnography, a methodological









and analytical perspective that considers the different points of view of conflicting agents

regarding the use or control of natural resources (Little 1999, p. 15).

My first direct contact with my research setting was through a series of exploratory visits I

made during the summers of 2001 and 2002. On each visit, I spent about a month and a half

visiting several rural communities, as well as collecting preliminary information about the

Panama Canal in Panama City. After making an agreement of pastoral cooperation with the

team of Claretian missionaries a Catholic religious order- responsible for the religious attention

of the people living in the area of the watershed of the Indio and Cafio Sucio rivers, I established

the official contact for my future visits to several rural communities in the provinces of ColC~n

and Cocle for my Hieldwork that began in April 2003.

For this purpose, I spent one year and four months in Panama -from April 2003 to May

2004 and from September to November of the same year-. My contact with the rural

communities consisted of 17 visits of about ten days each, during the rainy and dry seasons.

During that time, I had more than 52 in depth interviews, 10 focus groups, and participated in

about 24 informative and religious community meetings. In those visits, I interviewed adult men,

women, teenagers, missionaries, and lay leaders.

Despite my presence in communities collecting data about their everyday lives, this study

relies more on the description of a conflicting process between people established in different

locations than on an exclusive ethnographic description of a specific setting. In fact, as the

discussion I was following was held in different rural and urban fronts, I had to move between

these different scenarios; therefore, I had to be flexible in the implementation of a long term-one

location traditional anthropological ethnography. The development of events forced me to adapt

my research methodology in order to keep track of the activities and dynamics of one of the rural










groups involved in the discussion, in this case the Coordinadora Campesina Contra los Embalses

(CCCE).

Besides my direct contact and follow up of the activities of the CCCE, I also spent part of

my time in the cities of Panama and Colon interviewing specific officers of the Panama Canal

Authority and other government and independent key informants from whom I got different

opinions. I interviewed officers from the Environmental, Social and Marketing Departments of

the Panama Canal Authority, as well as the chief officer of the Inter-institutional Commission of

the Panama Canal Watershed (CICH), the office in charge of the coordination of the activities of

different government agencies that serve the population of the Panama Canal Watershed.

Because of the mobility involved in this process, this study can fit among the cases of multi-sited

ethnography.

According to George Marcus, "multi-sited research is designed around chains, paths,

threads, conjunctions, or juxtapositions of locations in which the ethnographer establishes some

form of literal, physical presence, with an explicit posited logic of association or connection

among sites that, in fact, defines the argument of the ethnography" (Marcus 1995, p.105).

Another anthropologist, Ulf Hannerz, points out that "the nature of certain problems, or the

formulation of certain topics, is sometimes translocal, not confined to a single location".

Moreover, he argues that, in such cases, "the locations involved are connected one another in

such a way that the relationships between them are as important for this formulation as the

relationship within them" (Hannerz 2003, p.206). In this regard, my ethnographic work was done

by moving in different places of rural and urban Panama following the development of actions

and movements of some of the stakeholders involved in the discussion of the expansion of the

Panama Canal. For this reason, and despite its limitations in comparison with the traditional










long term and detailed ethnographic account of daily events in one location, I considered that

multi-sited ethnography was the appropriate methodology to study a discussion held among

different parties and settings, and also because of the rapid succession of events that were

shaping the evolution of this discussion. As the unifying element of such a geographically

widespread research was the topic of discussion among stakeholders, I can say that my

anthropological setting was the conflict itself.

Through participant observation, I collected information in a wide variety of settings and

activities such as community meetings, demonstrations, conferences, and other events where

some of the stakeholders took part. The fact that, as a native Afro-Panamanian, I could consider

myself an insider researcher within a Panamanian setting, could not exonerate me from being

involved in the cultural dynamics of my home social context where ethnic profies are not

ignored and certain racial prejudices are still present. In a similar way, it was not possible to

separate, in certain contexts of my Hieldwork, my role as a researcher and my role as Catholic

priest, for example, when attending a case of a stillborn baby, getting emergency help for sick

people during several of my visits to the communities, giving spiritual support, and celebrating

Catholic sacraments for the people that also were my informants. Therefore, even though that I

assumed the role of a common participant in several events and locations, my profie as Afro-

Panamanian and as a Catholic priest made obvious my presence in events where the rest of the

participants were of mestizo origin or knew about my religious role.

After facing the reality of a discussion among several stakeholders that were continuously

moving and evolving, it was evident for me that, despite the convenience of multisided

ethnography, this method had its limitations. In fact, despite my interest in doing so, it was

difficult for me to spend the same amount of time with each stakeholder. Several factors affected









this purpose, among others, the dramatic differences and distances between the rural and urban

settings where these stakeholders were located, their different level of openness to collaborate in

a research proj ect, and their perception of my role as a Catholic priest or as a scholar. I also had

to distribute my time between the city and the villages, according to the set of events that were

developing there: community meetings, demonstrations, conferences, etc. For this reason I could

not follow the simultaneous evolution and mobility of other stakeholders involved in the

discussion. For example, I could not participate as an observer in the series of visits that onfcers

of the ACP were doing to several communities, or even be present in meetings organized by the

ACP when they were held in the same community I was visiting. This was prevented because

the reluctant attitude of the ACP toward independent researchers and because the members of the

CCCE were also suspicious of any person who participate in the meetings with the ACP. I also

had to rely on other methods, like structure and semi-structured interviews, which where helpful

in the process of collecting specific information in a limited time.

In order to understand the promotion of the expansion of the Panama Canal launched by

the ACP in the urban sectors, I attended several conferences delivered by officers of this agency

in different forums in Panama City. I also observed the publicity announcements of the Panama

Canal Authority in different local newspapers and in El Faro, the biweekly newspaper from the

Panama Canal Authority. Additionally, I consulted several opinion and informative articles

about the expansion of the Panama Canal published in Panamanian and international

newspapers. Other source of information regarding the Panama Canal and its territory were the

ANCON foundation, the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, and the National Environmental

Authority .









To get a complementary and contrasting perspective from the information provided by the

Panama Canal Authority, I participated, as well, in several meetings of a commission of the

Conference of Bishops of Panama that was supporting the peasants affected by the expansion of

the Panama Canal watershed. This commission was formed by the bishops of the dioceses of

ColC~n, and Cocle and the archbishop of Panama, as well as representatives of other Catholic

organizations that have been in contact with the peasants. Among these organizations, the most

outstanding relationship was with Pastoral Social-Archdiocesan Caritas, which has assumed a

very important and outspoken position in support of the peasants affected by the expansion of the

watershed. I also contacted some members of an independent group of professionals that are

also questioning actively the logic and technical justification of the expansion of the Panama

Canal. For complementary quantitative information, I relied on reports from the Office of

Statistics of the General Comptroller of Panama, reports from the Ministry of Agricultural

Development, the Ministry of Economy and Finances, and the Agricultural Development Bank.

Besides the contemporary information I collected through interviews, focus groups and

participant observation, I also collected historical data about the Panama Canal through

complementary archival, bibliographical, and on line research. I consulted the archives and

documentation about the history of the transit area of Panama and the Panama Canal that were

available at the Panama Canal Institute of the University of Panama, the Library of the

University of Panama, the Library of the Panama Canal Authority, the Library of the National

Lottery of Panama, the National Library of Panama, the Library of the Smithsonian Tropical

Research Institute in Panama City, and the Latin American Collection at the University of

Florida. I also got some valuable information about the original forced relocations during the

construction of the Panama Canal at the archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and at the









National Archives of Panama. I also used written copies of the hearings of the discussions that

preceded the approval of the expansion of the Panama Canal Watershed at the library and web

page of the Legislative Assembly of Panama. I also relied on bibliographical references in order

to get information about the international shipping business, and maritime transportation.

Due to the nature of the conflict and the role of the leadership of the Catholic Church in

this discussion during the time of my fieldwork, it was self evident that my condition as a

Catholic priest was an asset but also a liability depending on which of the stakeholders I was

relating to. In fact, during the time of my fieldwork, the most outspoken authorities of the

Catholic Church have been very critical of the arguments of the Panama Canal Authority and

supportive of the position of the rural people that complained against the way the widening of the

Panama Canal has been implemented. For that reason, being a priest helped me to be welcomed

by the leaders of the peasant' s movement that felt supported by the leaders of the Catholic

Church. However, this same religious role limited my relationship with those peasants who were

supportive of the actions of the ACP and, as a researcher; I could confirm the complaints about

the secrecy of this institution made by other researchers and scholars who wanted to know in

advance more inside details about the expansion of the Panama Canal but who faced quite

difficult access to more specific information from the Panama Canal Authority.

I found that, despite their courtesy in receiving me for an interview, the officers of the ACP

were quite reluctant to provide additional information that could not be found in the official web

page of the ACP. The public delivery of information about this proj ect was generally incomplete,

generic, quite superficial and mainly focused on the demands of international trade as the main

justification of the proj ect.










For the analysis of some of the data collected, I will rely more on discourse and content

analysis in order to find patterns of rationalities and perceptions of the different stakeholders

involved in the discussion (Bernard 2002). The basic materials for this analysis are recorded

interviews, written documents, and opinions expressed in the Panamanian and international

newspapers, journals, and in several web pages. I kept track of articles of opinion, publicity ads

and news related to the Panama Canal published during and after my fieldwork in Panama.

My overall intention is to observe the consistency of a discourse in favor of or against the

expansion of the Panama Canal through the use of language, images, and other types of

resources to influence public opinion. In the case of the ACP I will focus, among other

references, on different articles and advertisements published in Panamanian newspapers, as well

as on the official biweekly newspaper El Faro published by the ACP, and in the webpage of the

ACP. 4

A complementary aspect of my research took shape when, during my visits to the

communities, and with the help of Enrique Castro, a Panamanian film maker, I could record

different activities such as meetings and interviews so that I could have a perspective not only of

my informants' perceptions and comments, but also my own interaction with the informants.

From my contact with Castro, came the idea of collaborating in a proj ect that could go farther

than a research aimed for academic purposes. In fact, we considered that we should implement

concrete actions in order to make public the information we were collecting, so we could

contribute to a wider and deeper public awareness and discussion about implications of the

expansion of the Panama Canal. As a result, we collaborated in the production of a set of





httpl w\ il \t .pancanal.coml/eng/noticiero/el-faro/inde~tl last accessed July 27, 2007.









documentaries about the impact of the expansion of the Panama Canal that originally was

intended to be broadcasted on national TV some weeks before the referendum of October 2006.

Anthropology and Maritime Processes

This study is focused on a conflict produced at the local level by the dynamics of global

maritime trade. As such, this study tries to expand the range of interest of the discipline known

as maritime anthropology. According to James M. Acheson (1981), scholars interested in

maritime anthropology have been focused on three subj ects: modern fisheries, shipboard life, and

prehistoric marine adaptations. More than two decades after his assessment, it seems that this

division prevails. A general review of the bibliographical references on this subj ect, confirms

that anthropological studies of maritime dynamics have been mainly focused on the experiences

of coastal communities and socio cultural practices of people devoted to fishing (Breton 1999,

Lise 1988, Quezada & Breton 1999, Taylor 1992, Villareal 2004).

The relevance of the archeological study of the impact of maritime dynamics and their

influence on social processes has been acknowledged by Sean McGrail (2003), who addressed

their chronological precedence over other human activities. According to McGrail, archeological

evidences have challenged some parameters established by historians in order to describe and

explain human processes.

.. There were seamen before there were farmers, boatbuilders before wainwrights, and
navigators before there were megalith designers; indeed seafaring seams to be as old as
humankind. Evidence to support these assertions comes from Australia, northern America,
and the eastern Mediterranean (McGrail 2003, p.2)

In more contemporary terms, Sam Tangredi, a senior military fellow in the Institute for

National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University, points out that the human ability

to move across the oceans successfully was the historical turning point that enabled higher levels

of international trade and profits to stimulate the evolving trend toward economic globalization.









In fact -he explains- ocean navigation was crucial for this trend because it was the initial means

used by humans as a constant medium and as a primary means for communication and

commerce. From these perspectives, the role of maritime transportation was clearly perceived as

a means of providing not only a space for the smooth flow of people and products but also as a

base of strategic domination (Tangredi 2002).

A little more than one hundred years ago, the historian and military strategist Alfred

Thayer Mahan defined the concept of sea power according to the characteristics that presently

are useful to describe globalization. Among these characteristics, Mahan included: accelerated

communication and international trade, multinational use of a "global common", and the

reduction of the security and sovereignty of (certain) nation-states (Tangredi 2002). Nowadays,

the increasing efficiency and sophistication of port and shipping services have boosted the

trading of commodities, raw materials, and components even more almost everywhere in the

world. The result of this is that maritime shipping became the dominant mode of transportation

that moves, since the last part of the 20th century, more than two third of world trade (Kumar &

Hoffmann 2002, Pronk 1990, White 1988). From the historical perspective, Michael Pearson

(2006, p. 353) remind us about the fact that, because their exposure to different geographical and

cultural influences, there are more commonalities among different littoral or coastal societies

beyond national borders that among littoral and inland societies within one country. However, by

overcoming the limitations that time and space presented in the past, the expanding network of

relationships created by the global maritime activities is reaching more geographical and cultural

landscapes beyond the coastline.

The previous data could be useful to understand that, despite the fact of the undeniable

importance studying coastal communities, the archeology of shipping, and the experiences of









fishermen, there is still room for anthropological exploration of the dynamics and impacts of

contemporary global maritime trade and transportation in the worldwide processes of economic,

political and cultural changes not only in coastal communities but also in inland societies. From

this perspective, the study of dynamics triggered by, for example, the existence of settings such

as ports and naval bases, or economic activities such as shipbuilding, logistic maritime services,

and containerization, can provide interesting areas of inquiry. The fact that the Panama Canal

performs a key role in the articulation of international maritime trade, at the same time that has

been the crucial element that helped in the configuration of the socio-cultural identity of a whole

country, positions this proj ect in the intersection of interest of global and local actors and, may

be, in the scope of maritime anthropology.

Anthropology of Development and Megaprojects Assessment

The case I am studying can fit as well into the broader realm of studies of anthropology of

development. Development, as a western concept of economic improvement, as a political

discourse, or as a practice of national or local management, has been the obj ect of extended

discussions within and outside the academia, according to its diverse obj ectives, ideological

emphasis, frames of references, or the agents who argue about the topic. With an approach that

looks into the domain traditionally controlled by economics, anthropology has made an

important inroad into the set of values, criteria, discourses and ideologies that human groups

promote or contest about development (Arce 2000, Chambers 1983, Cooper & Packard 1997,

Escobar 1991, Esteva 1993, Frank 1997, Gardner & Lewis 1996, Gunder Frank 1969, Oliver-

Smith 2006, Peet & Hartwick 1999, Quarles Van Ufford 2003, Tortosa 2001).

Anthropologists have had an important contribution in the critique of the pretension of

Western scientific knowledge of being all-encompassing and efficacious (Hobart 1993, Scott

1998). For this purpose, the anthropological methodological approach to the study of









development includes the representation of conflicting actions and events which directly affect

future actions. Other issues of anthropological interest include, for instance, the study of how

knowledge, power and agency are represented and how responsibility is attributed in different

situations (Edelman 1999, Hobart 1993, p.13).

Some anthropological critiques of development have also been scrutinized. For example,

Marc Edelman, in his study about rural social movements in Costa Rica, criticizes the omission

that post-modern anthropologists of development have made of the most obvious subj ect of

anthropological investigation: flesh and blood human beings. This author claims that some

notorious critiques of development have relied so much on high levels of abstract analysis that

have prevented them from the analysis of historical examples or illustrative cases. He also points

to the exclusion from the panorama of analysis the relevant macroeconomic and social indicators

framing the lives of these subj ects like, for example, "the forms of accumulation and distribution,

non-discursive and material reproduction of classes, sectors, corporations, and family groups that

make up any contemporary economy" (Edelman 1999, pp.8-9).

Regarding the topic of development, I, as a Catholic priest, after acknowledging some of

the critiques received by some actions and persons from the ecclesiastical hierarchy for their role

in favor of the dominant elites in specific historical and social contexts, cannot elude the

doctrinal inroads that the Catholic perspective have made in the analysis of development. For

this reason, and trying to put aside any prejudice that some academic sectors could have from

religious criteria of analysis, I want to mention some of the elements of Catholic teaching on

development that also have shaped my personal criteria of analysis.

In fact, I think that there is an interesting series of papal documents and statements that are

coherent with some of the critiques of development coming from the social sciences. These










documents show an evolution of the conception of development that integrated the evolving

perspectives of the social sciences regarding this topic. For example, in 1961, Pope John XXIII,

on his encyclical Mater et Magistra, addressed the issue of development by linking economic and

social progress and the need to reduce social inequalities. He said that

.. Economic progress must be accompanied by a corresponding social progress, so that
all classes of citizens can participate in the increased productivity. The utmost vigilance
and effort is needed to ensure that social inequalities, so far from increasing, are reduced to
a minimum.'

In the same line or reasoning that understood economic growth as an incomplete

perception of development, Pope Paul VI insisted, in 1967, that the terms cannot be understood

exclusively in terms of economic growth, but as an integral concept that must be consider each

person and the whole person.6 Regarding the effects of individualism and competition as the

base of development, the Pope claimed that individual initiative and the criteria of competition

will not ensure satisfactory development and admonishes that the increase of the wealth of the

rich cannot be pursued while the burden on the needed and oppressed is also increased.

Twenty years later, in 1987, Pope John Paul II on his encyclical Solicitudo Rei Socialis,

made an additional contribution to the Catholic perspective on development stressing the moral

implications of any initiative that promote accumulation and consumerism.8 On Paragraphs 33

of this encyclical, Pope John Paul II expressed a moral critique to development when the

preeminence of the profit criteria excludes the respects of human rights:





SC.f. 1961 John XXIII, Mater et Magistra # 73.

6 Populorum Progressio # 13.

SPopulorom Progressio # 33
SJolm Paul II, Solicitudo Rei Socialis # 28.










Nor would a type of development which did not respect and promote human rights -
personal and social, economic and political, including the rights of nations and of peoples -
be really worthy of man.

Today, perhaps more than in the past, the intrinsic contradiction of a development limited
only to its economic element is seen more clearly. Such development easily subj ects the
human person and his deepest needs to the demands of economic planning and selfish
profit.

The intrinsic connection between authentic development and respect for human rights once
again reveals the moral character of development: the true elevation of man, in conformity
with the natural and historical vocation of each individual, is not attained only by
exploiting the abundance of goods and services, or by having available perfect
infrastructures.

When individuals and communities do not see a rigorous respect for the moral, cultural and
spiritual requirements, based on the dignity of the person and on the proper identity of each
community, beginning with the family and religious societies, then all the rest availability
of goods, abundance of technical resources applied to daily life, a certain level of material
well-being will prove unsatisfying and in the end contemptible. The Lord clearly says this
in the Gospel, when he calls the attention of all to the true hierarchy of values: "For what
will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?" (Mt 16:26)

True development, in keeping with the specific needs of the human being-man or woman,
child, adult or old person-implies, especially for those who actively share in this process
and are responsible for it, a lively awareness of the value of the rights of all and of each
person. It likewise implies a lively awareness of the need to respect the right of every
individual to the full use of the benefits offered by science and technology.

In the next paragraph, Pope John Paul II includes in the Catholic discourse on development

the respect of what he calls the natural world, or the ecosystem, connecting in this way with the

sort of critique that other discipline have been done about the impact of development on the

natural resources.

Nor can the moral character of development exclude respect for the beings which
constitute the natural world, which the ancient Greeks alluding precisely to the order
which distinguishes it called the "cosmos." Such realities also demand respect, by virtue
of a threefold consideration which it is useful to reflect upon carefully.

The first consideration is the appropriateness of acquiring a growing awareness of the fact
that one cannot use with impunity the different categories of beings, whether living or
inanimate animals, plants, the natural elements simply as one wishes, according to one s
own economic needs. On the contrary, one must take into account the nature of each being
and of its mutual connection in an ordered system, which is precisely the cosmos."





























































9 Solicitude Rei Socialis #34.


The second consideration is based on the realization which is perhaps more urgent that
natural resources are limited; some are not, as it is said, renewable. Using them as if they
were inexhaustible, with absolute dominion, seriously endangers their availability not only
for the present generation but above all for generations to come.

The third consideration refers directly to the consequences of a certain type of
development on the quality of life in the industrialized zones. We all know that the direct
or indirect result of industrialization is, ever more frequently, the pollution of the
environment, with serious consequences for the health of the population.

.. A true concept of development cannot ignore the use of the elements of nature, the
renewability of resources and the consequences of haphazard industrialization three
considerations which alert our consciences to the moral dimension of development.9

The previous selection of papal statements can also serve as the complementary

background of my personal perspective on development that were taken into consideration when

analyzing the ethical foundation of the discussion about the expansion of the Panama Canal and

the rationality that is behind it.

Megaprojects: Definitions and Impacts

As I have stated in previous pages, this case addresses some dynamics related to the

implementation of a maritime transport megaproj ect. Megaproj ects can be considered as the

highest contemporary symbols of modernism, a rationality that perceives the use of technology

for the control and transformation of nature as the ultimate signal of progress. The magnitude of

megaproj ects has been imposing radical transformation of ecosystems, human settlements, and

economic dynamics with consequences that cannot be ignored nor underestimated. They also

imply the investment of enormous amount of capital and labor, and the creation of complex

organizational structures.

When thinking about development proj ects and megaproj ects, the most common images

that come to mind are those usually portrayed by planners, technocrats, and politicians. These










images, associated with emblematic gigantic infrastructures like dams, highways, bridges, ports,

mines, airports, industrial plants, etc., are presented as symbols of human domination over

nature, the power of public authority, expression of national pride, or as the keys for progress

that will put the national economy in the train of the buoyant global capitalist system (Flyvbj erg

et al 2003, Ribeiro 1987).

The application of the term megaproject became common since the late 1970's when it was

used simultaneously by the Canadian government and the Bechtel Corporation to describe,

respectively, huge energy development proj ects, and large portfolios of very large-scale proj ects

that were implemented at that time (Altshuler 2003). Some definitions refer to specific aspects of

those proj ects, such as their economic value, labor and organizational dimensions, and the

magnitude of their impacts. For example, the scholars Allan Altshuler and David Luberoff

suggested a monetary criterion that could be used to qualify a proj ect as a mega proj ect. Even

though they clarified that this was just an approximate value rather than a "hard-and fast

threshold", they set the standard of value of at least $250 million dollars, in inflation adjusted

year 2002 dollars (Altshuler 2003, p.2). But, in the wider sense, they also described mega

projects as "initiatives that are physical, very expensive, and public". The Federal Highway

Administration (FHWA) put a higher economic bar when defining megaproj ects as "maj or

infrastructure projects that cost more than $1 billion". However, this institution uses another

definition of megaproj ects, considering them "proj ects of a significant cost that attract a high

level of public attention or political interest because of substantial direct and indirect impacts on

the community, environment, and state budgets" (Capka 2004).

According to Paul Geller and Barbara Lynch, megaproj ects are proj ects that, intentionally,

transform landscapes rapidly and radically in very visible ways, and require coordinated










applications of capital, state power and sophisticated technology -generally imported from

industrial countries- (Gellert & Lynch 2003). For analytical purposes, Geller and Lynch divide

mega-proj ects into four types:

Infrastructure (i.e. ports, railroads, urban water, and sewer system)

Extraction (i.e. mineral, oil, gas)

Production (i.e. industrial tree plantation, export processing zones, and manufacturing
parks)

Consumption (i.e. massive tourist installations, malls, theme parks, and real state
development) .

Sometimes, a combination of such proj ects will constitute also a mega proj ect, for

example, when dam proj ects require roads and power lines (Gellert & Lynch 2003). Authors

like Bent Flyvbj erg (2003) consider infrastructural megaproj ects as the key elements in the

creation of a new world order, helping in the movement of people, goods, energy, information,

and money with unprecedented ease. Within the time-space compression logic of contemporary

global trends, infrastructure megaproj ects could be considered, as Flyvbj erg says, "the great

space shrinker". They are the ultimate piece of human ingenuity that promote a faster or more

efficient communication between centers of production or service and consumers, or between

different reciprocal markets. Railroads, airports, highways, ports, and artificial islands, are some

of the most outstanding and commons elements in this constellation of engineering feats.

However, the interplay of interests linked to the monumental magnitude of these kinds of

proj ects has moved their role from being a means for production and consumption to be an end

in themselves (Flyvbj erg et al 2003).

Primary and secondary effects of megaprojects

Despite the positive intentions that could be expressed in their design and planning, some

studies from the perspective of the social sciences have found that development proj ects and










megaproj ects are the cause of involuntary displacements as well as the impoverishment of a great

number of people (IRN 2003). In fact, through the years, the evaluation of the impacts of

megaproj ects, tends to be less than positive, not only because their financial, and environmental

costs, but also because of their predominant tendency to affect the most vulnerable people

(Flyvbjerg et al 2003, IRN 2003, Kanbur 2003, Oliver-Smith 1996, pp.78-79, Samset 2005, pp.1-

2, Schmink & Woods 1987, p.38, Scott 1998). For that reason, and the complexity of interests

behind their conception and implementation, the analysis of the consequences of megaproj ects as

a whole demands the consideration of the primary and secondary impacts of the stages of

definition, planning, construction and performance that are related to the degree of immediacy

and visibility of the impacts observed.

There is an opinion that displacement is the main primary or direct effect of megaproj ects

(Cernea 2003, Flyvbj erg et al 2003, p. 17, Gellert & Lynch 2003, p. 17, Oliver-Smith 2006).

Michael Cernea, for example, labels the displacement produced by development proj ects as a

"perverse and intrinsic contradiction in the context of development" (Cernea 2000, p. 11).

Displacement is understood as the physical movement, but not only of people "out of the way"

of the proj ect developed, but also the movement of workers into the areas of construction of the

proj ect. This last type of displacement occurs in a context of inequality, generally driven by

economic need with the quite frequent limited conditions and benefits for the laborers.

It can be said also that displacements are those circumstances that, even without physical

relocation, imply a transformation of the livelihood in communities dependent on local

resources, or when biodiversity is diminished by a mega proj ect, as when forests are clear cut

and planted with monocultures. In this regard, it is has been noticed that local ecosystems,

archeological sites, human settlements, and local ways of living could be severely affected or









altered by the amount of land cleared, flooded, leveled, or buried, and the remains that are

disposed by the construction of a megaproj ect (Gellert & Lynch 2003, p. 16). The quite often-

induced migration of huge numbers of laborers, and dwellers could have a wide variety of

impacts in their places of origin and destiny as was proved overwhelmingly with the construction

of the Panama Canal, a proj ect that changed totally the ethnic panorama of the Isthmus with the

import of a huge amount of labor coming from more than 95 countries (G61cher 1999,

McCullough 1977).

Secondary effects are socio-natural processes that take a variety of forms, and can occur at

some remote distance in time or space from the site of the proj ect. They are effects that are not

mediated by the direct control of decision makers (Penz 2003, p. 140). Among the socio-natural

secondary impacts of megaproj ects, there are landslides, floods, water saline decline, soil and

water salinization, aquifer disruption causing problems downstream, etc. (Gellert & Lynch 2003,

p.16). Secondary impacts are subj ect to greater uncertainty than the primary ones and,

therefore, are less difficult to control or predict (Flyvbj erg et al 2003, p. 19).

Development, megaprojects and political ecology

Despite their undeniable origin in relatively powerful instances, top down decisions

regarding megaproj ects have been questioned openly as soon as affected people organize actions

according to their awareness of their rights to -and power to demand- a fair treatment from

others, and when the threat of being displaced is perceived (Baviskar 1995, Little 1999, Little

2001, Locker 1998, Long 2000, Novoa 1998, Oliver-Smith 1996). Alternative political, social

and even religious institutions have given support to the increasing agency of groups

traditionally marginalized (Edelman 1999, Schmink & Woods 1992).

When analyzing and interpreting the outreach of the claims and struggles of stakeholders

affected by development proj ects and megaproj ects, some scholars have ascribed them with









connotations that sometimes go beyond the original motivations of complaint. For instance,

according to Joao Martinez-Alier, some of the social struggles by poor people can be considered

ecological struggles, independently of the name they officially assume. He claims that this

ecological intention can be either hidden or evident when the motive of the struggle is to defend

access to natural resources against the advance of the generalized market system (Martinez-Alier

1991, p.621). Maybe this characterization could be accepted as long as the concern or intention

about the preservation or sustainability -not its unilateral exploitation- of the natural endowment

is implicit or explicitly included within the framing of the struggle. However, this type of

categorization is not shared by Peet and Watts (1996, p.3 5) who argue that, in practical terms,

ascribing a pure environmental identity to these claims is not necessarily accurate because the

grassroots and NGO movements that are at the center of these conflicts are generally focused on

broader issues like livelihood conditions and justice. Additionally, even the struggle about the

control of natural resources could present the confrontation of different competing depredatory

models of relationship with the environment despite the rural or urban origin of the stakeholders

confronted.

The critique of the peasants of the expansion of the Panama Canal watershed has addressed

the rationality behind the national policy regarding the use of natural resources. At the same

time, it confronts other groups of power that want to control these resources. When talking about

confrontation of actors of different levels of power about the use or control of ecological settings,

we are entering the realm of political ecology.

Political ecology, as an area of inquiry of special attention in contemporary social science,

puts in evidence this sort of conflict of interests, considering the relationship of power and the

diversity of worldviews regarding nature held by different stakeholders. These conflicts expose









the interplay and tight relationship between power, management of landscapes, and socio-

political influence (Flyvbjerg et al 2003, p.17). They expose, as well, the contesting rationalities

behind the control of resources endangered by the logic of consumerism or overexploitation

inherent to the dynamics of capitalism.

According to Peet and Watts (1996), political ecology is one of the most important fields

of analytic production that relate environment and development. They trace the origin of the term

to the 1970's when it emerged as a response to the theoretical need to relate the use of land with

the local-global political economy and as a reaction to the growing politization of the

environment. At that time, Eric Wolf addressed the analysis of property as a tension between the

way households achieve a balanced use of the resources they depend on and the juridical rules

concerning the rights of property (Wolf 1972). From that original perspective, juridical patterns

were considered a tool in the struggle to maintain or restructure the economic, social, and

political relations of society. While acknowledging the use of the term political ecology in

academic publications in the late 1960's and 1970's, Tim Forsyth (2003) reminds us that the

possibility of integrating political analysis with environmental explanation was previously

theoretically considered. In fact, it was in the early 1960's when the first discussion of ecology as

a science with political content emerged. In that sense, ecology was considered not only the

study about the human impact on the biophysical environment, but also as a philosophical

perspective to observe holistically the interactions between people and the environment.

The Colombian historian German Palacio considers that, despite the fact that the struggles

for the control of natural resources are as old as the existence of human societies, the

categorization of such disputes as environmental is a more recent theoretical trend (Palacio 1998,

p.6). In his analysis of the structural causes of conflict over natural resources, Gabriel E. Paramo









argues that the conflicts in the society regarding the ecosystem are based on the way the

relationships of production and distribution are established and in the national model of

development (Paramo 1998, p.133).

For some scholars, political ecology unites the concerns of ecology with political economy

(Baviskar 1995, Peet & Watts 1996). This blend of fields integrates the focus on the variety of

relationships that human societies maintain with their environment, and the analysis of the power

relationships between stakeholders (Little 1999). Other aspects of interest are focused on the

complex socio-economic interactions that produce environmental destruction or deterioration

(Bryant & Bailey 1997), and the understanding of politics as an arena for the production of new

truths in which environmental concerns are understood to take a decisive role (Velez Galeano

1998, p.44). When evaluating the anthropological relevance of political ecology, Anthony

Oliver-Smith (2001) considers that this approach is specifically helpful for the outlining not only

of the promotion and defense of the claims and points of view of different stakeholders about

disputed resources and territories, but also of the way the competing discourses of cultural and

political legitimacy are displayed and reciprocally affected.

Most of the studies in political ecology are more oriented to the issue of social justice in

environmental disputes and struggles over resources in developing countries (Baviskar 1995,

Forsyth 2003, Little 1999, Muradian & Martinez-Alier 2001, Novoa 1998, Schmink & Woods

1992, Uribe H. 1998). These studies are focused on conflicts resulting from the implementation

of a variety of proj ects or by the direct exploitation of natural resources. As a general fashion, the

cases studied were located mainly in South America, Africa and Asia and addressed the effects

of development proj ects such as dams, roads, or exploitation of natural resources, which were










primarily conceived to promote national development but also with certain direct or indirect

articulation with the dynamics of economic globalization.

When recognizing that much of political ecology remains within the macro-structural

framework that privileges the decisive influence of broad economic forces in the shaping and

determination of local histories, cultures, and societies, Donald Moore (1996, p.126) points out

the importance of other factors that shape the struggle about natural resources in the called Third

World. He mentions, for instance, the micro-politics of peasant' s struggles over the access of

productive resources, and the symbolic contestations that constitute these struggles. In this

regard, an ineludible aspect in political ecology is the study of the social movements that have

been articulated around specific conflicts and how these movements define an ideological frame

of their struggles (Rothman & Oliver 2002).

Social Movements in the context of political ecology

According to Alain Touraine, social movements are "forms of social mobilizations which

involve a contest over cultural models which govern social practices and the way societies

function, a struggle over normative models of society" (Gledhill 2000, p.87). More specifically,

in the Latin American context, social movements are a form of resistance to domination,

exploitation and subj section or as collective protest against the excessive concentration of

decision-making power and the incapacity of the state to provide services (Bebbington 1996,

p.94). The variety of motivations that justify the actions of social movements makes it difficult to

locate them within one specific ideological framework. Differently from political parties, social

movements function not primarily through the insider channels of the political establishment, but

tend to mobilize precisely in opposition to some of the dynamics predominant within those

channels (Barnes 1995). Social movements imply the presence of a sense of collective purpose in

order to achieve political goals that require interaction with other political actors. These political










goals are expressed as claims for the recognition of their rights or the extension and exercise of

rights (Oliver-Smith 2006). They have the ability to develop a collective perception of reality

that encourages solidarity, shared identification, and alternative values contrasting with the ones

that seems to be socially dominant and, when addressing socio-economic issues, social

movements tend to resist state and market decision in their daily life; claiming their autonomy

and independence of state intervention (della Porta et al 2006, p. 18).

Considering the present global panorama in which distinct localities across national

borders are linked by social relations in such a way that local events are affected by and affect

events occurring in distant settings (della Porta et al 2006, p.3), contemporary social movements

tends to be also the reaction to the implementation of political or economic actions designed in

international scenarios that restrict, affect or threat specific rights at the local level. Conversely,

these movements tend to create explicit or implicit international bonds in order to gain support

for their causes (Rothman & Oliver 2002).

At the theoretical level, a predominant tendency in research on social movements paid a

special attention to the political environments that movements face. This approach was known

as political opportunity theory and became the predominant framework of analysis of social

movements (Goodwin & Jasper 2004). By the integration of inputs from the additional research

on social movements that gave a special importance to the assessment of the group's agency,

political opportunity theory evolved in what later was called the political process model. This

perspective includes concepts of mobilizing structures, political opportunity structure, and

cultural framing. Mobilizing structures allude to the informal networks, preexisting institutional

structures, and informal organizations that preexist and generally are the base that facilitates the

articulation of a movement (Morris 2004, p.235). Citing Sidney Tarrow, Allan Morris defines










political opportunity structures as the "consistent -but not necessarily formal or permanent-

dimensions of the political environment that provides incentives for people to undertake

collective action by affecting their expectation for success or failure" (2004, p.35). This political

environment includes the presence of favorable changes in the political system, the presence of

division among political elite, and the presence of external allies. Framing processes refer to the

"shared meanings and definitions that people bring to their situation." In this regard, I agree with

Morris when he mentions that cultural aspects such as ideas, belief systems, rituals, emotions,

oratory, and grievance interpretations are important elements that fuel social movements. Other

perspectives of analysis pay special attention to the leadership, formation and strategies of the

movements. However, as Anthony Oliver-Smith reminds, ethical discernment is required

precisely when the disclosure of internal aspects of these movements could compromise specific

individuals or could be used by antagonists of these groups in order to neutralize or disarm these

movements (Oliver-Smith 2006, p.143).

One particular perspective on the studies of social movements is focused on the reactions

against Development-induced displacement and resettlement (DIDR). In this regard, the maj ority

of studies have paid special attention to the resistance to dams. Geographically, these studies

paid special attention to processes in India, Southeast Asia, and Latin America (Oliver-Smith

2006).

Despite the general theoretical tendency to set unifying criteria to identify social

movements, and after observing certain dynamics and processes during my fieldwork, I agree

with the anthropologist John Glendhill when he advises that, when analyzing social movements,

we should avoid perceiving them as unitary actors lacking of internal contradictions and

contradictory tendencies, isolating them from the larger social, cultural, and political fields in









which they are immersed (Gledhill 2000). In fact, as Barry Barnes (1995, p.151) suggests, due to

the complexity and contradictory dynamics perceived within them, rather than thinking of these

movements as a unified or uniformed entity, they should be characterized by "loose connections

between a plurality of groups, individuals, and organization".

In Panama, the conflicts that relate political ecology, megaproj ects and social movements

against DIDR are not new. Other proj ects of great magnitude such as the Bayano Dam and the

Cerro Colorado Mining Proj ect set precedents as national infrastructural megaproj ects with

heavily criticized implications on people and the ecosystem. In the case of the Bayano Dam, the

process of implementation of the proj ect and the relocation of people were made during a period

of military dictatorship that prevented the articulation of a resistance movement. This context

and the intensive use of a discourse of national development, implemented a hydropower proj ect

that today is not as successful as predicted (Wali 1989).

The Cerro Colorado Mining Project exposed a case that, during the 1970's and early

1980's, caught the public attention in Panama when the fear of the consequences of the proj ect of

exploitation of copper by the Canadian Rio Tinto Zinc Company in the mountains of Chiriqui

generated a strong reaction by the indigenous people living in the area. The resulting pressure

ultimately caused the cancellation of a proj ect of exploitation of what was considered one the

biggest reserves of copper in the world (Gj ording 1991, pp.3-4). The case I am studying

introduces to the existing bibliography of political ecology a discussion of how the expansion of

global capitalism, and more specifically maritime transportation, could demand the control and

transformation of landscapes not obviously linked to the maritime activities and how these

demands are contested by local groups.









As the next chapters will show, this study reveals certain similarities with other cases of

resistance to development proj ects in aspects such as the positioning of actors of different levels

of power, the dispute over the control of specific natural resources, the influence of international

capital and local elite in the definition of specific discourses about development and social

benefits, the reaction it triggered from affected communities, the involvement of other

stakeholders and allies, etc. The particularities of this study include the facts that it exposes an

extreme case of explicit articulation of global and local dynamics in pursuing the implementation

of a national proj ect primarily oriented to satisfy the needs of international capitalism and,

contrary to other cases, this is not about a conflict around one megaproj ect among several in one

national context, but about a megaproj ect or "the" megaproj ect that defined the history and will

condition the destiny of a whole country: Panama. Additionally, and as was mentioned earlier,

the fact that the key factor that originated this study is a megaproject that symbolizes the global

process of capitalist articulation through the use of maritime services, introduces to the

anthropological discussion some aspects that can be considered by the scholars of maritime

anthropology.

Rationality and ethics of development megaprojects

The reality of megaproj ects is not exempt from ideological and ethical implications that

become evident when particular perceptions about their utility are promoted and even imposed

using economic or political power in detriment of other perceptions. There is no doubt that when

the rules of the market and profit making become the main points of references in the definition

of development plans, policies, and proj ects, some other aspects of human reality are affected.

Unfortunately, human suffering, marginalization, and overexploitation of natural resources are

not excluded from the consequences of megaproj ects. These are some of the reasons why my

concern about megaproj ects are similar to the critique that other anthropologists have done when









these initiatives are justified exclusively under the criteria of profit (Kanbur 2003, Schmink &

Woods 1987).

Gustavo Lins Ribeiro (1987) has made an interesting synthesis of some characteristics of

the rationality of megaproj ects. Generally, megaproj ects are presented as promoters of

development for all social classes and ethnical groups related to them. On his analysis about the

planning, promotion, and implementation of megaproj ects, Ribeiro points out that even though

megaproj ects create an outstanding offer of labor, the people coming from local communities,

closer to the sites of the proj ect are assigned in the lowest positions of the labor market.

Additionally, the numbers of jobs created represent a small proportion of the mammoth financial

investment for the proj ect.

Ribeiro presents, among others, these additional characteristics of megaprojects:

Megaprojects generally respond to preexistent economic needs, and to create new
economic platforms.

Maj or decisions are made by decision-makers whose rationality is based on the logic of
the articulation of national and international economic systems.

The global distribution of megaproj ects follows the trends of the international division of
labor -and in certain ways the logic of economic and politic dependence-.

Megaprojects are controversial because of their huge demand of capital and work, and
because they promote great changes. In fact, their dimensions guarantee that they will be
considered geo-political factors with relevance at the national, regional, and international
levels.

Megaproj ects are launched and promoted through planning, and according to scientific
evaluations of their viability. To make it possible, megaproj ects require a centralized
structure of management.

The maj ority of megaproj ects is managed by public corporations or has tight relationship
with government agencies. The bigger the proj ect, the bigger is the influence of the
corporation at government level. For that reason, the high ranked personnel of such
corporations has access to the higher national and international levels of government.

The logic of the grandiosity of megaproj ects promotes the idea that the dimension of the
proj ect is positive by itself because it produces a great number of jobs. The logic also









makes explicit that the megaproj ect will rescue the region or country from its
backwardness.

National history is the favorite source of events that are oriented to support the
implementation of the megaproj ect as something that has to be done. Nationalism
becomes a key element in that redemptory ideology.

The ideology of redemption appears quite often as a historical challenge that has to be
faced just building the mega proj ect.

Populism is another ideology that supports megaprojects. According to this perspective,
promoters of the megaproj ects tend to popularize the image of an egalitarian -though
temporary- society. In this society, the common objective, embodied in the mega project,
destroys all cultural differences and class divisions through their unification under the
banner of progress

Additionally, the issue of rationalities and ethics of megaproj ects has been addressed also

by Bent Fyvberg when defining a predominant behavior pattern of a series of megaproj ects he

has studied (Flyvbj erg et al 2003, p.6). He mentions, for example, what he calls the "megaproj ect

paradox" that consists of the irony of the increasing number of megaproj ects that are built

despite the poor performance record of the greatest part of them. His analysis puts in evidence a

missing point in the evaluation of the consequences of such proj ects when the power that

promotes them imposes a particular sort of rationality and knowledge that marginalizes other

types of knowledge (Flybj erg 2001, p. 142).

Additionally, there is the issue of the intentional or unintentional exclusion in the decision

making process in megaproj ects. In this regard, James Clingermayer argues that: "many

exclusionary impacts can be affected by the representation of interests in the decision making

process, the rules that guide the substance and process of decisions, the rhetoric behind a

proposal, and the reorgani~zation of the administrative, legislative and judicial structures that will

make decisions". He added that the exclusionary impacts bring about wealth redistributions,

generally from developers and low-income residents to middle and upper-income residents

(Clingermayer 2004). In a similar perspective, Anthony Oliver-Smith confirms that the logic of









megaproj ects justifies the criteria of the greatest good for the greatest number instead of

acknowledging the rights of the less numerous and less powerful (Oliver-Smith 1996, p.76).

The perspective of exclusion is also congruent with the metaphor of maps used by James

Scott (Scott 1998, p.87). According to this metaphor maps are simplified representations of a

specific reality that set guidelines and points of references helpful to orient the users according to

the frames of references selected by the designers. The designers of a map have the power to

influence the perception of the reality observed by the users. Paul Geller and Barbara Lynch

claim that megaproj ects are conceived, justified, and promoted according to specific rationalities

and ideological frameworks of references created in what they call epistemicc communities"

(Gellert & Lynch 2003, p.16).These authors define an epistemic community as "an elite group of

actors from state agencies, international lending and donor institutions, and the private sector

who undertake and shape megaproj ects". These communities have common cultural perceptions

and ideological assumptions generally related with criteria such as public good, progress,

rationality, and even could have a racial base. Epistemic communities tend to justify

megaproj ects and categorize their collateral displacements as externalities that must be either

ignored or addressed through remediation. These communities can hold a level of power that

they use either to promote their particular perception about a megaproj ect or to dismiss or deny

the legitimacy of alternative critical perceptions, and even getting rid of their opponents.

Moreover, according to the level of power they hold, epistemic communities can influence or

shape the general perception of reality (Flyvbj erg 1998).

From another point of reference -the holocaust- Zygmund Bauman (1989) has contributed

with an in depth analysis of the rationality and pattern of actions of specific groups of interests.

Following the rule of achieving their own objectives of promoting their worldviews, these elites









even get rid of their opponents (Bauman 1989, p.91). In fact, Bauman argues, as long as the

pursuing of their specific obj ective is considered their priority; these groups organize

institutional structures in such a way that their elements function apart from ethical references

(Bauman 1989, pp. 100-101).

Geller and Lynch point as well, that megaproj ects serve the material interest of powerful

actors in the process of capital accumulation, especially for financial institutions and

construction firms, as well as modernization and territorialization ambitions for states. These

interests are reflected in and reflect the ideologies of the communities of actors engaged in

proj ect development. Such ideologies inform an optimistic culture of decision making that favors

massive, rapid landscape change and exclude potentially affected populations from decision

making (Gellert & Lynch 2003, p.20). In fact, that exclusion could be masked by a teleological

discourse that justifies physical and social sacrifices -such as collateral social and physical

impacts- in order to reach development. From all these perceptions, obvious relationship can be

found with Gramsci's arguments about the control that elite exercise over particular sectors of

society such as culture, education, religion and the media in order to obtain consent for their

authority (Scott 1985, p.39).

Panama Canal Megaproject: Rationality and Texts

The rationality of megaproj ects has permeated the history of Panama because the existence

of this country as an independent political entity was based precisely on the construction of the

Panama Canal. In fact, in Panama, the predominant perception promoted by the national elite

among the population is that the Panama Canal is the defining reference of Panama' s reality.

This perception fits in what Foucault called a "regime of truth" that the political and economic

apparatuses of power diffuse in order to impose a particular perception of the economic reality

(Peet & Watts 1996, p. 13). For this purpose, the use of discourses and texts are crucial. As Peet









and Watts have synthesized, a discourse is an aspect of language use that express a particular

standpoint that is related to a certain set of institutions or worldviews. Discourse tend to focus on

a delimited range of obj ects, emphasizing some concepts while ignoring others (Peet & Watts

1996). At the same time, and according to the social and historical context in which it is used, a

discourse generally becomes the essential base of a text.

The anthropologist Mark Allen Peterson defines text as "any discourse fixed by some

mode of representation: writing, magnetic tape, photography, video, or any combination"

(Peterson 2003, p.60). In this regard, a text is understood as a linguistic, visual and/or auditory

phenomenon that is fixed, coherent, with a structure, topic and referential meaning. As a

phenomenon with coherence, a text can be transferred from one context to another, keeping its

distinctiveness despite the fact that its meaning could vary according to the cultural codes for its

interpretation. As a phenomenon aiming for social interaction, a text tries to transmit a message

from someone to another one. The addressor the one that creates the text- could be a person, an

institution, and even a device (Peterson 2003, p.78). Aspects such as hegemony of and resistance

to discourses are parts of the complex perception of mass media. Alluding to a Gramscian

perspective, James Scott argues that hegemonic elites, by virtue of the power they hold,

.. create and disseminate a universe of discourse and the concepts that go with it, by
defining the standards of what is true, beautiful, moral, fair and legitimate... and build a
symbolic climate that prevents subordinate classes for thinking their way free (Scott 1985,
p.39).

I consider that the combination of texts and discourses became the platform over which the

centralist image of the Panama Canal was built in Panama. In fact, besides the evident role of the

waterway in shaping the history, politics, and economy of the country, the persistent promotion

of the image of the Panama Canal through different means has established a text of national

identity that has permeated almost all aspects of the Panamanian self-perception.









Discourses and texts are the raw material that feeds the activity of the mass media, another

influential factor in the configuration of contemporary social processes. As it was pointed out by

Mark Allen Peterson (2003), mass media have introduced a technological transformation in the

natural process of human communication that basically is built around the interaction form

person to person, or from one person to a small number of listeners. The technological

component that is introduced in this process is aimed to reach a multiple number of people who

usually are not interconnected to one another. A wide array of factors such as books, television,

radios, newspapers, magazines, comic books, cartoons, telephones, billboards, videos, fi1ms, e-

mails, etc. is clustered in the general inventory of mass media. From the anthropological

perspective, Peterson raises the question of how these technologies mediate human

communication, and how this mediation is embedded in broader social and historical processes

(Peterson 2003, p.5). According to Eric Lown (2001), media became a central resource for

defining aspects such as social position and status, and for positioning people through discourse.

Generally, he argues, these discourses are used to legitimate or de-legitimate particular

perspectives or worldviews and the holders of such perspectives. This is the reason why those

seeking power tend to pursue the control of media, which serve as "agenda setters". In fact,

Lown says, even though the media not always succeed in telling people what to think, have an

impressive record in telling them what to think about (Louw 2001, p. 19). This reasoning, built

around the Gramscian concept of hegemony also implies that meaning making and meaning

circulation are basic instruments for those pretending to become and keep dominants.

Despite the fact that the role of mass media in the promotion and contestation of

megaproj ects can justify another area of inquiry, I just want to point out, as an example, the

relevance of the media for the promotion of specific symbols and images that link Panama's









identity as a nation to the Panama Canal. In Panama, the media and the educational system were

instruments at the service of transmitting, promoting and preserving specific texts and discourses

that presented the canal as the ubiquitous national icon par excellence. The image of the Panama

Canal was the persistent text inserted in documents and obj ects intimately linked to the daily life

of the Panamanian citizens (Figures 1-1 to 1-5). For example, Figure 1-1presents, the image of

one of the locks of the canal as the background of a license plate.

Figures 1-2 and 1-3 present the image of the Panama Canal in personal identification

documents such as the ID card issued by the Panamanian government in 1999 and in the national

passport. Additionally, figures 1-4 and 1-5 present how the image of the Panama Canal was used

for educational purposes in textbooks for courses as different as Social Sciences and

Mathematics. Besides these examples, the images of the Panama Canal have been used in

posters, post cards, restaurant tablecloths, key holders, advertisements, and TV spots. If the text

of the Panama Canal can be found in almost any place of the national panorama, from the

international perspective, it cannot be denied that the canal is the main reason why Panama is

known worldwide. The preeminence of the canal as the main Panamanian icon was satirized in

the title of a book written by the Panamanian Gregorio Selser: "Erase un Pais a un Canal

Pegado" (There was a Country Attached to a Canal) (Selser 1989), which implies ironically that

Panama, as a country, was like an appendix of the canal built in the middle of its very territory.

Panama Canal Megaproject: General Overview

The Panama Canal was built by the United States between 1904 and 1914 in order to

facilitate the mobility of ships between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. This feat of

engineering can be considered among the most impressive megaproj ects in the history

(McCullough 1977). The construction of this waterway established world historical precedents









in terms of cost, engineering design, public health practices, amount of human labor employed,

and magnitude of transformation of a tropical ecosystem, as well as its amount of casualties.

The construction of the Panama Canal was so transcendental in ecological, human,

economic and geopolitical terms, that its existence was crucial in justifying the efforts of making

Panama an independent nation by its separation from Colombia in November, 1903 (De la Rosa

1968, Diaz Espino 2001, McCullough 1977, Montiel Guevara 1999, Ricord 1975). The 80-

kilometer-long cut through the isthmus made it possible to reduce considerably the time and

distance required to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans (Figure 1-6).

When the canal was inaugurated in 1914, it was intended to respond the needs of

expansion of the international markets and military power that required adequate and updated

technology and infrastructures of transportation. A ship can save over 7,800 miles between New

York and San Francisco by passing through this inter-oceanic route, compared with the alternate

route around the southern tip of South America.

After almost one century under the control of the United States, the Panama Canal and its

neighboring territories were transferred to Panamanian jurisdiction on December 31st, 1999.

Since then, the Panama Canal became an even more important and reliable asset thanks to the

direct and indirect economic benefits it has been providing to Panama, a country that, during all

its history, has organized its economy mainly around the service activities related to the inter-

oceanic transit through the waterway.

Expansion of the Panama Canal: Global and Local Agents and the Maritime Factor

Since its construction, between 1904 and 1914, the Panama Canal deepened even more this

role by assimilating Panamanian geography into the dynamics of global trade. As soon as

Panama got control over the canal on December 31, 1999, the nation got engaged in a complex

network of global and local stakeholders interconnected by complementary and even









contradictory economic, political and cultural relations linked to the processes of production and

distribution of commodities. These stakeholders are part of a varied cast coming from the

international, national, regional and local levels that include retailer stores, international

maritime companies, US port authorities, Panamanian government institutions, rural

communities, peasants, independent professionals, and even religious representatives.

"Stakeholder" has been defined as "any individual or group who can affect -or is affected

by- the achievement of organizational objectives" (Freeman 1984). One way to determine the

relevance of a stakeholder could be according to the level of power and legitimacy they enj oy,

and the urgency of their claims. In this sense, power could be defined as the stakeholder' s ability

or potential ability to impose its will on others or its degree of influence in the output of a

decision. Legitimacy could be understood as the "perception or assumption that the actions of an

entity are desirable proper or appropriate within some socially constructed system of norms,

values, beliefs and definitions". Urgency is related to the importance and sensitivity of time of

the claims made by the stakeholder (Friedman & Mason 2004, pp.23 8). These criteria will be

part of the analysis that will be done regarding the different stakeholders involved in the proj ect

of expansion of the Panama Canal that will be presented in the next chapters.

As we have seen through this chapter, the discussion about development includes, among

other things, the analysis of the economic interaction of global and local contexts as well as other

aspects that, despite being related to economic dynamics, go beyond them. Megaproj ects have an

important role in this interaction and are subj ect to closer analysis due to the magnitude of their

effects and the complex interplay of interests, objectives, benefits and risks they involve.

Megaproj ects also are critical scenarios that trigger conflicts regarding the use and control of

natural resources and expose the interplay of a variety of agents and dynamics of power.










One particular element of this study is the consideration of the maritime factor as the

feature that triggered a series of dynamics that have affected the cultural, economic, social and

political configuration of Panama. Departing from the traditional studies of maritime

anthropology focused on the social and cultural dynamics of coastal villages or the activities of

fishermen, this case introduces into the scope of anthropological interest the impact and

influence of global trends in maritime trade and shipping activities not only on the lives, values,

and actions of human societies that depended on them, but also in social groups that are not

related to them. The Panama Canal embodies the ultimate example of the powerful connotations

of a megaproj ect linked to the global maritime dynamics. Its construction determined the destiny

of the geography of Panama and its population. As long as national and international economic

and political elites have identified the relevance of Panama to the existence and good

performance of the waterway, local text and discourses were created and promoted in order to

reinforce in this country a social and economic base dependent on the transit activities of the

Panama Canal. Historical and geographical conditions have had also an important influence in

the configuration of the current dependence of Panama on the transit activities as we are going to

see in the next chapter.


Figure 1-1. License plate: Panama, 1999.





Figure 1-2. Identification


REFUBIJCA DE PANAMA I


Card: Panama 1999


I
,, .... .~., ,.,,..,.?,, .,~...1
~ ~ ~ ~. ... ~ ..... .--; .~-; I~ ~~. ,.. I~


Figure 1-3. National Passport: Panama, 2005.


Figure 1-4. Cover of a 5th grade language textbook. Panama, 2007



























Figure 1-5. Cover of a 10th grade textbook. Panama, 2007.


Figure 1-6. Geo-strategic inter-oceanic location of Panama and the Panama Canal










CHAPTER 2
TRANSIT IN PANAMANIAN LANDSCAPES IN GLOBAL AND LOCAL PERSPECTIVE

The present day role of Panama as route that allows transit from the Atlantic to the Pacific

Ocean, and from North to South America, is the outcome of a birthmark rooted in a complex

series of economic, social and ecological dynamics that have defined the history of this country

through centuries, and even millennia. In fact, the Isthmus of Panama a strip of land and water

of about 75,5 17 km2 -almost the size of the state of South Carolina- that owes its existence to

colossal geological processes that more than three million years ago finally closed a sea passage

between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans (Eldredge 1998). The closure of this passage created,

as well, a natural land bridge that connected the two biggest extremes of the Americas and

produced a dynamic of transit along the isthmus with transcendental effects in the ecological and

biological evolutions not only in the Americas but in the rest of the world.

Transit through Panama made possible the spreading of biological species from North to

South America, and vice versa (Coates 1996, Cooke et al 1986, Svitil 1996).1 The emersion of

the Isthmus of Panama also triggered the extinction of many land species as invaders from North

and South America expanded their range of influence to places where they were not native and

became predators of some host species (Eldredge 1998, p. 178).

However, as soon as Panama became a land bridge, it also became a sea barrier with

tremendous consequences. When dividing the oceans, the Isthmus of Panama on one side,

transformed the Caribbean into a closed sea, with few tidal movements and low levels of

nutrients, making the water saltier, warmer, and adequate for the development of coral reefs. On

SSee Burkart, Marchetti and Morello in "Grandes Ecosistemas de M~xico y Centroam~rica"; Gallopin, G.C. (ed).
There are evidences of the presence of four meters-high birds, a species of giant armadillo, a giant sloth, and other
animals that migrated through Panama from South America to Texas and Florida and other areas of North America.
Currently, only three of the migrating species from the South have survived up to present times: hedgehogs,
armadillos, and opossums. From North to South America, Panama was the bridge for the migration of felines, deer,
tapirs, and some extinct species of horses, mastodons, and elephants









the other side, the Pacific Ocean became colder, less saline, with more nutrients and less coral

reefs and speciation. Separate evolution of marine creatures in both oceans was triggered from

their resulting isolation (Collins 1996, Eldredge 1998, p.178).

There is a hypothesis that attributes other far reaching impacts to the emersion of the

Isthmus of Panama; for example, the formation of the Gulf Stream. According to Steven Stanley

paleobiologist at Johns Hopkins, this stream is the result of a change in the course of the flow of

the Equatorial stream that, prior to the existence of the Isthmus in the Tertiary time, moved freely

from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans (Stanley 1987). When Panama emerged, it became an

obstacle to the Equatorial stream, which was turned back to the North, forming the Gulf Stream.

One of the consequences of this change was the beginning of the Ice Age, a phenomenon that

resulted when the waters of the Gulf Stream began to provide more moisture to the northern

regions and promoted an increase of snowfall in the Northern hemisphere, which originated the

building up of ice caps. The Gulf Stream, as well, moves warm water from the tropics to the

Artic regions and literally prevents the freezing of the European coasts during winters (Coates

1996; Svitil 1996).

Another hypothesis attributes additional far-reaching and momentous global impacts to the

existence of the Isthmus of Panama such as, for example, the triggering of the evolution of

hominids in Africa.2 In fact, according to Steve Stanley, the blockage of the currents of water

moving from the Atlantic to the Pacific that initiated the Gulf Stream, influenced the warming of

the Atlantic Basin and, collaterally, of the African landscape. The obstruction of the streams of

warm water coming from Africa produced a drier environment near the Equatorial Africa,

promoting the change of forest covering of the area into savannahs and, influencing the evolution


SCf. Castro, Guillermo Ganados y Galeones p. 7.









of Australopithecus, who probably were compelled to abandon arboreal activity that kept them in

evolutionary stability for more than 1.5 million years (Stanley 1995).3

Its condition as a natural land passage, added to its location in the tropical region of the

Americas, has given Panama rich biological assets. In terms of its biological endowment, it is

known that Panama nowadays hosts about 10,000 species of plants, 1500 of them endemic

(Correa 1996). Moreover, according to the total number of species located in its territory,

Panama ranks #19 in the world. It is estimated that Panama hosts 225 species of mammals, 214

species of reptiles, 143 amphibians, 929 birds, and 1500 species of butterflies (CEP 1996,

Hughes 2002). Considering the ratio of species and territory of this country, Panama has a

density of species 41 times higher than China, 21 times higher than Brazil, and 4 times higher

than Colombia (Correa 1996). Only in Barro Colorado, the top of a mountain that, after the

formation of Gatun Lake needed for the functioning of the Panama Canal, became a 15 km2

island, it is estimated that there are more varieties of plants than in all Europe and more tree

species than in all North America above Mexico (King 1996, Royte 2001, p. 10).

Running through the Panamanian territory, there is a cordillera dividing the country in two

basins, the Atlantic and the Pacific, with rivers and streams that irrigate the areas and also made

possible the migration of fresh water fish from South to Central America (Bermingham et al

1996). These rivers functioned as providers of food, as well as important means of

transportation for the people who originally settled in the Isthmus.

Near the center of the Isthmus of' Panama, in its narrowest area, the height of the

mountains decreases to the lowest levels of the range. This factor, and the existence of the

Chagres River in the same region, made possible the use of this region as an area of easy transit


3 Cf. http://www~jhu.edu/gazette/ctdec95/nov 13 95/13iceage.html. Last accessed: July 20, 2007.









between the Pacific and the Atlantic; and crucial for the construction of the Panama Canal at the

beginning of the 20th century (Castro 2003).

International Trade and Panamanian History

The human presence in Panama, dating from eleven thousand years ago, was marked by

the movement of human groups that migrated from the Northern to the Southern hemisphere of

the Americas (Jaen Suarez 1981). The evidence of Panama as an area of human traffic and the

consequent trade between North and South America since pre-Columbian times is supported by

findings of South American products and crafts as well as Toltec and Olmec ceramics in

indigenous tombs in Panama (Disselhoff 1953). There are also reports of jewelry of Panamanian

origin found in Yucatan, in the central part of Mexico, and in the temple of Chichen Itza (Arauz

& Pizzurno 1991).

Besides other important impacts produced by the existence of Panama, a conjunction of

economic, political and social factors was added to the geography and ecology of the isthmus

making Panama, since the 16th century, the privileged passage for products and people between

Europe and the Americas, and, since the second half of the 19th century, the location of transport

megaproj ects without precedent in the Americas, such as the Panama Railroad and, principally,

the Panama Canal. These megaprojects caused important ecological, political, social and

economic transformations in Panama thanks to the introduction of increasingly sophisticated

transport and construction technology, numerous migrant laborers, and the establishment of

colonial political regimes that were imposed by Spain and the United States (Castro 2003a,

Lindsay-Poland 2003, Mack 1944, McCullough 1977, Ribeiro 1987). These conditions

practically reduced the function of the ecological endowment of Panama to the level of transit

activities. According to this logic, lands, forests, rivers, and human labor were used as resources

and instruments at the service of international transit, and, collaterally, most of the activities of









the rest of the Panamanian territory were oriented to the needs of the transit area of Panama

(Conniff 2001, Jaen Suarez 1981).4

Transit in Panama during Colonial Time

The insertion of Panama into the dynamics of international commerce goes as far back as

the XVI and XVII Centuries with the Spanish conquest and colonization of the Isthmus (1501-

1530). From the Isthmus of Panama were launched the Spanish expeditions that conquered part

of Central America and of Per-u and its surrounding areas. After the conquest of Peru, Panama

became the preferred passage for the exchanges of products and people between the Spanish

empire and its colonies in the New World (Arauz & Pizzurno 1991, Castillero Reyes 2003,

Conte-Porras 1999, Garcia 2000, Jaen Suarez 1978, Mack 1944, Ward 1993). Between the XVI

and XIX centuries, when the means of transportation were as rudimentary as the mule, slave

bearers, carriages, and carracks,5 the main transformation of the Panamanian landscape took

place along the valley of the Chagres River. For this purpose, a 50 mile- mule track, known as

Camino Real, was built between Panama City, in the Pacific, and Nombre de Dios and

Portobello in the Atlantic. Later, from the Pacific side, another track called Camino de Cruces,

was build for the movement of people coming from, or going to, the Atlantic via the Chagres

River (Castillero Reyes 2003, Castro 2003a). This became the historical transit area of Panama

(Figure 2-1). Some parts of the tropical forest in this area were cut in order to build the roads

used for the transportation. It took four days to move silver, gold, commodities, and people from

one terminal site of Panama to the other; an exchange that boosted the transit route across

Panama during almost two centuries (Castillero Reyes 1999, Jaen Suarez 1981, Mack 1944). The


4 For example, the traditional ranching activities in the interior of Panama were oriented to satisfy the demands of
the people living in and moving through the transit area.
5 A carrack is a beamy sailing ship common in the 15t and 16t centuries.









activities along the transit area, attracted people from the rest of the country, produced the

depopulation of other areas of Panama, and, paradoxically but consequently, promoted the

restoration of the forest covering in places like Darien and the Atlantic coast, which had been

deforested during pre-Columbian times (Jaen Suarez 1981).

The magnitude of the commercial traffic through Panama was enormous in terms of the

global economy at that time. Christopher Ward (1993) points out that the flow of silver coming

from the Americas to Europe tripled the amount of silver in circulation in the world, and 60

percent of that silver was transported by way of Portobelo. In this town, were held the Portobelo

Fairs, which consisted of an annual exchange event where merchants coming from Europe and

South America met for a few weeks to conduct a season of trade. These fairs, which were held

between 1597 and 1739, were considered at that time, the biggest commercial fairs in the world

(Castillero Reyes 2003, Vilar Vilar 1982, Ward 1993).

Once the so- called New World began to play a more relevant role in the Atlantic trade,

Europe's markets began to be more dependent on the success or failure of the trade in Panama

and the timely arrival of the fleets coming from this area with their supplies of gold and silver.

From what can be called today a global impact, the economic activity in the Mediterranean,

Austria, and Turkey was affected by the availability of Spanish silver that was mainly collected

through Panama. This also provided the foundation for national economies -especially in

Holland- and, as Christopher Ward says, the silver extracted from the Americas provided the

bullion needed to balance the exchanges between Europe and Asia, via the Baltic and

Constantinople (Ward 1993). In any case, the traffic of imperial commerce became the

backbone of the Panamanian economy, which, ever since, oscillated from periods of growth,

stability, and decline, according to the dynamics of that international movement.









Modernity and Transport Megaprojects in Panama

The role that the colonial system assigned to Panama as an area of transit was deepened

thanks to the global revolution in the transportation systems that took place in Europe and the

USA in the first half of the nineteenth century (Conniff 2001). A brief look at the historical

context can serve to locate them within the network of a global panorama.

The modernist perspective of progress as the transformation and domination of nature

through the use of technology and human ingenuity (Scott 1998, pp.89-90) was put in practice in

Panama, between 1880 and 1914 with the building of important transport megaproj ects that

responded to global dynamics. In fact, the last 180 years of economic globalization -especially

between 1870 and 1913- has been marked, among other facts, by the development of new

technology, especially in the area of transport and communication facilities, such as the

invention of the railway, the steamship, and the telegraph. These technological developments set

the stage for the construction of important maritime transport megaprojects, such as the Suez and

the Panama Canals, which required huge financial investment, sophisticated organization,

massive use of human labor, and radical transformation of the ecosystems (Castillo 1999, Gellert

& Lynch 2003, Montiel Guevara 1999:19, Ocampo & Martin 2003).

Panama railroad

By the middle of the 19th century, the development of a new transportation technology

coincided with a socio-economic event that again put Panama as the pathway for international

flow of people and commodities. The discovery of gold in Sutter's Mill, in January 1848, which

occurred shortly after the US annexation of the Mexican territories, triggered a massive flow of

people and goods form the East Coast of the US to California (Avila 1998, Castillero Reyes

1999, Rawls & Orsi 1999, Sherman Snapp 1999). The need of the United States to control a

faster route to connect the rest of the country to the California mines, hurried the construction of









the Panama Railroad, which was the first inter-oceanic railroad in the Americas (Mack 1944).

Private interests, who were envisioning the potential of a growing trade between New York and

the West Coast, managed to get a concession from the Colombian government to build that

railroad through the Isthmus. The concession, given to the New York-established Panama

Railroad Company, granted exclusive rights -during 45 years- to built and operate a railroad,

highway, or canal across Panama, along with complementary steamboat service if desired

(Lindsay-Poland 2003).

The Trans-Isthmian Railroad performed a valuable role in the expansion of the US

economy, reducing the time of traveling between coasts and thus promoting the expansion of

human settlements in the west. In fact, thanks to the railroad, the transit from New York to San

Francisco through Panama generally took 21 days, four days less than traveling from Saint Louis

to California (Mack 1944). When its forty-seven and a half mile long track was completed, the

railroad allowed passengers to cross the Isthmus of Panama in three hours instead of the three to

four days required by mule and boat (Bethel 1999) .

The activities of construction of the railroad, which lasted between 1850 and 1880, gave an

economic boost to the transit region, whose landscape was altered in order to serve the transit

activities. One outstanding example is the transformation of Manzanillo Island in the Atlantic

coast -an originally inhospitable mangrove island- into a peninsula that became the setting for

the present Colon City, a place deliberately created in order to serve as the Atlantic terminal of

the railroad. Additionally, several banana plantations were established along the route (Jaen

Suarez 1981, Mack 1944). Despite this ecological and agricultural transformation of the

landscape, tropical forest prevailed in the greatest part of the transit region. However, near









Panama City, the area kept affected by the slash and burn practices that were common since pre

colonial times.

The construction of the railroad had paradoxical consequences in the Panamanian

employment market. It attracted workers that had been working previously as canoe operators, as

well as in hotels, restaurants, saloons, brothels, and shops at the service of the American travelers

that already had been going to California through Panama using the river and land transportation

system similar to the ones used during the colonial times (Mack 1944). Additionally, the railroad

proj ect required the immigration of labor from places as diverse as China, Ireland, Jamaica, and

Cartagena (Lindsay-Poland 2003, Mack 1944).

The presence of foreigners in the work of construction of the Trans-Isthmian Railroad

transcended the work on the proj ect itself and, quite soon, some of these immigrants were

integrated into the Panamanian population with some collateral complications. For example, with

the quantity of foreign workers that were imported, the local population of the transit zone of

Panama was soon practically outnumbered. This fact caused some distress within the

Panamanian white elite that feared that the permanent immigration of nonwhite or nonwestern

people would weaken the cohesiveness of the native population (Conniff 2001). Additionally,

with the import of workers there was a rise of epidemics of yellow fever, a disease that

previously was practically non-existent in Panama.

In terms of human costs, the number of people who died during the construction of the

railroad or were relocated or affected by this proj ect is unknown. The Railroad Company kept

mortality statistics of the Caucasians, but not of the dark skinned workers. According to these

records, 293 white employees died from different causes during the five years of construction

(Mack 1944). Other immigrants, like an impressive number of Chinese workers, could not cope









with the harsh labor conditions and committed suicide in massive numbers (Lindsay-Poland

2003). Some scholars estimate that the number of people who died during the years of the

construction of the railroad was at least six thousand (Conniff 2001)

Besides these aspects, the Panama Railroad was, at that time, one of the most expensive

infrastructure proj ects, and the first transcontinental railroad in the world, as well as the largest

US investment in Latin America costing $8 million dollars (McCullough 1977). It was estimated

that, between 1848 and 1869, about 600,000 passengers traveled through Panama, and the

amount of coined gold mined in California that was moved across this route was worth $710

million (Bethel 1999, Conniff 2001).

Because almost all of the lucrative businesses profiting from the service of the railroad

were taken by foreigners, Panamanians did not receive the greatest benefits of this trans-isthmian

proj ect, with the exception of the local elite of investors in real state and the railroad workers.

As this proj ect provided a complete transportation service between the terminal cities of Colon

and Panama, Panamanian muleteers, boatmen, and carriers in demand for the previous inter-

oceanic transport service became obsolete and unable to make a living in an economy where the

revenues were concentrated in foreign hands (Conniff 2001, p.30). The coast-to-coast

transportation eliminated, as well, businesses in intermediate towns that had been surviving

thanks to the previous and less sophisticated transportation by carriages and boats service from

the colonial times. This forced many of their habitants to move to the terminal cities where the

economy was exploding. However, as the railroad was reaching its completion, fewer and fewer

workers were needed there, and the Panamanian economy felt the loss. In fact, instead of

construction crews, the railroad demanded smaller gangs for improvement proj ects needed until

1859. Thousands of black workers, who were employed during the construction years, were left









unemployed, and Panama lost up to $150,000 in monthly income that previously were received

from those who paid for non rail transportation of passengers, freight and merchandise (Conniff

2001).

When the railroad was activated, there were claims that the railroad brought a false

prosperity because the goods and people flowed through and left few material improvements in

the Isthmus (Conniff 2001, p.36). Due to the dependency of the Panamanian economy on the

transit activities, the vulnerabilities of the services provided by the railroad company affected the

economy of the country, which, from 1850, continued to suffer from a series of booms and busts,

according to the vagaries of the railroad traffic, international business cycles, and the appearance

of competitive routes, repeating a pattern observed during the colonial times.

The decline of the Panama Railroad began when the transcontinental railroad across the

United States was completed in 1869. Because of the lack of adaptation of the Panama Railroad

administration to the new situation, the Panamanian route lost half of its passenger service to

California. By 1870, a consortium of US railroads, after suffering a contraction of the market at

home, paid the Panama Railroad an annual fee to limit its services across the Isthmus. A few

years later, the Panama Railroad would start to decline.

French canal

The idea to build a canal through Panama was considered as far back as the 16th and 17th

centuries, when Panama was under the jurisdiction of the Spanish crown. By the second half of

the 19th century, French engineers and businessmen were the first to make a real attempt to build

a canal through Panama. It was the time when the development of engineering techniques had

been proved proficient enough to build the most outstanding megaproj ects of the time such as the

Suez Canal and the transcontinental railroad across the United States; both completed in 1869










(Castillero Reyes 1999). This coincided also with the end of the US Civil War of 1861-1865 and

the consolidation of the US as nation and its emergence as a military and economic power.

The new context was propitious to renew interest in the improvement of maritime

transportation between the East and West coasts, an interest cherished by president Ulysses

Grant who envisioned the building of a canal in Central America (Conniff 2001, p.42).

Simultaneously, a group of French investors, led by Ferdinand de Lesseps, who directed the

construction of the Suez Canal, implemented an aggressive plan for building a similar canal in

Panama.

It is considered that, in different aspects, the French proj ect, which began in 1881, had a

greater impact in Panama than the railroad. For example, an important demographic feature was

introduced locally with the immigration of people coming from the Antilles, the greatest part of

them from Jamaica. It is estimated that, from that country alone, came more than 40,000 workers

during the years of the construction (Jaen Suarez 1981). This factor contributed enormously to

the shaping of the ethnic mosaic of contemporary Panama where descendants of those

immigrants are established in the cities of Panama and Colon. Additionally, it is considered that

the construction of the French canal created more economic and social distortions than the ones

produced during the construction of the railroad in terms of inflation, real-state speculation, food

shortages and social unrest (Conniff 2001, p. 49). The death toll was higher too. It is estimated

that more than twenty thousand people died during the years of construction of the French Canal.

Part of the forest between Panama and Col6n was cleared again and more than 50 million cubic

meters of earth and rock were removed from the path of the canal (McCullough 1977).

Due to administrative and financial problems, the French proj ect was aborted by 1889.

Soon the rights to build a canal were bought by the United States, which, through a series of










political and diplomatic maneuvers, received the consent of the Colombian authorities ruling

Panama at the time, to continue the excavations.

Panama Canal

There is an extensive literature with abundant information about the Panama Canal and the

way the United States assumed the control of the transit area of Panama to build the waterway

(Beluche 2003, Buendia 2004, Castillero Reyes 1998, Castillero Reyes 1999, Conniff 2001,

Conte-Porras 1999, Diaz Espino 2001, Diez Castillo 1990, Eriksen 2000, Mack 1944, Mastellari

Navarro 2003, McCullough 1977, Selser 1989).

Because of its geographical and political nature, the building of the Panama Canal can be

considered an important and conflictive early chapter in the geography of globalization,

especially in terms of the space-time compression considered fundamental to the process. David

Harvey (2001) argues that the capitalist mode of production creates cheap and rapid forms of

communication and transportation in order to promote the reduction of the costs of production

and circulation of the products delivered to distant markets. The effect of these investments is the

acceleration of the velocity of circulation of capital, and consequently, of the accumulation

process. During the middle of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, the creation of

infrastructures like the Panama Canal, the Suez Canal, the Panama Railroad, and other types of

transport infrastructure, were justified under this logic, as they made faster communication with

distant markets, and a higher rate of return on its commercial investments possible to the United

States. This commercial interest was reinforced with the growing status of the United States

which, between the 1890's and the end of the World War I, rose from regional to global

commercial and military power thanks to the development of its industrial potential.

In fact, the need of the United States to find new markets in Latin America and the Pacific

in order to deliver the production surplus resulting from the depressions of 1873-78 and 1882-85,










was one justification for the interest in controlling the Panamanian transit route (Lindsay-Poland

2003). Another justification came after the Spanish-American War of 1898 made clear the need

to establish a strategic route that would allow the rapid deployment of US maritime forces

between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. The construction of a canal through Panama would

serve handsomely for this purpose (Keller 1983, Lindsay-Poland 2003, Mendez D' Avila 1984,

Ribeiro 1987).6 All these considerations reflected the maritime strategic domain theory that was

proposed by the influential historian and strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan who argued that the

control of the sea determined the international struggles for power (Lindsay-Poland 2003,

McCullough 1977, pp.250-251).

To build the 51 mile long Panama Canal, the US government managed, in 1904, to take

political control of a 10 mile-wide path of land in the middle of Panamanian territory. This was

made possible with a political move that included US support for the independence of Panama

from Colombia, and imposing on the newly born republic of a controversial treaty that granted

the US a status of semi sovereignty in perpetuity on the transit area of Panama (Castillero Reyes

1999, McCullough 1977, p.250).

Ecological, Socio-cultural and Economic Impacts of the Construction and Functioning of
the Panama Canal

It is undeniable that the construction of the Panama Canal was possible, on one hand,

thanks to a paradoxical combination of hostile and favorable environmental and geological

conditions, and, on the other, the implementation of human engineering and organizational

ingenuity.7 For instance, the complex topography of the watershed of the Chagres River, and the


6 Going from the east to the west coast of the United States through Panama represents a journey of just 8,000 miles
in comparison with the 21,000 miles that would take going down South America.

SThese factors include the narrowness of Panamanian territory, the low elevation of its mountain range at the
narrowest part of the country, a predominant mercantilist ideology among the Panamanian elite, and its perception
that the destiny of Panama was to serve as a point of transit.









high precipitation regime of Panama' s nine-month-long rainy season were useful, respectively,

to create the main path of the Canal and to guarantee the water supply for its functioning (Castro

2003a, Eldredge 1998, p.179). On the other side, the construction of the Panama Canal became a

reality, as well, thanks to the alignment of the geopolitical and economic interest of the United

States, and the economic interests of the local Panamanian elite.

However, it is well known that all the planning and construction process of the Panama

Canal by the United States was made without concern for the political, economic, human, and

environmental reality of the transit area, as well as of the rest of Panama. For this reason, despite

its impressive display of state of the art technology and well articulated management, the

Panama Canal produced a trauma and radical transformation in the geographical, political, and

cultural landscapes of Panama with lasting consequences (Eldredge 1998, Jaen Suarez 1986,

p.13).

The impacts of the construction of the Panama Canal surpassed, by far, all the previous

infrastructural initiatives for inter-oceanic communication. In fact, by being built between 1904

and 1914, the Panama Canal can be considered the first mega proj ect of the 20th century, and

became, at that time, the most expensive infrastructure proj ect in the world in terms of monetary,

ecological and human costs. About 352 million dollars (6.5 billion in 2005 money) were spent in

this work, more than four times the cost of the Suez Canal in Egypt, and exceeded by far

anything built or bought by the government of the United States (Frazier 2005). In fact, its cost

was five times higher than another even remotely comparable US federal expenditure: the 75

million dollars that was the total amount paid for the acquisition of Louisiana, Florida,

California, New Mexico, Alaska and the Philippines (Curry 2003, McCullough 1977, p.400).










The resulting transformation of the Panamanian landscape was, according to John Lindsay-

Poland, the largest single human alteration of a tropical environment in history (Lindsay-Poland

2003). This alteration included the removal of 219 million cubic meters of land; the clearing of

about 164 square miles of jungle,s and the disappearance or forced relocation of 20 communities,

aspects that could be seriously questioned according to the current standards of environmental

impacts of development proj ects. This megaproj ect also required the creation of Gatun Lake that,

with its 423 square kilometers, is as big as the island of Barbados. For that purpose, Gatun Dam,

the biggest one of the world at that time, was built (Eldredge 1998, McCullough 1977).

Additionally, on the Pacific coast, some islands were connected to the mainland with the soil

extracted from the excavations, and, on the Atlantic coast, huge wave breakers were built to

protect the city of Colon from the heavy waves of the Caribbean Sea.9

Considering the human factor, the construction period of the Panama Canal, attracted to

Panama the third massive wave of foreign workers in less than a century, after the construction

of the Panama Railroad and the French Canal. Between 1904 and 1914, more than 75,000 West

Indians migrated to Panama, especially from the Lesser Antilles, Barbados, Trinidad and

Tobago, Saint Thomas, Martinique, and Guadalupe (McCullough 1977, p.476).10 More than

15,000 Europeans and almost the same number of US citizens also moved to Panama during the

construction years. Some other workers came from Colombia, El Salvador, and the interior of




SThis is equivalent to more than a half of the area of New York City and a little more than the total area of the US
Virgin Islands.
9 COlon City was, as well, the result of a similar transformation but at a lower scale for the construction of the
Panama Railroad. Originally an inhospitable mangrove island, Col6n was transformed into a peninsula in order to
function as the Atlantic Terminal of the Panama Railroad.

"' According to David McCullough, about 10 percent of the population of Barbados, and 40 percent of the adult
males of that island were recruited to work in the construction of the waterway.









Panama (Castillero Reyes 1999, Conte-Porras 1999, Jaen Suarez 1986, Mack 1944, McCullough

1977).

The human and racially-biased-cost of the proj ect becomes evident when looking at the toll

of 5,609 people who died during the ten years of the excavations from diseases and accidents

under the US administration; of these, at least 4,500 were black employees (McCullough 1977).

If the number of deaths during the French period is included, the toll would be raised as high as

30,000 casualties. This reference has given the Panama Canal -besides with the Baltic Sea-White

Sea Canal- the somber first place in the list of the deadliest engineering proj ects of the 20th

century (ENR 2003a).

As deadly as its construction was, the existence of the canal had other effects. For example,

since its completion in 1914, the canal has become into an artificial East- West barrier for the

dissemination of tropical illness such as malaria and yellow fever, thanks to the health policies

applied in the Canal Zone, and quarantine control applied to the ships passing throughout the

waterway (Jaen Suarez 1990, McCullough 1977). The knowledge accumulated in the detection

and control of vectors of tropical illness had a resounding impact in world health policies.

Additionally, the construction and functioning of the waterway generated positive outcomes for

the benefit of the US economy and the Panamanian economic elite.

In fact, the activities during the construction of this megaproj ect became an important

incentive for factories and providers in the US. More than fifty factories, mills, foundries, and

machine shops in Pittsburg were the providers of equipment and tools for this project (Frazier

2005, McCullough 1977, p.598). Additionally, the Panama Canal megaproject became an

experimental field that tested technology and logistics that later were applied in future

hydrological proj ects like the Hoover Dam in 193 5 and the more than 400 big dams that were









built throughout the western United States (Castro 2003b, Tarte 2001, Worster 2001, Zarate

2003).

As soon as it was inaugurated, the Panama Canal became an important asset that benefited

the increasing trade between the two coasts of the continental US territory, subsidized its

national maritime trade, and helped to consolidate its military power (Selser 1989, p.37). Since

its inauguration in 1914, the canal has been the transit route of some 900,000 ships, roughly

13,000 to 14,000 a year, which represents 4% of the world maritime traffic. Passing through the

80 km (51 mile) Panama Canal, the ships moving between the two coasts of the United States

save 8,000 miles and more than 20 days of travel time in comparison to the alternative route of

Cape Horn (Maddox 1993).

For a period of 36 years, from 1915 to 1951, vessels belonging to the US government paid

no tariff for passing through the Canal. After 195 1, these costs were debited to the US Federal

government. The tariff for international vessels that was established in 1915 was $0.90 per ton

for loaded ships, and $0.50 for war ships. It was not until 1974, 59 years after the inauguration of

the Canal, that the US government announced the first increase in the tariff that ships had to pay

for passing through the Canal (Acosta 1995). According to the economist Xabier Gorostiaga

(1984), between 1914 and 1970, US commerce saved about US$600 million per year, and the

military savings were around US$250 million per year because of the low tariff fixed in 1914.

For that reason, Gorostiaga estimates that the US military and commerce savings, from 1971 to

1991, were around US$17 billion. Paradoxically, between 1904 and 1970, the direct benefits

received by the Republic of Panama from the US government in total annual payments reached

only US$ 55 million.










In a report presented in 1972 by the Economic Commission for Latin America (CEPAL

1972), it was recognized that the Eixed tariff policy greatly benefited US consumers, importers

and exporters. The same report estimated that, between 1960 and 1970, the international users of

the Canal saved about US$5.4 billion. According to Jose Isaac Acosta, between 1970 and 1980

the savings were around US$ 8.055 billion (Acosta 1995). The benefits that the users receive

from the Panama Canal are the relatively cheap toll fees to use the waterway, and the advantage

of using a safe and smooth pathway from one ocean to the another (Ohtake 2001Ib). Between

1989 and 1998, 68% of all agricultural shipments of the United States were sent through the

Panama Canal and near 14% of US ocean-borne cargo used the waterway (Eriksen 2000,

Sullivan 2005).

From the perspective of the Panamanian commercial elite, the construction of the Panama

Canal represented the fulfillment of not only Panama' s destiny to serve as a bridge for the world

commerce, but also a good opportunity for becoming an international emporium due to the

economic boost that the megaproj ect would bring to the deprived national economy (Conniff

2001, Figueroa Navarro 1982, Jaen Suarez 1981, Navas 1979, Vasquez 1980).11 In this regard,

the Panamanian scholar Juan Materno Vasquez (1980) points out, for example, that the

construction of the waterway became an "obsessive idea" among the influential groups of

Panama at the time of its construction with quite specific innuendoes. Vasquez recalls the fact

that, by the end of the 19th century, the interest of the economic leadership of Panama was so

focused on the advantages resulting from the construction of the canal, and the commercial

activities around it, that Dr. Manuel Amador Guerrero the first president of Panama- expressed


'' This perception was canonized in one of the official symbols of Panama: its national shield, the motto of which is
the Latin expression: Pro Mundi Beneficio (For the Benefit of the World). Other triumphant local slogans have
proclaimed for generations that Panama was "Puente del ~undo, Corazon del Universo" (Bridge of the World,
Heart of the Universe).









the original intention of declaring independence from Colombia exclusively in the area assigned

for the construction of the waterway (Vasquez 1980).

As long as no other productive alternative with a similar promising dimension was fostered

in Panama, the service activities around the transit zone became the predominant national

economic references, and the Panama Canal became the national icon par excellence as long as

the benefits that the local economic and political elite perceived around the transit activities were

identified and promoted as benefits for the rest of the country. For that reason, the dominant

assumption was that investing in the canal was -as Ira Rubinoff of the Smithsonian Tropical

Research Institute said- the "manifest destiny of Panama' s geography" (Economist 2004). In this

regard, the analysis of the relationship between power and rationality in the implementation of

megaproj ects described by the scholar Bent Flybjerg is applicable here (Flyvbj erg 1998, p.36,

Wolf 1999, p.5). Flyvbj erg argues -in the same line as Nietzsche and Gramsci- that power

defines rationality as well as reality. This can be understood as the capacity of those with power

to define what counts as rationality and knowledge and therefore what counts as reality.

According to Flyvbj erg, power is expressed as the ability to make one's own view of the world

the worldview with which others live or one's ability to impose one's will on the actions and

attitudes of others.

However, this apparent faculty of those with power to define the rationality and reality

within Panama was not absolute due to the fact that the waterway became a controversial

instrument that subrogated Panamanian sovereignty to the interests of the United States with less

than desirable consequences for the national evolution of that Central American country. In fact,

as soon as it was completed, the canal became a US economic, political, and military enclave in

Panama with geo-strategic ends. The United Status established, in what was called the Canal










Zone,12 laws, a language, authorities, a racially segregated society, an economy and, ultimately,

an administrative and military organization that became the pivotal point for several military

interventions in the Panamanian politics and in the rest of Latin America (Beluche 2003, Diaz

Espino 2001, Lindsay-Poland 2003, Mastellari Navarro 2003, McCullough 1977, Montiel

Guevara 1999, Soler 1975).13

The connotations of the ambiguous regime of US sovereignty on the Canal Zone

transcended the limits of the mechanical operation of the waterway, making inroads into the

realm of international confrontation between the governments of the US and Panama when the

interests of the Panamanian elite were affected or limited. However, as the following pages will

show, marginal sectors of the Panamanian society also challenged, at least partially, the dynamic

that the construction of the Panama Canal was imposing on Panamanian landscapes.

Forced Relocations and Controversies with Local People

Up to now, we have seen that, as happened with the transit megaproj ects that preceded it,

the construction of the Panama Canal, following the rationality of modernity, exploited the

Panamanian ecosystem for its own functioning, and promoted, simultaneously, the development

of a series of economic activities that reinforced the mercantilist ideology among the

Panamanian elite who profited from them (Soler 1972, Vasquez 1980). However, there were

some cultural spaces where the rationality of subjugating natural resources to the needs of the

waterway was not welcome. This was, for example, the case of the Kuna people of San Blas

archipelago, known also as Kuna Yala, at the northeast coast of Panama.


12 That was the area, immediate surrounding the Panama Canal, where the United States established military bases,
towns, and other infrastructure. It was ruled as an American state within Panama with its own laws and governor.

13 The School of the Americas was located on a military base in the Canal Zone. This institution -devoted to the
training of Latin American military personnel- has a tarnished reputation thanks to the content of the training they
offered and to some of its Alumni who became dictators or were accused for serious violations of human rights in
Latin American.









For the construction of the Gatun locks, the proj ect was in need of appropriate sand. For

that reason, engineers in charge of the proj ect went as far as Nombre de Dios, about 40 miles

northeast from the area of construction, to get suitable material. In their search for more sources

of sand, the engineers reached the Kuna Yala archipelago. When the engineers approached the

natives to ask if they would sell them sand, the Kuna' s response was that the water, land and

sand of the islands were God' s gifts to them, and that they cannot sell or give those gifts to the

white man. The engineers were allowed to stay overnight on the condition that they left at dawn

and never returned. Nothing more was said (McCullough 1977, p.594, Sherman Snapp 1999,

p.47).

This case seldom referred to in Panamanian historical accounts, reveals how a marginal

group in the newly formed country rej ected a foreign logic of commoditization of nature by

alluding to their own religious values and relationship with nature. Even today, the San Blas or

Kuna-Yala people keep a regime of political autonomy that was officially recognized by the

Panamanian government during the 1940's and that has been respected by the following

governments since then. Subsequent statements of this group kept challenging the intentions of

bringing their lands into the orbit of interests linked to the expansion of the Panama Canal.

As was confirmed with other future megaproj ects all around the world, forced relocation of

communities was one the primary human effects of the construction of the Panama Canal.

However, this issue was almost ignored by official historical accounts, probably because of the

overwhelming power of the US over the Panamanian government and its inhabitants at that time.

Archival references that I found at the library of the Ministry of Foreign Relations of

Panama, testify to some conflicts between the authorities of the Panama Canal and local

Panamanian communities that were forced to relocate. These references expose the ignorance










and lack of skills of the agents of the Panama Canal when interacting with rural Panamanian

people. These data complement the only reference made by David McCullough about the

thousands of Panamanians who were displaced by the advance of the waters of the Gatun Lake.

They were dispossessed of their lands and properties, and were resettled in higher settlements.

However, they were not consulted when the decision about their fate was made, and they

considered that they were not fairly compensated, and were resentful of being relocated

arbitrarily (McCullough 1977, p.587). McCullough cites the words of a woman who, recalling

how she and her family were forced to abandon their home, said: "The Americans took awful

advantage of the poor people, because they had no one to speak for them" (McCullough 1977).

Among the archival data I found, there are some pieces of correspondence dating from

1915. These references stand as interesting examples of the problems created by the process of

relocation of the Panamanian settlements of the communities of Nuevo Gatun and Lim6n in the

province of Colon. The first reference is a letter that was written by the Minister of Foreign

Relations of Panama, Ernesto T. Lefevre to Mr. G.W Goethals, Governor of the Canal Zone. In

that letter, Mr. Lefevre asked for support for a community that was relocated twice, something

unexpected due to the guarantees the residents received the first time they were displaced.

Panama, Mach 6, 1915.

Mr. Governor:

The President of the Republic has received a memorandum signed by more than 150
residents of Nuevo Gatun, who -due to the notification made by the authorities of the
Panama Canal that they should move again from that town- have chosen as a new location
for their residence, the site known as "Guineal", a place that is located at the margin of the
Gatuncillo river, about a mile from the site assigned for the new town of Lim6n, lands that
are located more than one hundred feet above sea level.

The residents ask that, considering their poverty, the government of Panama asks the
government of the Canal Zone in order to get that this take charge of the relocation of their
houses and the preparation of the land where they are going to settle their new town, as










well as that they build again their church they had in Viejo Gatun and later in Nuevo
Gatun.

Considering that the residents of Gatun have been affected the most by the needs of the
Canal because, since 1907, they were forced to move to Nuevo Gatun with the promise
that they will not be bothered with another relocation. With this promise, they organized
their agricultural labors at their convenience. I am addressing you, with instruction of the
President of the Republic, to find out if the government of the Canal Zone would attend to
the pleas of those people, and as it was done with the people of Nuevo Limon, the
relocation of their huts and the clearing of the area called "Guineal" and that the church of
Gatun be rebuilt at the expense of the government of the Canal.

With this, the government of the Canal will prove its goodwill to the inhabitants of the
Isthmus, as a fair compensation for the sacrifices made by them at the benefit of the great
feat that has transformed the continent, and in fulfillment to agreements signed by your
government. ..

E.T Lefevre.

In the second letter, residents of the community of Limon complained to the Minister of

Foreign Relations, Mr. Lefevre, about the situation they were facing with their forced relocation

and with the type of houses they were provided by the Panama Canal officers. It is interesting to

see the different logic of Panamanians and the American officers of the Panama Canal implicit,

in this opportunity, regarding to the traditional architectural design of the villagers in comparison

with the housing that was provided by the Panama Canal Company, and how the logic of design

of the foreigners is imposed, but also contested. Let us take a look to the letter of complaint

written by some people who were forced to relocate.

Lim6n, March 8, 1915.

The Honorable Ernesto T. Lefevre

Secretary of Foreign Relations

Panama

Sir:

As a resident of this district and one interested in the well-being of the town of Limon,
which is about to be removed to a new site on the shore of Gatun Lake, I take the liberty to
bring the following to your notice:









The work of building the new houses on the site selected was begun last week by a
working force sent by the Canal authorities and already the manner in which it is being
done has given rise to complaints on the part of the householders of Lim6n. The houses in
this settlement are of the cottage type, mostly roofed with palm leaves, the roof rising high
with a steep pitch, and with a space varying between seven and eight feet between the floor
and the roof plate. The relative height and steepness of the roof serve to break the effect of
the sun' s rays, so that the interior of this type of house is usually delightfully cool even on
hot days. The houses being erected by the Canal employees have less space between the
floor and roof plate, the roof is lower and is of corrugated iron. The result of this change,
the owners complain, is that with an iron roof more nearly flat and closer overhead, the
houses will be unbearable hot during a great part of the day and will be quite uninhabitable
during the dry season. This defect of construction is noticeable in all of the houses now in
course of erection.

At the request of the local inspector, Mr. Julian Aguirre, I interpreted to the American
foreman in charge of the work the complaints of the people on this point. He replied
stating that the houses being erected are really better than those they have to vacate, but
that in any case he was acting under superior orders and could not deviate from them...

In view of the circumstances set forth above, and the instance of Mr. Aguirre, I make bold
to bring to your attention the necessity for early action with a view to having the Canal
authorities erect comfortable houses for the villagers. They ask that the houses be built
with greater headroom, or height from floor to roof-plate, and that the roof be made higher
and steeper, or otherwise it will be necessary for them to remove the corrugated iron and
replace it with palm.

I would respectfully ob serve that if your desirable intervention on behalf of the townsfolk
is to be effective it should be prompt, and I trust you will pardon the suggestion that you
take without delay the requisite steps to ensure he desired change in the method of building
the new houses. I have the honor to be, Sir, your obedient servant,

Gerald Hamilton.14

These pieces of correspondence show the open discontent and conflict created not only by

the forced relocation, but by the imposition of housing conditions that were alien to the real

needs of the locals. It was evident, as well, that the top down decisions made by the management

of the Panama Canal were not necessarily accepted without question, despite the overwhelming

power of the institution over Panamanians villagers and the Panamanian government.




14 Archives del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores. Ciudad de PanamA.










Despite these and other incidents, and as happened during the construction of the Panama

Railroad and the French Canal, the Panama Canal became a magnet for people from other areas

of the country, attracting them to the surroundings of the transit region and shaping the actual

demographic configuration of Panama. In fact, because of the development of the transit region,

an impressive migration of people near the area of the Canal produced a disproportional human

concentration in this area. For instance, by 1870, 26% of Panama' s population resided in the

metropolitan areas of Colon and Panama. In 1920, it was 34%, in 1980 52%, and in 2000 nearly

60% of the Panamanian population lives in the transit area (Jaen Suarez 1981). A subsequent

phenomenon of this migration to these metropolitan areas was the disorganized expansion of

human settlements that mushroomed along the trans-isthmian highway, the main road connecting

the cities of Panama and Colon. This and the expansion of ranching activities in the surrounding

areas, have increased the process of deforestation in the area surrounding the Canal (Sanjur

2000). One direct consequence of this deforestation is the increase in the deposit of sediments in

the area of the lakes of the Canal, and the growing pollution of the streams that go to these lakes

(Jaen Suarez 1986).

The Panama Canal and the Panamanian Transit-Centric Economic Model

As far as it was shown, the century-years-old patterns of international commercial relations

that assigned and virtually restricted the use of the territory of Panama for the transit of products

and people, is at the core of what I call the Transit-Centric Panamanian economic model, that I

define as the dominant cluster of economic activities related to the transit of people and

commodities throughout the Panamanian territory. The historic circumstances mentioned in the

previous pages made possible, as well, the rooting among the Panamanian political and

economic elite that led the independence of Panama, of a rationality and ideology that have kept

identifying the destiny of the country with the role of being a place for transit. As a result, I










argue that the type of rationality that has been promoted in Panama for generations has followed

this logic: what is good for the international trade is good for the Panama Canal, and what is

good for the Panama Canal is good for Panama.

This logic is also supported by the series of service activities that have been developing in

Panama thanks to the existence of the canal. Port services, a logistical center, banking services,

ship registration, ship chandlers, fuel supply, the Colon Free Zone, the Tran-isthmian Railroad,

general maritime services, etc., were established as spin off activities resulting of the presence of

the waterway.l5 The consequence of the predominance of this cluster of activities is that

nowadays the macroeconomic structure of Panama is highly dependent on these service

companies, which represent more than 75 per cent of the GNP. These activities have formed an

economic enclave in the transit area of Panama that contrast ostensibly with their socio-

economic surroundings. For example, despite the Panama Canal and the Colon Free Zone -an

area of tax free import and re-export activities located in Colon City- represent 15 per cent of the

GNP, they support just about 3 per cent of the labor force (MEF 2004a, World Bank 2000,

p.28).16 By 2003, the rate of unemployment in Panama was 12.8%, the highest of Central

America, 1 and 40.5% of the population of the country was living in poverty,ls 26.5% of them in

extreme poverty (MEF 2004a).19 In this regard, the World Bank recognized that three quarters

of the poor and 91 per cent of the extreme poor live in the countryside of Panama. Two thirds of



15 Cf. page 122.

16 Cf. ACP Master Plan. Power Point presentation. August 2004.

"7 Report on Unemployment in Central America made by the Panamanian Businessmen Association. La Prensa,
May 29th, 2005. According to the economic report of the Ministry of Economic and Finances of Panama, this
percentage is 9.2%.
1s This proportion continues unaltered according to more recent estimations.

19 PanamA en Cifras. Contraloria General de la Reptiblica, PanamA, 2002.










all rural residents fall below the full poverty line, and close to 40 per cent live in extreme

poverty.20

The data about the level of poverty in Panama has been reinforced by the fact that this is

one of the most unequal countries in the world. According to an assessment made by the World

Bank in the year 2000, the bottom quintile consumes 3.5 percent of total consumption and the

top quintile consumes 53 percent. In terms of incomes, the poorest quintile receives 1.5 percent

of the total income, whereas the richest receive 63 percent (World Bank 2000, p.6).

The enormous structural concentration of power and wealth in Panama has been

politically, economically and socially constructed and reinforced. The unequal distribution of

wealth favors the small, local elite that generally assumes the process of decision-making in the

country and whose interests are not oriented to the countryside through links to food or industrial

production (Dougherty 2000). And, as it has been proven historically, the population of Panama

has not been able to create a grass root political force to counterbalance the economic and

political elites.

Another important factor to consider is the foreign debt. According to the Ministry of

Economy and Finance of Panama, the international debt of this country in 2004 was 7.2192

billion dollars (MEF 2004a, p.3) The burden of the national debt of Panama has prevented the

adequate allocation of economic resources to areas that could provide improved living conditions

for a great number of Panamanians. In any case, Panama, like the rest of Latin American

countries that have experienced the economic setbacks of the 80's and 90's, is in need of

investments that could boost the national economy and help to solve the problems of


20 This study defines poverty as the level of per capital annual consumption required to satisfy the minimum average
daily requirement of 2,280 calories. The annual cost of this minimum yields a poverty line of $519. Below this
level of expenditures, or extreme poverty, individuals cannot maintain the minimum level of caloric consumption
even if all resources were allocated to food.









unemployment and poverty, generally considered among the main obj ectives in national

development policies (MEF 2004b, p. 11).

Background of the Panama Canal Expansion Megaproject

As happened in the previous centuries with the evolution and development of the

technology of transportation and the evolution of international trade that demanded the

adaptation and transformation of the Panamanian landscapes, today there is a direct relationship

between the evolution of inter-oceanic global trade, naval strategic needs, and the technology of

maritime transport, with the demands to expand the Panama Canal. However, it has to be

acknowledged that the expansion of the waterway is an issue that was pondered as far back as

1928 just fourteen years after its inauguration. The possibility of expanding the Panama Canal or

building a new sea level waterway was especially considered after World War II when the

Panama Canal Company pondered about the alternatives needed to protect the canal against the

probability of an atomic attack, and to keep pace with the increase of the traffic though the

waterway. According to these evaluations, a sea level canal would recover more easily after an

attack than a lock canal, and could accommodate wider ships like the aircraft carriers built for

the US Navy (Lindsay-Poland 2003). At that time, the main criteria for such interest were

military strategy and defense needs. Nowadays, the objectives of expansion are related to the

policy of adapting the services of the waterway to the demands of the world maritime trade

(Benjamin 2001, p.7).

Fernando Manfredo, a former deputy manager of the Panama Canal, recalls that, by 1964,

US President Lyndon Johnson recognized that the useful life of the Panama Canal was limited.

Manfredo quoted President Johnson when he pointed out that soon the Canal will not be able to

fulfill the needs of US world trade. The president alluded that, at that time, more than 300 of the

existing ships or ships in construction were too big to pass through the Canal (Manfredo 2000a,










p.16). In consequence, the US Congress approved US $17 million in funding to study the

possible sites of a sea level canal. A parallel consideration was taken regarding the use of

nuclear explosions for the excavations.

According to John Lindsay-Poland (2003, p.74), the "nuclear canal" represented a hope to

give a beneficial use to nuclear explosions by transforming a savage jungle into a new pathway

for civilization. However, the enthusiasm for the use of atomic explosions to dig a sea level canal

was deflated, on one side, by an international movement that promoted the ban on atmospheric

nuclear tests. This movement and other initiatives produced the signature of the Limited Test

Ban Treaty, the Non Proliferation Treaty, and the Treaty of Tlatelolco, which banned nuclear

weapons in Latin America. On the other side, at the local level, the Kuna leaders opposed this

proj ect when an alternative route was drawn near the Kuna territory. Concerned also about the

inequality of costs and benefits of the proj ect, the Kunas also claimed that they would never

benefit from the construction of that canal but would be exploited and enslaved (Lindsay-Poland

2003, p.95-96). Added to the active opposition to this alternative, the studies ordered by the

congress at that time concluded, as well, that the new generation of large ships would not make

the Canal obsolete because they were serving other trade routes that would never pass through

Panama. In 1985, the governments of the US, Japan and Panama formed the Study Commission

of Alternatives for the Panama Canal. Its main responsibility was to present a proposal of

improvement of the waterway that could be implemented as a response to the demands of the

world trade of the new millennium (Manfredo 2000b, p. 16). By 1993, the Commission presented

the results of its US $20 million study, which concluded that there was no need to make any

important improvement before the end of the second decade of the XXI century.









In October of 1997, the Universal Congress of the Canal, an international event organized

by the Panamanian government, was held in Panama City. On that opportunity, two consortia

(one European, hired by the European Economic Community, and another hired by The Panama

Canal Commission) established that the conclusions of the 1993 studies about the dates of the

required improvements of the Canal needed to be corrected. They mentioned that the rise of

China and other Asian economies as important agents of the new world trade order and,

therefore, international maritime activity changed the panorama observed in the previous

analysis. According to these conclusions, the improvements to the canal would have to be done

by the first decade of the XXI century (Manfredo 2000a). As a result, within a few years, an

alignment of global and local actors interested in the updating of the Panama Canal as soon as

possible became a reality. This alignment and the dynamics associated to it will be presented in

more detail in the following chapters.


Figure 2-1. Location of transit routes in Panama during colonial times. A) Map of Panama. B)
Detail of transit. Sources: Instituto Geografico Tommy Guardia and Historia de
Panama (Castillero Reyes 2003).




























Figure 2-1. Continued









CHAPTER 3
GLOBALIZATION, TRADE AND MARITIME TRANSPORTATION

Globalization is a phenomenon with roots deeply grounded in history. The processes of a

fluid interaction of human societies, economies, cultures, and technological knowledge beyond

national boundaries have been part of the evolving reality of the world that reached new levels

since the emergence of Capitalism in Europe in the Middle Ages (Appadurai 1996, Beck 1998,

Held 2002, Hopkins 2001, Ocampo & Martin 2003). The growth of maritime trade and traffic

can be seen as both an incentive and a consequence of globalization, together with

telecommunications, trade liberalization, international standardization, and the evolution of

transport technology (Kumar & Hoffmann 2002, Rodriguez 1999, Tangredi 2002, UNCTAD

2001).

Maritime transport is considered, among the variety of means of transportation, the most

globalized industry (Donn 2002, Pronk 1990). Since most of maritime transport moves between

two or more countries, and the service they receive no longer needs to be provided by people of

the same nationality of the cargo they move, almost any commercial transaction performed using

one vessel could involve the connection between people and properties from more than a dozen

countries. Such global relationships can be seen when, for example, a ship may be registered in

Panama, but its owner can be Swedish, and the components of the shipping service such as

insurance, equipment, merchant sailors, or certificates of classification of societies, are very

likely to have been acquired in many different other countries (Kumar & Hoffmann 2002).

Globalization has led also to an increasing level of specialization in maritime business.

The areas of such concentration of activities are: ship construction, technical management of


Omitting the conceptual discussion about this term quite well documented in the literature, I use the term to
describe a worldwide flow of interactions such as human migrations, and language, religious, and political
expansions, as well as other economic and ecologic dynamics that transcend national boundaries.










ships, ship repairs and dry-docking, ship registration, crewing, shipping finance, ship chartering

and brokering, and marine insurance (Kumar & Hoffmann 2002). In Latin America, there are

several examples of concentration in activities related to the maritime business that are heavily

related to the geographical location near the sea, and to the particular characteristics of the

economy of the countries involved. For example, Antigua and Barbuda and Panama are

specialized in services and provide open registry; Honduras exports the highest number of

seafarers per capital. Brazil, Chile, and Argentina host the main shipping industries of the region,

and maintain some shipbuilding companies. In a certain way, this trend of specialization has to

do with what are considered the comparative advantages of these countries. In fact, Brazil, Chile,

and Argentina are among the most industrialized countries in the region, and Panama and

Antigua & Barbuda are service economies (UNCTAD 2001). However, there are other examples

that make outstanding exceptions. A nation without maritime tradition or even coastline, like

Switzerland, is an important maritime player. This country hosts the world's largest freight

forwarder, and one of the top five liner shipping companies in the world, the Mediterranean

Shipping Company. This country without a coastline has 246 ships which represented 0.92% of

the world fleet by the year 2000 (UNCTAD 2001).

The impact of globalization in shipping activities include the introduction of

containerization, a simplified way of transportation of products in uniform receptacles, that is

allowing almost any shipping company in the world to move easily to new markets and provide

its services globally (see page 98). This apparently simple factor is imposing new trends in the

design of ships and in the overall process of connection between producers and consumers.

Other factors that are having an extraordinary impact on the evolution of maritime trade

are the trend to gigantism in the building of ships and the construction of faster vessels, which










are related to the capitalist logic of accumulation and time and space compression of which the

Panama Canal is an outstanding symbol. As happened in previous moments in history, this logic

of accumulation in the process of consuming and producing commodities has been the cause of

these transformations.

Maritime Transportation: General Characteristics

Maritime transportation is not a uniform activity provided under fixed circumstances. It is

part of a complex variable network of activities that includes aspects as diverse as ship design,

port services, port design and management, legal services, satellite communications, etc. The

types of maritime transportation services depend on factors such as the kind of commodities

transported and the timing required for their delivery (CRS 2004). One of the main types is liner

shipping which consists of maritime transport of commodities provided in a regularly scheduled

itinerary at fixed rates on a given trade route. These carriers transport commodities with a higher

degree of industrial processing using containers.

Another type is called tramprt~t~rt~t~rt~t~rt~ shipping, which is a transport performed irregularly in time

and space, depending on momentary demand. The term tramprt~t~rt~t~rt~t~rt~ comes from the time when

vehicles used to travel long distances to seek loadings (for example, tramping). Generally, non-

containerized raw materials like crude and refined oil, grain, coal, and bauxite are transported in

tramp carriers (Fink et al 2002, Frankle 1987, White 1988).

Regarding the main types of ships used for the transportation of commodities, the main

classification includes the following:

Container ships: These ships are designed to carry containers, which are special

receptacles where goods are stored and shipped between the sites of production and consumption

(Figure 3-1). Nowadays, the greatest part of the world' s manufactured goods and products are

carried in containers.









Bulk Calrriers: They are used for the transportation of raw materials (i.e. iron ore and

coal). They can be distinguished by the hatches raised above deck level covering the large cargo

holds (Figure 3-2).

TaTnkers: They are used to transport crude oil, chemicals, and petroleum products. They

have a similar appearance to bulk carriers but the deck is flush and covered by oil pipelines and

vents (Figure 3-3).

Ferries and Cruise Ships: Ferries are used for short j ourneys to transport a mix of

passengers, cars, and commercial vehicles (Figure 3-4). Most of these ships are what is called in

the shipping j argon Ro-Ro (roll on- roll off) ferries where vehicles can drive straight on and off

the vessel. Cruise ships are designed for leisure purposes of the passengers (Figure 3-5).

Other criteria can be used to classify ships, such as size containershipp generations,

VLCC2 UC 3 for tankers, etc.); market and technological specification (Suezmax, Panamax,

etc); and safety and security records (class of ships, security levels, etc.) (UNCTAD 2004a,

White 1988).

Among the different types of ships, the most outstanding and recently developed model is

the containership. This became a revolutionary move in the process of smoothing the storage and

transportation of commodities in a faster and less expensive way using containers. The invention

of containers is an interesting example of how a particular technological initiative to promote

efficiency in the transportation of cargo triggered a process with unsuspected revolutionary

global economic and social consequences.





2 VLZCC (Very Large Crude Carrier) they are crude oil tankers of 175,000 Deadweight tons or above.

3 ULCC (Ultra Large Crude Carrier) refers to crude oil tankers of 300,0000 Deadweight tons or above.









Containers and Containerization: Revolutionary Global Impacts

No analysis of the panorama of maritime trade is complete without alluding to the

phenomenon of containerization, a dynamic of global impact that originated, almost fifty years

ago, from an individual decision that was implemented for practical reasons in order to ease the

process of embarking and disembarking cargo ships. In fact, containers were the fruit of an

initiative of Malcom McLean, the owner of a local transport business in New Jersey who became

the founder of Sea-Land, the largest US based sea carrier (Coyle et al 2001, p.3 8, World Trade

2004). His idea was to accelerate the process of loading and unloading cargoes to and from a

ship's deck; a process that, in the 1930's, would take up to ten days. Instead of trying to transport

whole conventional truck trailers, he decided to use special boxes that could be stacked and

layered in the hold. These boxes were called containers.

In 1956, after buying two steamships companies -the Pan Atlantic and the Waterman- he

continued pursuing his ideal after converting the deck of two ships into trailer platforms. The

next year, the first containership from the Pan Atlantic steamship company, carrying 58 35-foot

containers, sailed from Port Newark, New Jersey to Port Houston in Texas and Puerto Rico

(Talley 2000, World Trade 2004). In a subsequent development, McLean equipped the new

containerships with cranes to pick up containers from the pier and lower then into subdivisions

of the ships that were called "cells". At that time, each ship could carry 226 units of 3 5-foot

containers, and, soon, McLean's company developed a regular service between New York,

Florida and Texas. By the 1960's container shipping grew dramatically as other competitors

began to refit their ships according to the container system of storage and transportation, and

when docks learned to accommodate the special needs of such vessels.

One step in the evolution of the process of containerization included the standardization of

containers' sizes and fittings in such a way that any box could lock on to any other box, ship or










plane cell, and trailer chassis. The standardization of containers unified their dimensions to 20 or

40 feet length by 8 feet high (or 8 feet 6 inches high) and 8 feet in width, and ever since they are

measured and identified as "TEU" (Twenty foot Equivalent Units). In other words, a TEU is one

20-foot container and a 40-foot container is equivalent to two TEU.

Another step that deepened the relevance of containerization was taken when, the

administrator of New York Harbor promoted the construction of a container terminal in Port

Elizabeth, New Jersey, becoming the first exclusive terminal of this kind. The articulation of the

system added another link when railroad companies, convinced by the benefits of

containerization, competed to carry the units across the country on flat cars. The influence of

McLean kept growing abroad, being the one who, in 1966, built the first container port in

Europe, specifically in Rotterdam (Coyle et al 2001, World Trade 2004).

The success of this option of transportation resulted from its ease in handling, reduction in

labor, its better protection against damage and theft, and reduction of cost at the beginning and

end of the shipping service. Only one person can load and unload cargo that, in other times,

would require dozens of dockworkers. Additionally, turnaround times of vessels in a port have

been reduced from three weeks to 24 hours (Coulter 2002, Tetley 1990). Another advantage of

containers is because they are a versatile option for the transportation of a wide variety of

commodities: frozen beef, LCD monitors, subway cars, perfumes, etc.

The phenomenon of containerization has affected, as well, the shipping activities of the

carrier vessels and the handling of containers in ports. In a report presented in April 2004 by the

United Nations Conference on Trade (UNCTAD), it was recognized that containerization is the

technological concept governing the transport of manufactured goods and, despite the fact that

the adaptation to that system of management is expensive and reduces the use of labor, it has










become an unavoidable technological standard to be implemented by the players in the

international trade (UNCTAD 2004d, p.5). In fact, since the first containership crossed the

Atlantic in 1966, world trade became increasingly dominated by containerized freight in such a

level that, by 2002, container transportation accounted for more than sixty percent of the world

trade in terms of value and almost two third in terms of volume (Coulter 2002).

According to another UNCTAD report, at the beginning of 2004, the top 25 container

carriers control 79% of the world' s TEU capacity. Among the main carriers, there is the Danish

Maersk-Sealand4 grOup that, with more than 500 vessels, account for 12.2 % of the ships

operating in the market (UNCTAD 2004e). Following, there is the Mediterranean Shipping

Company (MSC)S that, with 288 ships calling on 215 ports, takes 7.15% of the market share. Its

headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland, paradoxically a landlocked country. The Chinese

Evergreen and P&ON are next in the list. Ten of the top fifteen liner companies are based in

Asia.

Even though containerization was developed originally in the USA, nowadays nearly

eighty two percent of all containers are built in China, with the China International Marine

Containers (CIMC)6 and Singamas being the two leading container builder companies (Jung

2005). By 2005, a container built in China was sold for $2,500. The more than 3,500 cargo ships

that navigate the oceans today are loaded with about 15 million containers. In fact, as it is

estimated that the container market is growing three times faster than the world economy, there




4 In 1999 Maersk bought Sealand the company founded by Malcolm McLean, the pioneer in implementing the
concept of container httpl w\ int\\maerskline.com/link/?page=brochure&path=/u~evcs Last accessed, July
28,2007

5 bllp w\ il \t .mscgva.ch/aboutus/facts.html. Last accessed, July 25, 2007

6 All ll ll ll ~cimc~comI/web/769/. Last accessed, July 24, 2006









is no doubt that the containership industry has became a formidable international player (Jung

2005)'

As containers became a crucial element in the transportation of products, containerships, as

well as the industry of containership building were claiming more relevant roles. In fact, the four

biggest containership builders are in Asia, three Korean -Hyundai, Samsung and Hanjin- and one

Japanese -IHI-. Korean shipyards account for 62% of orders, and all Asian shipyards together

are responsible for 86% of the world containership building. These percentages dwarf Europeans

yards that together have 13% of market share, and North and South American yards that count

with less than 1% (UNCTAD 2004e).

During the last few years, there has been an increase in the building of new containerships.

The number of orders doubled, going from 135 contracts, in 2002, to 325 in 2003 (UNCTAD

2004b). These new building contracts are also reflecting a trend opting for post-Panamax

containerships, that are vessels of more than 290 meter long, 32.3 meters wide and with a

draught of 12 meters, measures that surpass the dimensions able to squeeze through the Panama

Canal.8

According to a study made by Drewry Shipping Consultants in 2005, from 1995 to 2003,

the number of transits of container cargo through the Panama Canal has climbed from an

estimated 2.76 million TEU' s to 5.22 million (Figure 3-6). By the fiscal year 2004, almost 70%

of the container traffic through the canal was related to the United States, representing more than

3.5 million TEU' s with a value of about US $10 billion (Drewry 2005, p. 1). The percentage of

containers moving between Asia and the US East Coast through the canal increased from 12% in



blip~1 w\ il \\ spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,369,0hm. Last accessed, April 4, 2007.

http11 \\ \\ \\.thebaltic.com/supplements/World%/20Portshayhm Las accessed, June 19, 2007.









1999 to near 40%, in 2004 (Figure 3-7). For the fiscal year 2004, despite representing 18 per cent

of the transit through the canal, containerships amounted to 33 per cent of the total income that

the waterway received from tolls, with a proj ected tendency to increase in the future (Colindres

2005, Drewry 2005).

Post Panamax Megaships, International Port Facilities, and the Panama Canal

As the trend in the shipping industry is toward using what are called Post-Panamax vessels

that can carry between 4,500 to 12,000 containers or TEU's, some of these carriers are limited in

their options for deploying their vessels in the Pacific-Atlantic route using the Panama Canal

(Lugo 2003). Additionally, these megaships are also facing the fact that many ports that

traditionally have been served by the Panama Canal route are not deep enough to harbor them.

One response to this has been the construction of mega-ports that have a minimum quay length

of 330 meters; minimum draft of 15 meters without tidal windows; and a minimum crane

outreach of 48 meters (Coulter 2002, Talley 2000).

Officers of the Panama Canal Authority and other specialists have analyzed and exposed

the relationship between the trends of growing containership and the Panama Canal in several

studies and articles (Alvarado 2004, Buendia 2004, Delgado 2001, Lugo 2003, Martinez Laso

2001, pp.276-277, Osorio 2004, Solano 2003)9. Up to now, the dimensions of the Panama Canal

can allow the transit of ships with a maximum width that can hold 13 rows of containers, or a

total of between 4,000 and 4,500 TEU's, which have to squeeze through the canal locks as

shown in Figure 3-8.

The number of Panamax vessels that use the Panama Canal represents near 40% of all

oceangoing transits (Drewry 2005, p.1i). At the end of 2000, the Post Panamax fleet worldwide


9 A series of articles are exposed by the ACP officers in the biweekly newspaper El Faro at:
blip1 w\ il \t .pancanal.com/eng/noticiero/el-faro/index~tl last accessed June 1st, 2007.










comprised some 130 vessels. By January 2006, the number increased to 391, representing

between 25 and 30 percent of the total world container capacity (Hart et al 2005, MacDonald

2004, Torlay 2006). Moreover, there are also an increasing number of orders of bigger ships

than the Post Panamax from several of the main clients of the Panama Canal like CMA, CGM,

Evergreen, A.P. Moller, MSC, and Hapag Lloyd. (Colindres 2005, Jimenez 2005).

Despite the fact that the tendency to build bigger ships seems to be unstoppable, there are

claims that this trend could produce ambiguous benefits. On one hand, a greater length would

lead to a loss of hull stiffness because of the bending movements produced by the waves and

cargo, and the steels and welding technologies available currently. This has imposed a technical

length limit of 350 meters for 9,200 TEU ships. For that reason, the logic leads to building

shorter and broader ships. The broader ships have the advantage of greater stiffness and

stability.10

On the other hand, besides the economy of scale, bigger ships will offer several additional

benefits in comparison to the smaller ones. For example, in an article published at the Lloyd's

Register in October 2003, it was argued that bigger ships bring the possibility of introducing

technical systems which are not viable for smaller vessels, like the installation of additional and

more sophisticated equipment to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. Bigger ships also

will require a reduced amount of ballast water for stability, and therefore, will likely reduce the

possibilities of global transfer of maritime organisms, which is perceived as a maj or risk for the

liner trades.ll




\0 hop un sgl-group.com/news/archiv/2004/278_3333.htl last accessed, June 15, 2007.

11 http://www.1r.ore/NR/rdonlyres/5 C6857FC-2E6A-47B7-9046-862C55 590D5D/52023/ICHCAPaperv3 .pdf, last
accessed, July 29, 2007.









US East Coast Retailer Mega Centers and West Coast Ports Bottle Necks

It is quite explicit that, according to the references of the international stakeholders, the

Panama Canal is considered as just one element, among others, in the chain of distribution at the

service of global trade. The implicit dominant perspective priorities the provision of services to

their local markets without additional references to the additional implications that their demand

to expand the Panama Canal could have in other contexts also affected by the existence of the

Panama Canal. The series of events promoting the expansion of the Panama Canal also are

coherent with the insights formulated by David Harvey (2001) based on the location theory of

Marx. According to Harvey, the process of the growth of capitalism has its own contradictions

when the same structuresl2 created to overcome spatial barriers and to 'annihilate space with

time', ultimately become a barrier to further accumulation. In this sense -he says- "the

geographical landscape, which fixed and immobile capital comprises, is both a crowning glory of

past capital development, and a prison which inhibits the further progress of accumulation..."

(Harvey 2001).

The capitalist logic of persistent accumulation is generally confronted with the fixity of

certain institutional, social, infrastructural, and geographic spaces whenever they are seen as

obstacles to the expansion or development of markets, or ill fitted for the increasing flux of

commodities and/or capital. Therefore, when the fixity of the spaces of accumulation represents

a limitation of that process of accumulation; those spaces are considered a barrier to be overcome

or must be repositioned to a level of total or partial irrelevance (Pred & Watts 1992). In this

regard, Harvey concludes that the evolution of capitalist forms tends to a continuing struggle in

which the physical landscapes that were built to satisfy its needs in a specific time, have to be


12 These spatial structures are described by Harvey as "fixed and immovable form of transport facilities, plant and
other means of production and consumption which cannot be moved without being destroyed".










destroyed, usually after some years, in order to open mores space for the process of

accumulation.

As the evidence demonstrates, it is a reality that the Panama Canal, a proj ect built to ease

the traffic between the oceans according to the needs of its clients at a specific time, presents,

one hundred years later, some restrictions to this traffic, because of the physical criteria that were

established when it was created. The alternatives considered for the expansion of the Panama

Canal expose, as well, what Harvey describes as a process of negotiation between preserving the

value of past capital investments in the built environment and the destr-uction of these

investments, at a subsequent time, in order to create more space for accumulation (Harvey 2001).

This is one of the reasons why it is unthinkable to destroy the present canal -an impressive

infrastructure with a huge and diverse historical symbolism and still a profitable asset- in order to

replace it with a new one. For this reason, it is considered more appropriate to build a new ser of

locks, parallel to the existing ones.13

The main argument for legitimacy of the international agents interested in the expansion of

the Panama Canal is their need to carry out their marketing commitments of reducing the time in

the distribution of increasing amounts of commodities for consumers and producers located

between the East Coast of the United States and Asia. Another reason is the interest of

authorities in several cities of the East Coast of the US to foster the economic expansion of that

area, a fact that is promoted through the constr-uction of mammoth distribution retail centers that

are receiving higher volumes of products shipped from Asial4 (Lugo 2003, p.7). The shipping

companies that serve these centers are using bigger ships than the ones traditionally designed


13 This also includes the fact that it will be economically counterproductive -national and internationally- to close
the Canal for several years in order to build a new one.

14 blip w\ il \t .gap~orts~com/index2.html, last accessed May 10, 2005.









according to the specification of length and width of the Panama Canal. Additionally, there is an

urgency in the delivery of products through the waterway as an alternative to the delays and

bottlenecks that are affecting negatively the shipments to the ports in the West Coast of the

United States (ACP 2005a, p.7, ACP 2005b, p.9).

The trends at the beginning of the 21s~t century show that Asian economic expansion in

general, and, particularly, the overwhelming growth of the Chinese economy, have increased the

volume of trade between the Asian rim and the rest of the world (UNCTAD 2004c). As a result,

the main international maritime companies, taking advantage of the economy of scales, are

building or using bigger ships that can carry more cargo per voyage. Some of these ships -the so

called Post-Panamax- are, as we have said, too big to pass through the Panama Canal.l

At it was said before, four percent of maritime world trade moves through the Panama

Canal (Hitotsuyanagi 2001, p.91, Ohtake 2001a, p.33). But this proportion can be misleading

when noticing that this percentage includes nearly 23% of the transport between Asia and the

east coast of the United States. The Panama Canal is on the pathway of several routes that

connect, as well, both coasts of the US, the east coast of the United States and the west coast of

South America; the west coast of the United States and the east coast of Canada and Europe; the

west coast of South America and Europe; and finally, the east and west coasts of South America

(Bocanegra 2000, Drewry 2005).

Specific local and regional policies promoting development on the East Coast of the USA

are impacting the shipping industry by promoting the management and distribution of larger

stocks of commodities. For example, the port of Savannah, Georgia, keeps reinforcing its

obj ective of promoting economic development in the region through the establishing of huge

15 The Post Panamax ships are more than 100 feet wide, which is wider than the lock chambers of the Panama Canal
that are 110 feet wide and 1000 feet long.









retail distribution centers. Names like Best Buy, Michael's, Pier 1 Imports, Target, Home Depot,

Dollar Tree, IKEA, Lowe's, and Hugo Boss are among the companies that have established their

distribution centers in areas ranging between 200,000 and 2,000,000 square feet, just a few

minutes from the port of Savannah.16 The timely provision of shipments to these huge centers

has become a crucial factor in the expansion of the economy of Georgia and the rest of the ports

of the East Coast of the US -i.e. Halifax in Canada, Baltimore, and Hampton Road (Virginia)-.

Additionally, the managers of the ports of the East and Gulf coasts of the United States that

receive a significant amount of cargo through the Panama Canal are already prepared to manage

Post Panamax containerships. Other ports like Charleston (South Carolina), Miami, New York,

and New Jersey- have been remodeling their installations in order to receive Post Panamax ships,

independently of the possibility that the Panama Canal be widened (ACP 2003, p.3, Lugo 2003).

In this context, port officers of the East Coast of the USA have voiced explicitly their

interest in the expansion of the Panama Canal at different opportunities. Some explicit statements

made at the Conference of Port Operators held in Panama between the 2nd and 4th of December

of 2003 are illustrative. In that opportunity, Rick Larabee, Director of the Port Authority of New

York and New Jersey said:

.. Demands for imports will keep growing and the best way to move this shipping, the
cheapest, fastest, and more reliable way is by water. For us, on the East Coast, where 70
percent of the US population is concentrated, it is important that the Panama Canal
expands its capacity because all of us know that ships will keep growing and the largest
part of these new ships can not pass through the Panama Canal (ACP 2003, p.3)17

In the same event, Joseph Dorto, General Manager of Virginia International Terminals

said:

16 This information can be seen in detail at the Georgia Ports webpage: http://www.gaports.com/index2.html

"7 Translation by the author.









.. In Virginia we have cranes that accommodate up to 26 containers on the deck of a
ship and canals 54 feet depth. We have, as well, enough area to expand, but this will not be
useful if the Panama Canal is not widened (Prensa 2003).

He also declared:

.. nowadays, the canal is doing an excellent job with the ships that transit through it.
There is an improvement in the speed of the ships that are in transit, as well as the quality
of the service. However, the challenge we will have to face will be the management of
bigger ships. We, on the East Coast of the United States, are getting prepared for that, and
that is something that must be happening here (in the Panama Canal) (ACP 2003, p.3)1

Tom Armstrong, Director of Strategic Development and Information of the Georgia Port

Authority made additional claims saying that:

.. Seventy percent of our shipping in Savannah is handled through agents, and we all
know that this shipping comes through the Panama Canal. A small percentage comes
through the Suez Canal, and probably it will continue this way. We hope that the greatest
part of the shipping coming to the East Coast of the United States comes through the
Panama Canal and a new Panama Canal (ACP 2003, p.3).19

The number of Panamax vessels that use the Panama Canal represents near 40% of all

oceangoing transits (Drewry 2005, p. 1). At the end of 2000, the Post Panamax fleet worldwide

comprised some 130 vessels. By January 2006, the number increased to 391, representing

between 25 and 30 percent of the total world container capacity (Hart et al 2005, MacDonald

2004, Torlay 2006). Moreover, there are also an increasing number of orders of bigger ships

than the Post Panamax from several of the main clients of the Panama Canal like CMA, CGM,

Evergreen, A.P. Moller, MSC, and Hapag Lloyd. (Colindres 2005, Jimenez 2005).

Despite the fact that the tendency to build bigger ships seems to be unstoppable, there are

claims that this trend could produce ambiguous benefits. On one hand, a greater length would

lead to a loss of hull stiffness because of the bending movements produced by the waves and

cargo, and the steels and welding technologies available currently. This has imposed a technical

1s Translation by the author.

19 Translation by the author.










length limit of 350 meters for 9,200 TEU ships. For that reason, the logic leads to building

shorter and broader ships. The broader ships have the advantage of greater stiffness and

stability.20

On the other hand, besides the economy of scale, bigger ships will offer several additional

benefits in comparison to the smaller ones. For example, in an article published at the Lloyd's

Register in October 2003, it was argued that bigger ships bring the possibility of introducing

technical systems which are not viable for smaller vessels, like the installation of additional and

more sophisticated equipment to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. Bigger ships also

will require a reduced amount of ballast water for stability, and therefore, will likely reduce the

possibilities of global transfer of maritime organisms, which is perceived as a maj or risk for the

liner trades.21

According to William O'Neill, General Secretary of the International Marine Organization

(Mufioz 2001a), it is very necessary to amplify the Panama Canal. He argued that by 2005, 40%

of the world trade would take other routes because it will be carried on Post Panamax ships.22

In an article published in the Panamanian newspaper La Prensa on September 10, 2005, it

was reported that the Japanese company Nippon Yusen and the American Wal-Mart Stores are

among the companies that are urging Panama to widen the Panama Canal. The main reason for

this encouragement is their need to overcome the bottlenecks in the ports of the West Coast of

the United States.23


20 hopl w\ int .\gl-group.com/news/archiv/2004/278_3333.htl last accessed, April 20, 2007.

21 http://www.1r.org/news/downloads/ules_aricepf last accessed, May 10, 2006.

22By 2007, this statement seemed to be unproved considering the fact that the transits trough the Panama Canal kept
Increasing.

23C.f. http ://mensual.prensa.com/mensual/contenido/200/910O/hoy/negocios/3 3 3870.html, last accessed July 22,
2007.









More explicit demands to begin the expansion of the Panama Canal as soon as possible

have being voiced by other important business representatives in the US. For example, Robin

Lanier, Director of the Waterfront Coalition, a Washington based trade group that represents

retailers like Wal-Mart on shipping issues, declared that,

.. without an expansion of the Panama Canal, the increasing congestion at ports on the
West Coast will slow growth of trade and add to cost, so as US economic prosperity
depends on upgrading the canal. Immediate expansion should be a high priority (Watson &
Black 2005).

In 2004, more than 115 incoming ships had to be diverted to other Pacific harbors because

congestion at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, which manage about 40

percent of containerized U.S. imports (Watson & Black 2005). In fact, even though new port

installations are built or remodeled on the West Coast in order to host the new megaships, there

are still some limitations that affect the smooth managing of shipping. The infrastructure of land

transport and services existing in that area are not designed for the efficient transportation of the

increasing massive amount of containers that are discharged in the mega ports.

According to a report prepared by the consulting firm Accenture (Delattre 2005), by 2005

practically all the mega-ships entering the West Coast's mayor ports were carrying up to double

the amount of containers than in 2001 (10,000 containers vs. 5,000). In a report of the US

Department of State, this increase in port loading became more astounding since June, 2004

when an unexpected surge of import cargoes saturated the ports of the West Coast of the US.

For example, cargo volumes at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the two biggest

container ports of the US, increased in 17.5% by June and 24% in July (US Department of State

2004). This increase, which kept steady ever since, has been facing the constraints of port

congestion in such a way that a ship calling at Los Angeles-Long Beach may wait up to four

shifts before being served. Besides, containers have to wait between two or three days once they









leave the ship, because the railroads are under-equipped and understaffed. Another relevant

factor is the higher fuel prices that discourage truckers to haul containers. They complained that

the fuel they burn idling and waiting for containers that are unloaded from ships is so high that

such a waiting is not profitable for them (Delattre 2005).

The previous factors are complemented by the problem of the availability of land. As

Christopher Koch, president of the World Shipping Council, declared before the House

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, "most of the maj or US commercial ports are

located in highly developed, urban areas, and as a result face real constraints on how much land

is available for use as marine terminals" (Koch 2001). Therefore, inland road and vehicles

capacities became obstacles to the smooth flow of the increased movement of shipped products

(Coulter 2002, Talley 2000, UNCTAD 2004d, US Department of State 2004). This has been

reinforcing the redefinition of the routes of shipments of companies that traditionally used the

ports of the US West Coast. This is the case of Toys "R" Us, which altered its supply-chain

network to ship through the Panama Canal to avoid the congested ports in Southern California.

That company reported that, in 2004, an average delay time at these ports was seven days, while

the delay at the Panama Canal was, at most, one day (Hickey 2005).

Considering the panorama of more and bigger ships moving through the Panama Canal

because of constraints at ports in the US West Coast, the ACP argues that this flow will generate

more income from tolls, something that has been observed in recent years, when containerships

have had the biggest and fastest growth in transit and in tons transported through the Canal.

Besides the need of private users, it is undeniable that several countries have expressed their

interest in the expansion of the waterway for other reasons. In fact, Panamanian newspapers have

been publicizing that government officials and businessmen from places like England, France,









Brazil, China, Belgium, South Africa, Japan, Mexico, Chile, Philippines, among others, have

expressed their interest in the expansion of the waterway, not only based on their condition as

users, but also because of the contracts related to the proj ect that would be granted (Aparicio

2004, Arcia 2005, Buendia 2005, EFE 2004, Guerra 2005, Jordan 2004, Martinez 2004, Miranda

2005a, Miranda 2005b, Moreno 2004, Sanchez 2005, Solano 2004).

Trends of Transit through the Panama Canal in Perspective

The level of power that the international instances exercise upon the Panama Canal,

through port services and shipping companies, is based mainly on the high dependence of the

waterway on the income it receives from them. Sixty fiye percent of the traffic through the canal

comes from and goes to the United States, and about nineteen per cent belongs to Japan (ACP

2003, p.3, Drewry 2005, p. 1, Hitotsuyanagi 2001, p.92). With eighty four percent of the transit

coming and going between these two countries, the Panama Canal is practically faced with an

oligopsony -a market relationship with few but very powerful and influential clients- that could

impose specific conditions for the waterway mostly in favor of the interests of the clients.

This reality was acknowledged by officers of the Panama Canal even before it was

transferred to Panama. For example, in 1999, Rodolfo Sabonge who, at that time was the

Director of Corporate Planning and Marketing of the Panama Canal Commission, said that "the

United States is more important for the canal than the canal is for the United States" (USDA

1999). His statement was supported by a study conducted by economists from Texas A&M

University and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which estimated that US

exports of corn and soybeans would decrease only 2 percent if the Panama Canal were closed. In

this eventuality, or in case of a significant toll increase, US exports to Asia would likely be

reoriented through Pacific Northwest ports, or around the South African Cape of Good Hope.

This study considered as well that, in the long term, agricultural shipments from U. S. Gulf ports









would serve European and North African markets more economically, while Pacific Northwest

ports would serve Asian markets better. Additionally, the study concluded that a change in the

canal would affect mostly some South American countries, like Chile, Ecuador, Peru and

Venezuela. These countries move more than forty percent of their exports, by weight, through

the canal. In the case of Chile, eighty five percent of its maritime trade with the US, and thirty

five percent of all its commerce transit through the Panama Canal (Arcia 2005).

Besides the great dependence of the canal on its main clients, there is the fact that a

relatively small percentage -that is 4 percent of total world maritime traffic- uses the Panama

Canal (Hitotsuyanagi 2001, p. 113). However, this percentage of traffic produces the largest

source of revenue for the Panamanian government (Latin Finance 2005).

According to its financial statements, the ACP has received since the turnover of the

waterway, in December 3 1, 1999, to the fiscal year of 2005, between $574 and $847 million in

annual revenues from tolls, providing the Panamanian government with more than one billion

dollars in direct and indirect payments.24

According to the previous accounts, the magnitude of the global dynamics that demand the

expansion of the Panama Canal is more than evident. Historically, the relatively small dimension

of the Panamanian economy, highly dependent on the activities of the waterway, seems to be

includibly forced to follow the dictum of global political and trade dynamics. These dynamics

have been either supported or challenged by local actors. In this last regard, some of these

challenges during the construction of the canal, came from specific local sectors -like the

residents of Limon or the people of Kuna Yala presented in the previous chapter- that, despite

their relative lack of power, presented their claim against the unfair conditions of their relocation,


24 http://www.pancanal.com/eng/general/fin-saent/dxhml last accessed, July 30, 2007.










or just plainly refused to cooperate with global demands that were against their local cultural and

religious principles. However, as new technological factors, like containerization, become an

additional key element in the more recent panorama of international trade, new forces were

added to the apparent demand to expand the Panama Canal. In the following pages, I will take a

closer look of the contemporary local dynamics that follow the historical ambivalence of

reinforcing or questioning the expansion of the Panama Canal.


Figure 3-1. Containership


Figure 3-2. Bulk Carrier


Figure 3-3. Tanker


"'iir'~




















Figure 3-4. Ferry


Figure 3-5. Cruise ship


Panama Canal Transits and TEUs


2500 m RNIS7000000
o TE U
0000000
2000-
-5000000

Y 1500 ---4000000 *

100- 3000000 -

-2000000
500--
-1000000

0 II 1" i I i 0
1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002


Figure 3-6. Trends in total transits and TEU' s through the Panama Canal.
Authority .


Source: Panama Canal



































Source: Panamna Canal Authority anel Credit Suise!

Figure 3-7. Panama Canal share of container market from Asia to US East Coast.


:
3~;

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(In percent; of total)
1300

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U.,S, intermodal system
a Panama Canal
c)] Suez Canal


--I C~1


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Figure 3-8. Panamax container ship at Miraflores Locks.



















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Figure 3-9. Main ports of the United States and North America.




















































115










CHAPTER 4
PANAMA CANAL: GLOBAL TRADE AND PANAMA' S NATIONAL DESTINY

As has been presented in the previous chapters, the Panama Canal can be considered one

strand in the wide network that during the last one hundred years has been supporting the

expansion of global trade. When new factors -like containerships- became a crucial for the

acceleration of this expansion, new demands were imposed for an upgrade of related

infrastructures like the Panama Canal. For this reason, the project of expansion of the waterway

embodies an interesting showcase of the activation of a variety of global and local stakeholders

that are engaged in interactions that can be complementary or conflicting depending on the type

of interests affected by the global networks of production and distribution of commodities. In

this and the following chapters, I will explore and analyze some stakeholders located in Panama

and their sociopolitical relations and interactions.

At the national level, the stakeholders involved are those that not only are related to the

world maritime system, like the ACP, but also other government agencies, several groups of

peasants, NGO's, civilian and religious organizations with less international relevance. They

have taken different positions regarding the expansion of the Panama Canal: some in support of

the project -like the ACP and government institutions-, some questioning the creation of lakes

that would be needed for the expanded waterway -like peasant groups, civilian and religious

organizations- and some others who are challenging the very idea of expanding the waterway.

However, it is possible to find a variety of perspectives within some of these groups. In fact, not

all people related to the Panama Canal Authority are in agreement with the manner in which the

project of expansion has been conceived and promoted. Similarly, not all peasants living in the

Panama Canal watershed are opposed to the expansion of the waterway and the building of lakes

on their lands. Besides the complex configuration and performance of specific local










stakeholders, I will address, as well, the role of the media as a key element in which the

confronting stakeholders expressed their claims or where these stakeholders were presented by

their antagonists.

The Panama Canal Authority

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is an autonomous Panamanian agency that, according

to Law #19 of June 11Ith of 1997:

Shall have the exclusive charge of operation, administration, management, preservation,
maintenance, improvement, and modernization of the Canal, as well as its activities and
related services, so that the Canal may operate in a safe, uninterr-upted, efficient, and
profitable manner (Benj amin 2001).1

The Constitution of Panama, besides acknowledging these attributes, granted the ACP

administrative and financial autonomy, and made it responsible for the administration,

conservation, maintenance and use of the water resources of the Panama Canal watershed. This

watershed consists of the waters of the lakes that feed the canal as well as their tributary

streams.2

Law 19 also created the Advisory Board, a consultative body with the responsibility of

providing guidance and recommendations to the Board of Directors and the Canal

administration. By 2007, this advisory board was composed by an international membership with

experience and knowledge in international transportation, trade, business, banking,

telecommunications, military logistics, construction and development, as well as from academia.

This body meets twice a year, holding one meeting in Panama and another in other part of the

world. The following brief summary of the members of the Advisory Board, taken from the




SFor more information about the organizational mission, history and operative and technical aspects of the ACP
see: b1lip w\ il \t .pancanal.com/eng/general/acp-overview.htl last accessed, July 20, 2007.

SConstitution of Panama, Title XIV.









ACP's webpage, 3 can give us an idea of the configuration of this body, which at the time this

study is written, includes the following personalities:

William O'Neil (President), Secretary General Emeritus of the International Maritime
Organization (IMO). He was elected first chairman of the board in 1999 and re-elected in
2002.

Philip Embiricos, Director of Embiricos Shipbrokers.

Admiral William J. "Bud" Flanagan, US Navy (Ret), former Commander In Chief of U. S.
Atlantic Fleet, Western Atlantic NATO's Commander-In-Chief, and President of Skarven
Enterprises Inc.

Dr. Ernst Frankel, Emeritus Professor of Ocean Systems and Professor of Management at
Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dr. Aaron Gellman, Professor of Management and Strategy at the Northwestern
University Transportation Center.

Flemming R. Jacobs, former President & Chief Executive Officer of Neptune Orient
Lines Ltd. Group.

Captain Wei Jiafu, Group President and CEO of China Ocean Shipping Company
(COSCO).

Salvador Jurado, President of Building Components Group.

Gerhard Kurz, former President and Chief Executive Officer of Seabulk International,
Inc.

Andr6nico Luksic Craig, Vice President of Banco de Chile.

Albert H. Nahmad, Chairman of the Board, President and CEO of Watsco, Inc.

Joe R. Reeder, partner of Greenberg Traurig LLP (attorneys at law).

Mikio Sasaki, Chairman of the Board of Mitsubishi Corporation.

Stephan Schmidheiny, President of AVINTA Foundation and ANOVA AG, Holdings.

Tommy Thomsen, partner of A.P. Marller Group

C. C. Tung, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of Orient Overseas (International)
Limited (OOIL).

h]lip w\ il \t .pancanal.coml/eng/general/advisory-board~tl last accessed, January 20, 2007.









Due the nature of its membership, the Advisory Board is an influential factor in the

decision-making process of the ACP. In fact, when considering some statements of the

Advisory Board, it became more evident that the definition of the expansion of the canal was

made mainly according to the interests represented in this body. This can be concluded from the

following paragraphs extracted from a final report of the Advisory Board after a meeting held in

London on June 20, 2000 about the expansion of the Panama Canal. In this document we have

found these statements:

In the consideration of the expansion, it isn't just one single thing that we have to look at.
It is necessary to examine the whole economics of the activity; keeping in mind that this is
all about moving a pound of product from one place to another place as cheaply and
effectively and efficiently as possible. And as long as the transportation system and each of
its components meets its obligations and is efficient then that is the route, or the way the
goods are going to be moved. And if anyone starts to become noncompetitive, then the
chance of it being dropped out of the chain is very high.

The discussion about what happens if nothing is done about the Canal either in its current
operation or to expand it without going to the maj or construction works, and in the maj or
construction works, focusing mostly on the maj or expansion requirements. What would
happen if nothing is done? The shipping industry has a history of adapting to conditions
that they are presented with, but I think that the message is that the Canal has a place in
international shipping and a role to play and is of some benefit to Panama (economically)
but it is necessary to do additional work to justify the six billion odd requirement for the
maj or expansion proj ect and to make sure that the economics of the transportation system
are properly put together so that it remains competitive. And also to take into account the
side benefits which would occur to Panama.4

In the same meeting, the main conclusion of the advisory board was straightforward: the

Panama Canal must expand or it will become irrelevant for its clients, as could be understood

from the following paragraph of the same report, which says:

Another point that I have just been reminded on, with regard to the expansion program, is
that if nothing is done, if we don't do anything at all, then the Canal would lose business
because people would, with the increase of the size of ships that are coming about, would
find some other way of moving, and that in the end it would be a matter of the Canal


SSee page 5 of the minutes of the Advisory Board of the ACP at:
bli w\ il itnodo50.org/caminoalternativo/canal/1 17.htm, last accessed, July 30, 2007.










stagnating and business would find some other way around the situation. So, it really is a
matter of either looking at the expansion in a serious vein, selecting the best or what could
be considered the best or optimum way of doing that and we did not get into any details on
the one lock, two lock system or the technical issues. Those are matters that can be dealt
with either later or separately. We were trying to get at some of the justification for doing
or not doing something rather than the details on the individual components. But if nothing
is done, then it would be a stagnation situation and it would be leading to a reduction in
business. I got the words "Expand or die," so I don't know if that reflects what was said or
not. But I think that it does put it in a pretty sharp focus. These were basically the
comments of the Advisory Board.

These statements could be illustrative of the way the international advisors framed the

terms of discussion of the expansion of the canal that later developed in Panama. In fact, in less

than two years after this meeting, the ACP began to use the argument of the obsolescence of the

canal in order to obtain the public support for the proj ect of expansion of the waterway.

Another structure of decision within the ACP is its Board of Directors. This is the main

decision body of the ACP and is formed by a group of 13 Panamanian males, mostly lawyers,

engineers and professionals with training in business administration or economics. These

members are nominated by the president of Panama, and confirmed by the National Assembly.

The Board of Directors also fosters the corporate mission of the agency, which includes the

"building of relationships with Canal customers, understanding and anticipating their needs,

adding value to their business, and offering outstanding quality service."'

The entrepreneurial rationality that rules the plans of the ACP and the relevance it gives to

present itself as the source of opportunities to the service activities are expressed in the way the

proj ect was also marketed to the international clients. In the Panama Maritime VIII World

Conference and Exhibition, held in Panama City on February 6 and 7, 2007, the ACP presented

an example of the variety of service that will be benefited from the expansion of the canal. These

activities named as the Panama Canal Cluster, are presented in the shape of a complex network

5 bllp w\ il \t .pancanal.coml/ene/clients/index.html, last accessed, June 12, 2006.









of highly specific businesses (Figure 4-1). The activities in blue represent those which are

directly linked to the transit activities through the canal. Those in light brown are the activities

derived from these ones, are and indirectly stimulated by the canal. The activities in red are more

specific descriptions of generic activities.

About 9,100 employees work for the ACP with monthly salaries ranging from a minimum

of $986. 11 to a maximum of $9,166.67.6 They are the best paid public employees of Panama, a

country where the minimum salary is $285.00, including a latest increase made by the

Panamanian government in February, 2006.7 The ACP's hiring and training policies, based on a

quite strict process of selection, has served to recruit and train top quality Panamanian

professionals from several disciplines. Having a vertical organizational structure inherited from

the US managed Panama Canal Commission, with a leadership of people with experience in the

private sector, and because the high quality of the Panamanian professionals hired, the ACP has

developed a style of organizational culture and performance that is far beyond the performance

of any other public or private agency in Panama in terms of planning, internal organization,

efficiency, social benefits for its employees, incomes, and proj section to the Panamanian public

opinion.

Part of the vertical organization and style of management of the Panama Canal

Commission and later of the Panama Canal Authority was inherited from another structure

controlled exclusively during almost all the 20th century by the government of the United States:

the Panama Canal Company. This institution was characterized by its ethnocentric orientation,

according to the description of Karl Perlmutter, regarding authority, decision making,



6 http://www.pancanal.com/esp/general/transprni/dehtl last accessed, July 20, 2007.

SLa Prensa, February 24, 2006.









identification, perpetuation, and evaluation and control. According to Perlmutter, an

ethnocentric company sees domestic techniques and personnel as superior to foreigner ones and

as the most effective in international markets (Perlmutter 2000, p.75). This pattern was observed

in the Panama Canal Company in aspects such as policies regarding salaries, housing

differentiation between American and non American employees, racial discrimination, and the

use of English as official language that were implemented in the Panama Canal Zone during the

US administration (Lindsay-Poland 2003, Martinez Laso 2000, p.86, Mastellari Navarro 2003,

p.74, McCullough 1977, p.559). This situation transcended the institutional area and impacted

the political sphere producing several incidents between the United States and Panama during

almost all the 20th century. The most memorable were the riots of January 9th, 1964, and the

invasion of Panama of December 20th, 1989, when 21 and about 5,000 Panamanians,

respectively, were killed. In the case of the invasion of 1989, there has been a persistent critique

of the manipulation of the number of Panamanian casualties, which created the uncertainty about

the real numbers of victims (Rivera & Martinez 1998, p. 11, Soler-Torrij os 1993, pp.208-209,

Wheaton 1992, p.26).

Since December 31, 1999, when Panama received the Canal, the Panama Canal Authority

implemented an administrative process of identification, and arguably assimilation of the

waterway, within the Panamanian context. This was a necessary and important challenge for a

sophisticated institution, created by an industrialized country, which was handed out to a non

industrialized country with its own set of economic problems, bureaucratic culture and political

volubility. This integration implied the transition of the ACP's from its status as a foreign

institution alien to the Panamanian context and created to respond to US interests, to become a









Panamanian public organization strongly focused on making its main asset -the Panama Canal-

into a profitable component of Panama' s economy.

The ACP is characterized, as well, by its businesslike style of management with labor

standards and motivational practices aimed at guaranteeing a high level of commitment among

its employees. Activities such as updating seminars and courses, social activities, merit

acknowledgements, special medical services and other benefits have been part of its managerial

practices, which have gone beyond the benefits offered by any other Panamanian public agency

to their personnel. The ACP was one of the first public Panamanian institutions to launch its

own web page with information about its role, mission, finances, proj ects, etc.8

In order to identify with the Panamanian context, the ACP has been promoting among the

population a public outlook of national pride that presented the waterway as an authentic

Panamanian asset that is excellently managed by first class Panamanians professionals. This

outlook of national pride has been displayed, as we will see in the following pages, through a

series of campaigns of public relations that include weekly TV programs, biweekly newspapers

supplements, commercial spots, hosting visits to the waterway for many groups of people from

different professional and cultural backgrounds, and sponsoring public cultural and folkloric

activities all around the country. In almost all of these initiatives, the media has had an

important role that deserves special consideration.

The Media and the Publicity of the ACP

The mass media is the public arena in which the ACP has been promoting its institutional

image among the Panamanian population. It is known that the media is not an aseptic space of

public display but, through the organizational and professional arrangement of news-making,



bli w\ il itpancanal~coml/eng/index.html, last accessed, June 25, 2007.





























































9 Cf. Pp. 48-49.


plays an important role in the construction, framing and connotations given to issues and

stakeholders involved in the discussions (Anders 2000). Frames are "the principles of selection,

emphasis, and presentation composed of tacit little theories about what exists, what happens, and

what matters" (Miller & Riechert 2000, p.46) The setting of these frames could be the

background of social processes of ideological interpretations derived from the positions that

stakeholders that try to promote as the official policy .

In the case of a megaproj ect like the expansion of the Panama Canal, the media became the

instrument that transmitted a series of meanings that are coherent with the rationality described

by Gustavo Lins Ribeiro and summarized in Chapter 1. For this purpose, the logic of

grandiosity, references to national history and nationalism, the promotion of the image of an

egalitarian society are linked or subordinated to the redemptory image of the megaproj ect.9

In Panama, the ACP has been using discourses and images in order to frame the

interpretations about the role of the Panama Canal that was promoted among the Panamanian

public. Nowadays, there is a strong presence of the ACP in the Panamanian mass media through

TV and radio programs. One of these programs, called "El Canal al Dia", has a weekly

broadcasting time in at least the three main TV channels of Panama. These were informative

half hour-long programs about the functioning and other activities of the Panama Canal.

Technical descriptions, social activities, and a wide array of events related to the waterway are

part of the script presented to the public. A common aspect of these programs is their emphasis

in the capacity of the Panamanians to manage the waterway professionally, the promises of the

waterway to bring future progress and development to the country, and the identification of the









interests of the country with the interest of the waterway. Additionally, the ACP was using its

own webpage as a tool to inform about its plans and activities.

From time to time some slogans were used as resources for framing a public perception of

the Panama Canal. One example was the campaign with the motto "Los Beneficios del Canal se

Sienten en Todo el Pais" (The Benefits of the Canal are Felt All Around the Country). Huge

billboards as well as whole pages in newspapers were presented with the images of students,

professionals, businessmen, and peasants proclaiming their satisfaction with the Panama Canal.

A general overview to certain elements evident in some advertisements of the ACP published in

some Panamanians newspapers, as well as in the ACP's public documents, could give us an idea

of the sort of framing that became common when promoting the image of the Panama Canal.

Figure 4-2, published in La Prensa newspaper, on October 12th, 2003, presents, through

words and images, what I perceive as a discourse framed by the idea of a promising future, as

well as the idea that the Panama Canal is providing benefits for all the Panamanians. In the

specific case of this advertisement, half of the page of the announcement is covered by the image

of a female high school student that is positioned beside the picture of a group of high school

teachers. The uniform of the girl shows the logo of the Escuela de Artes y Oficios (Arts and

Crafts High School), a technical institution that trains students in areas such as mechanics,

electronics, electricity, and so on. The logo specifies that this girl is studying mechanics. Beside

the girl, there is a quotation that says that "(we) professors and students, did not were acquainted

with the Panama Canal... we would feel encouraged to be the replacement of those people that,

with pride, are working at the canal." Inserted within this quotation there is a paragraph in

boldface that says: "The ACP takes to the canal 30,000 students and high school teachers of

History and Geography. Students from the different provinces (of Panama) and the indigenous









areas come to the canal as the same time that the canal goes to all the regions (of Panama)". At

the bottom of the picture there is the logo "the Benefits of the canal are felt all around the

country", a fixed text that was used in all the campaigns of the ACP at that time.

The main subj ect of the advertisement is the young student, who seems to represent the

target population of the promotion. The preeminence of the picture of the student presents how

the ACP was framing the idea of being a place that will provide future opportunities for those

people who were not integrated into its work force at that moment. This goes hand in hand with

the initiative -also advertised in the announcement- of contacting high school professors though

whom the ACP builds an additional connection with young people. The positive aspect of the

visits that are also publicized on the page was that the ACP has broken an historical taboo -the

banning for Panamanians from visiting the Canal Zone and the Panama Canal Administration

Building, promoting among the population the feeling that the canal is theirs. Considering the

fact that this advertisement was issued in 2003, it is possible that the publicity was intended to

appeal, in advance, to a population of teenagers that will become adult and able to vote by the

time of the referendum of 2006 that decided the expansion of the Panama Canal.

When I went to Panama for fieldwork, in 2003, I could see a billboard just at the entrance

of Colon City, my hometown, located at the Atlantic entrance of the canal. The billboard, with

the aforementioned motto about the benefits of the canal that are felt all around the country,

seemed to me to be an ironic statement just few blocks before the imposing panorama of

dilapidated houses and unemployed people living in that city, a reality that did not seem to be

related to any benefit from the canal.

After that experience, and during one of my interviews with one officer of the ACP, I

asked her about this publicity that, according to what I have seen in Colon City, was far from









reality. She admitted that this was a lack of perspective of their Public Relations Team, which

seemed not to be in touch with the reality of the common people that did not perceive the

benefits that those advertisements said. For that reason, that motto was withdrawn from the

subsequent advertisements.'0

Another advertisement that I saw in the newspaper was focused on presenting the Panama

Canal as the source of the Panamanian self pride (Figure 4-3). The reference for this image was

framed around four words that refer to the Panama Canal with positive connotations.

Observed, in more detail, each picture of that advertisement is used to illustrate different

words written in blue or red characters over a white background, the same colors of the

Panamanian flag. On top of the page, there is a picture of one set of locks of the Panama Canal,

and, at the bottom, there is fragment of the globe almost covered by part of the map of Panama.

The announcement is centered on four words that describe how exceptional Panama is thanks to

the existence of the waterway and what are the feelings that the canal seems to generate among

Panamanians, or more specifically among the men presented in the pictures. For instance,

according to the shipping agent of the first picture, the Panama Canal is a source of Orgullo

(Pride), "(because) the canal makes us different, unique."

The second picture presents a businessman who is quoted by saying that the Panama

Canal creates Oportunidades (Opportunities) "(because) the ACP gives us the chance to

demonstrate our capacity as Panamanians." The third word is Progreso (Progress) because "the

canal in Panamanian hands has allowed us to produce more wealth that stays in our country", as

it seems to be said by the two businessmen present in the third picture. The fourth one is he





'O Margarita Mora, Personal Interview. August 2003.









word Confianza (Trust), because, according to the picture of the student that is quoted, "we are

showing to the world that we, Panamanians, can do things well."

Four out of five males presented in the four pictures are identified with the business sector:

one shipping agent, and three businessmen. The remaining one is a picture of a student. The

first three pictures represent sectors that traditionally have been benefiting from the activities of

the Panama Canal. In general, the intention of this advertisement seems to be the reinforcement

of a national vision of the canal that for generations has been promoted by the Panamanian

business sector. In fact, the main message seems to be that the canal is what adds value to

Panama and the Panamanians.

The message of the advertisement presented in Figure 4-3 probably goes hand and hand

with another image used by the ACP that, instead of promoting an attitude of self-confidence and

maturity among the public, promoted a childish and almost helpless image of the Panamanian

people that needs the guidance and support of the Panama Canal, which is depicted in semi

messianic terms. This can be observed in the front page of the 2002 yearbook of the ACP that

was delivered as a supplement of the most important Panamanian newspapers in order to reach

as much people as possible (Figure 4-4).

This front page presented a picture of a child, which covers almost half the space of the

page, a distribution of space similar to the first one of the two advertisements previously

presented. The child was playing with a paper ship at the border of a river, the sea or a lake.

Beside the image of the child, there is a very simple statement that seems to be presented as the

first part of his thoughts. That statement is divided in three parts, each one underlining three









different small rounded pictures. The statement begins with what it was the beginning of a

definition: El Canal es: (the canal is:).l

Each one of the parts that complete the statement is written under inserted pictures that

reinforce the explicit message that is given. So, when reading the next part of the definition that

says "nuestro guia" (our guide), the expression is presented below the image of the eyes of a

children looking up to someone or something that is in a higher position. The next phrase

"nuestro apoyo" (our support) is below the picture of the hands of a baby or a child that is held

by adult hand. The last part of the statement that says "nuestra voz" (our voice), is below the

picture of the mouth of a child or a baby. It seems that the combination of statements and

pictures intended to present another frame for the Panamanian perception about the canal. In this

way, the Panama Canal -or more specifically, the ACP- seems to be presented with an image of

superiority to the rest of the Panamanian society. According to this perception, Panamanians are

not mature enough to know where to go, not strong enough to walk by themselves, or not

articulate enough to speak for themselves. Therefore, the Panama Canal is the one who will

assume these actions of guide, support and voice.

Despite the fact that I have not read any reaction about the implications of this set of

images presented in the aforementioned picture -maybe because I did my fieldwork one year

after this image was issued- I have no doubt that the image can gives us a clue of what I

considered has been the attitude of the ACP when deciding and acting on behalf of and in

advance of any consultation with the rest of the Panamanian society. It is interesting to perceive

how, through this front page, the ACP was presenting itself as the guide, support and voice of the





11 In Panama, when the word canal is used with the capital C, means the Panama Canal.










Panamanian society as early as 2002 when the waterway had only been for three years under the

Panamanian control.

Besides the discourses promoted in the media, some expressions from directives of the

ACP seemed to assume that other sectors of the country share its businesslike rationality. This

can be interpreted from a well intended declaration made by the Panama Canal Authority

Administrator, Alberto Aleman Zubieta, on August 30, 2001, when he proposed the creation of

legislation to guarantee the rights of peasants who live in the canal watershed. According to

Aleman Zubieta "the same juridical security that private enterprises require, should be provided

to the peasantry so that they may feel confident in the investments they make in their lands".12

This statement, made by a successful businessman, seems to imply that peasants coincide with

him in the perception of land as an asset for investment.

Contrasting with the positive self promotion of the ACP that was common in its official

advertisement, this institution and its then already rumored plans of expansion of the Panama

Canal also have been the obj ect of some critical allusions in the media. Some of these opinions

were presented in the form of articles written by independent citizens, in electronic pages, TV

adds and even in the form of cartoons displayed in the opinion page of some newspapers.

I took as examples, some of the cartoons that exposed a certain level of concern about the

secrecy, lack of transparency, fear of corruption and even arrogance of the leadership of the

ACP. Despite the fact that the cartoons expressed the perspective of their respective authors, they

captured in a humorous way some topics of public concern in Panama. Some of these are more

focused on criticizing the way the idea of the expansion of the Panama Canal was introduced by




12 See Canal News httpl w\ il it pancanal.com/eng/pr/press-releases/200 1/08/30/pr45.html, last accessed April 10,
2007.









the Panamanian government, and other comments were more focused on the attitude of the ACP,

or its representatives, when presenting and promoting the expansion of the waterway.

The first cartoon I selected was published in La Prensa newspaper in January, 2005. By

that time and during several weeks following, there were widespread rumors that the newly

installed government of Martin Torrij os was going to implement a specific agenda that would

include a tax reform, a reform in the Social Security System and the expansion of the Panama

Canal. However, the Panamanian authorities practically dismissed any inquiry about these

topics, promoting a widespread perception that a secret plan to impose these issues was going to

be implemented in a way that will elude public discussion.

In the cartoon presented in Figure 4-5, we see how the author addresses the apparent silent

context surrounding the three main topics that created public concern in Panama at the beginning

of that year. Similarly to the view of signs that demand silence when a vehicle is approaching a

hospital, the author presents a Panamanian citizen driving his car on a street flanked by signs

demanding silence for the forthcoming controversial topics. This was a metaphor of the implicit

demand of the Panamanian authorities of not talking or inquiries about issues such as the tax

reforms, the reform of the social security system, and the expansion of the Panama Canal. The

Panamanian, represented by the driver, looks perplexed while looking at the signs that seem to

announce that he is approaching a series of topics that are already decided upon.

The second cartoon was published in the newspaper Critica on May 21, 2005 four months

after the previous one (Figure 4-6). Here the president of Panama, Martin Torrij os appears

throwing bombs at a little man who symbolizes the Panamanian people. These bombs represent

the most explosive issues that were expected to be addressed by the Torrij os administration at

that time: the reform of the Social Security system, income tax reforms, and the Panama Canal.









The bomb in the air going in direction of the man represents the reforms of the security system

that increased the age of retirement, as well as the number of monthly deductions taken from

workers' salaries, in order to increase the retirement funds for the Social Security, two measures

that were not well received in Panama and generated a widespread social protests. One of the

remaining bombs waiting to be thrown is the Canal, an allusion to the forthcoming referendum

about the expansion of the waterway that was supposed to be announced shortly.

The cartoon suggests a passive attitude of the Panamanians who are portrayed as mere

observers of the bombs thrown at him by the President who is j oyfully announcing that other

decisions previously taken will be coming next. The metaphor of the bombs implies that these

topics are explosive issues that will have a negative effect where they are thrown at, in this case

the Panamanian people.

If the previous cartoons suggested the image of a passive Panamanian citizen, I have seen

that later on, some of the cartoons began to reflect the observed growing resistance that the

population has been showing to the imposition of the previously mentioned not very popular

measures. Depending on the editorial line of the newspaper that published the cartoon, this

reaction was perceived as a self inflicted harm caused by the government and the political elite

thanks to their authoritarian style of management, or by the opponents of the proj ect, like some

Panamanian unions who organized to express their discontent with the way the proj ect was

presented, as can be seen in the next cartoons.

In a cartoon published in La Prensa on June 1st 2005 (Figure 4-7), President Torrij os looks

quite concerned driving a steam roller that was so heavy that it produced a crack in the ground

that will prevent him from continuing a probably smooth ride to the expected referendum about

the expansion of the Canal. The roller -in Spanish aplanadora- symbolizes the legislative










maj ority of the government party that controls the Legislative Assembly of Panama that uses its

dominance to approve laws regardless of opposition. This way of approving conflictive laws by

the power of the majority is also called "la aplanadora", like the one driven by Torrijos. In other

words, the president was leading the National Assembly to approve laws according to his will.

This overpowering procedure ignited additional resentment from different groups in

Panama: students, teachers, unions, physicians and so on who demanded to be consulted, as is

supposed to happen in a democratic system. So, the cartoonist suggest that because the president

used the heavy weight of his legislative "aplanadora" to approve the conflictive reform of Social

Security system, he was at risk of breaking the national support needed for reaching his goal of

getting public approval of the expansion of the Panama Canal.

Influence of the ACP on other Panamanian Agencies

Besides the use of publicity, I have observed some other ways in which the ACP has been

exercising influence on other Panamanian agencies. In fact, during my fieldwork in Panama, in

2003, I visited quite often the installations of the Ascanio Arosemena Center, the building that

houses the library of the ACP. The entrance of the building is preceded by an award winning

architectural design consisting of a series of columns that surround a small internal pond. These

columns -21 in total- represent the number of Panamanians -most of them high school students-

who were killed by US soldiers during the riots of January 9, 1964, the main violent conflict

between the US and Panama, prior to the invasion of December 20, 1989. The building was

named in honor of Ascanio Arosemena, the first student who was killed during those riots. With

the construction of the memorial and the naming of the building, the ACP made a permanent

symbolic appropriation of a conflictive part of the US-Panama relationship that preceded the

transition of the Panama Canal to Panamanian control.









This architectural symbol and the image that was publicized in the media gave me a partial

perception about the ACP that I complemented and contrasted with other perspectives I observed

during my interviews and exchanges with people working in the different institutions that I

visited during my Hieldwork. These impressions came from the innuendoes, suggestions, and

indirect responses coming from people that seemed concerned about saying something that could

cause them problems. For example, on my first visit to the Tommy Guardia Geographic Institute,

where all the official maps of the Republic of Panama are issued, I asked for a copy of the map

of the area of the expanded watershed. The attendant asked me immediately if that was the area

where the lakes were going to be built. That surprised me because the ACP was arguing that

there was no plan to build lakes in the region. Whatever the case, the attendant told me that they

have run out of those specific maps. She could not explain to me why this office did not have

more copies of those maps despite the fact that there was no known outstanding demand for

them, according to her perception. However, she said that the institute did not have plans to print

additional copies. She recommended me to go to the ACP to get the copy I needed.

I had a similar experience of a public agency ceding its responsibility to the ACP when I

visited the National Environmental Authority (ANAM) in order to learn about its own

assessments of the environmental impact of the expansion of the Panama Canal. I was told that,

because the area to be considered was under the jurisdiction of the Panama Canal Authority, they

have not done any environmental assessments there. They recommended me to go to the Panama

Canal Authority to get the environmental information I needed. Even though the officers of

ANAM claimed that they did not have any information about the proj ect of building lakes in the

expanded watershed, there was a huge map of the Panama Canal watershed on display at

ANAM's library that showed the lakes that were supposed to be built.









An analogous experience to being referred to the ACP was repeated when I went to the

office of Mining Resources of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to collect data regarding

the existence of mineral deposits in the area of the watershed. When asking about that, one of

the geologists working there commented that he was quite annoyed with what he called the

"already-made" decision of the ACP to build lakes in the area. Later on, I talked to other officers

of the same institution who offered to give me the information I needed in a couple of days. But

one of them told me informally that, few days earlier, officers of the ACP had asked the

department not to deliver any information regarding mining resources in the area of the

watershed. After I returned two days later, I was told to present an official letter to the sub-

director of the department asking for the information I needed, a formality that I fulfilled almost

immediately. When I returned for the response one week later, the sub-director of the department

told me that her department could not give me that information, and that I had to ask for it to the

ACP.

Other perceptions about the ACP come from my interviews with people working there.

Despite their differences in opinions on particular issues about their j ob at the ACP, they shared

an acknowledgement of the professionalism in the management of the institution. I had the

opportunity to interview officers from the Unit of Institutional Intelligence, from the

Environmental Division, and from what was called the Social Team of the ACP. Unfortunately,

because my mobility between rural and urban settings, and the discretion and level of privacy

that ACP displayed to outsiders, it was impossible for me to make a direct and long term study of

the internal dynamics of the ACP through interactions with more of its employees. I also had to

complement my impressions with information provided informally by friends and acquaintances

who work at the ACP.









Visiting the offices of the ACP was an interesting comparative experience, precisely

because of the contrast that I could perceive with other public offices in Panama. The order,

discipline, and neatness at the interior and exterior of the buildings are reminders of the strong

imprint left by the US organizational culture that controlled these installations up to December,

1999. In the offices that I visited, the abundance of resources like general supplies, and up to

date informational technology was evident. For an outsider, it seems that the work environment

here and the facilities available were far beyond anything imaginable in any other public offices

in Panama City.

Through my conversations, I could notice that the different perspectives of each one of my

informants in the ACP was compartmentalized or almost restricted to their own area of expertise

without any relevant references to a more complex perspective of analysis. My perception in this

regard coincides with the observations of Zygmund Bauman on the effects of the hierarchical

and functional divisions of labor. According to Bauman, "all division of labor creates a distance

between most of the contributors to the final outcome of collective activity, and the outcome

itself" (Bauman 1989, pp. 98-99). In the case of the ACP, I observed that, for example, the

representative of the Unit of Institutional Intelligence, an economist, emphasized that it was self

evident that that the Panama Canal is very beneficial for the country. When I asked him about the

main difference between the US and Panamanian administration of the canal, he said:

.. the Panamanian administration of the Panama Canal, in contrast to the former US
administration, manages the waterway not as a public entity but as a business and,
accordingly, produces profit for the country. Therefore, profitability is a mayor concern for
Panama, and this explains why, presently, all the activities of the Panama Canal are
performed in order to produce higher amount of income for the Panamanian government.13





13 Onesimo S~nches. Personal Interview. Translation by the author.










From this point of view, he argued that Panama must expand the Panama Canal in order to

take advantage of the position of the waterway in the global economy. He also sustained that

.. the canal will be relevant as long as time and space prevail as important features for
international business. However, when these variables can be fulfilled through other
options, the relevance of the Panama Canal will be at risk.

However, he admitted that in case the canal is not expanded, this will not mean the

collapse of the waterway and its utility for several international routes. He said, for example

that:

.. expanding the canal will ensure a longer useful life for the waterway, but, in the worst
case scenario, if the canal is not expanded, it will continue to be an important provider of
services for certain routes. However, this last option would be a waste of resources because
the Canal would not be exploiting all its potentialities.

When talking with Jaime Herrera, an officer from the Division of Environmental

Management, he said that,

.. the main difference between the US and the Panamanian administrations of the
Panama Canal was that the US was only interested in the traffic of ships but not in
conservation issues, but the Panamanian administration was focused on conservation of
water resources and the traffic of ships. 14

However, he was quite critical about certain aspects of the current management of the

waterway. For example, he said:

The ACP's advisory group is formed by some of the richest men in the world. They share
with the CEO of the Panama Canal their main concerns and proj section on the use of ships
for their products. The ACP is in danger of being managed like some other Panamanian
entities that give economic values to everything, giving priority to the profit criteria over
any other considerations.

Jaime mentioned, for example, two cases ruled by this principle: Cemento Panama -a

cement manufacturing plant- and the biggest pig raising farm in Panama (property of Ricardo





14 Jaime Herrera. Fictional name. Personal Interview.









Martinelli, former minister of the Canal and presidential candidate for the elections of 2003).

Jaime said that,

.. because the lack of government concern on environmental issues, and the high regard
on particular economic interests, these plants are still located in the area of the Panama
Canal watershed under the jurisdiction of the ACP despite the high level of pollution they
produce in their surroundings.

It was not until the year 2001 that the cement production plant ended its polluting practices

that were denounced on different opportunities (Antinori 2001). In the case of the pig farm, it

keeps pouring tons of droppings into the nearby streams that discharge their water into Gatun

Lake.

Jaime was aware of the complexity of the new jurisdictional regime that has given the ACP

a higher level of authority than any other local and older political institutions. He also

acknowledged that

.. some procedural ways of the ACP could justify the criticism about the tendency of the
agency to act as another country within Panama; for example, the lack of consultation with
the residents of the area when the expansion of the watershed was decided."

Even for him, as a member of the environmental division of the ACP, this decision was

quite surprising because it came not because of a study made by that division but as a decision

coming down from the Board of Directors.

Another person who gave her opinion about the ACP was Margarita Mora, 16 a member of

the social team that the ACP organized in July 2001. She told me that the creation of that team

was in response to the reaction of the peasants who complained about the expansion of the

Panama Canal watershed. With the purpose of dealing with this issue, the ACP recruited social

scientists and technicians with a variety of expertise in proj ects and studies in the old watershed


15 Jaime Herrera. Personal Interview.

16 Fictional name. Personal Interview. September 29, 2004.









of the canal, in international institutions, NGO's and public offices. Because of the type of job

this unit had to perform, its team had to be in contact with the people living in the watershed.

She also said that, "the first challenge the ACP had to face was mistrust among peasants because

they were afraid that their land would be flooded after the surprising expansion of the

watershed".

She acknowledged, as well, that

.. the ACP lacked the experience to deal with local communities, so one of the interests
of the social team is to promote, within the culture of the ACP, the concern about the
reality of local people in the process of decision-making. The idea is to help the institution
to realize that the concern about the conservation of the environment is not opposed to the
collaboration with the people living in the area."

Margarita commented that part of their strategy of contacting the residents of the

watershed included the organization of "work tables" -meeting sessions with peasants-, the

provision of certain services to the communities, the promotion of land titling and the issuing of

a popular bimonthly newspaper called "El Cocuyo", which serves not only to inform the

peasants about the activities of the ACP but also will present information about the customs,

traditions and history of the different communities (Rodriguez 2004).

One additional comment about the institution, but coming from an international outsider

who was involved in proj ects with ACP, gave another perspective. Marcos Torresls was an

officer of an international development agency, which some years ago, provided funds for a joint

study with the ACP about the social conditions in the area of the expanded watershed. While

criticizing the attitude of the ACP and recommending it should be open to a more participatory

approach to the residents of the area, he also described the organizational culture of the



17 Margarita Mora Personal Interview, September 29, 2004.

1s Fictional name. Personal Interview, September, 2005.









institution as "monarchical". He said that he could observe among the employees of the ACP "a

sort of fear of the hierarchy, a sort of military style of functioning" where they could not question

the decision taken in higher levels.

Marcos considered that, even though the salaries paid by the ACP were good in terms of

the Panamanian standards, an attitude of self-criticism among the employees was limited because

of the fear of losing their j obs and, consequently, the handsome salaries they were earning at

ACP. He also criticized the authoritarian style of the people of the Social Team when dealing

with the residents of the area of the watershed.

Water Resources and the Expanded Panama Canal Watershed

As we have presented before, several references alluded to the authoritarian attitude that

the ACP was displaying in its actions. The most outstanding display of this attitude was observed

in 1999 with the definition of the expansion of the Panama Canal watershed, a key element of the

expansion of the Panama Canal and the base of the conflict with rural communities that will be

presented in the following pages.

The issue of the expansion of the Panama Canal had been considered as early as 1928, just

14 years after its inauguration. At that time, military and strategic needs were the main

arguments that justified the need of expanding the waterway (Benj amin 2001). The US

government spent nearly $70 million in some excavation works that began in 1939, but were

stopped in 1942 because of the Second World War (Latin Finance 2005). That initiative was

followed by subsequent canal administrations that organized further studies and designs for a

wider canal. Several routes and options were considered, among them the construction of a sea

level canal and a third set of locks (Lindsay-Poland 2003, Petrosky 1997, p.169). This last

option, which was favored by the ACP, would imply, besides its economic and engineering










implications, the consumption of colossal volumes of water, a key factor that made possible the

successful functioning of the Panama Canal for almost one century.

In fact, the Panama Canal could be considered as a double water stairway, where ships go

up and down in the process of transit between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans (Figure 4-8). The

highest path of this water stairway, and its main reservoir of water, is Gatun Lake, located 85 feet

above sea level. The system of locks between Gatun Lake and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans

makes possible the moving of the ships from one ocean to the other all the way along the canal,

lifting the ships to the lake and lowering them to sea level. Currently, one ship moving through

the canal requires the use of 52 million gallons of fresh water; a quantity equivalent to the daily

consumption of 700,000 Panamanians, almost a quarter of the population of the country. With a

daily average of 36 ships passing through, the Panama Canal uses around 1.8 billion gallons of

fresh water everyday (Niesten & Reid 2001). The water used to make this possible is poured

into the locks by gravity. The net capacity of the lakes that feed the canal, Gatun and Madden -

another reservoir- are 203 and 162 billion gallons, respectively.

As in the rest of the world, the watershed that feeds the Panama Canal also suffers the

effects of El Nifio Southern Oscillation cycle (ENSO), known popularly as the El Nifio

phenomenon. In a study about the effects of El Nifio supported by the United Nations

Environment Programme's Water Unitl9, a series of conclusions was presented regarding its

effects on the Panama Canal watershed. The study concluded that in Panama there is a trend in

the reduction in precipitation below the normal long-term average values as a result from El

Nifio. This has caused a decrease in the lake's water levels, and, consequently, has been

j eopardizing the normal operation of the Panama Canal. This became more evident during the


19 http://www.ccb.ucar.edu/un/panama~canal.htl last accessed, December 4, 2006.









last two strong El Nifio seasons in 1982-3 and 1997-98 when these lakes reached the lowest level

in their history.

As a global phenomenon producing climatic alterations in different parts of the world, El

Nifio affects, as well, the yield of grains and other agricultural products, which are some of the

most important commodities transported through the canal. Increase or reduction in grain

production and trade during that cyclical phenomenon has a direct effect on the economic

performance of the Panama Canal because the tolls it collects depend on the weight of the vessel

(Marucci 2002).

Because the extreme water shortage in 1997 and 1998, the administration of the Panama

Canal was forced to impose a set of restrictions for the draft -the depth a ship is immersed in the

water- of transiting vessels. Normally, the maximum allowable draft in the canal is 39.5 feet,

but, at that point, the Panama Canal Commission implemented a policy of increasing restrictions

according to the persistence of the reduction of the recharge capacity of the watershed, and by

April, 1998, the maximum restriction value reached 35.5 feet. With each 6 inches draft

restriction, 1,000 metric tons of cargo in a Panamax ship were displaced (Eriksen 1998). Due to

this situation, some users of the waterway had to reduce their cargo or opt for other routes during

El Nifio years. Regarding the first option, 28 of the 2612 transits that occurred between March

12 and May 20, 1998, that is 1 1% of the transits, had to reduce their drafts to be able to navigate

the waterway. The ships that were affected were mainly heavily loaded vessels like tankers, and

containerships. The second option was taken by other customers of the waterway moving

between Asia and the East Coast of the Americas, which opted for alternative routes such as the

North American coast-to-coast railroad and the Suez Canal.









With the panorama of water shortage observed in 1998, and considering the anticipated

demand for fresh water to meet the needs of the growing metropolitan population and for the

enlarged Panama Canal, the ACP has been looking for ways to ensure future water supply. For

this purpose, several alternatives were considered, among them the deepening of the Gatun Lake,

the creation of new reservoirs in other rivers located in the watershed of the canal, and the

construction of special chambers for reusing water.

Despite official comments of the ACP denying any definite decision about which

alternative was selected for the supply of water for the expanded canal, some actions taken since

1999 suggested that one alternative was going to be implemented in advance: the creation of

artificial lakes. This presumption was supported by the decision of ACP to expand the borders

of the Panama Canal watershed.

According to Article 2, Chapter 1 of Law 19, approved on June 11, 1997, the canal

watershed is "the geographic area whose surface and underground waters flow toward the Canal

or are emptied into it, as well as into its reservoirs and lakes".20 Up until August 31, 1999, the

watershed covered an area of 339,649 hectares. On that day, in a quick and unexpected move on

the last session of its five-year term, the Panamanian Legislative Assembly approved Law 44

that added 213,112 hectares to the Panama Canal watershed, making it a total of 5527.61 Km2,

or 7% of the Panamanian territory (Figure 4-9) (CEASPA 2002, p.5, Hughes 2002, p.iii).

The additional area included the watersheds of the Rivers Indio, Canio Sucio, and Cocle del

Norte. The paradoxical part of the measure was that, despite the technical definition of

watershed adopted by ACP according to Law 19, the water sources in the newly added areas do

not dump a single drop of water into the canal (Figure 4-10). The watershed was extended to an


20 http://www.pancanal.com/eng/legal/law/law~pf last accessed, May 3, 2007.









area that included water sources that were in no way connected to the canal. Besides, some maps

of the expanded watershed were issued depicting three prospective lakes (Figure 4-1 1).

These actions produced a strong reaction against Law 44 and the subsequent criticism of

the proj ect of expansion of the Panama Canal. In fact, these maps were published in the web

page of the ACP. However, they were retrieved from that page after the peasants resident in the

expanded watershed began complaining that this display was proof that the flooding of their

lands was already decided. As far as I could see, the procedure to define legally the area of the

watershed justified the mistrust of the peasants who claimed that a plan to flood their lands was

afoot. To test the accuracy of the claims made by the peasants, I looked for information about

the background of Law 44 and the reasons given to expand the watershed to an area not

connected to the Panama Canal.

My references were the records of the hearings of the sessions of the National Assembly

held on August 16, 17, and 18, 1999, in which the justifications for the expansion of the

watershed were discussed. According to the Panamanian legislative system, any new law that is

going to be approved has to be discussed in three previous hearings. Copies of the hearings

usually are held in the library of the Legislative Assembly of Panama for public access.

During my search of the transcripts of these hearings, I found some difficulties. The first

one was that the library of the National Assembly did not have a copy of the first of the three

hearings I wanted -the one that, according to one informant, mentioned explicitly the idea of

creating new lakes-. However, I could get copies of the second and third hearings, in which

there were allusions to some issues mentioned in the first hearing but did not reveal any explicit

mention of the creation of lakes in the watershed.









When inquiring about the missing transcript, I was told to go to the office of the

Committee of Panama Canal Affairs of the National Assembly to get the copy I wanted. Several

visits to the office of that committee made explicit that getting the copy I needed was not going

to be an easy job. For instance, it was difficult to make contact with the person that was

responsible for the records of the hearings, and when I found her, she asked me to come back one

week later. When I returned, the person in charge told me that the transcripts of the hearings I

was looking for were missing. I could not help thinking how bizarre this response was since all

the hearings of the Legislative Assembly are typed by computer, and recorded by radio and TV.

Surprisingly, some months later, when I was back to the United States, I was able to get

the missing copy precisely by searching the web page of the National Assembly. I printed a copy

of the document not only because of my interest in obtaining that information but as a preventive

measure in case it disappears again from that web page after being revealed. I remember that

this had happened with the maps of the lakes that originally were issued by the ACP on its web

page but has been withdrawn after the claims by the peasants.

When I read the transcript I had downloaded, I found explicit statements that confirmed

that plans were afoot to build dams to feed more water into the new locks proposed for the canal.

In those hearings, when proposing the new boundaries of the Panama Canal Watershed, the

Administrator of the Panama Canal Authority, Alberto Aleman Zubieta said:

The content of this proj ect (of expanding the watershed) is to guarantee to the Panama
Canal Authority and to the Panama Canal enough water for the future of the Canal, its
future expansions, as well as the water required for us who live within the sector of the
watershed, or near the watershed because the development of all this area is demanding
and is going to demand more water, and this water right now is coming from the Panama
Canal Watershed (1999).21




21 Hearings of the National Assembly of Panama, August 6, 1999. Translation made by the author.










The proj ect expands the Panama Canal watershed by two hundred thirteen thousand
hectares added to the present watershed. This area, that presently includes the Madden and
Gatun Lakes, and the upper streams of the Indio River, will be increased with the sector of
Cocle del Norte, Cafio Sucio, and Rio Indio. This will produce an artificial lake, sorry
three artificial lakes, which will have ten times more storage capacity than the present
Panama Canal Watershed. For this reason, it is important, after the research that we have
done, that this new source of water, which is a vital resource required for the functioning
and operations of the Canal, we are giving these guarantees to the Panama Canal (1999, p.
21).

.. Once these lakes are created, as their sub-product, we could generate electric power;
so this energy will be produced as it is produced from the lakes Madden and Gatun, thus
when we will be pouring the water from the upper lakes -I mean Cocle del Norte Lake,
Cafio Sucio Lake, and Rio Indio Lake- into the Gatun lake, then we will produce electric
power. ..

In the same hearing, and responding to one question about the proj sections of the ACP for

the construction of the new lakes, Mr. Aleman-Zunieta said

We are proj ecting that these lakes will take approximately ten years to built, considering
development, planning .. in general the project will take about ten years. How much
will be the cost? We do not have that item yet, because what we are watching is the
volume of water that is produced, and we have not gotten into the stage of final design, that
we hope to have ready by next year (1999, p.28).

At the end of the first hearing of the National Assembly, the legislator Cristobalina Jaime

asked how the proj ect is going to affect Boca de la Encantada, a community located at one of the

margins of the Indio River. Mr. Aleman-Zubieta responded

.. This is in the sector of Indio River. A lake will be made in the sector of Indio River.
There will be a sector in this sector (sic) that would be flooded. At this moment, this is a
sector that is extremely deforested and where the main activity is cattle rising. Some areas
of that sector will be affected when we build that lake, and we would have to make a
relocation of those people that only will be affected within the area of the new lake (1999,
p.33).

It is estimated that the entire proj ect, including all the development of the program, would
be in about ten years because we have to begin, firstly, with the socio-economic program.
This is the first thing that is done in this kind of projects, as well with the environmental
impact. These are the most important items in such a project, and with the engineering
works, of proj ect development, and then begin the construction works, end with the
structures, and then to finalize with the filling of the lakes (33).









In fact, one of the maps included in a report of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP: n.d.),

specifies the location of three new artificial lakes as was shown in Figure 4-1 1. These lakes

would be created by damming the Indio, Canio Sucio, and Cocle del Norte rivers as was

confirmed by the former Ombudsman, Italo Antinori, in a special report he presented about the

Panama Canal Watershed, issued on January of 2001 (Antinori 2001, p.21). The possible area

flooded with the three lakes be would be about 80,000 hectares (CIACAL 2002, p.4).

The extensive explanations that Mr. Aleman-Zubieta made about the lakes to be built in

the expanded watershed contrasted with the concision of the Law 44 approved on August 3 1,

1999, which consisted of only two articles; the first one that explained the obj ective of the law

and made a reference to an Annex A, attached to the law,22 and the second one that stated that

the law will be official as soon it is promulgated. Besides being approved in a hurry by the

legislators in the last weeks of their term, the law was validated by the President Ernesto Perez

Balladares on the last day of his term as a president (CIACAL 2002, p.6).

On May 16, 2001, Critica, a Panamanian newspaper, presented some declarations of the

administrator of the ACP, in which he mentioned that they had not neglected any aspect of the

expansion proposal such as the issuing of property titles and granting compensation fees for the

campesinos to be resettled. However, he denied that the lands of the campesinos would be

flooded (ACAN-EFE 2001). In January 2004, the biweekly supplement of the ACP, El Faro,

published an interview with Francisco Miguez, coordinator of the team responsible of the Master

Plan. In this interview, Mr. Miguez mentioned that, at that moment, the ACP has not made any

decision regarding any kind of dam or water reservoir (ACP 2004). Obviously, this statement

contradicts what had been said by the manager of the ACP during the hearings previous to the


22 This Annex had a description of the geographical references of the limits of the new watershed.









definition of the Law 44 and with some presentations made by the ACP to selected publics. In

fact, and according to preliminaries designs made public in 2005, there was a plan to build a dam

that would be 1150 meters-long and 85 meters-high in Rio Indio. According to this, the

maximum level of water in this reservoir would be 80 meters and the resulting flooded area

would be 47km2 from where water would be transferred to the Gatun Lake through an eight-

kilometer long transfer tunnel.23

Whatever the case, the actions of the Panama Canal Authority for ensuring in advance the

supply of water for the expanded canal implied that the decision of expanding the waterway was

made in advance. This was in conflict with the constitutional principle that established that any

decision regarding the construction of a new canal or of a third set of locks would require the

approval of the Panamanian people after a national referendum.

Additional to the approval of Law 44, the Panama Canal Authority has been supporting a

series of studies in order to measure the environmental, social and economic impacts of the

expansion of the Panama Canal (ACP 2004). For several years, the content of those studies was

kept secret, a fact that has been criticized by several important members of the Panamanian

society like agents of the Catholic Church, members of the Panamanian Society of Engineers, a

former chief engineer of the Panama Canal Authority, a former deputy manager of the Panama

Canal, and a former ombudsman. For example, in 2001, Hector Endara, at that time Coordinator

of the Social Pastoral (Caritas) of the Catholic Church of Panama, claimed that there was a lack

of sincerity and proper information from the Panama Canal Authority regarding the Panama

Canal expansion project, and especially regarding the construction of the dams. Endara





23 Final Report presented by the ACP to the Panamanian College of Civil Engineers. November 2004.









mentions that since November 14, 2000, Caritas Panama has asked formally for more details

about the proj ect, but has not received any official response (Sagel 2001).

Fernando Manfredo, a former deputy administrator of the Panama Canal Commission, the

US-Panamanian agency that ruled the Canal before the Panamanian administration, expressed his

concern about the attitude of the ACP. He was suspicious of the fact that this agency had begun

to do social and environmental studies of the campesinos of the areas before having proper

information on the profitability of the expansion proj ect. According to him, these kinds of

actions showed that the decision about the proj ect already has been made (Manfredo 2000a,

p.17). Additionally, in his report about the Panama Canal Watershed, former ombudsman, Italo

Antinori, mentioned the declarations made by the former President of Panama, Mrs. Mireya

Moscoso, in a meeting with the campesinos of the affected area held on November 7, 2000. On

that occasion, Mrs. Mososo said that, should the proj ect of flooding the area be approved, "the

inhabitants of the region should not be worried because the Panamanian government will solve

the problem of resettlement" (Antinori 2001, p.36). In general, the variety of actions of the ACP

evidences the ambiguity of its image that goes between its high level of professionalism and

efficiency and certain level of an authoritarian style similar to the attitude displayed during the

years of US management.

The Inter-Institutional Committee for the Watershed

The Inter-institutional Commission for the Watershed known for its acronym CICH for

Comite Interinstitucional para la Cuenca Hidrografiea del Canal is a strategic agency created by

the ACP in order to coordinate the labor of different institutions with responsibilities and

interests in the Panama Canal Watershed, to establish the means to ensure that the capacity of the

Panama Canal Watershed will not be overburdened, and to promote an orderly and sustainable

development of the human settlements in this area (Benj amin 2001, p.7). The base of legitimacy









of CICH is sustained over its legal foundation and the coordination void that its obj ective will

fill.

According to its statement of purposes, one of the functions of CICH is to supervise and

evaluate the projects, programs, and policies needed for the adequate management of the Panama

Canal Watershed and to solve any incongruence or duplication of labor among the different

institutions working there. In order to fulfill its role, CICH received the assignment to act as a

fundraiser nationally and internationally. The goal of CICH is to promote awareness among the

residents of the Panama Canal watershed of the importance to protect and preserve the natural

resources of the area, specially the water resources.24

The agencies that are coordinated by CICH are the Panama Canal Authority, the Ministry

of Housing, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Justice and Government, the National

Environmental Authority, the Authority for the Inter-oceanic Region, and two NGO's:

Fundaci6n Natura and Caritas Arquidiocesana -the last is a religious NGO managed by a

Catholic priest resident in Panama City. These two NGOs were included in CICH after

competing for a post opened in order to have on the committee a representation of other agencies

outside the government structure. This post is filled every three years.

I interviewed the general secretary of CICH, Mr. Oscar Vallarino, a very organized and

articulate man with an impressive professional background, and with previous experience as

head of the most important Panamanian environmental foundation. During the interview, we

talked about the role of CICH, his role as general secretary of the institution, the process of

decision making inside the agency, and his opinion about the groups that are opposed to the

building of dams. Mr. Vallarino gave me an extensive explanation of the role of the CICH and


24 For a general official information about CICH: httpl w\ int\\cich.org/que.htm, last accessed February 12, 2006.









the kind of studies that they were doing, which were specially focused on the western side of the

watershed. Additionally he gave me a brochure with general information about CICH, the same

information that can be found in its webpage. According to this document, the main obj ective

of CICH is to coordinate efforts, initiatives and resources for the conservation and integral

development of the Panama Canal Hydrographic Watershed. This obj ective was established

according to Agreement # 16 of June 17th 1999, which is based on article 6 of the Organic Law

of the Panama Canal Authority.

Mr. Vallarino was quite passionate when he referred to the different studies that have been

done in the Panama Canal Watershed. He told me:

I consider the expansion of the watershed positive because it provided the opportunity to
study an area of the country that was quite unknown in terms of population, natural
resources, etc. Moreover, it gave the Panama Canal Authority the responsibility to protect
and preserve the resources of the area that could be in danger because the agricultural
practices that are spreading in the area. 25

Despite the amount of information that he told me was collected about the communities, he

was quite reserved in giving me specific details about the studies he mentioned. He alluded that

he could not give any information from the communities without the permission of the

informants and because the process of data collection was not complete. Regarding the

construction of dams, he said that it was possible that this part of the proj ect will not be

implemented. Besides, he said, this is an aspect that was not included in the law that established

the limits of the watershed.

Mr. Vallarino criticized the campesinos that are opposed to the expansion of the canal

because they do not want to dialogue with the ACP. He became quite emotional when saying





25 Oscar Vallarino, personal interview, October 2003.









that the point of view of the campesinos was due to ideological differences that question

globalization. He said,

.. that group of resistance was financed by the Catholic Church the same way as the
Zapatistas in Chiapas. We, at CICH do not want a Chiapas in Panama. However, that
resistance group is losing influence in the area because their arguments are getting weaker.
Anyway, any kind of proj ect that could be done in the area is going to be built in no less
than 10 or 15 years.26

He additionally claimed that

.. members of the CCCE tried to mobilize Ngobe Indians from other areas of Panama to
the region of the watershed with the purpose of presenting them as authentic indigenous
settlements. In case this argument is accepted by the government, it would create a
complex legal problem because the international laws regarding the special condition for
the treatment of indigenous people.

Mr. Vallarino said that CICH got important funding to support research and infrastructural

projects in several communities. He mentioned the 25 million dollars granted by ACP and

USAID, and that the Panamanian government is negotiating an additional funding of $10 million

through the Inter-American Development Bank.

Regarding the socio-economic conditions in the area, Mr. Vallarino also said that he was

impressed by the poverty of the people living in the watershed, noting that a lot of those people

did not have a permanent source of income. He implicitly admitted, however, that, in facing

such situations, the efforts to coordinate the different institutions cooperating in CICH take a lot

of time. In fact, he said: "I could achieve in one year what the commission has done in two years

even without going to the communities, because I know what the people need." 27

It is evident that the challenges facing the ACP and the Inter-Institutional Commission for

the Panama Canal Watershed (CICH) are impressive. Internal migration has affected the

preservation of the original watershed since the opening of the Trans-isthmian highway in 1947.

26 Oscar Vallarino, personal interview. Translation made by the author.

27Oscar Vallarino, personal interview.









In 1960, the area was populated by 37,000 people; by 1998, there were more than 150,000

inhabitants (Heckadon-Moreno 1999, Sanjur 2000). Besides, institutional limitations are

disappointing. It is a tradition in Panama that the official environmental agencies lack the

political power to enforce coherent programs that could control or organize the trends of

migration, industrialization and resulting pollution and deforestation of not only the old

watershed of the Canal but also of the rest of the country.

Despite the fact that CICH is coordinating a committee where the ACP is a member among

others, CICH depends on the ACP. Its location is in one of the buildings within the

administrative complex of the ACP and an important part of its funding comes from the ACP. As

an institution dependent on the ACP, CICH does not have the power to influence the outcome of

the conflict. It is just an instrument of the ACP in the process of reaching out to the peoples and

communities living in the watershed without any practical mediation power. We will discuss

those peoples and communities in the next chapter.

The Third Set of Locks

The expansion of the watershed is part of a wider proj ect that consists of the building a

third set of locks, which will run parallel to the present locks of the Panama Canal. According to

the preliminary design, these locks will be 1400 feet long, 200 feet wide and 50 feet of draft and

will require the excavation of about 50 million cubic meters of land that will be extracted from

the widening of the Atlantic and Pacific entrances of the canal, the widening of the Culebra Cut

and the deepening of the Gatun Lake (ACP 2006, Ehrenman 2003, EN\R 2003b) (Figure 4-12).28

In 2002, the ACP assigned the design of the new set of locks to the U. S. Army Corps of

Engineers and the consortium Tractebel Development Engineering, Coynet-Bellier, Technum


28 http://www.pancanal. com/e sp/plan/documento s/propue sta/acp-propuesta-dato s-relevante s.pdf, last accessed
December 12, 2006.









N.V. and Compagnie Nationale du Rhone composed of French and Belgium firms. These

designs were granted in two contracts valued at a total of $3.5 million. The $1.6 million contract

that was assigned to the French-Belgium consortium was for the design of the locks on the

Pacific side. The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers was the responsible party for the design of the

locks on the Atlantic side, at a cost of $1.9 million.

On March 24, 2006, the president of Panama, Martin Torrij os made the official

announcement of the ACP's Master Plan that validated the proposal to build a third set of locks

for the Panama Canal. With this announcement, he put an end to several months of speculations

about the content of the official proposal that the ACP has been preparing.

During the days previous to the national announcement, President Torrij os, held private

meetings with several former presidents of Panama, with the members of the Conference of

Catholic Bishops of Panama, with the leaders of the main political parties, as well as with student

leaders. In those meetings, President Torrijos explained the importance of the project, the

urgency to respond to the challenges of world commerce, and the benefits the expansion of the

Panama Canal will bring to foster the development of Panama. Besides the presidential

announcement, it was evident that, during the months that preceded the disclosure of the Master

Plan, the ACP has launched an aggressive campaign of public relations in different parts of

Panama aimed at university professors and students, rural communities, professional

associations, etc.

According to the Panamanian Constitution, any official proposal to expand the canal has to

be approved in different stages. First, the proposal has to be approved by the Board of Directors

of the ACP, and then this board will submit the proposal to the Presidential Cabinet. After this

approval, the proposal has to be submitted to the National Assembly to receive the approval or









refusal from the Panamanian legislators. After being approved by the legislators, the proposal

has to be submitted to a national referendum at least ninety days later. This last event will define

the implementation of the proposal. When the proj ect to expand the Panama Canal was made

public the ACP began an extensive publicity campaign in order to promote it. By April 26th

2006, in less than three days after the public delivery of the Master Plan for the expansion of the

canal, some newspapers commented that 70% of the population had decided to vote in favor of

the expansion despite not having enough information about it (Jordan 2006). Two days later,

however, one cartoon (Figure 4-13) published in La Prensa Newspaper satirized this claim. In

that cartoon, the journalist is asking a man the following questions: "Do you know the studies

about the proj ect? Do you know what the expansion consists of! Do you know the cost? Do you

know how many employment will be created?" To each one of these questions, the man

responds: "No". However, when finally was asked about how he will vote at the referendum he

said: "Yes". When asked why he would vote like this, he said: "To compensate so much no".

As can be seen, the cartoon was satirizing peoples' ignorance of the main issues related to the

canal and the lack of a solid rational foundation for the positive vote on the referendum.

Other cartoons were addressing the paradoxical situation of the lack of money for basic

and important social needs, versus the abundance of resources available for the expansion of the

Panama Canal. Within this context, there was a growing concern of the government that the

referendum would become an opportunity for the people to express through their vote, their

dissatisfaction with the poor public services. This is clearly presented in the cartoon shown in

Figure 4-14, which exposes the concern expressed by the Panamanian political authorities who

insisted to the population that their vote for the expansion of the canal cannot be used as a vote to

punish the government. Parallel to this call, the cartoon presents that there were claims about the









lack of basic equipment like beds, ultrasound systems, and medicines in the crumbling building

of the Social Security hospital at the same time that, from the headquarters of the ACP, come

announcements that there is more than $500 million saved for the proj ect.

In a certain way, the cartoon shows the different frames that were contextualizing the

discourses of different groups of interests that argued about the priorities for Panama' s

development: the economic-political elite that wanted to distance the discussion about the

expansion of the canal from the evaluation of their public performance, the public claims for

better basic social services, and the plans of the ACP to guarantee the resources for its proj ects

despite the fact that that money could be used to serve other important and urgent social needs.

Another issue that ignited strong criticism of the ACP was the fact that, when the different

studies of the expansion of the Panama Canal were made public in order to be studied and

discussed by the Panamanian people, the documents were written in English. When the manager

of the ACP was asked about this, he recommended that any person interested in understanding

these documents should hire a translator. This comment, widely criticized as arrogant, was the

obj ect of satirical reactions in several newspapers as could be seen in Figure 4-15.

In this cartoon, the CEO of the Panama Canal Authority is presented as a crowned king

seated on his throne -the ACP- an allusion to the perceived autocratic management of the

institution. In this position, Mr. Zubieta is depicted as an arrogant authority proclaiming that

whoever wants to read the report of the Master Plan should get a translator. The second scene of

that cartoon shows one Panamanian asking another one how to say no in English, a double

allusion to the refusal of the Panamanian citizens to accept the statement of Mr. Zubieta and as a

reference to the possible negative response that the Panamanian people would give to the proj ect

in the forthcoming referendum. The same arrogant attitude of Mr. Zubieta was depicted two days








later in the cartoon presented in Figure 4-16, published in the Panama America, a newspaper

with an editorial focus supportive of the expansion of the canal.

Here a Panamanian is complaining to Mr. Zubieta that the studies of the expansion of the

canal are in English. Mr. Zubieta responds in English to that claim that the man should get a

translator. Mr. Zubieta seems to be walking away without even stopping to talk about the issue

with the Panamanian. This could be an allusion to the hurried attitude of the ACP which, in order

to maintain the accelerated pace of the implementation of the expansion proj ect, did not take

enough time to present the studies in Spanish. Under the presence of these obvious critiques, the

ACP tried to present another perspective of the proj ect through an aggressive campaign that

emphasized the future benefits of the canal to the country, as we will see in the next pages.


e ILBE e *~aa~



Figure 4-1. Cluster of activities directly and indirectly linked to the Panama Canal. Source ACP.


4PRI:


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Figure 4-2. Advertisement of the ACP aimed to high school students. Source: Diario La Prensa.

















158


















~1


rgulloa


Oportunidades
"l1aACP nors da la oportunidad de demostrar
nuestr capaidad cnom panamenos"


Progresna
FA Canel cn ruenos penameans n6s he permibdo
generar mds nrkles ques s queda en nuesco part'


Confia nza
"Lm estamo demostrando at mundo que nosratro
los panamenos sabmos hacrr Ias cosas b en'






Figure 4-3. Advertisement of the ACP. Source: Diario La Prensa.

























Figure 4-4. Front page of the ACP 2002 Yearbook. Source: ACP.


Figure 4-5. Cartoon in Diario La Prensa: January 8th, 2005. Source: Diario La Prensa


ACP~











d~P 7E .Q4y4TE41
OUe fl;iebBVr~ ~4E
Q~9aeJu ~IC~A~r~


Figure 4-6. Cartoon. Critica Newspaper: May 21st, 2005. Source: Diario Critica.


Figure 4-7. Cartoon in Diario La Prensa: June 1st, 2005. Source: Diario La Prensa.


NO!


































Figure 4-8. Crossection of the Panama Canal. Source: ACP.

LOCATION OF THE CANAL WATERSHED INY THE MAP OF PAJAMA


I CARIBBEAN
he. SEA vk >;;-*~-. I


Figure 4-9. Area of the watershed of the Panama Canal in comparison with the area of Panama.
Source: ACP.


Miraflores Lake


Pacific Ocean


GatlinLocksMiraflores Locks






























Figure 4-10. Old and New Watersheds of the Panama Canal. Source: Panama Canal Authority.

















































9
e


EFI
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I


Q)
V)


Q)
II i
O
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Figure 4-11i. Map of the lakes planned to be built in the expanded Panama Canal watershed.
Source: ACP.




















































T he newNpanamaca nalS
The new locks will also use
Lakre Gatin to transit
vessels, but will operate In
completely new channels.
These new channels w Il be
dugat the tlantienand
Pacific entrances to the
canal alongside the current
channels. in intal, they will
be more than nine
kiclometres
In length.


COS I \C o io n a n m r~ sI L











System of basins saves water
Thee water-saving basins mll be built on both sides of When water la released from the lock, the valres of the water flaws back out from 1he bassns into 1he lock. Some
the canal adlacentic each of the three sleps of the new pools open and some of the water flows Into each basin, water Is always last In the process, but these bbsins at
laks These tubs will operate by gravit and wil not Once al Ithree puts are full, their valves ar closed each lock leve w Il reduce water consumption by as
need to pump water uprard to reuse lt The highest pool When Iteames ame to nII the lock chamber again to much as 60 per cent such that the new locks w Il
Is justdighiy lower than the water level of the lock raise a sh p to the next level, the pm| alves open and consume atmutthe same amount water tat the current
tra iber, yet te lowest pool Is higer than the bottom of system uses




shchanmusmranu mryaltmu iHRxWeo;HGoEN








Figure 4-12. Dimensions of the Panama Canal Locks. Source: Mark Brooks.














165


N3ew sluices for post-Panamanships
A proposal to expand the Psnarne Canal calls for a setof Immense locks to be builtin new channels.


Current PnamaX lock statistics .-
Widthl: 3356metres Marshlplength: 294.3 metres
Length: 305 metes Max shipdraft 12 metres
Depihl: 12 6 metres Mar grss weght 65,000 tonnes
Max shp wdM:32 etRs Mx lad:479 stndard 2lfooteonnalners











POSt-Panamaxl lack statistics
Width 54 9 melles Max ship length: 885 8 metres
Length 426 B metres Max shipdraft 15.3 metres
O epth: 183jmelles Margrassweigt 150.000
Mar ship beam: 49 metres Man. load; 8000-12 500 standard 20 fot unta ners
Panamal






























Figure 4-13. Ironic cartoon about the publicized surveys that mention the maj ority of the
population is going to vote in favor of the expansion of the canal despite not having
any information about it. La Prensa, April 28th, 2006. Source: Diario La Prensa.


Figure 4-14. Ironic cartoon about the lack of money for medical services in Panama when it was
reported that the ACP has set apart more than 500 million as reserve for the
expansion of the Panama Canal. La Prensa, April 28th, 2006. Source: Diario La
Prensa.




















NO SEAN ARRO&IiANTsEs. INFoPMEN AL PUERLO


Figure 4-15. Ironic cartoon about the language used for the ACP's Master Plan. La Prensa, May
2nd, 2006. Source: Diario La Prensa.


;rYev, erid eE~i
irls(P~ ~


Figure 4-16. Cartoon Panama America. May 4th,2006. Source: Diario La Prensa.


en II i 1 laern o lasb~o nli ll









CHAPTER 5
LOCAL COMMUNITIES AND ORGANIZATIONS: GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS.

One crucial aspect of global processes is their impact on the actual reality and lifestyles of

concrete people. This fact is more than evident in the case of the expansion of the Panama Canal

when we follow the chain of actors that are involved in the discussion. In the previous chapters,

we have seen the articulation of the different stakeholders located at the global level and how

they have been influencing the actions of the ACP. We also have seen how the ACP has been

doing its part by influencing the local Panamanian context. However, there are other social

spaces, different from the institutional framework, that have had a relevant role challenging and

even supporting what seemed to be an inexorable plan designed at the global level in order to

expand the Panama Canal. This is the case of communities and community organizations

resident in the "new" watershed of the canal, the one that was included in Law 44. Other active

groups of peasants were residents of what was called as the "old" watershed, that is, the area

where the sources of water that feed the canal currently are located. As happened with the

stakeholders at the national and international levels, the levels of power, legitimacy and urgency

within these groups are not uniform, and the way they have expressed their opinions has been

diverse.

From the perspective of political ecology, as soon as the Panama Canal Authority decided

to expand the Panama Canal watershed overlooking the existence of several communities in that

area, it triggered a series of protest and claims from the residents of some of these communities.

The area in dispute is a region that covers part of the provinces of Colon, Cocle, and Panama.

Within that area, I centered my attention more specifically in the community of Limon de

Chagres located at the margins of the Indio River, about four hours upstream from the

community of Rio Indio, in the Atlantic Coast of the province of Colon. The account of the









reality of that community and the peasant movement that was born there is a contrasting portrait

of what has been presented at the global level. My level of approach to this reality becomes more

explicit considering that my account about it is more personal and direct.

Limon de Chagres

This is a modest community in the province of Colon, located near the margins of the Indio

River, and about four hours upstream form the Rio Indio Village in the Atlantic Coast. I decided

to present Limon de Chagres as a representative case of a community that could be affected by

the creation of new lakes for the expanded canal for several reasons. First, this is a settlement

located just beside one of the sites selected for the building of one massive dam that will hold

one of the lakes that was originally proposed by the ACP, the Rio Indio Dam. Second, this is also

one of the first places where people reported some exploratory visits from officers of the ACP,

previously to the definition of the new limits of the watershed. Third, this is the place where the

first community meeting was held in order to discuss the concern of the residents about the

possibility of the flooding of their lands. Fourth, Limon de Chagres is also an interesting place

where, despite being directly affected by the proj ect, people coexist in favor and against the

creation of the new lakes according to the plans of the ACP, reflecting some of the dynamics of

confrontation of opinions that could be observed at national level. With almost 250 residents, this

community also presents some of the tendencies that are becoming quite common in the rural

areas of Panama, such as the tension between subsistence agriculture, and deforestation,

preservation of community life, and growing migration of young people to the cities.

To reach Limon de Chagres, firstly, I had to take a two-hour bus ride from Panama to

Colon City. From Colon, I had to ride another bus for another two hours to the town of Rio

Indio. This journey was not only uncomfortable, but, at moments, could be dangerous because

some parts of the road are extremely muddy during the rainy season, and some bridges are not









safe enough for regular traffic. In about 20 or 25 minutes after leaving Colon, the bus reached the

Gatun Locks. Sometimes the bus had to stop there from 20 minutes to one hour -or even more- if

one or several ships were passing through the waterway. The drawbridge used for the traffic of

busses and cars is just wide enough to allow the transit of only one vehicle at a time. Here we see

another visual contrast between Panama and the Panama Canal (Figures 5-1 and 5-2). Hence, at

the same time that the canal is a permanent water bridge for the movement of international cargo,

the Panamanian residents of the Atlantic side are just served by an intermittent connection that is

available for the transit of people only when there are not ships passing through the Gatun Locks.

As soon as the bus passed across the drawbridge at the Gatun Locks, it had to continue

along an asphalt road. The ride along this road generally was done at slow speed because of the

amount and size of the pot holes in it that contrasted with the almost smooth road that we passed

before Gatun Locks. Because the bad conditions of the road, it took almost forty five minutes to

cover less than 10 miles to reach a new segment in better condition that will lead to the

community of Chagres from where the paved road becomes a dirt road that during the rainy

season is a dangerous and challenging muddy path.

In total, after a two hour ride since leaving Colon City, the bus reached the town of Rio

Indio. This is a village located facing the Caribbean Sea and it is the point of connection for

people coming from different communities upstream. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

there are boats that make the ride upstream to the communities along the course of the Indio

River. On those days, there is a lot of movement in the mouth of the river because people

coming from or going to Colon or other villages, come to the town of Rio Indio for market or to

take a boat upstream. Lim6n de Chagres and Uracillo are the last two communities of the

itinerary. It took about four to four and a half hours, respectively, to reach them from the mouth









of the river. The boats used to move upstream between 1 1:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., arriving at

Lim6n de Chagres between 3:00 and 4:30 p.m. The cost of a ride in a boat between Rio Indio

and this village was, in 2003, $2.50, and $3.00 to Uracillo. These boats can take between 12 to

20 people with their respective luggage. Sometimes these boats are used to transport wood,

construction material, and even cows that are going to be sold in the town of Rio Indio or in

Colon City.

The people living in the area upstream of Rio Indio come from different ethnic and cultural

backgrounds with differences in economic, agricultural and social practices. There are two main

groups. The first one is composed of descendants of immigrants that came from the regions of

Penonome, Capira and Arraijan. They are generally mestizo with a close physical resemblance

to their indigenous ancestors in terms of their medium height, and darker skin. They are more

oriented toward subsistence agriculture for domestic consumption, and the technique of slash and

burn that is quite common in rural regions. The other group is formed by immigrants that arrived

during the mid eighties, coming from the Peninsula of Azuero. They are referred to as

"Santefios" or "Interioranos", that is, those coming from the province of Los Santos or the

interior of the country. They have a stronger physical resemblance to their Spanish ancestors.

They tend to be slimmer, taller and with lighter skin tone than the mestizo type. Their common

economic practice is raising cattle.

The Santefios have been known in Panama among other things, as colonizers of remote

areas of Panama and responsible for extensive deforestation produced by their ranching. In fact,

the Peninsula of Azuero is now one of the most deforested regions of Panama, a fact that was

attributed to the types of activities practiced by their habitants (Heckadon-Moreno 1983).










However, certain groups of the Panamanian economic and political elite are Santefios or of

Santefio ancestry.

The practice of ranching among the Santefios, wherever they go, has reinforced their

stereotype as enemies of nature as one of my informant told me. Lalo Martinez resident of

Lim6n de Chagres, made a summary of what he thought were some of the characteristic of the

Santefios. He said

They are immigrants that do not respect the riversides and do not take care of the sources
of water. They do not love the land, but see it as an article for trade. They destroy the
forests. In fact, the Bank of Agricultural Development (BDA) has been financing these
colonizers. The Santefios criticize the original residents saying that we are lazy. They say
that the land that is not worked does not have any economic value, but this is a
psychological strategy to force us to sell our lands. They do not know that the ecology can
not be valued economically. They seem to have a lot of money to make an impression on
the rest of us, the natives, but they are using money from the BDA.

Lalo did not hide his suspicion about the impact of the presence of the Santefios in the

area. In fact, he saw that they were natural allies of the ACP when he added that


.. The Santefios achieve positions of control or become leaders in the places they migrate
to, for example, in the Catholic Committees of our communities, or as Representatives of
the counties. They are treacherous. They are the people that support the ACP and, because
of their ranching activities, they are financed by the government. The people of the ACP
visit them quite often. They have made inroads in Lim6n de Chagres, el Papayo, el
Nancito, Los Uveros and other communities. Sometimes, when the natives cannot pay a
loan, they offer to pay it and then take control of the property. That happened in the
community of Las Cruces where the Salvador Allende settlement could not pay its debt
with the BDA and the property was given to one immigrant. There are very few of those
immigrants who support the organization of peasants against the dams, but those few say
that this is a just cause.

Besides Lalo' s comments, I could observe a paradoxical reality of the impact of the

Santefios. They have introduced extensive ranching activities that have caused a widespread

deforestation in the area (Figures 5-3 and 5-4). This fact goes parallel with the fact that the



SFictional name. Personal interview. May 31s~t, 2003. Translation made by the author.









Santefios living in the area were quite skillful in business, active in community organizations,

and create important social bonds with the other residents. Santefios generally come to the area

with a certain level of capital that gives them a more advantageous start than the other residents

of Limon de Chagres. As a result of their ranching activities, they tend to position themselves as

the most affluent persons of the community and become the most sought out candidates for being

selected as godparents of the children of people with fewer economic resources. This kind of

religious bond with the Santefios and their natural disposition to cooperate in community

organizations, has led to the fact that quite frequently Santefios were elected for public positions

in communities where they were just relatively recent immigrants.

Lim6n de Chagres is located in the province of Colon but is near other villages that are in

the jurisdiction of the provinces of Panama and Cocle. This village is flanked on one side by

Cerro Las Marias, a hill almost 600 feet high, the Indio River, and on another side by a plain that

connects the community with the area of Los Uveros, which is under the jurisdiction of the

district of La Chorrera in the Province of Panama. There is an 18 foot-high cement staircase that

was built at the point where the canoes disembark (Figure 5-5). At the top of the stair there is sort

of small shelter that was built to protect people during the rainy reason

Sometimes, in those rainy seasons, when the rain is extremely heavy, the level of the river

has reached up to the top of the stairs. From this point, there is a dirt pathway that leads to the

community. It took about a 20 minutes walk to reach the community from the place where we

di semb arked.

By 2003, there were about 50 houses in Lim6n de Chagres, the maj ority of them owned by

members of about 10 families. The houses are distributed quite irregularly in the area of the

community; some are about 20 or 30 minutes walking distance from what is considered the









center of the village. In this center there are the main buildings for community use: the Catholic

chapel with its wooden dining room and guest house, the elementary school, the health center,

and the community hall. The chapel, the elementary school and the health center are the most

solid buildings, made of cement and zinc roofing.

The school consists of 4 classrooms that, in 2003, were staffed by only one teacher. There

was also one young woman who had some high school education in a religious school in Colon

City, who sometimes helped as a substitute teacher. However, as she did not complete her formal

education, she did not qualify to be officially appointed as a teacher. There are also two lay

leaders of the Catholic Church who led the religious services every Sunday due to the almost

permanent absence of a priest. In fact, the only priest serving this and the surrounding

communities comes to Limon de Chagres, only three or four times per year. Even though the

Catholic leaders in this village claimed that the maj ority of the population is Roman Catholic, the

participation in Sunday services is quite modest in proportion to the number of people living

there (about 250). These services gather between 15 and 45 persons. As is usual in other villages,

people are more motivated to participate in religious services that are related to other secular

celebrations, for example, the feast of the Cristo de Esquipulas, the patron saint of the

community .

Lim6n de Chagres was also by 2003 the place of residence of the county representative, the

highest political officer of the sector. He was elected for that position in 1999 and was the

principal political and economic liaison between the national government and the communities

under his jurisdiction that included Limon de Chagres and more than 20 other communities of

the area. Being a Santefio himself, the county representative was probably the richest man in

town, owner of more than 40 cows, a 4X4 four- wheel drive car, a modified pick up, a big house,









and a small grocery store. His personal wealth was one important factor that probably made

possible his election as a representative. His economic position made possible as well the

development of a series of social relations based on compadrazgo -the sort of semi familiar links

between the parents and godparents of baptized children-.

The representative also used to lend some money to other people and transported them in

his pick up during the dry season when it was possible to use the only dirt road that connected

Limon de Chagres with the district of Chorrera in the province of Panama, and with Cuipo, a

community facing Gatun Lake in the province of Colon. These sorts of favors reinforced his

social relations with people from different communities that in election times became political

capital that he cashed on in order to get the political post, despite the fact that, as a Santefio, he

was a relatively recent migrant to the area.

Curiously, and because the representative generally was in Panama City on official

business, I could only see him only once during my several visits to the community. On that

occasion, during the dry season, he unintentionally gave me a ride it the back of his vehicle when

I was trying to get from Limon de Chagres to Colon City via Cuipo. He did not talk to me

despite the fact that he was told that I was a priest. I assumed that it was so because he knew that

the Catholic Church was critical about the actions of the ACP in the community. In fact, some of

my informants complained that the representative did not do enough for the benefit of the

county, and that he was in favor of the construction of the dam near the village. For this specific

reason, he has had some arguments with the missionary priest in charge of the area who was

speaking openly against the dam.

In Lim6n de Chagres there was also a neighborhood of about thirteen houses of families

who joined an Evangelical church, and decided to live together as a separate community. They









did not usually mingle with the rest of the community in social events. However, some of my

informants told me that the pastor of that community was working for the ACP.

Despite the fact that almost all the males of the community work in their personal lots,

there were two families -other than the representative's- that, besides keeping their crops, acted

as the local providers of products brought from the city. They sold a variety of items that

included batteries, canned sardines or tuna, soap, cooking oil, pasta, rice, sugar, salt, beers, and

the omnipresent Coca Cola. These products were brought by boat from the town of Rio Indio

where they were bought in a big store run by Chinese immigrants. The rest of the people working

in agriculture generally produced what was needed for the subsistence of their families.

Because the lack of an external market, sufficient capital, and the bad conditions of the

roads that connect Limon de Chagres with Colon and Panama, almost all the residents were

compelled to produce just for their level of subsistence. However, some people were able to

produce a certain quantity of plantain, corn, beans, and yucca to sell in Rio Indio village. After

the immense amount of money that is involved in the maritime industry -as I mentioned in

Chapter 3- any comparison with the means of subsistence of the people here is more than out of

proportion. According to one of my informants, by 2003, the prices they got for their products in

Rio Indio village were quite modest in comparison to the effort that peasants exert to produce

and transport them. For example, the general price of one hundred plantains was $5.00, and for

one bunch of green plantains $2.00 was paid. They also were paid $10.00 for one hundred

pounds of corn or beans. A sack of yucca root was sold at $3.00, one pineapple $0.50, a bunch

of big bananas could receive $1.50 and a bunch of small ones, $0.75.

The Indio River is the main artery that all year around connects Lim6n de Chagres and

other communities with the rest of the province of Colon. The residents of this community and










nearby villages depend on the regular service of canoes provided by one fellow from Limon de

Chagres and two others from Boca de Uracillo who could afford to build a big canoe propelled

by an outboard motor. Usually, they start their trip in Boca de Uracillo by 5:30 a.m., generally on

Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Monday and Fridays are the days when they usually

transport students of the communities to and from the High School in the town of Rio Indio.

The common diet in Lim6n de Chagres, as common in other rural communities of Panama,

consists of food rich in carbohydrates like rice, beans, corn, and yucca root. The favorite drink is

coffee. They seldom eat meat. For those peasants not involved in ranching, it was common to

have two or three cows as an economic reserve for emergencies, especially when they have to

take a sick relative to Panama City. In those cases, they sell the cow and use the cash to pay the

bills. They can get between five to seven hundred dollars for a five year old cow. However,

sometimes, they make exceptions in the consumption of beef. For example, meat is eaten during

a community feast or a special meeting where more than thirty people are gathered. On those

occasions, they generally sacrifice a pig or a cow, or prepare a chicken soup where every part of

it is used. This is also the favorite dish offered to a special visitor like, for example, myself. In

fact, since I could not separate my role of researcher from my role as a priest, I was offered the

best food, that is, not just rice, yucca, or plantain, but also a piece of chicken or some canned

sardines, or a fried egg.

Even though fish can be caught in the river, they are not an important part of the peasants'

diet. Paradoxically, people prefer to eat canned sardines or tuna fish that are brought from the

city, may be because they have not developed permanent fishing activities in the area. Because

they were not accustomed to eating vegetables, some proj ects that during the eighties were

promoted by the Catholic Church, failed in their attempt to introduce the consumption of lettuce,









radish, chayote squash, and tomato. Despite their resistance to introduce new products into their

diet, it is undeniable the variety of options they have of other elements for medicinal and other

purposes. In fact, after talking with different informants in Limon de Chagres, I collected a list of

55 medicinal plants that they can identify around the area. They use them as natural remedies for

quite a variety of illnesses or symptoms likes headaches, fever, sore throats, bleedings, cold, evil

eye, female pains, stomach problems, parasites, conjunctivitis and to ease the process of

delivering babies. Additionally, I collected a list of 64 types of trees and 27 types of flowers.

During my visit, I noticed that in some of the surrounding communities like Santa Rosa

and Boca de Uracillo, a Catholic NGO (Archdiocesan Caritas) was promoting new proj ects, in

order to introduce a more efficient production of a variety of products that could enrich the diet

of the people of some of these communities. This initiative called, "granj as autosostenibles" or

self-sustainable farms, were intended to train peasants in new agricultural techniques in order to

produce greater quantity and variety of products in a reduced area. This is one of the few

independent initiatives that reached the communities of the areas, providing them of a service

that barely was provided by the central government.

The people I interviewed in Lim6n de Chagres seemed to be resentful about the lack of

attention they have received from the Panamanian authorities in terms of better social services.

They complained, for example, that the health center was just an empty building with no

equipment or medicine that could make it really useful. For this reason, when a medical

emergency happens, the normal procedure was to take an express boat ride downstream to the

Rio Indio village, and from there, take a twenty five minute bus ride to a bigger health center

located in the village of Salud. In those emergencies, they pay about $20.00 for the boat trip. In

extreme cases, they are sent from Salud to the main hospital in Colon City, with the risk that, on










the way, they could get stuck at the Gatun Locks in the case that one or several ships are passing

by at the moment, as has happened before.2 Despite this resentment, I noticed that the people I

talked to in Lim6n de Chagres have developed a sense of pride due to the concrete proj ects they

have achieved by their own effort without government support. This has given them the

authority to challenge official intervention when they felt that it threatened their local

independence. One outstanding example was given by a couple who told me how the

community rej ected the intention of the Ministry of Health to impose a tax on the water service

of the community. In Lim6n de Chagres the water system was built in the late eighties thanks to

the effort of Fr. Celestino, a Claretian priest who, during more than 20 years, was the pastor of

more than 50 communities located in the western coast of Colon. My informants told me that

The Panamanian government did not give any contribution to make the proj ect possible.
Fr. Celestino got donations from Spain to subsidize the acquisition of PVC pipes. The
community organized work brigades to install the pipes and connected them to a spring
located almost half a mile from the center of the town. Men were working carrying the
pipes and women were preparing the food for them. Never -before and after- were all of us
working together with such enthusiasm. After the connection of the pipes reached the
center of Limon de Chagres, the rest of the residents installed their own private connection
in order to have, at least, one tap water service at home. Since then, the community agreed
to charge each house a twenty five cents monthly maintenance fee. This money is used to
give a tip to the person responsible of cleaning the place where the water is collected and
to repair the pipes when they are broken.

By the year 2000, some officers of the Ministry of Health required us to add chlorine to the
water, and to collect a higher fee to pay for the water service. The Ministry of Health also
wanted us to pay $1.00 for the water service. We, the community, protested because the
Ministry of Health has neither put any money to provide us of water services nor has it
provided any maintenance for it. The officer told us that we had to do it because this was
the rule of the Ministry. Then a spokesperson from the community said that here, in
Lim6n de Chagres, the community is the authority, and, for that reason, it can have its own
laws, so the $0.25 fee will stay like that. The officer of the Ministry of Health said that
asking for such a fee was ridiculous; but we told him that that could be the opinion of
someone who receives a monthly salary, but not for someone who does not have a stable
income.


2 I heard the account of a woman of the conununity of Achiote, who witnessed how a little girl that was taken in an
ambulance to Colon City, died while the vehicle had to wait as a ship was going to pass through the Gatun Locks.









At this moment the health service is provided by an NGO that received a concession from
the Ministry of Health. They visit us every two months. However, they have just been
treating children younger than 5 years old and they just treat the elders when something
serious happens. People here complain that this is the opposite of what they offered
originally: attention for everybody and monthly visits. The only promise they kept was
that the medicines are free.3

From Lim6n de Chagres came some of the main leaders of the Coordinadora Campesina

Contra los Embalses. One of them is Olegario, also one of the lay leaders of the local Catholic

community. He and Ramiro were the two men who lead the prayer services every Sunday.

Olegario lives alone there. His wife moved to Colon City to live with their children, especially

to take care of the younger ones that are studying at the high school. In fact, almost all his

children -all grown up- moved to Colon City several years ago. Only one of his daughters has a

house in Lim6n de Chagres, but works as a health assistant in another community located almost

two hours of walking distance.

Olegario, a 72 years old man, is a descendant of one of the first families that came to

Lim6n de Chagres. He decided to join the Coordinadora Campesina Contra los Embalses when

he learned about the plans to build a dam just near Limon de Chagres. He joined efforts with

Gabriel L6pez, another leader who lives in another neighborhood located on a hill almost forty

five minutes walking distance form the center of Lim6n de Chagres. This neighborhood was

formed by the houses of several of Gabriel's sons who, when married, kept living on the same

property.

Olegario and Gabriel devoted several weekends visiting some of the neighboring villages

in order to explain to other people about the struggle of the CCCE. They invited me to j oin them

on some of those visits, so I could see how they shared with other peasants their concern about

the dam proj ect. The communities I visited with them were located downstream on the Indio

3 CriStina and Jose Sanchez. Personal Interview. Translation made by the author.









River, specifically in communities like Bajo Bonito, Escobalito, Sevilla, El Guabo and Los

Uveros, which were supposed to be outside the area to be flooded. Olegario and Gabriel used to

walk barefoot between three to five hours from Limon de Chagres to these communities, some of

them located in the surroundings of the Gatun Lake.

Surprisingly, and despite the fact that they were less than 20 miles from the Gatun Locks,

some of these communities did not have either drinking water, electricity, or a road that could

connect them to other main communities like Cuipo or Escobal. The usual ways to move

between these communities and other villages were by walking, riding horses, or by boat

downstream the Indio River and walk from four to seven miles inland. In three of our j oint

visits, I could notice that the people were aware of the motives of the CCCE, and a common

opinion among the participants of those meetings was that they feared that their communities

would be affected by the migration of people coming from the places that were going to be

flooded. They were concerned that the land will not be able to sustain more people. So, in order

to prevent that migration, they consider it crucial to support the members of the CCCE.

In one meeting in the community of Bajo Bonito, Olegario and Gabriel were joined by

Luis Martinez,4 fTOm the Juan Pablo II Cooperative, the peasants' organization that was more

active in the area during the 80's. Luis was a very articulate and informed man who commented

easily about national politics and world news. He was very decisive in encouraging the people

of Baj o Bonito to unite against the intentions of the ACP. He could articulate a series of

historical and contemporary arguments in order to make his point, saying, for example that

I came from Ciri de los Sotos, a place of people affected by the building of the Gatun Lake.
According to the elders, the opposition to the building of the lake was weakened because
the lack of unity among the people. We have to consider that the Panama Canal has not
given any benefit to the nearby communities. No water supply, no electricity, health

SFictitious name. Intervention recorded on August 23rd, 2003. Translation made by the author.










services, schools, etc. Even now, after these years of receiving the benefits of the canal,
more than all the money perceived during the years of American management, the
communities have not seen the benefits of the canal.

Regarding the propaganda of the ACP and its promises of employment and other future

benefits, he was quite skeptical when he said:

It is false that people from these communities will be hired in the proj ect because the kind
of workers they will need will be beyond what the rural people could do. The ACP is
taking advantage of the peasants because people are not united. We are not against
development, but against the abuse and injustice of the government. For this reason we are
against Law 44. They said that this law cannot be changed, but we should be convinced
that the only law that is fixed is God's law, not men's law.

He also addressed some other issues regarding the agricultural and forestry policies that are

promoted by the government in some nearby communities and related them to economic

globalization.

The government is promoting certain practices that are not applicable to the conditions of
the area, how do they dare to encourage us to raise cattle if we have just a few animals?
Why do they think it is possible to reforest with teak? In Los Cedros, there is a proj ect of
reforestation with teak and now the ground is dead. You can pass by that plantation and
cannot hear any bird singing. Even the insects do not want to be there. People call them
dead forests. Why does the ACP spend so much money in publicity and not in repairing
the roads that connect to our communities? We are facing a monster behind a curtain of
fog. One tentacle is the ACP and this is part of the strategy of globalization.

Despite the strong commitment of Olegario and Gabriel, other informants told me that

other people from these communities had mixed feelings about the CCCE. They said that,

.. some people say that the CCCE is just a waste of time, (because) their power could not
match the ACP's. Other people say that the ACP is part of the government and, as such,
they will do whatever they want. Some other people complain that the lay leaders are only
using the celebrations of the word to talk about the dams and not about the Word of God.

This sort of statement puts in evidence how some people feel powerless when comparing

their resources and possibilities with the usual procedures of the government and the Einancial

resources of the ACP. I could observe this attitude all around the different villages I visited, and


5 Rub~n and Jacinta P~rez. Personal conununication.









that was the reason the people of the CCCE decided to visit the communities of the area in order

to encourage other peasants to feel empowered through unity.

Coordinadora Campesina Contra Los Embalses (CCCE)

This organization represents the most vocal group of stakeholders that came on the

Panamanian scene since 1999 after the impromptu decision of the National Assembly to expand

the Panama Canal watershed through the approval of the law 44, and after the visits of officers of

the ACP into the area of the expanded watershed. The Coordinadora Campesina Contra Los

Embalses (CCCE) was founded in San Cristobal de Rio Indio, in the district of Penonome,

province of Cocle, Republic of Panama. Its original name was Committee Against the Flood.

The purpose of its efforts was to resist the intention of the Panama Canal Authority to control

their lands, and to demand the nullification of Law 44, which established the new Panama Canal

watershed.

The Coordinadora Campesina Contra los Embalses (CCCE) is organized through a

structure of information and discussion that covers four sectors: Rio Indio, Lago-Rio Indio,

Donoso, and La Pintada-Coclesito. Each sector is composed of at least 12 communities from the

provinces of Cocle, ColC~n, and Panama that are in the new watershed. It is estimated that this

area has a population of 100,000 people (CEASPA 2002, p.27).

The legitimacy of the CCCE rests on its condition as the official representative of a group

of the historical residents of the area, and the fact that they were rightly angered by not being

consulted in advance either about the decision of assigning their lands under the jurisdiction of

the ACP, or about the plans of flooding their lands to build dams in the area. Their level of

power is limited in economic terms because of their condition as peasants living mainly from

subsistence agriculture with a very restricted connection to the national markets. They are also

living in a marginal area of Panama, quite isolated from the main social and political centers of









influence, and outside the scope of mainstream public opinion. Following a similar tendency of

other groups threatened by Development-Induced Replacement, this group has proj ected its

actions in diverse settings of the rural and urban contexts.

The area of the expanded watershed overlaps the boundaries between three Panamanian

provinces (Panama, Colon and Cocle) and other minor political jurisdictions, creating a complex

situation in their relationship with the authorities of those levels that, up to now, have been

yielding their authority to the ACP. Due the restricted economic conditions and the geographic

isolation of the peasants living in this area, they hardly could afford the transportation and other

expenses to travel from their communities to the city in order to make public their claims. They

also have limited access to the mass media, in comparison with the ACP that has signed publicity

contracts with the main Panamanian newspapers, radio and TV stations.

Despite the limited power of the CCCE, they took advantage of the political opportunities

created with the advent of the so called "democratic society" after the ousting of the regime of

Manuel Noriega in 1989. Additionally, another political opportunity was already in waiting in

terms of the evolution of the Catholic pastoral approach that since the late 1960's gave a special

attention to the social issues. This was the reason why the CCCC earned the support of other

more powerful institutions, especially the Catholic Church through the offices of Pastoral Social-

Caritas and the Team of Claretian Missionaries in the province of Colon. The urgency of the

peasants' claims have had to do with the fear of being imminently displaced from their lands

after observing the intense activities of the ACP's officers in the area, such as visits of research

teams, helicopters flights, and the building of special hydrological installations near the rivers

Indio, Canio Sucio and Cocle del Norte.










Regarding the visit of the officers of the ACP with their communities, some of my

informants said that there was first a problem of misunderstanding of concepts between them and

the agents of the ACP when talking about dams. My informants said that the officers of the ACP

told them that they were studying the area for a dam proj ect that was going to be built there. For

the peasants' traditional understanding, a dam was considered a minor reservoir for the purpose

of irrigation. They were used to building such provisional dams for agricultural purposes, so they

assumed this was the type of dams the officers of the ACP were talking about. Later, they

understood that the dams the technicians were referring to were going to hold the waters of the

Indio River and others in order to have water for the Panama Canal.

During some of those exploratory visits of the people of the ACP to the area of Limon de

Chagres, some residents complained about the destruction of several of their crops, which were

cleared during fieldworks organized by the ACP in order to take topographical measurements.

Angered by this, some peasants wanted to investigate what was going on. Not long after, some

members of the Asociaci6n Juan Pablo II -another activist organization of peasants founded by

members of the Catholic Church in the 80's- looked for the support of the group of Catholic

missionaries that work on the west coast of the province of Colon in order to find out what was

behind the studies made by the officers of ACP. When the peasants analyzed the information

that the missionaries got in Panama City, they understood that the dams were intended to contain

big lakes, not small water irrigation systems for domestic purposes.

Pancho Perez was one of the lay leaders of the Christian Base Community of Lim6n de

Chagres in the province of ColC~n. He recalls perfectly how the news came to Lim6n de Chagres:

I was the first one in my community to listen into the radio about the plans of the ACP to
come over here to take measurements for a new proj ect that will dam the rivers Indio,
Cafio Sucio and Cocle del Norte. When I commented on this to other people of the
community, nobody believed me. It was not until the visit of one of the priests that my










comments were confirmed. The priest told them that he would present more detailed
information about the creation of artificial lakes by the next regional meeting of the
Catholic lay leaders of the region. He said that, in case of having more information, the
leaders will share it with their respective communities.

Not many months later, in that meeting, held in the community of Santa Rosa, Fr. Jorge
presented a public document, signed by Mr. Agustin Arias that announced the studies to be
done in the area. Since then, a meeting was called among the people of the communities of
Las Cruces, Arenosa, Los Cedros, Uracillo, Nancito, Los Uveros, La Nueva Union.
People came to learn about the issue. More than 100 people came. In fact, about 150
people participated in the meeting. The ecclesial base community was the first one to take
the decision to begin action with the rest of the evangelizing team from other communities
of the sector. This happened on November 6, 1999. This was the first committee that was
formed. 6

On December 9 and 10, 1999, more than one thousand peasants from Limon de Chagres

and others coming from different communities of the districts of Chagres, Donoso, Capira, La

Pintada, Penome, and Colon met in the community of San Cristobal, in the county of Rio Indio,

and formed what was originally called "La Gran Asamblea Campesina Contra la Inundaci6n"

(The Great Peasant Assembly against the Flood). As a result of this meeting, they made their

first public statement about the issue of the expansion of the watershed (CIACAL 2002). They

demanded :

The derogation of Law 44.

The immediate suspension of the preliminary studies of the dams that have been done in
the area.

That any communication with the peasants of the region should be done through the
leadership of the Great Peasant Assembly against the Flood.

After this assembly, the peasants organized several meetings with officers of the ACP in

order to present their claims, but got no significant response. Responding to the request of some

local leaders, the Panamanian government asked for the mediation of the United Nation

Development Program (UNDP) for a dialogue between the peasants and the ACP. The UNDP


6 Pancho Perez. Fictional name. Personal Interview. August 2003.










accepted the request and started to make contacts with the peasants and other people involved in

the case. They visited some communities and held meetings with the missionary teams of the

area affected. They contacted, as well, the representatives of the ACP. However, after some

consultations, the office of the UNDP was informed that the Board of Directors of the ACP has

decided to change the procedure and timing of the discussion about the expansion of the Panama

Canal and, instead, they preferred to continue with individual informative sessions in different

sectors of the watershed. For that reason, the officers of the UNDP decided to suspend their

attempts to facilitate the dialogue among the ACP and the peasants. This situation was

communicated to the members of the Peasants Assembly in a letter written on October 1 1, 2000,

by the representative of the UNDP in Panama (CIACAL 2002).

As it was difficult for them to come to an agreement with the ACP, and because they found

a lack of clarity in its arguments, the peasants decided not to continue their talks until the

derogation of the Law 44 was done. The peasants were suspicious of the intentions of the ACP

because its officers kept insisting that "this (issue of creating new lakes) is not a definite issue"

contrasting with their continuous visits to the communities.

The peasants argued that the activities of the ACP were not part of a study, but the steps of

a specific plan to implement a decision that has been made (CEASPA 2002, pp. 28-30). For

them, a convincing evidence was observed in the dynamics that they observed in the community,

as one of the leaders of the CCCE told me:

.. After we had our first meeting with the people from the ACP, where they told us that
they did not have any plan to build lakes here, we saw that things were not the way they
told us. We have found that they (the ACP) measured some areas without consulting the
community .. they cut some tracks in the fields without consulting the owners of those
areas. That generated a conflict that persists up to now. Some people here are in favor (of
the ACP) because the ACP pays them some money. We also had some problems with our
first directive because the first president, did not work enough .. well .. he did not work
because he did not come to any of the meetings, so I had to tell to the rest of the directive









board that it has to be reorganized because the president was not working. So then, it was
decided that the vice-president became the president and "comadre" Digna was elected as
the secretary because the first secretary resigned and left to the city.

I think that the most difficult thing we have had was that some people in this community
are in favor of the ACP or that some people are receiving money in order to act against us.
Another problem is that some people are cooperating with the ACP by informing them
whether we have meetings, when we held those meetings or if we talk about things in favor
of the community or the county, because this is not only the problem of one community, it
is the problem of all the county and even the district. So the hardest thing that we had was
that there are people from our communities that work for them, carry their equipment, and
take them to different places. And they (the ACP) has gone into several areas without
consulting the owners. In some places, they come and got introduced by one person of the
community who was acting as if he were the representative of the whole community. Here
in Limon de Chagres there are three guys that are doing this, saying that they represent the
community and that is not true.7

The CCCE and the Catholic Lay Leadership

As it was mentioned in our brief reference on social movement in Chapter 1, one element

that made possible their mobilization is the existence of mobilizing structures, who are the

"collective vehicles, informal as well as formal, through which people mobilize and engage in

collective action" (Morris 2004).8 In this regard, the preexistence of a formal structure in the

form of the Catholic lay leadership was crucial. It was noted that some of the peasants who were

leading the reaction against the ACP were formally trained as pastoral agents of the Catholic

Church, and served in other local organizations in their communities that gave them the

background experience, training, and awareness of their capacity of agency that they displayed

during the conflict. In the dioceses of Colon, the people living in the area of the watershed have

been ministered to by the Claretian missionaries; a religious group formed by Catholic priests,

seminarians and lay people. The presence of the Claretians in the area, dating from more than 40

years, has been characterized by a strong formation of lay leaders and catechists in aspects that


SManolo Juarez. Fictitious name. Personal Interview. September 20th, 2003.

SCf. Chapter 1, pp 43-46.










linked social justice and Christian commitment in line with the Liberation Theology that got a

stronghold in Latin American Catholicism from the late 60's to mid 90's. As we will comment

later, this theological approach was the consequence of the consideration of the social sciences as

a new tool for the analysis of the Christian experience of faith in view of the prevailing

panorama of poverty and injustice in an geographic area mainly considered Catholic. In this

regard, Liberation Theology differed from other traditional theological approaches, which

privileged philosophy as the auxiliary tool par excellence. This use of new analytical tools gave

Liberation Theology its characteristic emphasis on issues such as poverty and social justice and

provided a new dimension to the religious language by linking easily the vocabulary about God

with the social issues of common life, something that became evident when listening to the

people's comments about their problems with the ACP as we will see in the next pages.

In 1982 and 1983, the Catholic pastor of the area organized the first seminars of Justice

and Peace that included the study human rights, and social organization, including references to

the social teaching of the Catholic Church.9 From those seminars, an organization was formed:

the John Paul II Cooperative. Its intention was to defend the rights of the peasants against the

Petaquilla Mining Proj ect that intended to exploit important reserves of copper, gold and silver in

a nearby area. The peasants denounced and protested the fact that this proj ect would force their

relocation, and destroy the environment. However, after achieving the provisional cessation of

the activities of the Petaquilla Mining Proj ect, the John Paul II Cooperative lost its main reason


9 Social teaching is the term used to describe the legacy of papal encyclicals, and other official documents issued by
the Catholic Church that interpret and analyze social issues from the Catholic perspective, as a way to apply the
Gospels into the social realm. This official body of documents on ecclesiastical social analysis was started by Pope
Leo XII in 1891 with his encyclical Rerum Novarum on Capital and Labor. Other representative documents are the
encyclicals Pacem in Terris (1963) by Pope John XXIII which addressed the issue of establishing universal peace in
truth, justice charity and liberty; Populorum Progressio (1967) by Paul VI about social development; the documents
Gaudim et Spes and Lumen Gentium of the Second Vatican Council, the documents of the Conference of Latin
American Bishops in Medellin (1968) and Puebla (1979), and the encyclicals Laborem Exercens (1981) Sollicitudo
Rei Socialis (1987) and Centesimus Annus (1991) by John Paul II.










to exist and focused more on sustaining marketing channels for its members, diminishing their

social protagonist role in the region. Almost twenty years later, in the context of the discussion of

the expansion of the Panama Canal watershed, this role has been assumed by the Coordinadora

Campesina Contra los Embalses (CCCE).

For its organizational structure, the CCCE followed the method of organization and

consultation of lay leaders implemented by the Catholic missionaries working in the area. This

method was built around different levels of leadership at the local and regional levels. This

could not be surprising considering the fact that some leaders of the CCCE were also Catholic

lay leaders in their communities and due to the fact that the first steps for the formation of that

peasant' s organization originated in the base ecclesial communities, as Pancho Perezlo told me:

.. In the first meeting that we had with people coming from Las Cruces, Los Cedros,
Arenosa, Uracillo, Nacito, Uveros, La Nueva Union and other communities, we elected a
committee that will organize people from those places in order to motivate the movement.
The Ecclesial Base Community of Limon de Chagres took the decision to host that
meeting with the cooperation of the evangelization teams of the rest of those
commumities.ll

The training of the leadership of the Base Ecclesial Communities was organized in

sessions of religious formation that the missionaries organized at different levels. For example,

when the missionaries were visiting a community, they celebrated masses and community

meetings in which they not only prayed but also discussed local problems like education, water

supply, health, catholic formation, etc. In those community meetings, people were encouraged to

elect one or two representatives to participate in other regional meetings and training sessions

with representatives from other neighboring communities within a specific sector. In those


'o Fictional name. Leader of the Ecclesial Base Community of Limon de Chagres. Personal Interview. September
20th, 2003.

'' The evangelization teams consisted of Catholic lay people who were responsible of the religious formation and
animation of the community. They were catechists, local preachers, and other members of the Catholic community.









sector meetings, new representatives were elected to participate at regional level assemblies

where representatives of different sectors are gathered. This process was complemented in the

opposite direction as well. For example, the training given at the regional level would be

reproduced in the meetings of the representatives of the sectors, who would be responsible for

sharing the content of their training in their respective communities.

The discussion and updating of information in the CCCE regarding the Panama Canal

watershed has been made through a similar three-step process. First, community meetings were

held in order to discuss local problems and concerns, and to elect local representatives to the

sector meetings of the CCCE. Generally, the elected ones were natural community leaders, those

with facility to speak in public or who have been involved in previous community activities or

proj ects where they earned the respect and trust of their fellows. This was the reason why it was

not exceptional that some of the lay Catholic leaders, or those who were involved in previous

community activities were elected.

Generally, the community representatives were people, mainly men, who just had an

elementary school level of education. One interesting and exceptional case was one

representative, Francisco Hernandez, of the community of Boca de Uracillo who was elected

between 2002 and 2005. He was the son of a retired teacher of the community. Besides, he was

elected because he was a very articulated and self confident man who was in his third year of a

BA in Sociology at the University of Panama where he was also active in a student organization.

As what could be considered an organic intellectual, Francisco Hernandez, became a voice that

could articulate his life experience as a peasant in terms that could be easily presented in the

context of the urban media and the academic circles of the University of Panama. During two

years, he became the main voice of the CCCE in public presentations and TV interviews.









However, and despite his personal charisma, after certain personal differences with other

members of the CCCE, and probably because the excessive centrality that his own persona was

having as the face of the movement to the detriment of a more communitarian image, another

person was elected to replace him as the representative of the community and of the sector.

Something else take into consideration is the fact that the participation in the elections of

its leadership and other decision-making activities was reserved for only those affiliated to the

CCCE. Other people, even allies or friends of the movement, were not allowed to participate

during those deliberations. I was told that this restriction was decided on in order to prevent any

influence of outsiders in a process that the peasants considered was their own. They used to

invite other people when they considered it was convenient for their decision-making, like, for

example, when they needed some additional information related to the expansion of the Panama

Canal and its watershed that an external informant can provide.

In the second stage of the process, the representatives of different communities held sector

meetings where they shared information and reports from their respective localities. Once or

twice a year, they elected among themselves a representative of the sector to the central

committee of the CCCE. In those sector meetings, the representatives exchanged community

reports about, for example, the visits of ACP's officers to the area, or how the communities were

reacting to the campaigns of the ACP or the actions of the CCCE. Finally, there were the higher

and third level meetings of the CCCE, generally held monthly every second Tuesday. In these

meetings, representatives of the different sectors present their positions, concerns and inquiries

according to the needs and worries of their respective communities and sectors. Generally, these

meetings were held in Panama City in the offices of Pastoral Social-Caritas because it was easier

for the peasants from Col6n, Cocle, and Panama to get transportation for a meeting in Panama










City than in any of the communities in their respective communities. At this level, the sector

representatives made agreements to be consulted and coordinated at the sector and community

levels and made some public statements, press conferences, and visits to TV and radio stations in

Panama City. According to this scheme, the Coordinadora Campesina Contra los Embalses was

originally organized around a structure of information and discussion that originally covered four

sectors: Rio Indio, Lago-Rio Indio, Donoso, and La Pintada-Coclesito. Each sector was

composed of at least 12 communities from the provinces of Cocle, Colon and Panama. It was

estimated that the population of that area was 100,000 people (CEASPA 2002).

Social Projection and Internal Dynamics of the CCCE

The main leaders of the CCCE, who were the representatives elected for each sector, keep

their roles as official spokespersons of the peasants, and have had special responsibilities as links

with the government agents and the mass media. They have held several meetings with high

representatives of the Panamanian government, and have organized press conferences, prayer

vigils in local churches, visits to radio and TV stations, and have issued several resolutions

commenting their critical position about the strategy of the Panama Canal Authority.12

As I said before, the leadership of the CCCE was formed mainly by men. However, there

were some women who also have had an active role in the organization, but not without

difficulties. One representative of the CCCE told me that the leadership was aware that the

movement should also count on and give voice to women in order to prevent the organization

from reproducing the absolute control and visibility of males as was common in the maj ority of

movements in Panama. According to this, one of the most outstanding cases was the election of



12 In March 13, 2000, for example, Mr. Francisco Hemindez, President of the Central Conunittee of the Rio Indio
Sector and Mr. Saturnine Rodriguez, President of the Conunittee Against the Flood, gave an interview in one local
TV channel: Fe TV, Channel 5.










Digna Martinez as the secretary of the CCCE committee in Limon de Chagres. She is a 34 year-

old woman, living with her husband and two children, Zayda (14) and Joaquin (11) in the

surroundings of Lim6n de Chagres.

At first, Digna seems to be a very shy person because of her soft voice and unimposing

outlook. She is neither tall, nor robust. However, she was very eloquent and very ironic when

commenting several issues of daily life, the life in Limon de Chagres and the problems with the

ACP. Her first hand personal experience with the ACP validated her as an authorized

spokesperson regarding the intrusive means used by that agency in order to get into the lives of

peasants. Her personal experience was as well the base of a positive reaction from her fellows

when she was proposed to be elected as one of the representatives of the community to the sector

and national meetings of the CCCE.

She recalls one visit that some members of the ACP made to her lot in quite a spectacular

fashion by landing a helicopter right in the middle of her yard. She was terrified when she saw

that noisy aircraft coming so close to her house. The visitors told Digna that they wanted to buy

the place to build a storeroom and a dorm for the workers that will work on the construction of a

huge pipe that was going to pass just under her backyard. That pipe was intended to bring water

from the Rio Indio to Gatun Lake when the dam is finished. She acknowledged that she felt

annoyed when seeing those officers entering her property without her permission. She felt as

well that she had to do something to prevent her house and land being taken over by the ACP.13

During an interview, she commented to me with an ironic humor about the way the ACP

was addressing the public opinion in the rest of the country about the benefits that the canal was





13 Digna Martinez. Personal Interview. October 20 h, 2003.










providing, according to what was said in some publicity spots of the ACP broadcasted in radio

stations. She said, for example:

They (the ACP) always spread to the world very sad and intimate (sic) lies about what they
are doing for the benefit of Panama and for the peasants .. and for all of us who live
here. That is false. We know very well that, if it were for that canal, all of us peasants
would be dead .. starving .. since the building of the canal .. because none of us have
received anything from that canal. For that reason, we say to them: don't be liars. They lie
to Panama the same way they lie to the peasants and the rest of the world. Because if they
were good hearted, they would be interested in having a dialogue with the peasants. Why,
when they have their meetings in London or somewhere else only the ACP (agents)
travels? They meet with the huge shipping companies .. they have had about three
meetings abroad, but they have never invited the people who are going to be affected.
They have meetings in Panama, but the peasants have not been invited. In this way, they
show that they do not want to have a dialogue.

When we went to FeTV -the TV channel of the Catholic Church- to present to the viewers
what we were discussing .. and the reality about our lives, the ACP did not go. They
suspended the dialogue. When the program of the United Nations for Development tried
to mediate in a dialogue between the ACP and the peasants and some other organizations,
they just stepped back. So, they don't want to dialogue. The sort of dialogue they want is
one in which we accept without discussion that the lakes will be built .. They have never
said: "let' s meet to see your point of view ", so we could see also their point of view about
the canal, and according to our point of view, we can ask them about what will happen
with our lives. This kind of dialogue has never happened. They only dialogue with their
own people, with the great shipping companies and just come over here to collect
signatures in support to what they have decided. ..

When I asked her why she considers that the people of the ACP were lying, she said

Well, I think this because they became interested in the rural communities only since Law
44 was approved. But before that, since the beginning of the canal (sic), they never thought
on the peasants. Now, when they want our lands in exchange for .. let's say for nothing,
because they have not said anything about how things will be for the peasants after the
lakes are made .. it is now that they come to the peasants .. They (the ACP) look for
us as if we were little lambs, organizing peasants that they pay some peanuts in order to
organize meetings of two or three people in order to get support for the proj ect. And
everything (they say) is on favor of the ACP, not the peasants' because they want to go
against the defense of the peasant's rights. The main peasant right is to have our land ..
live in peace .. in our land. But when they (the ACP) come, is like they have seen that
our wealth, which is the land, as something that they want to take from us -and that is
something that our Father God has left for us, the peasants.

The ACP has a lot of money .. and they are spending that money .. but that investment
from the canal should be for all the Panamanians. I feel that there should not have been
poor people in Panama. But we have poor .. why? Because the great economies that










come to the canal, are owned by a few people. Not all the Panamanians are living from that
canal. The Panamanians know that there is a canal here but we do not know what benefits
are coming from that canal. Nothing reaches our communities. However, they say: "the
canal of all the Panamanians" or talk about "the modernization of the canal."

Digna' s presence has been the most visible feminine side of the CCCE outside her

community. However, she is aware of the level of machismo that still is present in the

organization. She, for example, recalls how several women could not participate more actively

there because the attitude of their demanding husbands at home. Additionally, in 2003, after she

felt that she has gained a wide visibility in different communities of her county due to her

participation in the CCCE, Digna decided to run as an independent candidate for the political

post of representative of the county.

This was a bold move for a woman in that area and, revealed some of the contradictions

within the CCCE. In fact, despite, her strong activism and commitment with the CCCE, Digna

received cold support from the directive of the CCCE and its members who, contradictorily,

decided to cast their vote in favor of political candidates more linked to the traditional parties,

tied to the Panamanian elite that promoted the expansion of the Panama Canal. Nevertheless, she

did not relinquish her commitment to the cause of the CCCE.

Despite contradictions like this, there is no doubt that the CCCE was a pioneer in Panama

when challenging several important elements. Firstly, they question the nature of an almost

sacred Panamanian icon, the Panama Canal, in terms of criticizing its real social impact as the

main point of articulation of the service structure of the Panamanian economy and, therefore,

underlining the limited or non existent benefits that the general population has perceived from

the Canal's activities. In fact, when in a TV interview, Francisco Hernandez, one of the leaders

of the CCCE was asked about the possibility that the communities would sacrifice themselves for

the good of the country, he questioned back:









I ask the TV viewers: When and how they (the common citizens) have perceived the
benefits of the Canal? When somebody responds to this question or when a great number
of working common people say 'I perceived the benefits of the Panama Canal', then we
could talk about the sacrifices that we, the campesinos, could make (CEASPA 2002,
p.34).14

An example of the precarious conditions of the communities near the Panama Canal was

presented by one of the peasants during the same interview. That was the case of the community

of Cuipo, located at the edge of Gatun Lake. There is no adequate access to that community

during the winter season despite the fact that the Gatun locks are a few kilometers distant, and

the road that connects this community with the rest of the country is in terrible condition.

Moreover, the peasants interviewed mentioned that there were nearby communities without

electricity, and health centers without medicine. Their point was that there was an extreme

contrast between the technological sophistication of the Panama Canal and the precarious

conditions of its neighboring communities. So, they were skeptical about the promises of future

benefits and development that the Canal expansion is supposed to bring to other more remote

communities (CEASPA 2002, p.33).

Previously to this declaration, Francisco Hernandez expressed that, up to that time, the

campesinos were taught that the Canal is for the benefit of the country but, in fact, they see that,

with the expansion of the watershed, and the possible creation of the three lakes and the social

and ecological costs, it is the country that is at the service of the Canal. Its products and benefits

are at the service of a wealthy minority in all the governments that have been in charge

(CEASPA 2002).





14 On March 13, 2000, Francisco Hernandez, then President of the Central Committee of the Rio Indio Sector and
Saturnine Rodriguez, President of the Committee against the Flood, gave their first TV interview in FE TV, a local
channel that was owned by the Catholic Church.









A second challenge made by the peasants was to the rationality of the concept of

development that is promoted with the Panama Canal expansion proj ect in the context of a global

market economy. They question the fact that the logic and discourses of development implied

with this megaproj ect elides the risks and negative effects that it could have. They argue that, at

the end, the kind of development that this proj ect could bring will negatively affect the poor

people. They also question the fact this type of development excludes the participation of the

people who were supposed to be beneficiaries of those improvements. They supported their

point by counterposing the publicized discourse of the ACP with the historical facts of their

experience with the present Panama Canal, which has not produced any meaningful benefits for

theirs and other communities, while the Panamanian economic elite has become more affluent.

This was stated clearly by Manolo Juarez,ls one of the leaders of the CCCE, when I interviewed

him in Limon de Chagres. Among several things, he said, for example, that:

.. If we take a quick look at what the ACP is saying it would seem that, according to
their advertisements, the canal would improve the bad conditions in the rural areas. But
we have seen that they say one thing and do another. Therefore, that development does not
reach the region. Around here we have not seen any improvement thanks to the ACP...
never! And if we go to the central provinces of Panama and ask the same, that is, if they
have receive their share (of the benefits of the canal), they also will say no. The canal
came to Panamanian hands in order to reduce a little bit the poverty that we have in our
country. I remember when they (the government) promoted among the Panamanians the
vote in order to receive the canal, saying that the first millions that it would produce would
be used to build roads from the cities to the countryside .. roads everywhere in the
country. That never happened .. But that was the nice advertisement they made when
they wanted the approval of the treaty that was giving the canal back to Panama. So, a lot
of us said, ok we want that the canal be ours because we are going to improve. But
nothing happened.

Now they say that if we oppose to the modernization of the canal, the canal will become
obsolete. But if we -the ones who live around here, and those who live very close to Gatun
Lake and those who live in the central provinces- add things up (we can say that) the canal
has always been obsolete since its construction because we have not received anything
from that canal. Here we have the road from Escobal to the Gatun Dam, look what a


15 Fictitious name. Personal Interview. August 30th, 2003.










disaster it is! Where is the improvement that the ACP has been showing? And now, they
want to make us, the peasants living here, believe that they are going to do beautiful things
for us .. to make everything modern for us! If that were true, they have shown their
proof already.

We were learning, in this struggle, that Law 44 was taking from us our rights over our
lands .. we learned that the ACP had a plan. It seems that they have studied very well the
strategy they were going to implement in different sectors of this area, and in different
ways: they paid consultants from the IDB in order to prepare the first studies in the area.
In this way, the catch was that these consultants came to talk with the local authorities in
order to present the proj ect, but only the beautiful side of it. However, everything that was
bad was not presented. The negative part is something they were not going to let being
known. .. the beautiful things they said about the project were the development of the
communities, the development of the country, the modernization of the canal, so the
authorities will have the opportunity to offer j obs for everybody, and people will have
electric and water supply, roads, and housing. Things like these- they said- was
development. Those were the beautiful things the ACP presented to our local authorities
and it seems that these authorities, little by little, believed all these things. It seems that
part of the strategy of the ACP was this: to dominate and convince our authorities because
they (the authorities) dominate us. For example, a community judge and a county
representative exercise their power on their county. So, several people assume that if the
representative has said something, we have to follow him because he is the authority.
However, at the same time, we do not analyze if that is good or bad because we, the
peasants, say so. This seems to be the strategy of the ACP in order to dominate us.

But we, the CCCE, say no .. it is not like this. We have to see, at first, the laws, whom
they benefit or not. Sooner, we found that the one who were to receive the blow, the
burden that will come here will be the peasants. We are the ones who are going to lose.

Third, the members of the CCCE also questioned the logic of prioritizing the use of natural

resources for the transportation of certain commodities over the preservation of those resources

in order to satisfy more basic human needs, especially in a time when certain environmental

world tendencies lead toward a more careful resource management. For example, one of them

said:

.. In the future, water resources are going to be more valuable even than oil. So,
according to this, drinking water coming from the Panama Canal, and needed for human
life should not be wasted, but saved (CEASPA 2002).

In the same logic, Manolo Juarez made a harsh criticism about the double standard of the

National Environmental Authority (ANAM) when dealing with the issue of the Panama Canal










watershed. In fact, he addressed how this authority was stronger enforcing the regulations on

conservation when dealing with the peasants than when dealing with the ACP. At the same time,

he points out how any apparent concern on the environment is eclipsed when money is involved.

Regarding the expansion of the watershed, he said

Well, now that we have this problem with the ACP, ANAM is silent. They do not say
anything at all about this. But they talk when we are the one who are going to do
something at the riverside, like cutting a tree. Then ANAM comes and tell us: 'You must
pay ten dollars for cutting a tree'. We have to pay that amount. They say that they take
care of the natural resources, but it is very clear that they do not take care of anything,
because, if I say: how much does it cost? They say, ten dollars. So, if I give them ten
dollars, they allow me to cut. Therefore, they are not taking care of anything but the
dollars.

ANAM just acts against us, the peasants, but we would like to see if it is acting in this
problem against the ACP. We want to see a paper from ANAM to the ACP saying: 'Look,
if you create these lakes here, a lot of fruit and wood trees will die. Some are used by the
peasants and others are not. There is a lot of medicinal plants'. We want to see if ANAM
has told this to the ACP, that they cannot destroy nature. But they are quiet. But we hear
that ANAM always grants concessions. We always hear that.

Fourth, the CCCE is challenging both, the way that laws are made and reinforced, and the

authority of the technocratic and political elite that control the main decisions at national level

without considering the consequences of the people that can be affected. Manolo Juarez said

clearly :

Law 44 was studied in our communities thanks to an open letter that Mons. Ariz sent to
the communities. We could see that, according to the government, we were not considered
in the law for humanitarian reasons, we were not included in the law for economic reasons,
we were not included in the law for whatever reason .. So, we were not considered in the
law for any reason at all. There was not a reason to include in the law the issue considered
by those groups that protect .. hmm or the laws that protect what is called fauna and the
renewable natural resources These things were very far from them. Nothing like this
appears in the law. There is not a single article that mentions the fate of the great number
of people that was or is living in the watershed.

Fifth, they were resisting seeing land as a commodity that is for exchange or as an

investment that has to be preserved. In fact, the struggle made by the CCCE was something

linked to the vital nature of their relationship with land, where they do not want the interference










of capitalist interests. As Francisco Hernandez declared during an interview on a Panamanian

TV program, when asked about how much they will ask for indemnification in case they have to

move:

We are not asking for indemnification. We are people that have been living on these lands
for more than four generations. That means more than one hundred years working the
land. We raise cattle; we practice agriculture and produce coffee. For us, these lands
represent life itself. If they take our land, if we are expelled from our land, we will lose
everything; not only the improvements we have made throughout these years but also our
culture, our lives, and the spiritual support. When I talk to the elders, they say 'I die if I
am taken to another place'. That is the way it is because we have made our living in this
place, we are adapted and have made progress where we are (CEASPA 2002).

Some public officers have taken into consideration the claim of the CCCE. For example, in

a special report, the former Panamanian Ombudsman, Italo Antinori, the main claims of the

campesinos can be summarized as follows:

The Panama Canal is a national patrimony. However, its management, economic incomes

and laws are, handled and approved without the knowledge of the Panamanian people. The

problem of the expansion of the Canal is not a problem only for the campesinos that live in the

affected area. It would also affect the rest of the country through direct and indirect social and

ecological impacts (Antinori 2001, pp.22-23).

Responding to the reaction of the campesinos, the ACP hired and trained several families

of the region, in order to make them advocates of the proj ect, so they could persuade other

campesinos to accept the proj ect (Brathwaite 2001). This strategy has made some inroads in the

structure of the CCCE. In fact, some members of the first directive of the Rio Indio Sector,

shifted their allegiance from the CCCE to the ACP. This promoted division within the

community of Lim6n de Chagres and as well as other communities. This division triggered the

concern of the Catholic missionaries that perceived how relationships within families and

between neighbors were severed.









Besides this, my informants told me that the ACP offered more employment, building of

roads and hospitals, and advertised sustainable development as the consequences of the new

proj ects. The ACP also distributed brochures that showed maps of the new watershed and

promoted its benefits for the communities. They also organized what they called Mesas de

Trabajo (Work Tables), which consisted of meetings held with local residents in order to present

to them the plans that that ACP has for the region.

Other activities of the ACP included the posting of signs in certain locations of the area

and frequent flights of helicopters over the zone. In the urban areas, the Panama Canal Authority

did extensive and intensive promotion of their plans at different levels, and contacted people in

several fields (academic, professional, religious, rural communities and government agencies) in

order to convince them to be promoters of the proj ect.

Because of their active opposition to the way the ACP was entering into their lives, the

campesinos were the obj ect of suspicion and public discredit by the mass media and have

suffered hostility, monitoring, and interrogations by police officers of the Panamanian

government. Since the year 2000, the members of the CCCE from the sector of Cocle del Norte

denounced this publicly (Caritas 2000, pp. 12-13). For example, in April, 2001 some Panamanian

newspapers published that a group of Zapatista guerrillas were present in the area of the new

watershed of the Canal (Caritas 2001, pp. 1-2, Rodriguez 2001). The intention of the media was

to link the reactions of the campesinos with the struggle of the Mexican leftist group and distract

the public attention from the main claim about the possibility of being relocated. As I mentioned

in the previous chapter, some people, for example Oscar Vallarino, director of CICH

commented, that the Catholic Church was responsible for bringing foreign agitators into the rural

communities of the watershed.









La Gran Asamblea Contra La Inundaci6n/Frente Campesino Contra los Embalses

The Gran Asamblea Contra la Inundacion is the original group that gave origin to the

CCCE, and later after an internal division, gave origin to the second group of peasants that were

reacting against the construction of the lakes, which took the name of Frente Campesino Contra

los Embalses. According to its leader, Satumnino Rodriguez,16 this organization was formed on

March 10th, 2001. By April 10th of that year, they got the legal recognition. He said that this

group considered this action to be a key step in order to get international support to avoid what

has happened to the CCCE that, because it did not have that legal recognition, it only could

receive help from a third party through Pastoral Social-Caritas.

Saturnine is a very articulate and politically savvy man who is also interested in music and

folkloric activities. He said that he knew personally General Omar Torrij os, the military

strongman who ruled Panama froml1968 to 1980, and father of Martin Torrij os, the president of

Panama at the time this research was written. He was accused by the CCCE of leading a parallel

group that was negotiating with the ACP. Satumnino admitted that the Gran Asamblea had a

common beginning with the CCCE but also has its differences. In fact, he was the representative

of one of the sectors of the CCCE and, as such, he signed in November, 2003, a letter of

complaint against Caritas Arquidiocesana, the religious NGO managed by a Panamanian

Monsignor that was part of the Inter-Institutional Commission for the Watershed, affiliated to the

ACP. However, just few months later, by February 2004, he was denounced by the CCCE as the

founder of another group called Frente Campesino Contra los Embalses (FCCE). Regarding his

differences with the CCCE he said:

.. At the beginning, the Gran Asamblea was similar to the CCCE, in terms of not being
open to the dialogue as long as the Law 44 is not annulled. However, at this moment, I do

16 Personal Interview,August 25th, 2004.









not want that law to be eliminated because there is no any other law that can protect us. If
the law is cancelled at this moment, a lot of people who are interested in these lands will
take control of them. We proposed to the National Assembly that a parallel law or a new
one be made in order to acknowledge the participation of the peasants. However, we did
not receive any response. A commission was appointed but nothing happened.

We did not separate from the CCCE. They were the ones who expelled us because we were
challenging the advisors appointed by the leadership. These advisors took some initiatives
behind the back of the peasants. Additionally, we were open to the dialogue, but the
CCCE considered that to dialogue with the ACP means to be submissive to it.

Regarding the flooding of the area, he was quite clear on his position saying that,

Land was here at the beginning of everything, before human beings came into existence, so
that human beings could be sustained and inhabit there. We do not agree with the flooding
of our lands because no government has bought this land from God. We do not accept that
a few mischievous people will take control of these lands. We know fairly well that, from
the beginning, the interest of the rich people in allegiance with the government, tries to
take these lands to put them under control of the shipping companies. We also want to
create more awareness in the communities in order to take care of our land and water.
However, even if the lakes are not made, we do not want to stay like this. We need to move
forward and look for better living conditions. In one moment, the Panama Canal was the
unifying point for all of us Panamanians, but we cannot allow that, because of the greed of
a few guys, the canal will become an issue that creates division among us. We want to
follow the strategy of Torrij os. He first got the unity of the Panamanian people, later he got
international support, and, at the end, he negotiated with the gringos. We want to follow
this example and tell the truth.

Despite the coherent discourse of Saturnino, the FCCE was not as visible and active in

their activities in the city as the CCCE. However, in the community of Coclecito, located in the

expanded watershed of the canal in the province of Cocle, they organized meetings and cultural

events or demonstrations. I found very few references in the newspapers about this group. I

could not help but feel quite startled when, despite the fact all the rumors about the issue were

denied by the government, Saturnino insisted that Zapatistas guerillas were coming to the area,

brought by the Catholic Church. He also said that they kept insisting that people take advantage

of the land titling program promoted by the ACP, something that also was opposed by the

CCCE. He said that as the ACP got the money to finance the land titling, all the peasants should

take advantage of this opportunity because, if they do not do it, other people will claim their









lands and the peasants will be left with nothing. In fact, as part of the activities of the ACP in the

area of the new watershed included the promotion of an accelerated process of land titling, some

residents of the area considered that this program was intended to provide the legal base for a

future indemnification program in case the lands were going to be used for lakes.

The FCCE was criticized by the CCCE and Pastoral Social-Caritas. These organizations

claim that the FCCE was indirectly manipulated by the ACP through a series of other agencies.

In fact, one supporter of the FCCE was the NGO Programa Rural de Acci6n Social y Desarrollo

(PRASDE), in English, Rural Program of Social Action and Development. This NGO was

partially financed by the NATURA foundation, an important Panamanian environmental private

organization, which is also one member of the Inter-institutional Committee for the Watershed

(CICH), the agency created by the ACP in order to coordinate the work of different institutions

in the area of the expanded watershed."

Residents of the Old Watershed

In 2004, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting in Boquer6n Abajo, a community

located in the area of the old watershed of the Canal, in the province of Colon. On that

opportunity, residents of the area of the traditional watershed received the visit of some officers

from the Panama Canal Authority and CICH, as well as representatives of the National Council

of Organized Workers (CONATO), the National Environmental Authority, and the Ministry of

Agricultural Development. The obj ective of the meeting was for the residents of the old

watershed to express their concern about the conflicts they were having with some authorities

regarding their economic activities in the area. Their main complaint was that, despite the fact

that they knew that the water that is collected for the Panama Canal, comes from this "Old



17 C.F http://www.nodo50. org/caminoalternativo/boletin/46-4 .htm









Watershed", the people living there were not receiving the same kind of attention and support

that the authorities were giving to the people of the New Watershed. One of the main

spokespersons, Mr. Bermudez, leader of the Asociaci6n de Pequefios y Medianos Empresarios

de Panama (APEMEP) was quite straightforward summarizing this concern. He said:

.. people hear that the ACP is titling lands in the Western Region of the Panama Canal
watershed but not in the original watershed. Why there, and not here? It is also said that
the Panama Canal produces a lot of money and that the benefits of the Panama Canal are
felt all around the country. However, it is unjustifiable that we, who are living on the
shores of the Panama Canal, are having the same living conditions as the communities
located in the mountains of Veraguas The plans of the watershed must consider the
contribution of the people of the local communities. Even though people of these
communities do not want to practice subsistence agriculture, they do not have any
alternative. That is the reason why we demand that coordinated alternatives should be
designed.19

Bermutdez questioned again the reason why the ACP has not made as many efforts in land

titling and other studies in the old watershed as have been made in the western watershed despite

the fact that the old watershed -not the new one- is the place that supplies the water that is

currently used by the Panama Canal. He said emphatically: "The Panama Canal can subsist

only if that is the wish of the people living in its surroundings".

Some other people present in the meeting expressed their strong concern about the

regulations of the ACP in the area of the old watershed that restricted certain agricultural

practices that would be essential for the survival of the residents. These regulations were made

in order to preserve the ecological integrity of the old watershed. However, their implementation

collided with the survival needs of the people living there, as the representative of the county

said: "It is a crime to cut a tree or pollute the water, but it is a worse crime to let a child die".

Despite the claims of the people living in the old watershed, the ACP has been implementing

1s Some of the poorest communities of Panama can be found in the province of Veraguas.

19 JuliO Berm~idez. Intervention at the meeting of Small and Middle Businessmen in Boqueron Abajo. May 3rd
2004.









several proj ects in order to preserve the water resources there and organize people for the

protection of the environment.

The Catholic Church

The role of the Catholic Church in the conflict has been quite variable, depending on the

hierarchical level of the agents involved and on their predominant social network of reference.

The position of these agents ranged from those who supported the claims of the CCCE, to those

who were more supportive of the proj ect promoted by the ACP. The level of power of the

hierarchy of the Catholic Church relies on its status as a moral authority and the fact that they are

the religious representatives of more than eighty percent of the Panamanian population, which is

largely Catholic. As one of the most respected institutions of Panama, the Catholic Church has

played an important role not only in attention to the pastoral needs in the urban and rural areas of

Panama; it also has participation in the discussion of important issues at national levels, such as,

in the late eighties during the dictatorship of Gen. Manuel A. Noriega when the bishops were

some of the most outspoken critics of that former strongman.

The legitimacy of the Catholic Church was based on its presence in the area of the

watershed for more than forty years, providing spiritual and even material support to the

residents of isolated areas that rarely were served by the national or regional governments. The

missionaries that were working in the area had a deep knowledge of the living conditions in the

area and have contributed to the reinforcement of the relationship between communities through

pastoral meetings and assemblies of community lay leadership. The urgency of their claims was

based on the need to reduce the increased divisions within and among communities, due to the

interventions in the area of the officers of the ACP.

Regarding the expansion of the watershed, one public intervention made in December,

1999 by the former bishop of Colon, Monsignor Carlos Maria Ariz, was considered the first





























































20 Translation made by the author.


document that challenged the traditional relationship between Panamanian society and its

environment (Castro 2003b, pp.40-41). This document was a letter that Mons. Ariz wrote to Mrs.

Mireya Moscoso, at that moment president of Panama. In this letter the bishop questions the

Law 44, denouncing the following:

The Law set the base for the expropriation of the lands of the people living in the newly
expanded watershed without considering their rights.

This law considers the creation of new reservoirs and dams without the required studies of
environmental impact.

Morally, it is impossible for Christians to accept the risk of destroying the lifestyles and
traditions of the people living in the area of the watershed for the sake of the Panama
Canal .

Ethically it is unacceptable that the peasants be displaced from their lands when the
government proclaims that the lands of the watershed should be at the service of the poor.

There was no consultation with the residents of the expanded watershed on Law 44. This
law was not an issue of public discussion in the mass media, and has been approved with
little debate by the Legislative Assembly.

Besides granting the ACP additionally more than two thousand square kilometers, this law
does not consider other alternatives that could satisfy the needs of the Panama Canal. This
could lead to suspicion that the real interest of the ACP was to produce electrical energy
than to provide additional water to the canal.

Historically, the Panama Canal has ignored and treated badly the people living in its
surroundings at the Atlantic Coast of the Isthmus. Considering this, the past experiences
are disappointing enough to be not pessimistic about the promises of future benefits (Castro
2003b).20

Besides the role of the bishops, other representatives of the church included the Team of

Claretian Missionaries in Colon, Pastoral Social-Caritas, and Archdiocesan Caritas. The team of

Claretian Missionaries is a group of religious and lay people that were responsible for the

pastoral attention to the people living in some areas that were included in the expanded

watershed of the Panama Canal. As was mentioned before, the pastoral praxis of these









missionaries was influenced by the Liberation Theology, a theological approach that became

popular in important sectors of the Catholic Church in Latin America between the late 60's and

the early 90's, which put a special emphasis in the application of the message of the gospel in

the social arena (Oliveros 1990). This focus was enriched, as well, with the integration of the

social sciences as part of its analytical tools that traditionally depended more on philosophy.

Authors like Gustavo Gutierrez, Leonardo Boff, Jon Sobrino, Segundo Galilea, and

Ignacio Ellacuria were among the most representative theologians who helped to deepen the

analysis made by the Latin American bishops, who, in a conference held in Medellin, Colombia

in 1968, tried to adapt to Latin America, the new ecclesiastical guidelines promoted from the

Second Vatican Council (Peterson et al 2001). The most important aspect of this theology,

according to its proponents, is the analysis of the reality from to the perspective of the poor

people, those deprived of the economic and social means. In this sense, besides biblical and

religious formation, the missionaries offered instruction in political participation, human rights,

land use, community organization, etc.

The Claretian Missionaries were very concerned about the problems of social justice in

Panama, and especially in the region of the watershed. They were the official representatives of

the Catholic Church with more frequent and historical contact with the peasants of the Panama

Canal watershed. Their main concern about the conflict was the increasing division within and

among the communities in factions that supported and opposed the proj ect promoted by the

ACP. These divisions were also affecting the dynamic of the Catholic communities in the area.

Pastoral Social-Caritas was another group of the Catholic Church involved in this

discussion. They are a group of lay people committed to supporting the claims for justice made

by people from different parts of Panama according to the principles of the Social Teaching of









the Catholic Church. This group of people was the main link of the members of the CCCE with

urban Panama as long as it supported them in getting housing or food when they went to the

cities to present their position on the expansion of the Panama Canal. It also offered its offices

for the monthly high level meetings of the representatives of the CCCE and for holding their

press conferences.

Even though that Pastoral Social-Caritas was the official agency of the Conference of

Catholic Bishops to support social issues, there was another religious agency known as Caritas

Arquidiocesana that was leaded by Monsignor Laureano Crestar Duran, a Panamanian priest

who, for more than twenty years, has been receiving the support of important economic sectors

of Panama in order to promote his proj ects of social assistance in different communities.

Regarding the expansion of the watershed, Caritas Arquidiocesana assumed a position contrary

to Pastoral Social-Caritas. In fact, as the latter demanded the derogation of Law 44, the former

became part of the Inter-Institutional Commission for the Watershed (CICH), a commission that

resulted from the establishment of that controversial law (Mufioz 2001Ib).

Monsignor Duran also criticized openly the CCCE for its position against the expansion of

the watershed. This was denounced by the directive of the CCCE in a letter sent to Mons. Dimas

Cedefio, archbishop of Panama, complaining that Monsignor Duran was using a radio program in

order to insult the members of the CCCE, saying that the members of the CCCE are not

Christians and do not have any relationship with the Catholic Church.21

During my fieldwork, I also participated in several meetings of the Inter-diocesan

Committee in Support of the Communities Affected by the Law 44 (CIACAL). This committee

was formed by the bishops of the dioceses of ColC~n, Cocle, and the archbishop of Panama,


21 Letter of the CCCE to Mons. Dimas Cedefio, Archbishop of Panama. November 12th, 2003.









several priests, and representatives of other religious groups and institutions that were serving the

people living in the watershed. In some of these meetings, the bishops could host some high

ranking present and former government officers, like the former president of Panama, Jorge

Illueca, a prominent critic of the expansion of the canal, Jacobo Salas, a former president of the

National Assembly of Panama, and Fernando Manfredo a former deputy manager of the Panama

Canal. Thanks to the discussions with these and other political figures, and based on the accounts

taken from the priests and missionaries working with the peasants, and their direct contact with

the leadership of the CCCE, the bishops took a stronger position against the expansion of the

Panama Canal watershed, producing a reaction from the Panamanian government.

On January 6, 2001, the Conference of Bishops of Panama issued a pastoral letter,

addressed to the Panamanian people. This letter titled: La Justicia Social en Panama,~PPP~~~~PPP~~~PPP analyzed

some social problems of the country. Here they also addressed the topic about the Panama Canal.

In the paragraph 95 of that document the bishops said,

.. It is necessary to guarantee that the modernization of the waterway does not go against
the poor people. In the name of modernization, we can no accept under any circumstances
that either the basic human rights be abused, or that the quality of and respect to life be
harmed.

In paragraph 96 of the same document the bishop also said,

As a Church, we (the bishops), feel that our duty is to be with the peasants from the
provinces of Colon, Panama and Cocle in their struggles .. We reaffirm the fact that the
criterion and fundamental value for any development proj ect must be the human being.
Therefore, we recommend a new and honest dialogue between the respective authorities
and the affected peasants, and we ask that a national debate should begin in order to find
the best alternatives for the modernization of the canal (CIACAL 2002, p. 102).

When the critical position of the Catholic hierarchy increased, the Panamanian government

reacted with the expulsion of Francisco Aperador, a Spanish lay worker, in May 2004, after a

year of work in support of the CCCE. Francisco was a member of Caritas-Madrid who was sent

to Panama, by a request of the Panamanian bishops, to support the team of Pastoral Social-









Caritas. Since his arrival in Panama, he collected information about the ACP and the plans of

expansion of the watershed. That information was shared with the CCCE. Part of his

contribution was included in the most comprehensive critical document that, by 2002, was issued

about the expansion of the Panama Canal watershed. This document, titled hra Vo:

Orientttttttttttttttttador Sobre el Problema de los Ein~halves ", was the most in depth statement of the Inter-

diocesan Committee in Support of the Communities Affected by the Law 44 (CIACAL 2002).

This document, written from the perspective of the construction of the new lakes in the expanded

watershed, presented a wide range of information and analysis regarding the interests involved in

and the social impacts of the construction of such lakes. They also presented information from

former high profile officers of the ACP who were very critical of the proj ect. Among others, one

privileged informant contacted by Aperador was Thomas Drohan, a Panamanian engineer who,

by 1997, was Chief Engineer and Director of Engineering of the ACP. When Mr. Drohan was

working as an engineer in the Proj ect Department of the ACP, he studied the options that were

considered in order to increase the amount of water for the Panama Canal. In this position, he

opposed the expansion of the Panama Canal watershed and the proj ect to create three lakes. He

expressed his opposition in a letter that he wrote to the manager of the Panama Canal, Alberto

Aleman Zubieta, in August 2000. In that letter, he said:

.. You know that I do not agree with your interest in promoting the proj ect of the
Western Watershed according to Law 44 of August 31, 1999. There is no need to displace
poor Panamanian people at a high human, social, economic and ecologic cost. By
investing $400 million in the current watershed, we can get enough water for the third set
of locks. The alternative of the (expanded) Western Watershed requires $1200 million in
order to get the same result. Eight hundred millions can be saved and used in other
programs of social investments badly needed by our nation (CIACAL 2002, p.16).

Shortly after sending this letter, Mr. Drohan was forced to end his service at the ACP.

As Pastoral Social-Caritas kept publishing more critical comments about the proj ect and

because this was the only institution that publicly was challenging the arguments of the ACP,









and because Aperador was publicly supporting the peasants, he was forced to leave the country

under the accusations that he was engaged in activities that were threatening national security,

and not appropriate to the role of a missionary. Despite the pleas of the Panamanian bishops to

the Panamanian government, Aperador was not granted a new permit to stay in Panama.

In 2006, there was a noticeable change in the policies of the Catholic hierarchy that came

after Carlos Maria Ariz, bishop of Col6n, retired according to the ecclesiastical law that

establishes that a bishop should resign when reaching 75 years old. Because of his social stand,

he was considered the most progressive bishop of Panama. He was also the link of the

Conference of Bishop of Panama with the Office of Pastoral Social-Caritas. Mons. Ariz was

replaced by Mons. Carlos Varela, who assumed a different attitude toward the staff of Pastoral

Social Caritas. He began a process of restructuring that onfce and demanded that any

information or article that was published by Pastoral Social-Caritas be reviewed by him. This

attitude proved that an internal conflict was in progress within Pastoral Social-Caritas.

The Einal stage of the conflict in Pastoral Social-Caritas came with the firing of its director

Hector Endara in August 2006 by Mons. Varela. Endara claimed that his firing, after more than

20 years of work, was a consequence of the pressures that the Panamanian government was

putting on the Panamanian Bishops in order to eliminate any critical platform that questioned the

expansion of the watershed and the expansion of the Panama Canal prior to the referendum of

October of that year.22 A similar situation also was claimed by Maribel Cuervo, an outspoken

Panamanian journalist, who was famous for her acerbic comments about Panamanian politicians

in her articles, radio and TV programs. As soon as the discussion about the expansion of the

Canal became more widespread, and her critiques became more frequent, her services as


22Cf. hlip1 w\ il \t .panamaprofundo .org/boletin/canaldepanama/despido_hector htm, last accessed December 2, 2006.










permanent columnist of the newspaper La Prensa were cancelled, as well as her contract with

FeTV, a TV channel that was owned by the Catholic Church.23 This episode was the result of

the clash of interest that also was present within the structure of that TV channel. In fact, because

FeTV was more oriented toward educational and cultural programs, it lacked the massive public

appeal of the other commercial TV channels, as well as lacking substantial sponsorships for its

programs. For that reason, the financial situation ofFeTV became quite limited, which

demanded the additional support of private benefactors. Some of them became members of its

board of directors. However, some members of that board were also supporters of the proj ect of

expansion of the Panama Canal and, according to the claim of Maribel Cuervo, were the ones

who, indirectly, forced her withdrawal from FeTV.

This change of attitude of the Catholic Church took place after the official end of my

fieldwork in Panama; therefore, I could not collect first hand information about the internal

dynamics that produced these changes. In any case, this change of direction, forced the CCCE to

end its relationship with Pastoral Social-Caritas. By April 2007, when reading online news from

Panama, I got the information that Mons. Varela and the new director of Pastoral Social-Caritas,

fired the whole team that was working with Hector Endara, the previous director. Some of those

people were working in Pastoral Social- Caritas for more than 10 and even 20 years. The lack of

an explicit public pronouncement of the rest of the Conference of Bishops about the events in

Pastoral Social-Caritas, did not help to clarify if the changes in that agency were the result of a

division between the bishops or the implementation of a new policy regarding the involvement of

Pastoral Social-Caritas in social issues.





23 http://www.nodo50.org/caminoalternativ o/oltil/19-2.htm, last accessed May 28, 2007.









The Illueca-Manfredo Group

This group was formed by five prestigious Panamanian professionals and politicians:

Jorge Illueca, former president of Panama, and former president of a UN General Assembly,

Fernando Manfredo, former minister of Planning and former deputy director of the Panama

Canal Commission, George Richa, Jorge Maduley, and Anibal Illueca, an economist. Among all

the independent groups that spoke against the expansion of the Panama Canal, this was the most

visible and authoritative considering their political background of Illueca and the knowledge that

Mafredo has on the internal issues of the canal. Both of them published numerous articles in the

local newspapers expressing their concern about the way that the proj ect of the expansion of the

Panama Canal has been managed and promoted. They held several press conferences and

published two special supplements in the national newspapers in which they challenged the

arguments of the ACP and their rush in promoting the expansion of the canal without an

adequate and deep public discussion and evaluation. This was also the only group that proposed

an alternative use of the monies that were going to be invested in the expansion of the waterway

(Illueca et al 2006b, pp.25-26). According to the report presented by this group, the money that

was estimated to be used for the expansion of the waterway can be used, for example, to solve

direct social needs in Panama. According to their estimations, this money would be enough to

provide, over ten years, the following goals among others:

Construction of 1000 elementary schools and 200 high schools, and financing the salaries

of 6,000 new teachers for elementary school and 7,000 high school instructors.

Construction of 80 rural water systems per year.

Provide loans of $5,000 to 5,000 small businessmen per year.

Hire 500 new judges and local attorneys in order to solve the old problem of delays of
legal processes in the Panamanian judicial system.










*Build 10 health services centers per year, and hire 500 new physicians and 1000
nurses.

Despite the interesting and attractive elements included in this proposal, the media

apparatus controlled by the Panamanian government and the ACP practically ignored the critique

and proposals made by the Illueca-Manfredo group.

The Campaign in Favor of the Expansion of the Canal

In the same fashion as the ACP's publicity campaigns designed for public relations that

we saw in previous chapters, the advertisements of the expansion of the Panama Canal were

heavily based on straightforward expressions that framed the proj ect with terms like progress,

development, and future, as well as with images of young people and children. During the

months before the referendum, additional messages were used, especially through TV

advertisements that presented idyllic images of an ideal Panama, its forests, ports, and

countryside with happy people celebrating the fact that the canal was bringing prosperity to the

country and will bring more with its expansion.24 Several newspapers headlines announced that

more than two hundred thousand j obs would be created by the expansion of the waterway.

During the campaign of the referendum, thousands of banners and hundreds of billboards

were displayed all around the country encouraging people to vote "yes", as I could see during the

first week of October 2006, when I made a brief visit to Panama City in order to cooperate in the

preparation of a documentary about the expansion of the Panama Canal. The campaign in favor

of the expansion had the massive support of the business sector, as well as the main political

parties of Panama. Construction companies, insurance services, realtors, etc, were common

sponsors of the promotion.




24 http://www.pancanal.com/esp/multimedia/viesm/r0.tl last accessed December 14, 2006.









As we can see in some pictures that I took at random during a drive around Panama City

(Figures 5-7 to 5-10), the promotion of the positive vote in the referendum generally was

evoking emotional references and images of children. Additionally, the resource of using the

word SI" (Yes) as the inevitable message of the publicity was expressed in a mandatory tone -

even subliminal-, rather than in a persuasive style.

In a banner that was displayed in several places of Panama City (Figure 5-8) there was the

following message: "Tu decides "si" quieres un future mej or para tus hij os. Por Panama, Si al

Canal" (You decide if you want a better future for your children. For Panama, Yes to the Canal),

the message used an ambiguous strategy of suggesting that the decision depended on the voter, at

the same time that the advertisement mandated a specific response. In fact, in Spanish, the

conditional conjunction si (if) is written without an accent and the affirmative "si" (yes) with an

accent. However, in this banner whenever the word "Si" appears with or without accent, it is

emphasized with a color different from the rest of the text, and with bigger characters as a way to

insist on the implicit message of asking for a positive vote. The resource to use the word "Si" in

different sizes, and in an incredible number of announcements, was the most evident message of

the campaign. Additionally, the basic message that was transmitted was to establish a direct

relationship between the positive vote for the expansion of the canal with the achievement of

development, progress, or a promising future where the children will be better off.

Other slogans used by the ACP like, for example, "El Canzal es M~io y Yo lo Amplio"

intertwined the idea that the Panamanian citizens were the owners of the Panama Canal and, as

such, they have decided its widening, when in fact, the very message was expressing the decision

taken by the ACP. In order to promote this specific slogan, the ACP hired Panamanian

composers and singers that put a very rhythmic music to this message that was constantly played









in radio stations. There were other advertisements that used familiar expressions like, for

example, "El Tamailo Silmporta" (Size does matter). This message, posted in the front and on

the sides of vehicles moving around the country, as well as on posts, fliers and web-pages

(Figure 5-11).


The Media and the Resistance Movement against the Expansion of the Canal

When analyzing the role of the local groups that challenged the expansion of the Panama

Canal, it will be useful to consider the way the media was used to present some of these groups.

Because of their capacity to synthesize some aspects of this critique, I will use again some

cartoons and news articles published in some Panamanian newspapers as well as in other

alternative sources.

For example, on June 12th, 2005 two Panamanian newspapers presented cartoons alluding

to the expansion of the Canal. In both cartoons, this issue was related to the movement of labor

unions that was demonstrating against the imposition of the new social security law that

increased the amount of fees to be paid and the age of retirement of any Panamanian worker.

The leading group in these demonstrations was SUNTRACS (Sindicato Unido de Trabaj adores

de la Construcci6n y Similares), the biggest Panamanian union of construction workers.

Due to the intense and almost violent reaction of SUNTRACS against these measures, and

after almost two weeks of demonstrations and strikes, the government and the workers began

negotiations in order to find a better solution to the new crisis. Besides the negotiations, the

workers complained that the upcoming proposal to expand the Panama Canal was a proj ect for

the benefit of the economic and political elites and that the tax and social security reform were

steps that the Panamanian government had to accomplish in order to qualify for the international

credits needed for the proj ect. As a strategic move, the leaders of SUNCTRACS started to voice










and promote their intention to cast a negative vote in the upcoming referendum about the

expansion of the Canal. At the same time, they coincided with the CCCE about the authoritarian

and secretive style of management of the ACP and, therefore, assumed a more critical and active

role in trying to reveal what was considered the hidden agenda of the ACP. With that intention

in mind, SUNTRACS began an intensive research about the expansion of the Panama Canal and

published their findings in a webpage they developed.25

Going back to the cartoons, it should be noticed that each one has a different approach to

the attitude of the workers. The one shown in Figure 5-12, published in El Panama- America, a

newspaper with an editorial line totally supportive of the ACP, presents a worker thinking that he

is going to vote "no" in the next referendum for the expansion of the canal. According to the

cartoonist, this thinking is equivalent to shooting one's own foot with a rifle that represents the

j obs that are supposed to be created with the expansion of the canal, implying that an opposition

of the workers to the expansion would be a decision against themselves.

Another cartoon (Figure 5-13) also depicts the dialogue between the Panamanian

government and the workers as a card game. In this game, the cards of President Torrij os

represent his proposal of the referendum for the expansion of the Panama Canal. The other

player, wearing a t-shirt with patches representing the memory of the imposed tax and social

security reforms, has two aces and a third winning card with a "NO", that startle President

Torrij os, because it seems that the negative of the people could frustrate his intention of

promoting the approval of the expansion of the Canal. But also it presents how the threat of a

negative vote in the referendum could be used by the workers as a tool to negotiate with the

government for better conditions in the reforms that were in process. At the time when the


25http://www.suntracs.org/v2/?cmd=no-ampliainct4 last accessed July 30, 2007.










unions began to have a more active role challenging the Panamanian government, they also

started supporting the claims of the peasants of the CCCE regarding the expansion of the

watershed and the Panama Canal.

One crucial aspect of the media is their capacity to frame the news and issues they cover.

According to Anders Hansen, framing in media coverage hinges two dimensions: on one side,

the selection/accessing of sources and claim makers, and, on the other side, the presentation and

evaluation of arguments and actors (Hansen 2000, pp.55-56). In a certain way, the media

became a filter that selected the characteristics of certain issues or actors that will be presented to

the public opinion. The ideological background of their editors could influence in a positive or

negative way which certain social actors are described. From this perspective, it was interesting

to observe how the media depicted the activities of the members of the CCCE. In a certain way,

the reports presented the peasants from a less sympathetic perspective than the ACP. If, on one

side, the ACP was presented as a gentle guide or point of reference for the Panamanian society,

on the other side, the peasants were presented as a disrupting group of people that could threaten

social peace and be an obstacle to development. For example, as far as I could see, the terms of

the headlines and pictures presented the actions of the CCCE in belligerent terms, not necessarily

according to the orderly behavior of the actual demonstrations. Terms such as "rebellion",

"demand", "protest" or "threat" are among the most commonly used by the media when

discussing the activities of the peasants (Figures 5-14 and 5-15). That was the thematic framing

that was used when the presence alleged presence of Zapatistas guerrillas in the area of the

watershed was mentioned in the Panamanian media (Rodriguez 2001).

It is also necessary to appreciate that, when the peasants had the opportunity to voice their

concern directly about the expansion of the watershed and the Panama Canal, their main message









was of skepticism about the sincerity of the actions of the ACP (Figures 5-16 and 5-18).

Additionally, and contrary to the impression given by the media, the different public activities

organized in the cities by the peasants were confrontational but non violent. This was one basic

principle they agreed upon in their regional and local meetings. In this regard, there is no record

of an specific charge of violent activities against the CCCE in Panama City on the several

occasions when the peasants demonstrated at the ACP Administration Building or at the National

Assembly of Panama (Figures 5-16 and 5-17). Because their activities in the cities, the members

of the CCCE with the support of Pastoral Social Caritas, gained exposure in the media -like the

ACP- by appearing in several TV and radio stations, as well as newspapers. Additionally, the

peasants had the opportunity to present their claims through the official bulletin, special

brochures and the webpage of Pastoral Social Caritas.

The illustration presented in Figure 5-18 was on the front page of a document published by

Pastoral Social Caritas about the decision making process regarding the expansion of the Panama

Canal. This is an image composed of a peasant symbolically crucified between one of the locks

of the Panama Canal. The original image of the crucifixion was taken during one of the several

marches that were organized by the CCC in Panama City. The religious analogy is more than

evident.

This document is one of a series published that, under the sponsorship of Pastoral Social-

Caritas, criticized the ACP. It was focused on claiming that the decisions regarding the Panama

Canal should be taken in consultation with the Panamanian people and not by the ACP alone, a

message that was in opposition to what was insinuated at the front page of the 2002 ACP

yearbook, which claimed that the canal is the guide, support and voice of the Panamanian people.









As we have seen in the previous pages, the panorama of the variety of stakeholders

involved in the discussion about the expansion of the Panama Canal and its watershed, gives us

an idea of the complex sequence of events and actions that were triggered at the local level, by

international forces in articulation with local elites when promoting an specific megaproj ect

oriented to satisfy the needs of the global market. It can be seen that the main local actors did not

represent monolithic and uniformed entities, but complex and sometimes contradictory dynamic

forces that evolve according to changing contexts and interests. Neither a common social class,

nor religious affiliation, nor a place of residence could prevent the existence of internal conflict

ad intra each stakeholder at the same time that they created sophisticated arguments in support of

their respective positions.





















Figure 5-1. Cruise ship passing through the Gatun Locks. The road that is obstructed by the ship
is the only one that connects both sides of the Panama Canal in the Atlantic side.










































Figure 5-2. Drawbridge across the Gatun Locks. Gatun, Colon.


Figure 5-3. Deforestation at the margins of the Indio River due to ranching.


.E
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Figure 5-4. Deforestation in the surroundings of Limon de Chagres from Cerro Las Marias.


Figure 5-5. Pluvial terminal in Lim6n de Chagres.


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re




~s~,
m-Zlbt~3'4











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Figure 5-6. View of the Center of Lim6n de Chagres from Cerro Las Marias.


Figure 5-7. Publicity for the referendum in Panama City, October 2006


~CIS































Figure 5-8. Publicity billboard for the referendum Panama City, October 2006


Figure 5-9. Publicity Billboard in Panama City: October, 2006






























Figure 5-10. Publicity during the referendum


Figure 5-11. Advertisement in favor of the expansion of the Panama Canal.































Figure 5-12. Ironic cartoon against the workers threatening to work against the expansion of the
Panama Canal. El Panama-America: June 12th, 2005.


Figure 5-13. Cartoon alluding to the threat of a negative vote at the referendum. La Prensa:
Junel2th, 2005










HI~illit** .. _.g


CFampesinos se rebelan'

por am pliacion de la cuenca





Figre -4 edie ftePnm A eia eadigtefrtrecino h paat fe
the aproalo Lw 4


mmam


ainenazan con
crrar via

.s~rn sn.0anl.(


1t n.. me.Elh. ..Iuran r
Ilumc russes mar eau Isi

Protestacampesin







Figure 5-15. Cllage of newsaper headline and~. artilsaottepoesso h esnsi
Panama City in 2003.

229+I~r


DInipesinos ein lebiscito

































Figure 5-16. Demonstration of the CCCE at the Administration Building of the ACP. November
2002.


Figure 5-17. Demonstration of the CCCE at the ACP Administration Building.






































. Los Srtudios ticnicepf y el "Pln M~aestro', nobuscan, c desarrollo, ni la modernizcidn
Son la pantaffe pure grandesi ngegiodes de Jas constructors y Ills hidroel~ctricels.
. Con los "estudiosp L *Plan( Maestre la ACP quirre encubrir atrobo y in destruccisn


Figure 5-18. Flier distributed by the CCCE depicting a peasant' s hat floating on the water as a
symbol of the consequence of the possible flooding of their lands by the ACP.







klbQlli~rCli~


k


d


nraKm PO~


XI SEMAN4I NACION~l.DE PASTORAL SOCIAL-CRITA5
3 i al 9 d Junle de 2002 p~~m
Figure 5-19. Front page of the Document about the Democratization of the Decisions regarding
the Panama Canal. Pastoral Social-Caritas. Panama, 2002.









CHAPTER 6
CONCLUSION

The role that Panama has played for almost five centuries as an area of transit for the

benefit of extra-regional commercial and military powers is the result of its geographic and

ecological endowments, which also made possible that this country were selected for the

construction of a series of transport megaproj ects since the middle of the 19th century Within

Panama, the political and economic elites produced and promoted a series of discourses, which

heralded that the construction of such megaproj ects will bring prosperity and development to this

country. However, these megaproj ects tended to benefit primarily to international agents and the

Panamanian elite and set the base for the structural economic inequality that for generation has

characterized the Panamanian society. For this reason, these megaproj ects became ambivalent

national signals of hope and disappointment. This reality has been reached its climax during

almost all the 20th century when the Panama Canal was built and controlled by the United States,

its main beneficiary.

As soon as Panama achieved the control of the waterway at the beginning of the 21s~t

century, the administration of the Panama Canal, known as the Panama Canal Authority (ACP),

developed an entrepreneurial culture that oriented to function of the waterway as a profit driven

business. This orientation has affected the relationship of the Panama Canal with its clients and

its Panamanian context. However, the reality of the oligopsonistic relationship of the Panama

Canal with its clients, as well as the economic dependence of Panama on the waterway and its

related activities, has put the waterway and the whole country in a permanent vulnerable

condition. For this reason, according to the ACP and the economic groups that are benefiting

from the canal, its profitability seems to be at risk in the long term in case the waterway does not

adapt itself to the new trends in maritime shipping and containerization.









The ideological negotiation of the international maritime trends, their demands on the

Panama Canal, and the reality of local communities in Panama were promoted and reinforced by

the ACP through the promotion of the discourse of national development. I consider that this

negotiation was based on an implicit logic that I summarize as follows: what is good for the

international maritime trade is good for the Panama Canal, and what is good for the Panama

Canal is good for Panama. The evidence presented in the previous chapters indicates as well that

the study of discourses and actions deployed by the different stakeholders in the promotion and

critique of the expansion of the Panama Canal and its watershed is a complex issue with a wide

variety of implications and consequences.

The economic and political agents that framed the proj ect of expansion of the Panama

Canal in terms of development are not exempt from ethical implications. In this regard, the

informative factor is critical. Concrete actions of the ACP such as the public submission of

insufficient, irrelevant, or partially true information to the affected people; and the use of power

based on economics, politics or knowledge advantages in order to diminish the validity or impact

of alternative or critical opinions are also similar to attitudes criticized in proj ects in other parts

of the world (CIACAL 2002, Hobart 1993, Scott 1998). The use of the mass media, political

influences, economic resources, etc. seemed to be oriented to present a partial and biased reality

that denied or neglected its complexity and contradictions in the implementation of the

expansion of the Panama Canal. Moreover, this framing of the reality kept linking the

prospective of national development to the activities of the Panama Canal without addressing the

need to develop a more diversified economy. In this regard, the social responsibility of the

Panamanian government and the ACP in promoting a proj ect that reinforces the already high

economic dependence of the country on the transit activities has to be addressed.










When analyzing the ethical validation of the coherence of discourse and practices in the

promotion and implementation of megaproj ects, the proj ect of expansion of the Panama Canal

presents several issues worthy of concern. The first one is the way in which the definition of the

expansion of the new watershed of the Panama Canal was made and discussed openly in the

National Assembly, as was presented in chapter 3. Despite the fact that the minutes of the

discussion preceding the approval of Law 44 proved that the reason for such a law was the

creation of new lakes, the officers of the ACP tended to deny any allegations made by the

peasants about this issue. I was present in several conferences and events where the

representatives of the ACP disqualified the claims of the peasants regarding the lakes as false

and without foundation. I also was present in several public forums where the representatives of

the ACP refused to participate if the member of the CCCE were present.

Another example was found in the minutes of the ACP's Board of Directors that alluded to

the definition of the terms of the discussion about the expansion of the Panama Canal. In these

minutes we have found specific suggestions for the framing of a discourse regarding the

expansion of the waterway in terms that could be appealing to the public. The fact that the ACP

set up secret financial reserves for the expansion of the canal without official authorization and

several years previous to the approval of this proj ect in the referendum held in 2006 was

criticized as well. Additionally, the insistence on the implementation of the proj ect despite the

lack of an environmental or final financial assessment, are other ethically questionable issues

(Illueca et al 2006a).l



SIndependent groups like the Frente Nacional por la Defensa de la Soberania (FRENADESO) and the independent
Panamanian electronic analysis journal Haciendo Camino, have been collecting and publicizing the minutes of the
ACP in order to make public the inconsistencies between the private decisions of the board of directors of the ACP
and what was said in public. For a more detailed knowledge of the content of the minutes, see:
bli w\ il itnodo50.org/caminoalternativo/canal/1 16.htm, last accessed, July 29, 2007.









A crucial element that engulfs all the previous considerations is the fact that, up to the

moment this analysis was written, Panama lacks of a national development plan that ensures the

adequate use and distribution of the incomes produced by the waterway in economic and social

activities that could reinforce new alternatives of social and economic development without

compromising the preservation and protection of additional ecological resources.

The control of critical information was also part of the reality I experienced in 2006 when

collaborating in the preparation of a documentary about the expansion of the canal. I was part of

an interdisciplinary team formed by a journalist, a human geographer, and a film maker who

were collaborating in producing a documentary about the expansion of the canal that was

intended to present different opinions about the project from peasants, engineers, politicians,

officers of the ACP, and economists. The original idea was that the documentary would be

broadcast on national television before the national referendum of October 22, 2006. The

intention of the producer was to contribute to the delivery of more information about the proj ect

in order to help people to consider their vote at the referendum. Unfortunately, the different TV

stations that originally offered to transmit the documentary, told the producer that they would not

present it because it included information that was too critical of the project. One TV channel

finally acceded to broadcast the documentary under the condition that it be presented several

months after the referendum, probably before July 2007.

The presence of a movement like the Coordinadora Campesina Contra los Embalses

(CCCE) marked an important episode in the history of Panama as long as the actions of this

movement questioned the hegemonic discourse on national development centered in the Panama

Canal. This criticism, resulting from the threat that the expansion of the canal imposed on

peasant lands, and their awareness of their rights as citizens, was the base of wider reactions









from other social agents against the rationality of development centered on the canal. The CCCE

claims were framed as an issue of social justice and not as the result of an explicit ecological

concern. The political opportunities that were opened in Panama thanks to the dismantling of the

military regime that controlled the country for almost twenty years set the base for a more active

social reaction of movements like the CCCE. Additionally, with the support of important sectors

of the Catholic Church, this movement got an important ally that contributed to the national

exposure of their claims.

As the case of the anti-Dam Movement in Southern Brazil (Rothman & Oliver 2002), the

CCCE triggered a process that began as a mere local mobilization against the proposed flooding

of their land that later, with time and extended communication among neighboring communities,

and as with the opening of new political spaces of civic actions they, developed alliances with

other agents that supported their cause in the national scenario. As it was common in other

experiences, especially in Latin America, the Catholic Church became an important supporting

actor that provided, in certain cases, the structure of mobilization that made possible the

consolidation of these movements (Edelman 1999, pp. 1 15-1 16, Gjording 1991, pp.223-246).

Like the case of the Gnobe of the mountains of Chiriqui, Panama, and the movement of the

Quichua, Achuar, and Shiwiar Indians of the Ecuadorian Amazon (Sawyer 2004), the peasants of

the mountains of Col6n, Cocle and Panama j oin the list of rural and indigenous residents that

dared to challenge the demands of global capitalism.

However, the CCCE diverged from the so called new social movements in terms of their

lack of direct contact and networking with other international or global agents. Its dependence

on the support of the Catholic Church became its main strength but also its main weakness as

long as the policy of this church in Panama regarding social movements changed of perspectives









and priorities. However, the undeniable support of the religious establishment was a pivotal

element that increased the possibility of articulation of the local movement at a national level.

As other groups began to have more visibility in the media, the presence of the CCCE

became less noticeable, maybe because their claims were more focused on their specific needs.

At the same time, this group was almost neutralized after the declaration made by President

Torrij os on April 24, 2006, who, interested in reducing the possible focus of social tensions that

this group represented and that could affect the outcome of the referendum, announced that the

final proposal of the expansion of the Panama Canal excluded the possibility of building new

lakes and that he will submit to the National Assembly a draft of a new law that will derogate

Law 44 (Abad 2006).

In fact, on June 21, 2006, the National Assembly approved Law 20 that derogated the Law

44 of 1999, the one that expanded the Panama Canal watershed to the areas where the members

of the CCCE were residing. With this action, the objective of the CCCE was achieved in the

short term. It has to be noticed that, even though the annulment of Law 44 supposedly removed

the cause of resistance of the peasants, it could be argued that this was a temporary move to

reduce opposition to the proj ect of expansion of the Panama Canal previous to the referendum of

2006. Ongoing dynamics have to be observed in perspective in order to evaluate future

developments. In fact, as I have seen in Limon de Chagres, there is a growing tendency among

the new generations of residents to move to the cities, simultaneously with the growing

immigration of the Santefios ranchers. The problem of deforestation in the area is far from being

solved. Despite Law 44 was annulled, the concessions granted by the National Authority of

Public Services to build dams in the area are still legal. These factors and the acknowledgement

made by high officers of the ACP and the Inter-institutional Commission for the watershed that





























































2 Cf. Chapter 2, pages 159-160.


any dam proj ect will be built in the area in no less than ten or fifteen years,2 leave open the

possibility that the issue that created the discussion we have presented here, will revive.

However, the events presented in the near context demonstrated the level of relevance of the

claims made by the peasants, and how their concern became an issue that had to be considered as

a threat to the successful implementation of the government and ACP agendas.

The mass media played a decisive role in the confrontation of agents with different levels

of power and rationalities that were exposed in the national debate about the expansion of the

Panama Canal. The use of discourses and images as well as the implementation of a series of

activities that tried to persuade the Panamanian public of the validity and legitimacy of the

claims of each stakeholder was a creative and varied showcase of the means of how they

articulate their stand and exposition in the public arena.

Even though the enormous difference of power, influences, international references and

technical and economic resources foretold the inevitable imposition of the total agenda of the

ACP on the rest of the country, the resistance actions of the CCCE influenced the definition of a

new alternative for the expansion of the waterway that excluded the control and flooding of areas

under the control of the protesting peasants, at least at the short term. A decisive factor in this

process was the articulation of a wide array of agents that j oined voices with the peasants and the

consequent reposition of strategies, discourses and actions of the different stakeholders.

Even though the result of the national referendum held in October 22, 2006 confirmed my

contention that the ACP had defined in advance the decision to expand the canal, it also

confirmed the reality of the impact of apparently powerless social movements in transforming

institutional and national policies using rudimentary and less sophisticated resources. Despite









the fact of the high percentage of votes favorable to the expansion of the waterway, more than

sixty percent of the total voters did not participate in the referendum. This puts a question mark

on the persuasive power of the mass media at the service of the promoters of the proj ect, and

confirms the implicit and troublesome ambivalence in Panama on the topic of the expansion of

the waterway and the promises of benefits to the whole society. In any case, the articulation of

local forces under the premises of social justice could put a provisional challenge to the

expansionary consequences of global capitalism despite the fact of the overwhelming

Panamanian historical, economical and ideological dependence on the Panama Canal.

The Panamanian case presented here also puts in evidence the limitations that still are

present in so called democratic societies when the decision making processes are monopolized

by a specific sort of rationality, mainly economic, and where elements of political and economic

establishment are reluctant to dialogue with other rationalities.










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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Martin Renzo Rosales was born in Colon City, Republic of Panama. He received a BA in

economics from the University of Panama in 1989, and an IVBA from the Universidad

Centroamerica Jose Simeon Cafias in San Salvador, El Salvador, in 1994. He studied theology at

the same university. He has experience working with young community leaders in El Salvador,

Nicaragua and Honduras, and has worked as instructor for high school students in El Salvador

and inmates in several j ails of Puerto Rico. After being ordained a priest of the Society of Jesus

in 1998, he has worked with peasants and Garifuna communities in the department of Colon,

Honduras. He did doctoral studies in anthropology at the University of Florida.





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1 THE PANAMA CANAL EXPANSION PR OJECT: TRANSIT MARITIME MEGA PROJECT DEVELOPMENT, REACTI ONS, AND ALTERNATIVES FROM AFFECTED PEOPLE By MARTIN RENZO ROSALES A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2007

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2 2007 Martin Renzo Rosales

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3 To my family, friends, and fellows of the Cent ral American and Missour i Provinces, and of the Puerto Rican Region of the Society of Jesus who have supported me.

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4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I want to express my gratitude to the chair and members of my supervisory committee for their valuable support and guidance. I also want to thank to the people of the communities of Limn de Chagres, Boca de Uracillo, and Santa Mara in the province of Coln, Panama. I am also indebted to the pastor, assi stant priests, members of the Hisp anic community, and staff of St. Augustine Parish in Gainesville, Florida, a nd to the Claretian missionaries serving the communities of the Costa Abajo in the Province of Colon, Panama.

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5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4 LIST OF FIGURES................................................................................................................ .........7 ABSTRACT....................................................................................................................... ............10 CHAPTER 1 DEVELOPMENT, POLITICAL EC OLOGY, AND THE PANAMA CANAL EXPANSION PROJECT IN THE CONT EXT OF GLOBAL CAPITALISM......................12 Introduction................................................................................................................... ..........12 Preliminary Elements of the Conflict: Global Commercial and Maritime Trends, National Development Needs and Management of Natural Resources..............................15 Methodological Aspects of the Research...............................................................................18 Historical and Personal Relations hip with the Object of Study......................................19 Methodological Tools and Process..................................................................................21 Anthropology and Maritime Processes...................................................................................29 Anthropology of Development and Megaprojects Assessment..............................................31 Megaprojects: Definitions and Impacts...........................................................................35 Primary and secondary effects of megaprojects.......................................................37 Development, megaproject s and political ecology..................................................39 Social Movements in the context of political ecology.............................................43 Rationality and ethics of development megaprojects......................................................47 Panama Canal Megaproject: Rationality and Texts........................................................51 Panama Canal Megaproject: General Overview.....................................................................54 Expansion of the Panama Canal: Global a nd Local Agents and the Maritime Factor...........55 2 TRANSIT IN PANAMANIAN LANDS CAPES IN GLOBAL AND LOCAL PERSPECTIVE.................................................................................................................... ..60 International Trade and Panamanian History.........................................................................63 Transit in Panama during Colonial Time................................................................................64 Modernity and Transport Megaprojects in Panama................................................................66 Panama railroad...............................................................................................................6 6 French canal................................................................................................................... ..70 Panama canal................................................................................................................... 72 Ecological, Socio-cultural and Econom ic Impacts of the Construction and Functioning of the Panama Canal.........................................................................73 Forced Relocations and Contr oversies with Local People.......................................80 The Panama Canal and the Panamanian Transit-Centric Economic Model...........................85 Background of the Panama Canal Expansion Megaproject...................................................88

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6 3 GLOBALIZATION, TRADE AND MARITIME TRANSPORTATION.............................92 Maritime Transportation: General Characteristics.................................................................94 Containers and Containerization: Revolutionary Global Impacts..........................................96 Post Panamax Megaships, International Po rt Facilities, and the Panama Canal..................100 US East Coast Retailer Mega Centers and West Coast Ports Bottle Necks.........................102 Trends of Transit through the Panama Canal in Perspective................................................110 4 PANAMA CANAL: GLOBAL TRADE AND PANAMA’S NATIONAL DESTINY......116 The Panama Canal Authority................................................................................................117 The Media and the Publicity of the ACP..............................................................................123 Influence of the ACP on other Panamanian Agencies..........................................................133 Water Resources and the Expande d Panama Canal Watershed...........................................140 The Inter-Institutional Comm ittee for the Watershed..........................................................149 The Third Set of Locks......................................................................................................... 153 5 LOCAL COMMUNITIES AN D ORGANIZATIONS: GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS..........................................................................................................168 Limon de Chagres............................................................................................................... ..169 Coordinadora Campesina Contra Los Embalses (CCCE)....................................................183 The CCCE and the Catholic Lay Leadership................................................................188 Social Projection and Intern al Dynamics of the CCCE.................................................193 La Gran Asamblea Contra La Inundacin/Fr ente Campesino Contra los Embalses............203 Residents of the Old Watershed...........................................................................................205 The Catholic Church............................................................................................................ .207 The Illueca-Manfredo Group................................................................................................215 The Campaign in Favor of the Expansion of the Canal........................................................216 The Media and the Resistance Movement against the Expansion of the Canal...................218 6 CONCLUSION................................................................................................................... ..233 LIST OF REFERENCES............................................................................................................. 241 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.......................................................................................................258

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7 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 1-1 License plate: Panama, 1999..............................................................................................57 1-2 Identification Card: Panama 1999.....................................................................................58 1-3 National Passport: Panama, 2005......................................................................................58 1-4 Cover of a 5th grade language textbook. Panama, 2007.....................................................58 1-5 Cover of a 10th grade textbook. Panama, 2007..................................................................59 1-6 Geo-strategic inter-oceanic locati on of Panama and the Panama Canal............................59 2-1 Location of transit routes in Panama dur ing colonial times. A) Map of Panama. B) Detail of transit. Sources: Instituto Ge ogrfico Tommy Guardi a and Historia de Panam (Castillero Reyes 2003)........................................................................................90 2-1 Continued.................................................................................................................. .........91 3-1 Containership.............................................................................................................. .....112 3-2 Bulk Carrier............................................................................................................... ......112 3-3 Tanker..................................................................................................................... .........112 3-4 Ferry...................................................................................................................... ...........113 3-5 Cruise ship................................................................................................................ .......113 3-6 Trends in total transits and TEU’s thr ough the Panama Canal. Source: Panama Canal Authority...................................................................................................................... ....113 3-7 Panama Canal share of container ma rket from Asia to US East Coast...........................114 3-8 Panamax container ship at Miraflores Locks...................................................................114 3-9 Main ports of the United States and North America........................................................115 4-1 Cluster of activities direc tly and indirectly linked to th e Panama Canal. Source ACP...157 4-2 Advertisement of the ACP aimed to high sc hool students. Source: Diario La Prensa....158 4-3 Advertisement of the ACP. Source: Diario La Prensa.....................................................159 4-4 Front page of the AC P 2002 Yearbook. Source: ACP.....................................................160

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8 4-5 Cartoon in Diario La Prensa: Januar y 8th, 2005. Source: Diario La Prensa..................160 4-6 Cartoon. Critica Newspaper: May 21st, 2005. Source: Diario Critica............................161 4-7 Cartoon in Diario La Prensa: June 1st, 2005. Source: Diario La Prensa.........................161 4-8 Crossection of the Panama Canal. Source: ACP.............................................................162 4-9 Area of the watershed of the Panama Cana l in comparison with the area of Panama. Source: ACP.................................................................................................................... .162 4-10 Old and New Watersheds of the Panama Canal. Source: Pana ma Canal Authority........163 4-11 Map of the lakes planned to be built in the expanded Panama Canal watershed. Source: ACP.................................................................................................................... .164 4-12 Dimensions of the Panama Canal Locks. Source: Mark Brooks.....................................165 4-13 Ironic cartoon about the publicized surv eys that mention the majority of the population is going to vote in favor of the expansion of the canal despite not having any information about it. La Prensa, Ap ril 28th, 2006. Source: Diario La Prensa..........166 4-14 Ironic cartoon about the lack of money fo r medical services in Panama when it was reported that the ACP has set apart more than 500 million as reserve for the expansion of the Panama Canal. La Pr ensa, April 28th, 2006. Source: Diario La Prensa......................................................................................................................... ......166 4-15 Ironic cartoon about the language used fo r the ACP’s Master Plan. La Prensa, May 2nd, 2006. Source: Diario La Prensa...............................................................................167 4-16 Cartoon Panama America. May 4t h,2006. Source: Diario La Prensa.............................167 5-1 Cruise ship passing through the Gatun Locks. The road that is obstructed by the ship is the only one that connects both sides of the Panama Canal in the Atlantic side.........222 5-2 Drawbridge across the Ga tun Locks. Gatun, Coln.......................................................223 5-3 Deforestation at the margins of the Indio River due to ranching.....................................223 5-4 Deforestation in the surroundings of Li mon de Chagres from Cerro Las Maras...........224 5-5 Pluvial terminal in Limn de Chagres.............................................................................224 5-6 View of the Center of Limn de Chagres from Cerro Las Marias..................................225 5-7 Publicity for the referendum in Panama City, October 2006...........................................225 5-8 Publicity billboard for the re ferendum Panama City, October 2006...............................226

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9 5-9 Publicity Billboard in Panama City: October, 2006........................................................226 5-10 Publicity during the referendum......................................................................................227 5-11 Advertisement in favor of the expansion of the Panama Canal.......................................227 5-12 Ironic cartoon against the workers threaten ing to work against the expansion of the Panama Canal. El Panama-America: June 12th, 2005......................................................228 5-13 Cartoon alluding to the thr eat of a negative vote at the referendum. La Prensa: June12th, 2005................................................................................................................. 228 5-14 Headline of the Panama America, regarding the first reaction of the peasants after the approval of Law 44..........................................................................................................229 5-15 Collage of newspaper headlines and articl es about the protests of the peasants in Panama City in 2003........................................................................................................229 5-16 Demonstration of the CCCE at the Admi nistration Building of the ACP. November 2002........................................................................................................................... .......230 5-17 Demonstration of the CCCE at the ACP Administration Building.................................230 5-18 Flier distributed by the CCCE depicting a peasant’s hat floating on the water as a symbol of the consequence of the possi ble flooding of their lands by the ACP.............231 5-19 Front page of the Docume nt about the Democratization of the Decisions regarding the Panama Canal. Pastoral Social-Caritas. Panama, 2002............................................232

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10 Abstract of Dissertation Pres ented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy THE PANAMA CANAL EXPANSION PROJEC T: TRANSIT MARITIME MEGA PROJECT DEVELOPMENT, REACTIONS, AND ALTERNATIVES FROM AFFECTED PEOPLE By Martin Renzo Rosales August 2007 Chair: Anthony Oliver-Smith Major: Anthropology The direct confrontation between residents of Panamanian rural communities with the Panama Canal Authority and, indirectly, with th e International Maritime Trade is the reason de entre for this study on the impact of global maritime trade on rural communities, and the dynamics of local resistance to development project s. Such aspects are the result of the Panama Canal Expansion Project. Currently, the Pana ma Canal Authority, the government agency responsible for the management of the waterwa y, is taking steps toward the physical expansion of the Panama Canal. The collater al impacts of this project would include the forced migration of whole communities, the reconfiguration of the eco logical landscape of an important area of the provinces of Coln, Panama, and Cocl, and the replacement of traditio nal activities of rural people by other activities related to the expansion of the waterway. The Panama Canal is an important and conf lictive early chapter in the geography of globalization, especially the space-time compression considered to be fundamental to it. At the beginning of the 20th century, the construction of the Panama Canal served to the economic and military consolidation of the USA reducing the ti me of connection between its East and West coasts.

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11 At the beginning of the 21st century, the increasing dimensions of the vessels that navigate some routes connected by the Panama Canal de mands its widening. The magnitude of the works could be as transcendental to Panama as the construction of the waterway one hundred years ago with possible huge impacts on the human, ecological and economic landscapes of the isthmus. This project will require the construction of a ne w set of locks that would require the use of colossal amounts of water, much more than the 52 million gallons used presently to move each passing ship through the wate rway. As new sources of water not related to the present canal are considered as possible source of water for the ne w project, this alternative is creating a conflict with rural communities that claim that their wa ter resources are going to be alienated by the Panama Canal Authority for the benefits of international maritime trade. What are the forces that drive these contradictory perspectives? How extremely oppos ed are they? How are these forces articulated in the national and internat ional sphere? What ar e the implied criteria of development that are present in the Panama Ca nal expansion project? Which elements are shaping or reinforcing the agency of the resistin g communities? What are the particularities and links of this resistance in the cont ext of global resistance movements?

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12 CHAPTER 1 DEVELOPMENT, POLITICAL ECOLOGY, AND THE PANAMA CANAL EXPANSION PROJECT IN THE CONTEXT OF GLOBAL CAPITALISM Introduction On October 22, 2006, a national referendum was held in Panama in order to decide about the implementation of the project of widening the Pa nama Canal. On that event, seventyeight percent of the voters gave their approval to what could be the most impor tant megaproject in the history of that country since the construction of the waterway almost one hundred years ago. Due to the colossal dimensions of this project, the complex series of socio-economic dynamics related to it, its status as a na tional cultural icon, and the fact that the Panama Canal has been the key point of articulation be tween Panamanian and international economic dynamics, the expansion of this waterway becomes an interest ing vintage point to st udy the interaction of global and local processes when they are mediated by the construction of a maritime megaproject. This study begins with the contention that despite the fact that the Panamanian Constitution establishes that any decision regarding the expansion of the Panama Canal has to be approved by the people of Panama through a national referendum,1 the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) –the autonomous Panamanian agency respons ible for the management of the Canaland the Panamanian political and economic elite have already decided to implement the expansion of the Panama Canal regardless of any previous public consultation and discussion of the consequences and costs of the project. Within the context of this decision framework, I argue that the ACP has pursued in advance the contro l of land and water resources needed for the expanded waterway, privileging international and global economical imperatives over any other 1 Cf. Article 325, Title XV of the Constitution of Panama.

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13 local considerations and interest s that might be equally demandi ng; however, the achievement of this objective has been limited by th e actions of local rural agents. In more specific terms, this case is a desc ription and analysis, fr om an anthropological perspective, of the process of articulation of contemporary global maritime transportation trends with Panamanian economic and political interest gr oups in order to promote the expansion of the Panama Canal and the Panama Canal watershed. This is also a study of the resulting conflict that these projects of expansion created with local rural communities over the control of lands and water resources and how different Panamanian groups of power perceive promote or question specific discourses on trade, development and lo cal rights in relation to the management of natural resources. In general, this conflict is fr amed and shaped by a diverse set of factors such as the evolution of global maritime trade and the shipping industry, the rationality and impacts of megaprojects, the history of the Panamanian tr ansit-centric economic model, the character of Panamanian politics and groups of economic interest s, and the resistance activities of marginal rural social actors to top-down decisi ons that affect their survival. Because of the amount of work implied, organizational complexity, economic cost, requirement of labor, transformati on of the ecosystem, and the social impacts attached to it, the expansion of the Panama Canal reintroduces Panama into the circuit of world class megaprojects. As such, I argue that this expansion seems to fo llow a specific sort of ra tionality and process of implementation that tend to prioritize techni cal and economic concerns over other aspects equally or more relevant, like, for example, th e reconfiguration of th e ecological, cultural and economic landscapes of important areas of three provinces of the republic of Panama and the relocation of several communities. These claims have been made also by a group of peasants from different communities located in the high lands of the provinces of Panama, Coln and

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14 Cocl that were going to be affect ed by the project. In order to challenge what appeared to be a top-down project that seemed to be imposed upon them; peasants from those communities formed a grass roots organization called the Coordinadora Campesina Contra los Embalses (CCCE). This organization assumed an active role demanding a change in the decision making process apparently forged in a context of the wo rld shipping industries, a scenario quite distant from the peasants’ reality as pr actitioners of subsistence agriculture. With this attitude, the CCCE set a national precedent in Panama by challe nging the almost unquestionable status of the main national icon, the Panama Canal, and ope ned the door for a wider discussion, in which other actors took part, about the ta ngible impacts of the waterway fo r the rest of the country. Additionally, and despite the fact that the result of the refere ndum gave the public seal of approval to the project of expansion of the Panama Canal, there was room for analyzing, from an anthropological perspective, the factors and dynami cs that contextualized the definition of the limits of the expanded watershed of the canal, on e of the most controversial components of the project of expansion of the waterway. Consideri ng this panorama, some que stions came to mind: What were the forces that drive the alternative perspectives about the expansion of the Panama Canal and the Panama Canal watershed? How opposed were they? How have these forces been articulated in the national and international spheres? How were global and local rationalities presented? What was the criterion of devel opment that was implicit in the Panama Canal expansion project? Which elements were shaping or reinforcing the agency of the communities challenging the logic of this project? What were the et hical implications found in the implementation of this project?

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15 Preliminary Elements of the Conflict: Globa l Commercial and Maritime Trends, National Development Needs and Management of Natural Resources The Panama Canal Expansion Project was c onsidered by international and Panamanian figures as a technical and economic challenge that Panama had to ponder seriously in view of not only the role that this waterway has played in gl obal maritime trade, but also in consideration of the impact that such an eventful project wi ll have for the Panamanian economy (Alvarado 2005, p.5, Arias 2003, p.5). The discussions regarding the e xpansion of the canal have acquired a more public and urgent tone since the year 2000, when the waterway was transferred to Panama after almost one hundred years under the control of the United States. Several arguments were used to justify the expansion of the Panama Canal. It was claimed, for example, that Asian economic e xpansion in general, and particularly the overwhelming surge of the Chinese economy, has in creased the size of the markets on that side of the globe and, consequently, th e volume of trade between the Atlantic and the Pacific that moves through the waterway. It has been obser ved, as well, that the evolution of maritime transportation technology, which includes the ph enomenon of containerization, has radically transformed maritime transport services. As a result, naval companies from Asia and Europe have been building bigger container ships that can carry more cargo per voyage. However, a growing number of these ships are too big to pa ss through the original Panama Canal. Officials of the ACP have argued that, if the Panama Cana l is not expanded by the first decade of the 21st century, the new mega-ships w ould seek alternative routes, which will compromise the international relevance and na tional economic profitability of the waterway (Alvarado 2003, Ardito Barletta 2005, Economist 2004, Martnez Laso 2001, pp.254-255). In order to meet this demand, the ACP proposed the construction of a third set of bigger locks.

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16 The operation of the proposed new locks for the Panama Canal will require, among other factors, the use of colossal am ounts of water, much greater than the quantities needed for the functioning of the present waterw ay. The original watershed of the canal has been providing enough water to satisfy the needs of the waterway during almost one hundred years. In fact, each transit through the canal requires the pouring of 52 million gallons of water, for an average of 40 transits per day. However, some environmenta l phenomena, like El Nio, which has produced occasional shortages of water in the watershed, have raised concern about the risks of not having, in the long term, enough supply for the additiona l requirements of an expanded waterway. In 1999, in order to face this possible shortcoming, the ACP expanded what is known as the Panama Canal watershed with the purpose of bui lding what were called “hydraulic projects” in the rivers Indio, Cao Sucio, and Cocl del Norte (1999, ACP/URS-D&M/IRG/GEA 2003, CEASPA 2002). This expansion in cluded areas, which contain lands and rivers that have been serving several rural communities. However, thes e lands and rivers did not have any geographic or hydraulic connection with the ac tivities of the Panama Canal. Not only the decision to expand the Panama Canal watershed to an area that was not linked at all to the activities of the Canal, but specially the way this decision was implemented – through a hurried legislative process without a previous consultation with the re sidents of the areaignited a se t of actions and reactions from peasants, agents of the Panama Canal Author ity, and other Panamanian citizens (Antinori 2001, p.22, CEASPA 2002, p.73). Besides the discussion around the expansion of the watershed, I could appreciate the fact that the decision to expand the Panama Canal wa s promoted in Panama through the presentation of two combined discourses: one that appeals to the urgency to update the waterway to the level of the current and future trends of global mar itime trade, and another that claims that national

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17 development depends on the ineludible decisi on of widening the waterway (Hoffman 2005, Jordn 2005, Martnez Laso 2001, pp.254-255).2 However, critics have pointed out that this project will not solve the pe rsistent economic inequality promoted and imbedded in the Panamanian model of economic development and will impose an extreme economic burden on the country. In fact, with a co st estimated by 2006 at 5.2 billion dollars, the expansion of the canal will require an investment that could be equivalent to nearly 60 percent of the gross domestic product of Panama. This represents a financial dimension with out parallel anywhere else in the world’s contemporary or past history (H offman 2005, p.32). The elements of the discussion analyzed in this document are presented in a socio-political moment and academic context when the understa nding of development, the rationality and impacts of megaprojects, and the consequences of economic globalization are under a great deal of scrutiny because of the persistent doubts about w ho receives the benefits and pays the costs of development projects (Appadurai 1996, Car doso 1972, CEASPA 2002, Edelman 1999, Escobar 1995, Hoogvelt 2001, Hughes 2002, Niesten & Reid 2001, Ocampo & Martn 2003, Schaeffer 1997, Stiglitz 2002, Tortosa 2001). Considering the pe rsistent social and economic inequality that pervades Latin America despite the implemen tation of development policies and projects, it will be interesting to document th e initial stages of the decision making process of the Panama Canal expansion megaproject. This effort will provide a historical reference of a so-called development project that can be confronted wi th future evidence of its concrete impacts on Panamanian socio-cultural, economic and political landscapes. 2 This opinion was addressed by an article in the sectio n of Finances in the Panamanian newspaper La Prensa, on November 24, 2005. According to this article, the Panama Canal could produce incomes in the range of 10 billion dollars between 20014 and 2025.

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18 Methodological Aspects of the Research The process that I followed to be introduced in to this discussion, and to collect and analyze the relevant data, was especially influenced by several factors that, di rectly and indirectly, connected me with this case. I had to admit, fr om the beginning, that my selection of this topic responded, partially, to my concer n about the ethical aspects invol ved in the decision making and implementation processes of development project s that have been performed by Panamanian political and economic elite at the cost of more vulnerable people. I think that we, as scholars, have a special responsibility that goes beyond the exposure of new findings of scientific knowledge for the consumption of academia. In this regard, I consider that there is a need to relate even more our academic activity w ith the reality of countless people whose fate has been marked and is decided by those with more economic and political power. The reality of suffering, caused by injustice and the way power has been used by those possessing it, is an aspect that should not be ignored if we scholars –and specially social scientistswant to make a contri bution worthy of relevance. In th is regard, I coincide with the position of Marc Edelman when he says that “u nderstanding the human tragedy of contemporary Third World is better served by social scientific practice that attempts, however imperfectly and incompletely, to document and to come to gr ips with the forces creating, resisting and reconceptualizing change” (Edelm an 1999). However, understanding is one step that needs to be followed by concrete actions that are especially demanded when human suffering is in front of our eyes. In this opportunity, I intend to make a contribution to the exposure of another case in Latin America in which powerful agents and thei r discourses about development are promoted but also contested by traditionally marginal groups. I want to present also specific examples of how any discussion among stakeholders of different levels of power and perspectives, not only could be challenging to one another; but also how they face their inte rnal contradiction.

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19 I intend to contribute as well, to the anth ropological study of maritime trade and shipping activities by addressing their imp acts on human contexts and scenar ios different from those often studied in coastal lo cations. From the methodological perspective, by presenting the complications I faced when I was trying to keep tr ack of a process with high sociopolitical and economic implications, I also want to document, once again, the difficult ies that anthropologists face when we try to get involved in a public discu ssion within a socio-political context that sets limits to critical opinions re garding development projects. Historical and Personal Relationsh ip with the Object of Study My interest in this conflict originated fr om the online news I read, while studying in Gainesville, Florida, during the su mmer of 2001. At that time, I read about the claims that a group of Panamanian campesinos were presenting to the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) after the National Legislative Assembly legally defined the new limits of the Panama Canal watershed. When I read about th e people involved and their claims –which at that time had been underway for at least one y earI realized that I was quite famili ar with their geographic, historic and political contexts, thanks to several factor s that related my persona l experience with the history of the Panama Canal and the people affect ed by its expansion. One of my grandmothers was born in the town of Matachin in 1893.3 That was one of the twen ty-one villages that were submerged under the waters during the construc tion of the Panama Canal between 1904 and 1914. That was the reason why she was among the firs t group of people that had to be relocated during the construction of the Panama Canal. 3 It is said that this name comes from the Spanish expr ession “Mata Chino” (“Chinese Killer”) and alludes to the great number of Chinese workers who di ed because of the harsh work conditions during th e construction of the Panama Railroad in the 1880’s.

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20 I was born in Colon, a city that, since its foundation, in 1852, has been linked to the transisthmian transit through Panama. Colon City was built to serve as the Atla ntic terminal for the Panama Railroad, the first inter-oceanic transpor t megaproject of the Americas, which preceded the Panama Canal as a mean of transportation for people and commodities between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. The house where I was ra ised was located less than 200 meters from Limon Bay, the Atlantic entrance or exit of th e Panama Canal; therefore my earliest child memories of the outside world are connected to the view of ships going to or coming from the Panama Canal when passing through this bay. In 1987, when I was doing my undergraduate stud ies in Economics at the University of Panama, I completed a three-month internship at the Accounting Division of the Panama Canal Commission (PCC), the bi-national agency that preceded the Panama Canal Authority in the management of the waterway. That was my fi rst and only direct opportu nity to learn, as an insider, about the professionalism and work discipline demanded by the US managers of the Panama Canal. It was also my first intercultura l work experience. I was a Panamanian Spanishspeaking student working in Panama under the supervision of US citizens who did not speak Spanish, in an institution that was controlling an important Panamanian resource. Despite the fact that the common language among my cowork ers was Spanish, all official documentation had to be written in English. The $400.00 monthly sala ry I earned –minimum wage at that time at the PCCpractically doubled th e average salary of the Panama nian employees who, with the same or more preparation and experience than me, worked for the Panamanian government. The historical conflictive relationship between Panama and the United States, thanks to the presence of the Canal, was stressed even after th e signature of the Torrijos-Carter treaty, which, in 1977, established a specific dead line for the transference of the waterway to the Panamanian

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21 jurisdiction on December 31st, 1999. According to one article of this treaty, the US had the right to intervene militarily in Panama in case the s ecurity of the Panama Canal was at risk. Because of this provision, and in order to depose the Panamanian dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega, the US government decided to i nvade Panama on December 20th, 1989, arguing the need to guarantee the security of the waterway, defend Panamanian democracy and the security of American citizens resident in Panama. Desp ite the dubious legitimacy of those reasons, the invasion was launched demanding a high toll from Panama in terms of human lives. Two of my brothers were among the hundreds of casualties produced by that invasion. By July 1990, one and a half year after joining the Jesuits, I was se nt to work in a mission of evangelization in the area of Rio Indio. During that mission, I vi sited about 12 communities where I could meet several lay leaders of th e Catholic Church. Eleven years later, in 2001, when I was doing my Ph. D. studies in Anthropology at the University of Florida, I read about the conf lict about the expansion of the Panama Canal in online reports from Panamanian newspapers. In one of these reports, I read that some peasants of the region of Rio Indio were protesting against the construction of a lake in that area. I later knew that, among the leaders of th e protest against the creation of the new lake were some lay leaders of the Catholic Church whom I had met dur ing my visit to that re gion as a Jesuit novice. Since then, the curiosity for this issue that involved people I knew encouraged me to contribute to this discussion about the implications of th e expansion of the most emblematic Panamanian icon and about the role that anth ropology could have in the critical analysis of this project. Methodological Tools and Process The aspects that I covered in this disserta tion were based on information gathered from different sources, and applying different methodologies of data collection and analysis. I approached this discussion mainly as a cas e of political ecology ethnography, a methodological

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22 and analytical perspective that considers the different points of view of conflicting agents regarding the use or control of natural resources (Little 1999, p.15). My first direct contact with my research set ting was through a series of exploratory visits I made during the summers of 2001 and 2002. On each visit, I spent abou t a month and a half visiting several rural communities, as well as collecting preliminary information about the Panama Canal in Panama City. After making an agreement of pastoral cooperation with the team of Claretian missionaries – a Catholic religious orderrespons ible for the religious attention of the people living in the area of the watershed of the Indio and Cao Sucio rivers, I established the official contact for my future visits to se veral rural communities in the provinces of Coln and Cocl for my fieldwork that began in April 2003. For this purpose, I spent one year and four months in Panama -from April 2003 to May 2004 and from September to November of the same year-. My cont act with the rural communities consisted of 17 visits of about te n days each, during the rainy and dry seasons. During that time, I had more than 52 in depth interviews, 10 focus groups, and participated in about 24 informative and religious community mee tings. In those visits, I interviewed adult men, women, teenagers, missionaries, and lay leaders. Despite my presence in communities collecti ng data about their everyday lives, this study relies more on the description of a conflicting process between people established in different locations than on an exclusive ethnographic descri ption of a specific setting. In fact, as the discussion I was following was held in different rural and urban fronts, I had to move between these different scenarios; therefor e, I had to be flexible in the implementation of a long term-one location traditional anthropological ethnography. The de velopment of events forced me to adapt my research methodology in order to keep track of the activities and dynamics of one of the rural

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23 groups involved in the discussion, in this case th e Coordinadora Campesina Contra los Embalses (CCCE). Besides my direct contact and follow up of the activities of the CCCE, I also spent part of my time in the cities of Panama and Colon inte rviewing specific officers of the Panama Canal Authority and other government and independent key informants from whom I got different opinions. I interviewed officers from the Environm ental, Social and Marketing Departments of the Panama Canal Authority, as well as the chief officer of the Inter-inst itutional Commission of the Panama Canal Watershed (CICH), the office in charge of the coordinati on of the activities of different government agencies that serve th e population of the Panama Canal Watershed. Because of the mobility involved in this process, this study can fit among the cases of multi-sited ethnography. According to George Marcus, “multi-sited research is designed around chains, paths, threads, conjunctions, or juxtapos itions of locations in which the ethnographer establishes some form of literal, physical presence, with an expl icit posited logic of association or connection among sites that, in fact, defines the ar gument of the ethnography” (Marcus 1995, p.105). Another anthropologist, Ulf Hannerz points out that “the nature of certain problems, or the formulation of certain topics, is sometimes tr anslocal, not confined to a single location”. Moreover, he argues that, in such cases, “the lo cations involved are c onnected one another in such a way that the relationships between them are as important for this formulation as the relationship within th em” (Hannerz 2003, p.206). In this rega rd, my ethnographic work was done by moving in different places of rural and urba n Panama following the development of actions and movements of some of the stakeholders invo lved in the discussion of the expansion of the Panama Canal. For this reason, and despite it s limitations in compar ison with the traditional

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24 long term and detailed ethnographic account of daily events in one location, I considered that multi-sited ethnography was the appropriate methodology to study a discussion held among different parties and settings, and also because of the rapid succession of events that were shaping the evolution of this discussion. As the unifying element of such a geographically widespread research was the topic of disc ussion among stakeholders, I can say that my anthropological setting was the conflict itself. Through participant observation, I collected info rmation in a wide variety of settings and activities such as community m eetings, demonstrations, confer ences, and other events where some of the stakeholders took part. The fact th at, as a native Afro-Panamanian, I could consider myself an insider researcher w ithin a Panamanian setting, coul d not exonerate me from being involved in the cultural dynamics of my home social context where ethnic profiles are not ignored and certain racial prejudi ces are still present. In a si milar way, it was not possible to separate, in certain contexts of my fieldwork, my role as a researcher and my role as Catholic priest, for example, when attend ing a case of a stillborn baby, ge tting emergency help for sick people during several of my visits to the communities, giving spir itual support, and celebrating Catholic sacraments for the people that also were my informants. Therefore, even though that I assumed the role of a common par ticipant in several events and locations, my profile as AfroPanamanian and as a Catholic priest made obviou s my presence in events where the rest of the participants were of mestizo origin or knew about my religious role. After facing the reality of a discussion among several stakeholders that were continuously moving and evolving, it was evident for me th at, despite the conve nience of multisided ethnography, this method had its limitations. In f act, despite my interest in doing so, it was difficult for me to spend the same amount of time with each stakeholder. Se veral factors affected

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25 this purpose, among others, the dramatic differen ces and distances between the rural and urban settings where these stakeholders were located, their different le vel of openness to collaborate in a research project, and their percep tion of my role as a Catholic pr iest or as a scholar. I also had to distribute my time between the city and the vill ages, according to the set of events that were developing there: community meetings, demonstrati ons, conferences, etc. For this reason I could not follow the simultaneous evolution and mob ility of other stakeholders involved in the discussion. For example, I could not participate as an observer in the series of visits that officers of the ACP were doing to several communities, or even be present in meetings organized by the ACP when they were held in the same community I was visiting. This was prevented because the reluctant attitude of the ACP toward indepe ndent researchers and because the members of the CCCE were also suspicious of any person who part icipate in the meetings with the ACP. I also had to rely on other methods, like structure and semi-structured interviews, which where helpful in the process of collecting specific information in a limited time. In order to understand the pr omotion of the expansion of the Panama Canal launched by the ACP in the urban sectors, I attended several conferences delivered by officers of this agency in different forums in Panama City. I also observed the publicity announcements of the Panama Canal Authority in different local newspapers an d in El Faro, the biweekly newspaper from the Panama Canal Authority. Additionally, I consul ted several opinion and informative articles about the expansion of the Panama Canal published in Panamanian and international newspapers. Other source of information regardi ng the Panama Canal and its territory were the ANCON foundation, the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, and the National Environmental Authority.

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26 To get a complementary and contrasting pers pective from the information provided by the Panama Canal Authority, I participated, as well, in several meetings of a commission of the Conference of Bishops of Panama that was suppor ting the peasants affect ed by the expansion of the Panama Canal watershed. This commission wa s formed by the bishops of the dioceses of Coln, and Cocl and the archbishop of Panama, as well as representatives of other Catholic organizations that have been in contact with the peasants. Among these organizations, the most outstanding relationship was with Pastoral Social-Archdiocesan Caritas, which has assumed a very important and outspoken position in support of the peasants affected by the expansion of the watershed. I also contacted some members of an independent group of professionals that are also questioning actively the logi c and technical justif ication of the expansion of the Panama Canal. For complementary quantitative inform ation, I relied on reports from the Office of Statistics of the General Comptroller of Pana ma, reports from the Ministry of Agricultural Development, the Ministry of Economy and Finan ces, and the Agricultural Development Bank. Besides the contemporary information I coll ected through interviews, focus groups and participant observation, I also collected hist orical data about the Panama Canal through complementary archival, bibliographical, and on line research. I consulted the archives and documentation about the history of the transit ar ea of Panama and the Panama Canal that were available at the Panama Canal Institute of th e University of Panama, the Library of the University of Panama, the Library of the Pana ma Canal Authority, the Library of the National Lottery of Panama, the National Library of Pa nama, the Library of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City, and the La tin American Collection at the University of Florida. I also got some valuable information about the original forced relocations during the construction of the Panama Canal at the archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and at the

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27 National Archives of Panama. I also used written copies of the hearings of the discussions that preceded the approval of the expansion of the Pa nama Canal Watershed at the library and web page of the Legislative Assembly of Panama. I also relied on bib liographical references in order to get information about the international sh ipping business, and maritime transportation. Due to the nature of the conflict and the role of the leadership of the Catholic Church in this discussion during the time of my fieldwork, it was self ev ident that my condition as a Catholic priest was an asset but also a liabil ity depending on which of the stakeholders I was relating to. In fact, during the time of my fi eldwork, the most outspoken authorities of the Catholic Church have been very critical of the arguments of the Panama Canal Authority and supportive of the position of the ru ral people that complained agai nst the way the widening of the Panama Canal has been implemented. For that re ason, being a priest helped me to be welcomed by the leaders of the peasant’s movement that felt supported by the leaders of the Catholic Church. However, this same religious role limite d my relationship with those peasants who were supportive of the actions of the ACP and, as a researcher; I coul d confirm the complaints about the secrecy of this institution made by other researchers and scholars who wanted to know in advance more inside details about the expans ion of the Panama Canal but who faced quite difficult access to more specific informati on from the Panama Canal Authority. I found that, despite their courtesy in receiving me for an interview, the officers of the ACP were quite reluctant to provide additional informa tion that could not be found in the official web page of the ACP. The public delivery of informa tion about this project wa s generally incomplete, generic, quite superficial and mainly focused on the demands of international trade as the main justification of the project.

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28 For the analysis of some of the data collect ed, I will rely more on discourse and content analysis in order to find pattern s of rationalities and perceptions of the di fferent stakeholders involved in the discussion (Bernard 2002). The basic materials for this analysis are recorded interviews, written documents, and opinions expr essed in the Panamanian and international newspapers, journals, and in seve ral web pages. I kept track of articles of opinion, publicity ads and news related to the Panama Canal publishe d during and after my fieldwork in Panama. My overall intention is to observe the consiste ncy of a discourse in favor of or against the expansion of the Panama Canal through the us e of language, images, and other types of resources to influence public opinion. In the case of the ACP I will focus, among other references, on different articles and advertisements published in Panamanian newspapers, as well as on the official biweekly newspaper El Faro published by the ACP, and in the webpage of the ACP. 4 A complementary aspect of my research took shape when, during my visits to the communities, and with the help of Enrique Castro, a Panamanian film maker, I could record different activities such as meetings and interviews so that I could have a perspective not only of my informants’ perceptions and comments, but al so my own interaction with the informants. From my contact with Castro, came the idea of collaborating in a project that could go farther than a research aimed for academic purposes. In fact, we considered that we should implement concrete actions in order to make public the information we were collecting, so we could contribute to a wider and deeper public awaren ess and discussion about implications of the expansion of the Panama Canal. As a result, we collaborated in the production of a set of 4 http://www.pancanal.com/eng/noticiero/el-faro/index.html last accessed July 27, 2007.

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29 documentaries about the impact of the expansi on of the Panama Canal that originally was intended to be broadcasted on national TV some weeks before the referendum of October 2006. Anthropology and Maritime Processes This study is focused on a conflict produced at the local level by th e dynamics of global maritime trade. As such, this study tries to expa nd the range of interest of the discipline known as maritime anthropology. According to James M. Acheson (1981), scholars interested in maritime anthropology have been focused on three s ubjects: modern fisheries, shipboard life, and prehistoric marine adaptations. More than two decades after his assessment, it seems that this division prevails. A general review of the biblio graphical references on th is subject, confirms that anthropological studies of maritime dynamics have been mainly focused on the experiences of coastal communities and socio cultural pract ices of people devoted to fishing (Breton 1999, Lise 1988, Quezada & Breton 1999, Ta ylor 1992, Villareal 2004). The relevance of the archeological study of the impact of maritime dynamics and their influence on social processes has been acknow ledged by Sean McGrail (2003), who addressed their chronological precedence ove r other human activities. According to McGrail, archeological evidences have challenged some parameters esta blished by historians in order to describe and explain human processes. There were seamen before there were fa rmers, boatbuilders before wainwrights, and navigators before there were megalith designers; indeed seafaring seams to be as old as humankind. Evidence to support these assertions comes from Australia, northern America, and the eastern Mediterr anean (McGrail 2003, p.2) In more contemporary terms, Sam Tangredi, a senior military fellow in the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defens e University, points out that the human ability to move across the oceans successfully was the hist orical turning point that enabled higher levels of international trade an d profits to stimulate the evolving trend toward economic globalization.

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30 In fact –he explainsocean navigation was crucial for this trend because it was the initial means used by humans as a constant medium and as a primary means for communication and commerce. From these perspectives, the role of maritime transportation was clearly perceived as a means of providing not only a space for the smoot h flow of people and products but also as a base of strategic domination (Tangredi 2002). A little more than one hundred years ago, th e historian and military strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan defined the concept of sea power according to the characteristics that presently are useful to describe globaliz ation. Among these characteristic s, Mahan included: accelerated communication and international trade, multin ational use of a “global common”, and the reduction of the security and s overeignty of (certain ) nation-states (Tangredi 2002). Nowadays, the increasing efficiency and sophistication of port and shipping services have boosted the trading of commodities, raw materials, and components even more almost everywhere in the world. The result of this is that maritime shi pping became the dominant mode of transportation that moves, since the last part of the 20th century, more than two thir d of world trade (Kumar & Hoffmann 2002, Pronk 1990, White 1988). From the hi storical perspective, Michael Pearson (2006, p. 353) remind us about the fact that, becaus e their exposure to di fferent geographical and cultural influences, there are more commonalities among different littoral or coastal societies beyond national borders that among littoral and inland societies within one country. However, by overcoming the limitations that time and space pr esented in the past, th e expanding network of relationships created by the global maritime activiti es is reaching more geographical and cultural landscapes beyond the coastline. The previous data could be useful to unders tand that, despite the f act of the undeniable importance studying coastal commun ities, the archeology of shi pping, and the experiences of

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31 fishermen, there is still room for anthropological exploration of the dynamics and impacts of contemporary global maritime trade and transporta tion in the worldwide processes of economic, political and cultural changes not only in coastal communities but also in inland societies. From this perspective, the study of dynamics triggered by, for example, the existence of settings such as ports and naval bases, or economic activities such as shipbuilding, logistic maritime services, and containerization, can provide interesting areas of inquiry. The fact that the Panama Canal performs a key role in the articulation of intern ational maritime trade, at the same time that has been the crucial element that helped in the config uration of the socio-cultu ral identity of a whole country, positions this project in the intersection of interest of global and local actors and, may be, in the scope of maritime anthropology. Anthropology of Development and Megaprojects Assessment The case I am studying can fit as well into the broader realm of studies of anthropology of development. Development, as a western con cept of economic improvement, as a political discourse, or as a practice of national or lo cal management, has been the object of extended discussions within and outside the academia, acco rding to its diverse objectives, ideological emphasis, frames of references, or the agents wh o argue about the topic. With an approach that looks into the domain traditionally controlled by economics, anthropology has made an important inroad into the set of values, criter ia, discourses and ideologies that human groups promote or contest about development (A rce 2000, Chambers 1983, Cooper & Packard 1997, Escobar 1991, Esteva 1993, Frank 1997, Gardne r & Lewis 1996, Gunder Frank 1969, OliverSmith 2006, Peet & Hartwick 1999, Quarles Van Ufford 2003, Tortosa 2001). Anthropologists have had an important contri bution in the critique of the pretension of Western scientific knowledge of being all-en compassing and efficacious (Hobart 1993, Scott 1998). For this purpose, the anthropologica l methodological approach to the study of

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32 development includes the representation of conflic ting actions and events which directly affect future actions. Other issues of anthropological interest include for instance, the study of how knowledge, power and agency are represented and how responsibility is attributed in different situations (Edelman 1999, Hobart 1993, p.13). Some anthropological critiques of development have also been scrutinized. For example, Marc Edelman, in his study about rural social m ovements in Costa Rica, criticizes the omission that post-modern anthropologists of developmen t have made of the most obvious subject of anthropological investigation: flesh and blood hum an beings. This author claims that some notorious critiques of developmen t have relied so much on high leve ls of abstract analysis that have prevented them from the analysis of histori cal examples or illustrative cases. He also points to the exclusion from the panorama of analysis th e relevant macroeconomic and social indicators framing the lives of these subjects like, for ex ample, “the forms of accu mulation and distribution, non-discursive and material reprodu ction of classes, sectors, cor porations, and family groups that make up any contemporary economy” (Edelman 1999, pp.8-9). Regarding the topic of development, I, as a Catholic priest, after acknowledging some of the critiques received by some actions and person s from the ecclesiastical hierarchy for their role in favor of the dominant elites in specific hi storical and social c ontexts, cannot elude the doctrinal inroads that the Catholic perspective ha ve made in the analysis of development. For this reason, and trying to put aside any prejudice that some academic sectors could have from religious criteria of analysis, I want to mention some of the el ements of Catholic teaching on development that also have shaped my personal criteria of analysis. In fact, I think that there is an interesting se ries of papal documents and statements that are coherent with some of the critiques of development coming from the social sciences. These

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33 documents show an evolution of the conception of development that in tegrated the evolving perspectives of the social sciences regarding this topic. For example, in 1961, Pope John XXIII, on his encyclical Mater et Magistra, addressed the issue of development by linking economic and social progress and the need to reduce so cial inequalities. He said that Economic progress must be accompanied by a corresponding social progress, so that all classes of citizens can participate in th e increased productivity. The utmost vigilance and effort is needed to ensure that social ine qualities, so far from increasing, are reduced to a minimum.5 In the same line or reasoning that understood economic growth as an incomplete perception of development, Pope Paul VI insi sted, in 1967, that the te rms cannot be understood exclusively in terms of economic growth, but as an integral concept that must be consider each person and the whole person.6 Regarding the effects of individualism and competition as the base of development, the Pope claimed that indi vidual initiative and the criteria of competition will not ensure satisfactory development and admoni shes that the increase of the wealth of the rich cannot be pursued while the burden on the needed and oppresse d is also increased. 7 Twenty years later, in 1987, Pope John Paul II on his encyclical Solicitudo Rei Socialis, made an additional contribution to the Catholic perspective on development stressing the moral implications of any initiative that promote accumulation and consumerism.8 On Paragraphs 33 of this encyclical, Pope John Paul II expre ssed a moral critique to development when the preeminence of the profit criteria ex cludes the respects of human rights: 5 C.f. 1961 John XXIII, Mater et Magistra # 73. 6 Populorum Progressio # 13. 7 Populorom Progressio # 33 8 John Paul II, Solicitudo Rei Socialis # 28.

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34 Nor would a type of development which di d not respect and promote human rights personal and social, economic and political, including the rights of nations and of peoples be really worthy of man. Today, perhaps more than in the past, the in trinsic contradiction of a development limited only to its economic element is seen more cl early. Such development easily subjects the human person and his deepest needs to the demands of economic planning and selfish profit. The intrinsic connection between authentic de velopment and respect for human rights once again reveals the moral character of developmen t: the true elevation of man, in conformity with the natural and historical vocation of each individual, is not attained only by exploiting the abundance of goods and serv ices, or by having available perfect infrastructures. When individuals and communities do not see a rigorous respect for the moral, cultural and spiritual requirements, based on the dignity of the person and on the prop er identity of each community, beginning with the family and religiou s societies, then all the rest availability of goods, abundance of technical re sources applied to daily life, a certain level of material well-being will prove unsatisfying and in the end contemptible. The Lord clearly says this in the Gospel, when he calls the attention of a ll to the true hierarchy of values: "For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?" (Mt 16:26) True development, in keeping with the speci fic needs of the human being-man or woman, child, adult or old person-implie s, especially for those who ac tively share in this process and are responsible for it, a lively awareness of the value of the righ ts of all and of each person. It likewise implies a lively awareness of the need to respect the right of every individual to the full use of the bene fits offered by science and technology. In the next paragraph, Pope John Paul II incl udes in the Catholic di scourse on development the respect of what he calls th e natural world, or the ecosystem, connecting in this way with the sort of critique that other discipline have b een done about the impact of development on the natural resources. Nor can the moral character of developmen t exclude respect for the beings which constitute the natural world, which the anci ent Greeks alluding precisely to the order which distinguishes it called the "cosmos." Such realities also demand respect, by virtue of a threefold consideration which it is useful to re flect upon carefully. The first consideration is the appropriateness of acquiring a growing aw areness of the fact that one cannot use with impunity the differe nt categories of beings, whether living or inanimate animals, plants, the natural elements simply as one wishes, according to one s own economic needs. On the contrary, one must take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordere d system, which is precisely the cosmos."

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35 The second consideration is based on the realiz ation which is perhaps more urgent that natural resources are limited; some are not, as it is said, renewable. Using them as if they were inexhaustible, with absolute dominion, se riously endangers their availability not only for the present generation but above all for generations to come. The third consideration refers directly to the consequences of a certain type of development on the quality of lif e in the industrialized zones. We all know that the direct or indirect result of indust rialization is, ever more fr equently, the pollution of the environment, with serious consequen ces for the health of the population. A true concept of development cannot igno re the use of the elements of nature, the renewability of resources and the consequen ces of haphazard indus trialization three considerations which alert our consciences to the moral dimension of development.9 The previous selection of papal statemen ts can also serve as the complementary background of my personal perspec tive on development that were ta ken into consideration when analyzing the ethical foundation of the discussion about the expa nsion of the Panama Canal and the rationality that is behind it. Megaprojects: Definitions and Impacts As I have stated in previous pages, this case addresses some dynamics related to the implementation of a maritime transport megaproject. Megaprojects can be considered as the highest contemporary symbols of modernism, a ra tionality that perceive s the use of technology for the control and transformation of nature as the ultimate signal of progress. The magnitude of megaprojects has been imposing radical transfor mation of ecosystems, human settlements, and economic dynamics with consequences that cannot be ignored nor underestimated. They also imply the investment of enormous amount of capital and labor, and the creation of complex organizational structures. When thinking about development projects and megaprojects, the most common images that come to mind are those usually portrayed by planners, technocrats and politicians. These 9 Solicitudo Rei Socialis #34.

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36 images, associated with emblematic gigantic infr astructures like dams, hi ghways, bridges, ports, mines, airports, industrial plants, etc., are presented as symbols of human domination over nature, the power of public author ity, expression of national pride, or as the keys for progress that will put the national economy in the train of the buoyant global capitalist system (Flyvbjerg et al 2003, Ribeiro 1987). The application of the term megaproject became common since the late 1970’s when it was used simultaneously by the Canadian government and the Bechtel Corporation to describe, respectively, huge energy developm ent projects, and large portfolios of very largescale projects that were implemented at that time (Altshuler 2003). Some definitions refer to specific aspects of those projects, such as their economic value, labor and organizational dimensions, and the magnitude of their impacts. For example, th e scholars Allan Altshul er and David Luberoff suggested a monetary criterion that could be used to qualify a project as a mega project. Even though they clarified that this was just an a pproximate value rather than a “hard-and fast threshold”, they set the standard of value of at least $250 million dollars, in inflation adjusted year 2002 dollars (Altshuler 2003, p.2). But, in the wider sense, they also described mega projects as “initiatives that are physical, very expensive, a nd public”. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) put a higher economic ba r when defining megaprojects as “major infrastructure projects that cost more than $1 billion”. However, this institution uses another definition of megaprojects, consid ering them “projects of a signi ficant cost that attract a high level of public attention or political interest because of substa ntial direct and indirect impacts on the community, environment, and state budgets” (Capka 2004). According to Paul Geller and Barbara Lynch, me gaprojects are projects that, intentionally, transform landscapes rapidly a nd radically in very visible ways, and require coordinated

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37 applications of capital, stat e power and sophisticated tec hnology -generally imported from industrial countries(Gel lert & Lynch 2003). For analytical pu rposes, Geller and Lynch divide mega-projects into four types: Infrastructure (i.e. ports, railroad s, urban water, and sewer system) Extraction (i.e. mineral, oil, gas) Production (i.e. industrial tr ee plantation, export processi ng zones, and manufacturing parks) Consumption (i.e. massive tourist installa tions, malls, theme parks, and real state development). Sometimes, a combination of such projects will constitute also a mega project, for example, when dam projects require roads and power lines (Gellert & Lynch 2003). Authors like Bent Flyvbjerg (2003) consider infrastructu ral megaprojects as the key elements in the creation of a new world order, helping in th e movement of people, goods, energy, information, and money with unprecedented ease. Within the time-space compression logic of contemporary global trends, infrastructure megaprojects could be considered, as Flyvbj erg says, “the great space shrinker”. They are the ultimate piece of human ingenuity that promote a faster or more efficient communication between centers of pro duction or service and consumers, or between different reciprocal markets. Ra ilroads, airports, highways, ports, and artificial islands, are some of the most outstanding and commons elements in this constellation of engineering feats. However, the interplay of interests linked to the monumental magnitude of these kinds of projects has moved their role from being a m eans for production and consumption to be an end in themselves (Flyvbjerg et al 2003). Primary and secondary effects of megaprojects Despite the positive intentions that could be expressed in their design and planning, some studies from the perspective of the social sciences have found that development projects and

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38 megaprojects are the cause of invol untary displacements as well as the impoverishment of a great number of people (IRN 2003). In fact, through the years, the evaluation of the impacts of megaprojects, tends to be less than positive, not only because their financial, and environmental costs, but also because of their predominant tendency to affect the most vulnerable people (Flyvbjerg et al 2003, IRN 2003, Kanbur 2003, Oliver-Smith 1996, pp.78-79, Samset 2005, pp.12, Schmink & Woods 1987, p.38, Scott 1998). For that reason, and the comple xity of interests behind their conception and implementation, the analys is of the consequences of megaprojects as a whole demands the consideration of the prim ary and secondary impact s of the stages of definition, planning, construction and performance that are related to the degree of immediacy and visibility of the impacts observed. There is an opinion that displacement is the ma in primary or direct effect of megaprojects (Cernea 2003, Flyvbjerg et al 2003, p.17, Gellert & Lynch 2003, p.17, Oliver-Smith 2006). Michael Cernea, for example, labels the displ acement produced by development projects as a “perverse and intrinsi c contradiction in the context of development” (Cernea 2000, p.11). Displacement is understood as the physical moveme nt, but not only of people “out of the way” of the project developed, but also the movement of workers into th e areas of construction of the project. This last type of di splacement occurs in a context of inequality, generally driven by economic need with the quite frequent limited conditions and benefits for the laborers. It can be said also that displacements are those circumstances that even without physical relocation, imply a transformation of the li velihood in communities dependent on local resources, or when biodiversity is diminished by a mega project, as when forests are clear cut and planted with monocultures. In this regar d, it is has been noticed that local ecosystems, archeological sites, human settlements, and local ways of living could be severely affected or

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39 altered by the amount of land cl eared, flooded, leveled, or burie d, and the remains that are disposed by the construction of a megaprojec t (Gellert & Lynch 2003, p.16). The quite ofteninduced migration of huge numbers of laborers, and dwellers could have a wide variety of impacts in their places of origin and destiny as was proved overwhelmingly with the construction of the Panama Canal, a project that changed tota lly the ethnic panorama of the Isthmus with the import of a huge amount of la bor coming from more than 95 countries (Glcher 1999, McCullough 1977). Secondary effects are socio-natura l processes that take a variety of forms, and can occur at some remote distance in time or space from the site of the project. They are effects that are not mediated by the direct control of decision makers (Penz 2003, p.140). Among the socio-natural secondary impacts of megaprojects, there are land slides, floods, water saline decline, soil and water salinization, aquifer disr uption causing problems downstream etc. (Gellert & Lynch 2003, p.16). Secondary impacts are subject to gr eater uncertainty than the primary ones and, therefore, are less difficult to control or predict (Flyvbjerg et al 2003, p.19). Development, megaprojects and political ecology Despite their undeniable orig in in relatively powerful instances, top down decisions regarding megaprojects have been questioned openly as soon as affected people organize actions according to their awareness of their rights to -and power to demanda fair treatment from others, and when the threat of being displaced is perceived (B aviskar 1995, Little 1999, Little 2001, Locker 1998, Long 2000, Novoa 1998, Oliver-Smith 1996). Alternative political, social and even religious institutions have given support to the increas ing agency of groups traditionally marginalized (Edelman 1999, Schmink & Woods 1992). When analyzing and interpreting the outreach of the claims and struggles of stakeholders affected by development projects and megaprojects, some scholar s have ascribed them with

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40 connotations that sometimes go beyond the origin al motivations of comp laint. For instance, according to Joao Martnez-Alier, some of the so cial struggles by poor pe ople can be considered ecological struggles, independently of the name they officially a ssume. He claims that this ecological intention can be either hidden or evident when the motiv e of the struggle is to defend access to natural resources against the advance of the generalized market system (Martnez-Alier 1991, p.621). Maybe this characterization could be accepted as long as the concern or intention about the preservation or sustaina bility –not its unilateral exploita tionof the natural endowment is implicit or explicitly included within the framing of the struggle. However, this type of categorization is not shared by Peet and Watts (1996, p.35) who argue that, in practical terms, ascribing a pure environmental identity to thes e claims is not necessarily accurate because the grassroots and NGO movements that are at the cen ter of these conflicts are generally focused on broader issues like livelihood conditions and justi ce. Additionally, even the struggle about the control of natural resources coul d present the confrontation of different competing depredatory models of relationship with the e nvironment despite the ru ral or urban origin of the stakeholders confronted. The critique of the peasants of the expansi on of the Panama Canal watershed has addressed the rationality behind the national policy regardin g the use of natural re sources. At the same time, it confronts other groups of power that want to control these resources. When talking about confrontation of actors of different levels of pow er about the use or control of ecological settings, we are entering the realm of political ecology. Political ecology, as an area of inquiry of special attention in contemporary social science, puts in evidence this sort of conflict of interest s, considering the relationship of power and the diversity of worldviews regardi ng nature held by different stak eholders. These conflicts expose

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41 the interplay and tight relationship between power, management of landscapes, and sociopolitical influence (Flyvbjerg et al 2003, p.17). They expose, as well, the contesting rationalities behind the control of resources endangered by the logic of co nsumerism or overexploitation inherent to the dynamics of capitalism. According to Peet and Watts ( 1996), political ecology is one of the most important fields of analytic production that relate environment and development. They trace the origin of the term to the 1970’s when it emerged as a response to the theoretical need to relate the use of land with the local-global political economy and as a re action to the growing politization of the environment. At that time, Eric Wolf addressed the analysis of property as a tension between the way households achieve a balanced use of the resources they de pend on and the juridical rules concerning the rights of property (Wolf 1972). From that original perspective, ju ridical patterns were considered a tool in the struggle to main tain or restructure th e economic, social, and political relations of societ y. While acknowledging the use of the term political ecology in academic publications in the late 1960’s and 197 0’s, Tim Forsyth (2003) reminds us that the possibility of integrating political analysis with environmental expl anation was previously theoretically considered. In fact, it was in the early 1960’s wh en the first discussion of ecology as a science with political conten t emerged. In that sense, ecolo gy was considered not only the study about the human impact on the biophysical environment, but also as a philosophical perspective to observe holistically the interact ions between people and the environment. The Colombian historian Germn Palacio consid ers that, despite the f act that the struggles for the control of natural resources are as ol d as the existence of human societies, the categorization of such disputes as environmental is a more recen t theoretical trend (Palacio 1998, p.6). In his analysis of the stru ctural causes of conflic t over natural re sources, Gabriel E. Pramo

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42 argues that the conflicts in the society rega rding the ecosystem are based on the way the relationships of production and distribution ar e established and in the national model of development (Pramo 1998, p.133). For some scholars, political ecology unites the concerns of ecology with political economy (Baviskar 1995, Peet & Watts 1996). This blend of fields integrat es the focus on the variety of relationships that human societies maintain with their environment, and the analysis of the power relationships between stakeholde rs (Little 1999). Other aspects of interest are focused on the complex socio-economic interactions that produc e environmental destruct ion or deterioration (Bryant & Bailey 1997), and the unde rstanding of politics as an arena for the production of new truths in which environmental concerns are unde rstood to take a decisive role (Vlez Galeano 1998, p.44). When evaluating the anthropological relevance of political ecology, Anthony Oliver-Smith (2001) considers that this approach is specifically helpful for the outlining not only of the promotion and defense of the claims and points of view of different stakeholders about disputed resources and territories but also of the way the compe ting discourses of cultural and political legitimacy are displayed and reciprocally affected. Most of the studies in political ecology are more oriented to th e issue of social justice in environmental disputes and struggles over re sources in developing countries (Baviskar 1995, Forsyth 2003, Little 1999, Muradian & Mar tnez-Alier 2001, Novoa 1998, Schmink & Woods 1992, Uribe H. 1998). These studies are focused on conflicts resulting from the implementation of a variety of projects or by the direct exploitation of natural res ources. As a general fashion, the cases studied were located mainly in South Amer ica, Africa and Asia and addressed the effects of development projects such as dams, roads, or exploitation of natural resources, which were

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43 primarily conceived to promote na tional development but also with certain direct or indirect articulation with the dynamic s of economic globalization. When recognizing that much of political ecolo gy remains within the macro-structural framework that privileges the decisive influen ce of broad economic for ces in the shaping and determination of local historie s, cultures, and societies, D onald Moore (1996, p.126) points out the importance of other factors that shape the st ruggle about natural resour ces in the called Third World. He mentions, for instance, the micro-polit ics of peasant’s strugg les over the access of productive resources, and the symbolic contestati ons that constitute these struggles. In this regard, an ineludible aspect in political ecology is the study of the social movements that have been articulated around specific conflicts and how these movements define an ideological frame of their struggles (Rothman & Oliver 2002). Social Movements in the co ntext of political ecology According to Alain Touraine, so cial movements are “forms of social mobilizations which involve a contest over cultural models which govern social practices and the way societies function, a struggle over normative models of so ciety” (Gledhill 2000, p.87). More specifically, in the Latin American context, social movements are a form of resistance to domination, exploitation and subjection or as collective protest against th e excessive concentration of decision-making power and the incapacity of the state to provide services (Bebbington 1996, p.94). The variety of motivations that justify the actions of social movements makes it difficult to locate them within one specific ideological framew ork. Differently from political parties, social movements function not primarily through the insider channels of the political establishment, but tend to mobilize precisely in opposition to some of the dynamics predominant within those channels (Barnes 1995). Social movements imply th e presence of a sense of collective purpose in order to achieve political goals th at require interaction with othe r political actors. These political

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44 goals are expressed as claims for the recognition of their rights or the exte nsion and exercise of rights (Oliver-Smith 2006). They ha ve the ability to develop a co llective percepti on of reality that encourages solidarity, shared identification, and a lternative values cont rasting with the ones that seems to be socially dominant and, wh en addressing socio-economic issues, social movements tend to resist state a nd market decision in their dail y life; claiming their autonomy and independence of state intervention (della Porta et al 2006, p.18). Considering the present global panorama in which distinct localities across national borders are linked by social relati ons in such a way that local ev ents are affected by and affect events occurring in distant settings (della Po rta et al 2006, p.3), contem porary social movements tends to be also the reaction to the implementation of political or economic actions designed in international scenarios that restrict affect or threat specific rights at the local level. Conversely, these movements tend to create explicit or impl icit international bonds in order to gain support for their causes (Rothman & Oliver 2002). At the theoretical level, a predominant tendenc y in research on social movements paid a special attention to the political environments that movements face. This approach was known as political opportunity theory and became the predominant framework of analysis of social movements (Goodwin & Jasper 2004). By the inte gration of inputs from the additional research on social movements that gave a special impor tance to the assessment of the group’s agency, political opportunity theory evol ved in what later was called the political process model. This perspective includes concepts of mobilizing structures, politi cal opportunity structure, and cultural framing. Mobilizing structures allude to the informal networks, preexisting institutional structures, and informal organizatio ns that preexist and generally are the base that facilitates the articulation of a movement (Morris 2004, p.235). Citing Sidney Tarrow, Allan Morris defines

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45 political opportunity structures as the “consistent –but not ne cessarily formal or permanentdimensions of the political environment that provides incentives for people to undertake collective action by affec ting their expectation for success or failure” (2004, p.35). This political environment includes the presence of favorable ch anges in the political system, the presence of division among political elite, and the presence of external allies. Framing processes refer to the “shared meanings and definitions th at people bring to their situation.” In this regard, I agree with Morris when he mentions that cultural aspects such as ideas, belief systems, rituals, emotions, oratory, and grievance interpretati ons are important elements that fuel social movements. Other perspectives of analysis pay speci al attention to the leadership, formation and strategies of the movements. However, as Anthony Oliver-Smith reminds, ethical discernment is required precisely when the disclosure of internal aspects of these movements could compromise specific individuals or could be used by antagonists of these groups in orde r to neutralize or disarm these movements (Oliver-Smith 2006, p.143). One particular perspective on the studies of social movements is focused on the reactions against Development-induced displacement and resett lement (DIDR). In this regard, the majority of studies have paid special a ttention to the resistance to da ms. Geographically, these studies paid special attention to processes in India, Southeast Asia, and Latin America (Oliver-Smith 2006). Despite the general theoretical tendency to set unifying criteria to identify social movements, and after observing certain dynamics and processes during my fieldwork, I agree with the anthropologist John Glendhill when he a dvises that, when analyz ing social movements, we should avoid perceiving them as unitary act ors lacking of internal contradictions and contradictory tendencies, isolating them from the larger social, cu ltural, and political fields in

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46 which they are immersed (Gledhill 2000). In fact as Barry Barnes (1995, p.151) suggests, due to the complexity and contradictory dynamics perceive d within them, rather than thinking of these movements as a unified or uniformed entity, th ey should be characteri zed by “loose connections between a plurality of groups, i ndividuals, and organization”. In Panama, the conflicts that relate politic al ecology, megaprojects and social movements against DIDR are not new. Other projects of gr eat magnitude such as the Bayano Dam and the Cerro Colorado Mining Project set precedents as national infrastructural megaprojects with heavily criticized implications on people and the ecosystem. In the case of the Bayano Dam, the process of implementation of the project and th e relocation of people were made during a period of military dictatorship that prevented the articulation of a resistance movement. This context and the intensive use of a disc ourse of national development, implemented a hydropower project that today is not as successf ul as predicted (Wali 1989). The Cerro Colorado Mining Project exposed a case that, during the 1970’s and early 1980’s, caught the public atte ntion in Panama when th e fear of the consequen ces of the project of exploitation of copper by the Cana dian Rio Tinto Zinc Company in the mountains of Chiriqu generated a strong reaction by the indigenous people living in the ar ea. The resulting pressure ultimately caused the cancellation of a project of exploitation of what was considered one the biggest reserves of copper in the worl d (Gjording 1991, pp.3-4). The case I am studying introduces to the existing bibliography of political ecology a discussion of how the expansion of global capitalism, and more specifically maritim e transportation, could demand the control and transformation of landscapes not obviously li nked to the maritime activities and how these demands are contested by local groups.

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47 As the next chapters will show, this study reve als certain similarities with other cases of resistance to development projects in aspects such as the positioning of actors of different levels of power, the dispute over the c ontrol of specific natura l resources, the influence of international capital and local elite in the definition of specific discourses about development and social benefits, the reaction it triggered from affected communities, the involvement of other stakeholders and allies, etc. The particularities of this study include the facts that it exposes an extreme case of explicit articu lation of global and lo cal dynamics in pursuing the implementation of a national project primarily oriented to sa tisfy the needs of inte rnational capitalism and, contrary to other cases, this is not about a conflict around one megaproj ect among several in one national context, but about a megaproject or “the” megaproject that defined the history and will condition the destiny of a whole country: Pana ma. Additionally, and as was mentioned earlier, the fact that the key factor that originated this study is a megapr oject that symbolizes the global process of capitalist articulation through the use of maritime services, introduces to the anthropological discussion some aspects that can be considered by the scholars of maritime anthropology. Rationality and ethics of development megaprojects The reality of megaprojects is not exempt from ideological and ethical implications that become evident when particular perceptions abou t their utility are promoted and even imposed using economic or political power in detriment of other perceptions. There is no doubt that when the rules of the market and profit making become the main points of references in the definition of development plans, po licies, and projects, some other aspe cts of human reality are affected. Unfortunately, human suffering, marginalization, and overexploitation of natural resources are not excluded from the consequences of megapr ojects. These are some of the reasons why my concern about megaprojects are similar to the cri tique that other anthropo logists have done when

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48 these initiatives are justified exclusively under the criteria of profit (Kanbur 2003, Schmink & Woods 1987). Gustavo Lins Ribeiro (1987) has made an intere sting synthesis of some characteristics of the rationality of megaproject s. Generally, megaprojects ar e presented as promoters of development for all social classe s and ethnical groups re lated to them. On his analysis about the planning, promotion, and implementation of megapr ojects, Ribeiro points out that even though megaprojects create an outstanding offer of labor, the people coming from local communities, closer to the sites of the proj ect are assigned in the lowest positions of the labor market. Additionally, the numbers of jobs created repres ent a small proportion of the mammoth financial investment for the project. Ribeiro presents, among others, these addi tional characteristic s of megaprojects: Megaprojects generally res pond to preexistent economic needs, and to create new economic platforms. Major decisions are made by decision-makers whose rationality is based on the logic of the articulation of national and international economic systems. The global distribution of megapr ojects follows the trends of th e international division of labor –and in certain ways the logic of economic and politic dependence-. Megaprojects are controversial because of their huge demand of capital and work, and because they promote great changes. In fact, their dimensions guarantee that they will be considered geo-political factors with relevance at the national, regional, and international levels. Megaprojects are launched and promoted through planning, and according to scientific evaluations of their viability. To make it possible, me gaprojects require a centralized structure of management. The majority of megaprojects is managed by pub lic corporations or has tight relationship with government agencies. The bigger the pr oject, the bigger is the influence of the corporation at government level. For that reason, the high ranked personnel of such corporations has access to the higher national and in ternational levels of government. The logic of the grandiosity of megaprojects promotes the idea that the dimension of the project is positive by itself because it produ ces a great number of jobs. The logic also

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49 makes explicit that the megaproject will rescue the region or country from its backwardness. National history is the favorit e source of events that are oriented to support the implementation of the megaproject as something that has to be done. Nationalism becomes a key element in that redemptory ideology. The ideology of redemption appears quite often as a historical challenge that has to be faced just building the mega project. Populism is another ideology that supports mega projects. According to this perspective, promoters of the megaprojects tend to popul arize the image of an egalitarian –though temporarysociety. In this society, the common objective, embodied in the mega project, destroys all cultural differen ces and class divisions thr ough their unifi cation under the banner of progress Additionally, the issue of rationalities and ethics of mega projects has been addressed also by Bent Fyvberg when defining a predominant beha vior pattern of a seri es of megaprojects he has studied (Flyvbjerg et al 2003, p.6) He mentions, for example, what he calls the “megaproject paradox” that consists of the irony of the in creasing number of megaprojects that are built despite the poor performance record of the greatest part of them. His analysis puts in evidence a missing point in the evaluation of the consequen ces of such projects when the power that promotes them imposes a particular sort of ra tionality and knowledge that marginalizes other types of knowledge (Flybjerg 2001, p.142). Additionally, there is the issue of the intenti onal or unintentional excl usion in the decision making process in megaprojects. In this re gard, James Clingermayer argues that: “many exclusionary impacts can be affected by the representation of interests in the decision making process, the rules that guide the substance a nd process of decisions, the rhetoric behind a proposal, and the reorganization of the administrative, legislative and judicial structures that will make decisions”. He added that the exclusiona ry impacts bring about wealth redistributions, generally from developers and low-income re sidents to middle and upper-income residents (Clingermayer 2004). In a similar perspective, Anthony Oliver-Smith confirms that the logic of

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50 megaprojects justifies the criter ia of the greatest good for the greatest number instead of acknowledging the rights of the less numerous and less powerful (Oliver-Smith 1996, p.76). The perspective of exclusion is also congrue nt with the metaphor of maps used by James Scott (Scott 1998, p.87). According to this metaphor maps are simplified representations of a specific reality that set guidelines and points of references helpful to orient the us ers according to the frames of references selected by the designe rs. The designers of a map have the power to influence the perception of the reality observed by the users. Paul Geller and Barbara Lynch claim that megaprojects are conc eived, justified, and promoted acc ording to specific rationalities and ideological frameworks of references creat ed in what they call “epistemic communities” (Gellert & Lynch 2003, p.16).These authors define an epistemic community as “an elite group of actors from state agencies, international lendin g and donor institutions, and the private sector who undertake and shape megaprojects”. These communities have common cultural perceptions and ideological assumptions generally related with criteria such as public good, progress, rationality, and even could have a racial ba se. Epistemic communities tend to justify megaprojects and categorize their collateral displ acements as externalities that must be either ignored or addressed through remediation. Thes e communities can hold a level of power that they use either to promote thei r particular perception about a megaproject or to dismiss or deny the legitimacy of alternative critical perceptions, and even getting rid of their opponents. Moreover, according to the level of power they hold, epistemic communities can influence or shape the general perception of reality (Flyvbjerg 1998). From another point of reference –the holo caustZygmund Bauman (1989) has contributed with an in depth analysis of the rationality and pa ttern of actions of specifi c groups of interests. Following the rule of achieving their own objectiv es of promoting their worldviews, these elites

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51 even get rid of their opponents (Bauman 1989, p.91). In fact, Bauman argues, as long as the pursuing of their specific objective is consid ered their priority; these groups organize institutional structures in such a way that their elements functi on apart from ethical references (Bauman 1989, pp. 100-101). Geller and Lynch point as well, that megaprojects serve the ma terial interest of powerful actors in the process of capital accumulation, especially for financ ial institutions and construction firms, as well as modernization a nd territorialization ambitions for states. These interests are reflected in and reflect the ideo logies of the communities of actors engaged in project development. Such ideologies inform an optimistic culture of decision making that favors massive, rapid landscape change and exclude po tentially affected popul ations from decision making (Gellert & Lynch 2003, p.20). In fact, that exclusion coul d be masked by a teleological discourse that justifies physical and social sacrifices –such as collateral social and physical impactsin order to reach development. From all these perceptions, obvi ous relationship can be found with Gramsci’s arguments about the control th at elite exercise over particular sectors of society such as culture, educa tion, religion and the media in orde r to obtain consent for their authority (Scott 1985, p.39). Panama Canal Megaproject: Rationality and Texts The rationality of megaprojects has permeated the history of Panama because the existence of this country as an independent political ent ity was based precisely on the construction of the Panama Canal. In fact, in Panama, the predom inant perception promoted by the national elite among the population is that the Pa nama Canal is the defining reference of Panama’s reality. This perception fits in what Foucault called a “r egime of truth” that the political and economic apparatuses of power diffuse in order to impose a particular perception of the economic reality (Peet & Watts 1996, p.13). For this purpose, the use of discourses and texts are crucial. As Peet

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52 and Watts have synthesized, a discourse is an asp ect of language use that express a particular standpoint that is related to a ce rtain set of institutions or worl dviews. Discourse tend to focus on a delimited range of objects, emphasizing some c oncepts while ignoring others (Peet & Watts 1996). At the same time, and according to the social and historical context in which it is used, a discourse generally becomes the essential base of a text. The anthropologist Mark Allen Peterson defi nes text as “any disc ourse fixed by some mode of representation: wr iting, magnetic tape, photography, video, or any combination” (Peterson 2003, p.60). In this regard, a text is un derstood as a linguistic, visual and/or auditory phenomenon that is fixed, coherent, with a st ructure, topic and referential meaning. As a phenomenon with coherence, a text can be transf erred from one context to another, keeping its distinctiveness despite the fact that its meaning could vary according to th e cultural codes for its interpretation. As a phenomenon aiming for social in teraction, a text trie s to transmit a message from someone to another one. The addressor the one that creates the textcould be a person, an institution, and even a device (Peterson 2003, p.78). Aspects such as hegemony of and resistance to discourses are parts of the complex percep tion of mass media. Alluding to a Gramscian perspective, James Scott argues that hegemonic elites, by virtue of the power they hold, create and disseminate a universe of di scourse and the concepts that go with it, by defining the standards of what is true, beautif ul, moral, fair and legitimate… and build a symbolic climate that prevents subordinate cl asses for thinking thei r way free (Scott 1985, p.39). I consider that the combination of texts and discourses became the platform over which the centralist image of the Panama Canal was built in Panama. In fact, besides the evident role of the waterway in shaping the history, politics, and economy of the c ountry, the persistent promotion of the image of the Panama Canal through differe nt means has established a text of national identity that has permeated almost all as pects of the Panamanian self-perception.

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53 Discourses and texts are the raw material that feeds the activity of the mass media, another influential factor in the configur ation of contemporary social pro cesses. As it was pointed out by Mark Allen Peterson (2003), mass media have in troduced a technological transformation in the natural process of human comm unication that basically is bui lt around the interaction form person to person, or from one person to a sma ll number of listeners. The technological component that is introduced in this process is aimed to reach a multiple number of people who usually are not interconnected to one another. A wide array of factors such as books, television, radios, newspapers, magazines, comic books, cart oons, telephones, billboards, videos, films, emails, etc. is clustered in th e general inventory of mass medi a. From the anthropological perspective, Peterson raises the question of how these technologies mediate human communication, and how this mediation is embedded in broader social and historical processes (Peterson 2003, p.5). According to Eric Lown (2001), media became a central resource for defining aspects such as social position and status, and for positioning people through discourse. Generally, he argues, these discourses are used to legitimate or de-l egitimate particular perspectives or worldviews and the holders of su ch perspectives. This is the reason why those seeking power tend to pursue the control of media, which serve as “agenda setters”. In fact, Lown says, even though the media not always su cceed in telling people what to think, have an impressive record in telling them what to think about (Louw 2001, p. 19). This reasoning, built around the Gramscian concept of hegemony also implies that meaning making and meaning circulation are basic instruments for those pret ending to become and keep dominants. Despite the fact that the role of mass me dia in the promotion and contestation of megaprojects can justify another ar ea of inquiry, I just want to point out, as an example, the relevance of the media for the promotion of sp ecific symbols and images that link Panama’s

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54 identity as a nation to the Panama Canal. In Pa nama, the media and the educational system were instruments at the service of transmitting, promo ting and preserving specific texts and discourses that presented the canal as the ubiquitous nationa l icon par excellence. The image of the Panama Canal was the persistent text inserted in documen ts and objects intimately linked to the daily life of the Panamanian citizens (Figures 1-1 to 1-5). For example, Figure 1-1presents, the image of one of the locks of the canal as the background of a license plate. Figures 1-2 and 1-3 present the image of th e Panama Canal in personal identification documents such as the ID card issued by the Pa namanian government in 1999 and in the national passport. Additionally, figures 1-4 and 1-5 present how the image of the Panama Canal was used for educational purposes in textbooks for cour ses as different as Social Sciences and Mathematics. Besides these examples, the images of the Panama Canal have been used in posters, post cards, restaurant tablecloths, key hold ers, advertisements, and TV spots. If the text of the Panama Canal can be found in almost any place of the national panorama, from the international perspective, it canno t be denied that the canal is the main reason why Panama is known worldwide. The preeminence of the canal as the main Panamanian icon was satirized in the title of a book written by the Panamanian Gregorio Selser: “ Erase un Pais a un Canal Pegado ” (There was a Country Attached to a Canal) (Selser 1989), which implies ironically that Panama, as a country, was like an appendix of the canal built in th e middle of its very territory. Panama Canal Megaproject: General Overview The Panama Canal was built by the United St ates between 1904 and 1914 in order to facilitate the mobility of ships between the Atla ntic and the Pacific oceans. This feat of engineering can be considered among the most impressive megaproj ects in the history (McCullough 1977). The construction of this wate rway established world historical precedents

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55 in terms of cost, engineering design, public health practices, amount of human labor employed, and magnitude of transformation of a tropical ecos ystem, as well as its amount of casualties. The construction of the Panama Canal was so transcendental in ecological, human, economic and geopolitical terms, th at its existence was cr ucial in justifying the efforts of making Panama an independent nation by its separation from Colombia in November, 1903 (De la Rosa 1968, Diaz Espino 2001, McCullough 1977, Montiel Guevara 1999, Ricord 1975). The 80kilometer-long cut through the isthmus made it possible to reduce considerably the time and distance required to travel between the Atlantic and Paci fic Oceans (Figure 1-6). When the canal was inaugurated in 1914, it was intended to respond the needs of expansion of the international markets and military power that required adequate and updated technology and infrastructures of transportation. A ship can sa ve over 7,800 miles between New York and San Francisco by passing through this inte r-oceanic route, compared with the alternate route around the southern tip of South America. After almost one century under the control of the United Stat es, the Panama Canal and its neighboring territories were transferred to Panamanian jurisdiction on December 31st, 1999. Since then, the Panama Canal became an even mo re important and reliable asset thanks to the direct and indirect economic benefits it has been providing to Panama, a country that, during all its history, has organized its economy mainly ar ound the service activities related to the interoceanic transit through the waterway. Expansion of the Panama Canal: Global and Local Agents and the Maritime Factor Since its construction, between 1904 and 1914, the Panama Canal deepened even more this role by assimilating Panamanian geography into the dynamics of global trade. As soon as Panama got control over the canal on December 31, 1999, the nation got engaged in a complex network of global and local stakeholders interconnected by complementary and even

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56 contradictory economic, political and cultural relations linked to the processes of production and distribution of commodities. Th ese stakeholders are part of a varied cast coming from the international, national, regional and local levels that include retailer stores, international maritime companies, US port authorities, Panamanian government institutions, rural communities, peasants, independent professionals, and even religious representatives. “Stakeholder” has been defined as “any individual or group who can affect -or is affected bythe achievement of organizational objectives ” (Freeman 1984). One way to determine the relevance of a stakeholder could be according to the level of power and legitimacy they enjoy, and the urgency of their claims. In this sense, po wer could be defined as the stakeholder’s ability or potential ability to impose its will on others or its degree of influence in the output of a decision. Legitimacy could be understood as the “p erception or assumption that the actions of an entity are desirable proper or appropriate with in some socially constructed system of norms, values, beliefs and definitions”. Urgency is related to the import ance and sensitivity of time of the claims made by the stakeholder (Fried man & Mason 2004, pp.238). These criteria will be part of the analysis that will be done regarding the different stakeholders involved in the project of expansion of the Panama Canal that wi ll be presented in the next chapters. As we have seen through this chapter, th e discussion about development includes, among other things, the analysis of the economic interac tion of global and local c ontexts as well as other aspects that, despite being related to economic dynamics, go beyond them. Megaprojects have an important role in this interaction and are subject to closer analysis due to the magnitude of their effects and the complex interplay of interests, objectives, benefits and risks they involve. Megaprojects also are critical scenarios that tr igger conflicts regarding the use and control of natural resources a nd expose the interplay of a variety of agents and dynamics of power.

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57 One particular element of this study is the consideration of the maritime factor as the feature that triggered a series of dynamics that have affected the cultural, economic, social and political configuration of Panama. Departi ng from the traditional studies of maritime anthropology focused on the social and cultural dynamics of coasta l villages or the activities of fishermen, this case introduces into the scope of anthropological inte rest the impact and influence of global trends in maritime trade and shipping activities not only on the lives, values, and actions of human societies that depended on them, but also in social groups that are not related to them. The Panama Canal embodies th e ultimate example of the powerful connotations of a megaproject linked to the global maritime dyna mics. Its construction determined the destiny of the geography of Panama and its population. As long as national and international economic and political elites have identified the re levance of Panama to the existence and good performance of the waterway, local text and disc ourses were created and promoted in order to reinforce in this country a social and economic base dependent on the tr ansit activit ies of the Panama Canal. Historical and ge ographical conditions have had al so an important influence in the configuration of the current dependence of Panama on the trans it activities as we are going to see in the next chapter. Figure 1-1. License plate: Panama, 1999.

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58 Figure 1-2. Identification Card: Panama 1999 Figure 1-3. National Passport: Panama, 2005. Figure 1-4. Cover of a 5th grade language textbook. Panama, 2007

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59 Figure 1-5. Cover of a 10th grade textbook. Panama, 2007. Figure 1-6. Geo-strategic inter-oceanic lo cation of Panama and the Panama Canal

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60 CHAPTER 2 TRANSIT IN PANAMANIAN LANDSCAPES IN GLOBAL AND LOCAL PERSPECTIVE The present day role of Panama as route that a llows transit from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, and from North to South America, is th e outcome of a birthmar k rooted in a complex series of economic, social and ecological dynamics that have defined the hi story of this country through centuries, and even millennia. In fact, th e Isthmus of Panama a strip of land and water of about 75,517 km2 –almost the size of the state of South Carolinathat owes its existence to colossal geological processes that more than three million years ago finally closed a sea passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans (Eldre dge 1998). The closure of this passage created, as well, a natural land bridge that connected the two biggest extremes of the Americas and produced a dynamic of transit along the isthmus with transcendental effects in the ecological and biological evolutions not onl y in the Americas but in the rest of the world. Transit through Panama made po ssible the spreading of biologi cal species from North to South America, and vice versa (Coa tes 1996, Cooke et al 1986, Svitil 1996).1 The emersion of the Isthmus of Panama also triggered the extinc tion of many land species as invaders from North and South America expanded their range of influe nce to places where they were not native and became predators of some host species (Eldredge 1998, p.178). However, as soon as Panama became a land bridge, it also became a sea barrier with tremendous consequences. When dividing the o ceans, the Isthmus of Panama on one side, transformed the Caribbean into a closed sea, with few tidal movements and low levels of nutrients, making the water saltier, warmer, and ade quate for the development of coral reefs. On 1 See Burkart, Marchetti and Morello in “Grandes Ecosiste mas de Mxico y Centroamrica”; Gallopin, G.C. (ed). There are evidences of the pres ence of four meters-high birds, a species of giant armadillo, a giant sloth, and other animals that migrated through Panama from South America to Texas and Florida and other areas of North America. Currently, only three of the migrating species from the South have survived up to present times: hedgehogs, armadillos, and opossums. From North to South America, Pa nama was the bridge for the migration of felines, deer, tapirs, and some extinct species of horses, mastodons, and elephants

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61 the other side, the Pacific Ocean became colder, less saline, with more nutrients and less coral reefs and speciation. Separate e volution of marine cr eatures in both oceans was triggered from their resulting isolation (Collins 1996, Eldredge 1998, p.178). There is a hypothesis that at tributes other far reaching im pacts to the emersion of the Isthmus of Panama; for example, the formation of the Gulf Stream. According to Steven Stanley paleobiologist at Johns Hopkins, this stream is the result of a change in the course of the flow of the Equatorial stream that, prior to the existence of the Isthmus in the Tertiary time, moved freely from the Atlantic to the Paci fic oceans (Stanley 1987). When Panama emerged, it became an obstacle to the Equatorial stream, which was turn ed back to the North, forming the Gulf Stream. One of the consequences of this change was the beginning of the Ice Age, a phenomenon that resulted when the waters of the Gulf Stream began to provide more moisture to the northern regions and promoted an increase of snowfall in the Northern hemisphere which originated the building up of ice caps. The Gulf Stream, as we ll, moves warm water from the tropics to the Artic regions and literally prevents the freezing of the European coasts during winters (Coates 1996; Svitil 1996). Another hypothesis attributes additional far-reaching and momentous global impacts to the existence of the Isthmus of Panama such as, fo r example, the triggering of the evolution of hominids in Africa.2 In fact, according to Steve Stanley, the blockage of the currents of water moving from the Atlantic to the Pacific that init iated the Gulf Stream, in fluenced the warming of the Atlantic Basin and, collate rally, of the African landscape The obstruction of the streams of warm water coming from Africa produced a drie r environment near th e Equatorial Africa, promoting the change of forest covering of the area into savannahs and, in fluencing the evolution 2 Cf. Castro, Guillermo Ganados y Galeones p. 7.

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62 of Australopithecus, who probably were compelled to abandon arboreal activity that kept them in evolutionary stability for more th an 1.5 million years (Stanley 1995).3 Its condition as a natural land passage, added to its location in the tropical region of the Americas, has given Panama rich biological assets In terms of its biol ogical endowment, it is known that Panama nowadays hos ts about 10,000 species of plants, 1500 of them endemic (Correa 1996). Moreover, according to the total number of species located in its territory, Panama ranks #19 in the world. It is estimated that Panama hosts 225 species of mammals, 214 species of reptiles, 143 amphibians, 929 bird s, and 1500 species of butterflies (CEP 1996, Hughes 2002). Considering the ratio of species and territory of this country, Panama has a density of species 41 times higher than China, 21 times higher than Brazil, and 4 times higher than Colombia (Correa 1996). Only in Barro Colorado, the top of a mo untain that, after the formation of Gatun Lake needed for the functioning of the Panama Canal, became a 15 km2 island, it is estimated that there are more varietie s of plants than in all Europe and more tree species than in all North America ab ove Mexico (King 1996, Royte 2001, p.10). Running through the Panamanian territory, there is a cordillera dividing the country in two basins, the Atlantic and the Pacifi c, with rivers and streams that irrigate the areas and also made possible the migration of fresh water fish from South to Central America (Bermingham et al 1996). These rivers functioned as providers of food, as well as important means of transportation for the people who orig inally settled in the Isthmus. Near the center of the Isthmus of’ Panama, in its narrowest area, the height of the mountains decreases to the lowest levels of the range. This f actor, and the ex istence of the Chagres River in the same region, made possible the use of this region as an area of easy transit 3 Cf. http://www.jhu.edu/gazette/octdec95/nov1395/13iceage.html Last accessed: July 20, 2007.

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63 between the Pacific and the Atlant ic; and crucial for the constructi on of the Panama Canal at the beginning of the 20th century (Castro 2003). International Trade and Panamanian History The human presence in Panama, dating from eleven thousand years ago, was marked by the movement of human groups that migrated from the Northern to the Southern hemisphere of the Americas (Jan Suarez 1981). The evidence of Panama as an area of human traffic and the consequent trade between North and South Amer ica since pre-Columbian times is supported by findings of South American products and craf ts as well as Toltec and Olmec ceramics in indigenous tombs in Panama (Di sselhoff 1953). There are also repor ts of jewelry of Panamanian origin found in Yucatan, in the ce ntral part of Mexico, and in th e temple of Chichen Itz (Araz & Pizzurno 1991). Besides other important impacts produced by the existence of Panama, a conjunction of economic, political and social factors was adde d to the geography and ecology of the isthmus making Panama, since the 16th century, the privileged passage for products and people between Europe and the Americas, and, since the second half of the 19th century, the location of transport megaprojects without precedent in the Americas, such as the Panama Railroad and, principally, the Panama Canal. These megaprojects caused important ecological, political, social and economic transformations in Panama thanks to the introduction of increasingly sophisticated transport and construction technology, numerous migrant laborers, and the establishment of colonial political regimes that were imposed by Spain and the United States (Castro 2003a, Lindsay-Poland 2003, Mack 1944, McCullough 1977, Ribeiro 1987). These conditions practically reduced the function of the ecological endowment of Panama to the level of transit activities. According to this l ogic, lands, forests, rivers, and hu man labor were used as resources and instruments at the service of international transit, and, collate rally, most of th e activities of

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64 the rest of the Panamanian terr itory were oriented to the need s of the transit area of Panama (Conniff 2001, Jan Suarez 1981).4 Transit in Panama during Colonial Time The insertion of Panama into the dynamics of international commerce goes as far back as the XVI and XVII Centuries with the Spanish co nquest and colonization of the Isthmus (15011530). From the Isthmus of Panama were launched the Spanish expeditions that conquered part of Central America and of Peru and its surroundi ng areas. After the conquest of Peru, Panama became the preferred passage for the exchange s of products and people between the Spanish empire and its colonies in the New Worl d (Araz & Pizzurno 1991, Castillero Reyes 2003, Conte-Porras 1999, Garca 2000, Jan Suarez 1978, Mack 1944, Ward 1993). Between the XVI and XIX centuries, when the means of transporta tion were as rudimentary as the mule, slave bearers, carriages, and carracks,5 the main transformation of the Panamanian landscape took place along the valley of the Chagres River. Fo r this purpose, a 50 milemule track, known as Camino Real, was built between Panama City, in the Pacific, and Nombre de Dios and Portobello in the Atlantic. Later, from the Paci fic side, another track called Camino de Cruces, was build for the movement of people coming fr om, or going to, the Atlantic via the Chagres River (Castillero Reyes 2003, Castro 2003a). This became the historical transit area of Panama (Figure 2-1). Some parts of the tropical forest in this area were cut in order to build the roads used for the transportation. It took four days to move silver, gold, commodities, and people from one terminal site of Panama to the other; an exchange that boosted the transit route across Panama during almost two centuries (Casti llero Reyes 1999, Jan Suarez 1981, Mack 1944). The 4 For example, the traditional ranching activities in the interior of Panama were oriented to satisfy the demands of the people living in and moving through the transit area. 5 A carrack is a beamy sailing ship common in the 15th and 16th centuries.

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65 activities along the transit area, attracted peopl e from the rest of the country, produced the depopulation of other areas of Panama, and, pa radoxically but consequently, promoted the restoration of the forest covering in places like Darien and the Atlantic coast, which had been deforested during pre-Columbian times (Jan Surez 1981). The magnitude of the commercial traffic thr ough Panama was enormous in terms of the global economy at that time. Christopher Ward ( 1993) points out that the flow of silver coming from the Americas to Europe tripled the amount of silver in circulation in the world, and 60 percent of that silver was transported by way of Po rtobelo. In this town, were held the Portobelo Fairs, which consisted of an annual exchange event where merchants coming from Europe and South America met for a few weeks to conduct a s eason of trade. These fairs, which were held between 1597 and 1739, were considered at that time the biggest commercial fairs in the world (Castillero Reyes 2003, Vila r Vilar 1982, Ward 1993). Once the socalled New World began to play a mo re relevant role in the Atlantic trade, Europe’s markets began to be more dependent on the success or failure of the trade in Panama and the timely arrival of the fl eets coming from this area with their supplies of gold and silver. From what can be called today a global imp act, the economic activity in the Mediterranean, Austria, and Turkey was affected by the availabil ity of Spanish silver that was mainly collected through Panama. This also provided the founda tion for national economies –especially in Hollandand, as Christopher Ward says, the silv er extracted from the Americas provided the bullion needed to balance the exchanges be tween Europe and Asia, via the Baltic and Constantinople (Ward 1993). In any case, the traffic of imperial commerce became the backbone of the Panamanian economy, which, ever since, oscillated from periods of growth, stability, and decline, acco rding to the dynamics of that international movement.

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66 Modernity and Transport Megaprojects in Panama The role that the colonial system assigned to Panama as an area of transit was deepened thanks to the global revolution in the transporta tion systems that took place in Europe and the USA in the first half of the nineteenth centu ry (Conniff 2001). A brief look at the historical context can serve to locate them with in the network of a global panorama. The modernist perspective of progress as th e transformation and domination of nature through the use of technology and human ingenu ity (Scott 1998, pp.89-90) wa s put in practice in Panama, between 1880 and 1914 with the building of important transport megaprojects that responded to global dynamics. In fact, the last 180 years of economic globalization –especially between 1870 and 1913has been marked, among other facts, by the development of new technology, especially in the ar ea of transport and communicati on facilities, such as the invention of the railway, the st eamship, and the telegraph. These technological developments set the stage for the construction of important maritime transport megaprojects, such as the Suez and the Panama Canals, which required huge financ ial investment, sophis ticated organization, massive use of human labor, and radical transfor mation of the ecosystems (Castillo 1999, Gellert & Lynch 2003, Montiel Guevara 1999:19, Ocampo & Martn 2003). Panama railroad By the middle of the 19th century, the development of a new transportation technology coincided with a socio-economic event that agai n put Panama as the pathway for international flow of people and commodities. The discovery of gold in Sutters Mill, in January 1848, which occurred shortly after the US a nnexation of the Mexican territories triggered a massive flow of people and goods form the East Coast of the US to California (Avila 1998, Castillero Reyes 1999, Rawls & Orsi 1999, Sherman Snapp 1999). The need of the United States to control a faster route to connect the rest of the country to the California mines, hurried the construction of

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67 the Panama Railroad, which was the first inter-oceanic railroad in the Americas (Mack 1944). Private interests, who were envisioning the pote ntial of a growing trad e between New York and the West Coast, managed to get a concession from the Colombian government to build that railroad through the Isthmus. The concession, given to the New York-established Panama Railroad Company, granted exclusive rights –duri ng 45 yearsto built and operate a railroad, highway, or canal across Panama, along with co mplementary steamboat service if desired (Lindsay-Poland 2003). The Trans-Isthmian Railroad performed a valu able role in the e xpansion of the US economy, reducing the time of traveling between coasts and thus promoting the expansion of human settlements in the west. In fact, thanks to the railroad, the transit from New York to San Francisco through Panama generall y took 21 days, four days less than traveling from Saint Louis to California (Mack 1944). When its forty-seven and a half mile long track was completed, the railroad allowed passengers to cro ss the Isthmus of Panama in thr ee hours instead of the three to four days required by mule and boat (Bethel 1999) The activities of construction of the railroad, which lasted between 1850 and 1880, gave an economic boost to the transit regi on, whose landscape was altered in order to se rve the transit activities. One outstanding example is the transf ormation of Manzanillo Island in the Atlantic coast –an originally inhospitable mangrove islandinto a peninsula that became the setting for the present Colon City, a place delib erately created in order to serv e as the Atlantic terminal of the railroad. Additiona lly, several banana plantations were established along the route (Jan Suarez 1981, Mack 1944). Despite this ecologi cal and agricultural transformation of the landscape, tropical forest prevaile d in the greatest part of the transit region. However, near

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68 Panama City, the area kept affected by the slash and burn practices that were common since pre colonial times. The construction of the railroad had para doxical consequences in the Panamanian employment market. It attracted workers that had been working previously as canoe operators, as well as in hotels, restaurants, sa loons, brothels, and s hops at the service of the American travelers that already had been going to California through Panama using th e river and land transportation system similar to the ones used during the colo nial times (Mack 1944). Additionally, the railroad project required the immigration of labor from places as diverse as China, Ireland, Jamaica, and Cartagena (Lindsay-Poland 2003, Mack 1944). The presence of foreigners in the work of construction of the Trans-Isthmian Railroad transcended the work on the pr oject itself and, quite soon, so me of these immigrants were integrated into the Panamanian population with some collateral co mplications. For example, with the quantity of foreign workers that were impor ted, the local population of the transit zone of Panama was soon practically ou tnumbered. This fact caused some distress within the Panamanian white elite that feared that the permanent immigration of nonwhite or nonwestern people would weaken the cohesiveness of the native population (Conniff 2001). Additionally, with the import of workers there was a rise of epidemics of yellow fever, a disease that previously was practically non-existent in Panama. In terms of human costs, the number of pe ople who died during the construction of the railroad or were relocated or affected by th is project is unknown. The Railroad Company kept mortality statistics of the Caucasians, but not of the dark skinned workers. According to these records, 293 white employees died from differ ent causes during the five years of construction (Mack 1944). Other immigrants, like an impressive number of Chinese workers, could not cope

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69 with the harsh labor conditions and committed suicide in massive numbers (Lindsay-Poland 2003). Some scholars estimate that the number of people who died during the years of the construction of the railroad was at least six thousand (Conniff 2001) Besides these aspects, the Panama Railroad wa s, at that time, one of the most expensive infrastructure projects, and the first transcontinen tal railroad in the world, as well as the largest US investment in Latin America costing $8 m illion dollars (McCullough 1977). It was estimated that, between 1848 and 1869, about 600,000 passengers traveled through Panama, and the amount of coined gold mined in California th at was moved across th is route was worth $710 million (Bethel 1999, Conniff 2001). Because almost all of the lucrative businesse s profiting from the service of the railroad were taken by foreigners, Panamanians did not receive the greatest benefits of this trans-isthmian project, with the exception of the local elite of in vestors in real state and the railroad workers. As this project provided a complete transportation service between the terminal cities of Colon and Panama, Panamanian muleteers, boatmen, a nd carriers in demand for the previous interoceanic transport service became obsolete and unab le to make a living in an economy where the revenues were concentrated in foreign ha nds (Conniff 2001, p.30). The coast-to-coast transportation eliminated, as well, businesses in intermediate towns that had been surviving thanks to the previous and less sophisticated tr ansportation by carriages and boats service from the colonial times. This forced many of their ha bitants to move to the terminal cities where the economy was exploding. However, as the railro ad was reaching its completion, fewer and fewer workers were needed there, and the Panamani an economy felt the loss. In fact, instead of construction crews, the railroad demanded smalle r gangs for improvement projects needed until 1859. Thousands of black workers, who were em ployed during the construction years, were left

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70 unemployed, and Panama lost up to $150,000 in mont hly income that previously were received from those who paid for non rail transportati on of passengers, freight and merchandise (Conniff 2001). When the railroad was activated, there were claims that the railroad brought a false prosperity because the goods and people flowed through and left few material improvements in the Isthmus (Conniff 2001, p.36). Due to the de pendency of the Panamanian economy on the transit activities, the vulnerabili ties of the services provided by th e railroad company affected the economy of the country, which, from 1850, continued to suffer from a series of booms and busts, according to the vagaries of the railroad traffic, international business cy cles, and the appearance of competitive routes, repeating a patter n observed during the colonial times. The decline of the Panama Railroad began wh en the transcontinental railroad across the United States was completed in 1869. Because of the lack of adaptation of the Panama Railroad administration to the new situation, the Panamanian route lost half of its passenger service to California. By 1870, a consortium of US railroads, after suffering a contraction of the market at home, paid the Panama Railroad an annual fee to limit its servi ces across the Isthmus. A few years later, the Panama Railr oad would start to decline. French canal The idea to build a canal through Panama was considered as far back as the 16th and 17th centuries, when Panama was under the jurisdiction of the Spanish crown. By the second half of the 19th century, French engineers and businessmen were the first to make a real attempt to build a canal through Panama. It was the time when the development of engineering techniques had been proved proficient enough to build the most outstanding megaprojects of the time such as the Suez Canal and the transcontinental railroad ac ross the United States; both completed in 1869

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71 (Castillero Reyes 1999). This coincided also with the end of the US Civil War of 1861-1865 and the consolidation of the US as nation and its emergence as a military and economic power. The new context was propitious to renew interest in the improvement of maritime transportation between the East and West coasts an interest cherished by president Ulysses Grant who envisioned the build ing of a canal in Centra l America (Conniff 2001, p.42). Simultaneously, a group of French investors, led by Ferdinand de Lesseps, who directed the construction of the Suez Canal, implemented an a ggressive plan for building a similar canal in Panama. It is considered that, in di fferent aspects, the French pr oject, which began in 1881, had a greater impact in Panama than the railroad. For example, an important demographic feature was introduced locally with the immigration of peopl e coming from the Antilles, the greatest part of them from Jamaica. It is estimated that, from that country alone, came more than 40,000 workers during the years of the construc tion (Jan Suarez 1981). This fact or contributed enormously to the shaping of the ethnic mosaic of contem porary Panama where de scendants of those immigrants are established in the cities of Panama and Colon. Additionally, it is considered that the construction of the French can al created more economic and so cial distortions than the ones produced during the construction of the railroad in terms of infl ation, real-state speculation, food shortages and social unrest (Conniff 2001, p. 49). The death toll was higher too. It is estimated that more than twenty thousand peop le died during the years of construction of the French Canal. Part of the forest between Panama and Coln was cleared again and more than 50 million cubic meters of earth and rock were removed fr om the path of the canal (McCullough 1977). Due to administrative and financial problem s, the French project was aborted by 1889. Soon the rights to build a canal were bought by the United States, which, through a series of

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72 political and diplomatic maneuvers, received th e consent of the Colombian authorities ruling Panama at the time, to continue the excavations. Panama Canal There is an extensive literature with abundant information about the Panama Canal and the way the United States assumed the control of the transit area of Panama to build the waterway (Beluche 2003, Buenda 2004, Castillero Re yes 1998, Castillero Reyes 1999, Conniff 2001, Conte-Porras 1999, Diaz Espino 2001, Diez Cast illo 1990, Eriksen 2000, Mack 1944, Mastellari Navarro 2003, McCullough 1977, Selser 1989). Because of its geographical and political natu re, the building of the Panama Canal can be considered an important and conflictive early chapter in the geography of globalization, especially in terms of the sp ace-time compression considered funda mental to the process. David Harvey (2001) argues that the capitalist mode of production creat es cheap and rapid forms of communication and transportation in order to promote the reduction of the costs of production and circulation of the products delivered to distant markets. The effect of these investments is the acceleration of the veloci ty of circulation of capital, a nd consequently, of the accumulation process. During the middle of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, the creation of infrastructures like the Panama Canal, the Suez Canal, the Panama Railroad, and other types of transport infrastructure, were ju stified under this logic, as they made faster communication with distant markets, and a higher rate of return on its commercial investments possible to the United States. This commercial interest was reinforced with the growing status of the United States which, between the 1890’s and th e end of the World War I, rose from regional to global commercial and military power thanks to the development of its industrial potential. In fact, the need of the United States to fi nd new markets in Latin America and the Pacific in order to deliver the production surplus resu lting from the depressions of 1873-78 and 1882-85,

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73 was one justification for the interest in controlling the Panamanian transit route (Lindsay-Poland 2003). Another justification came af ter the Spanish-American War of 1898 made clear the need to establish a strategic route that would allo w the rapid deployment of US maritime forces between the Atlantic and the P acific oceans. The construction of a canal through Panama would serve handsomely for this purpose (Keller 1983, Lindsay-Poland 2003, Mndez D' Avila 1984, Ribeiro 1987).6 All these considerations reflected the ma ritime strategic domain theory that was proposed by the influential historian and strate gist Alfred Thayer Ma han who argued that the control of the sea determined the international struggles for power (Lindsay-Poland 2003, McCullough 1977, pp.250-251). To build the 51 mile long Panama Canal, the US government managed, in 1904, to take political control of a 10 mile-wide path of land in the middle of Panamanian territory. This was made possible with a political move that incl uded US support for the independence of Panama from Colombia, and imposing on the newly born re public of a controversial treaty that granted the US a status of semi sovereignty in perpetu ity on the transit area of Panama (Castillero Reyes 1999, McCullough 1977, p.250). Ecological, Socio-cultural and Economic Impacts of the Cons truction and Functioning of the Panama Canal It is undeniable that the c onstruction of the Panama Canal was possible, on one hand, thanks to a paradoxical combination of hostile and favorable environmental and geological conditions, and, on the other, the implementati on of human engineering and organizational ingenuity.7 For instance, the complex topography of th e watershed of the Chagres River, and the 6 Going from the east to the west coast of the United States through Panama represents a journey of just 8,000 miles in comparison with the 21,000 miles that would take going down South America. 7 These factors include the na rrowness of Panamanian territory, the low elevation of its mountain range at the narrowest part of the country, a pred ominant mercantilist ideology among the Panamanian elite, and its perception that the destiny of Panama was to serve as a point of transit.

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74 high precipitation regime of Panama’s nine-mont h-long rainy season were useful, respectively, to create the main path of the Canal and to gua rantee the water supply for its functioning (Castro 2003a, Eldredge 1998, p.179). On the other side, the construction of the Panama Canal became a reality, as well, thanks to the alignment of th e geopolitical and economic interest of the United States, and the economic interests of the local Panamanian elite. However, it is well known that all the planni ng and construction process of the Panama Canal by the United States was made without co ncern for the political, economic, human, and environmental reality of the transit area, as well as of the rest of Panama. For this reason, despite its impressive display of state of the art technology and well articulated management, the Panama Canal produced a trauma and radical tr ansformation in the geographical, political, and cultural landscapes of Panama with lasting consequences (Eldredge 1998, Jan Surez 1986, p.13). The impacts of the construction of the Panama Canal surpassed, by far, all the previous infrastructural initiatives for inter-oceanic communication. In fact, by being built between 1904 and 1914, the Panama Canal can be considered the first mega project of the 20th century, and became, at that time, the most expensive infrastruc ture project in the world in terms of monetary, ecological and human costs. A bout 352 million dollars (6.5 billion in 2005 money) were spent in this work, more than four times the cost of the Suez Canal in Egypt, and exceeded by far anything built or bought by the governme nt of the United States (Frazi er 2005). In fact, its cost was five times higher than another even remote ly comparable US federal expenditure: the 75 million dollars that was the total amount paid for the acquisition of Louisiana, Florida, California, New Mexico, Alaska and the Philippines (Curry 2003, McCullough 1977, p.400).

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75 The resulting transformation of the Panamani an landscape was, according to John LindsayPoland, the largest single human alteration of a tropical environm ent in history (Lindsay-Poland 2003). This alteration included the removal of 2 19 million cubic meters of land; the clearing of about 164 square miles of jungle,8 and the disappearance or forced relocation of 20 communities, aspects that could be seriously questioned accord ing to the current standards of environmental impacts of development projects. This megaproject also required the creati on of Gatun Lake that, with its 423 square kilome ters, is as big as the island of Barb ados. For that purpose, Gatun Dam, the biggest one of the world at that ti me, was built (Eldredge 1998, McCullough 1977). Additionally, on the Pacific coast, some islands were connected to the mainland with the soil extracted from the excavations, and, on the Atlan tic coast, huge wave breakers were built to protect the city of Colon from th e heavy waves of the Caribbean Sea.9 Considering the human factor, the construction period of the Panama Canal, attracted to Panama the third massive wave of foreign worker s in less than a century, after the construction of the Panama Railroad and the French Ca nal. Between 1904 and 1914, more than 75,000 West Indians migrated to Panama, especially from the Lesser Antilles, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Thomas, Martinique, and Guadalupe (McCullough 1977, p.476).10 More than 15,000 Europeans and almost the same number of US citizens also moved to Panama during the construction years. Some other workers came from Colombia, El Salvador, and the interior of 8 This is equivalent to more than a half of the area of Ne w York City and a little more than the total area of the US Virgin Islands. 9 Colon City was, as well, the result of a similar transf ormation but at a lower scale for the construction of the Panama Railroad. Originally an inhospitable mangrove island, Coln was transformed into a peninsula in order to function as the Atlantic Terminal of the Panama Railroad. 10 According to David McCullough, about 10 percent of the population of Barbados, and 40 percent of the adult males of that island were recruited to wo rk in the construction of the waterway.

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76 Panama (Castillero Reyes 1999, Conte-Porra s 1999, Jan Surez 1986, Mack 1944, McCullough 1977). The human and racially-biased-cost of the proj ect becomes evident when looking at the toll of 5,609 people who died during the ten years of the excavations from di seases and accidents under the US administration; of these, at l east 4,500 were black employees (McCullough 1977). If the number of deaths during the French period is included, the toll would be raised as high as 30,000 casualties. This reference has given the Pana ma Canal –besides with the Baltic Sea-White Sea Canalthe somber first place in the list of the deadliest engineering projects of the 20th century (ENR 2003a). As deadly as its construction was, the existen ce of the canal had other effects. For example, since its completion in 1914, the cana l has become into an artificia l EastWest barrier for the dissemination of tropical illness such as malaria and yellow fever, thanks to the health policies applied in the Canal Zone, and quarantine contro l applied to the ships passing throughout the waterway (Jan Surez 1990, McCullough 1977). The knowledge accumulated in the detection and control of vectors of tropical illness had a resounding impact in world health policies. Additionally, the construction and functioning of the waterway generated positive outcomes for the benefit of the US economy and the Panamanian economic elite. In fact, the activities during the construction of this me gaproject became an important incentive for factories and providers in the US. More than fifty factories, mills, foundries, and machine shops in Pittsburg were the providers of equipment and tools for this project (Frazier 2005, McCullough 1977, p.598). Additionally, the Panama Canal megaproject became an experimental field that tested technology and l ogistics that later were applied in future hydrological projects like the Hoover Dam in 1935 and the more than 400 big dams that were

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77 built throughout the western United States (Castro 2003b, Tart 2001, Worster 2001, Zrate 2003). As soon as it was inaugurated, the Panama Ca nal became an important asset that benefited the increasing trade between the two coasts of the continental US territory, subsidized its national maritime trade, and helped to conso lidate its military power (Selser 1989, p.37). Since its inauguration in 1914, the canal has been th e transit route of so me 900,000 ships, roughly 13,000 to 14,000 a year, which represents 4% of th e world maritime traffic. Passing through the 80 km (51 mile) Panama Canal, the ships moving between the two coasts of the United States save 8,000 miles and more than 20 days of travel time in comparison to the alternative route of Cape Horn (Maddox 1993). For a period of 36 years, from 1915 to 1951, ve ssels belonging to the US government paid no tariff for passing through the Cana l. After 1951, these costs were debited to the US Federal government. The tariff for international vessels that was established in 1915 was $0.90 per ton for loaded ships, and $0.50 for war ships. It wa s not until 1974, 59 years af ter the inauguration of the Canal, that the US government announced the fi rst increase in the tariff that ships had to pay for passing through the Canal (Acosta 1995). Acco rding to the economist Xabier Gorostiaga (1984), between 1914 and 1970, US commerce save d about US$600 million per year, and the military savings were around US$250 million per y ear because of the low tariff fixed in 1914. For that reason, Gorostiaga estimates that th e US military and commerce savings, from 1971 to 1991, were around US$17 billion. Paradoxically, be tween 1904 and 1970, the direct benefits received by the Republic of Panama from the US government in total annual payments reached only US$ 55 million.

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78 In a report presented in 1972 by the Ec onomic Commission for Latin America (CEPAL 1972), it was recognized that the fi xed tariff policy greatly benefited US consumers, importers and exporters. The same report estimated that, between 1960 and 1970, the in ternational users of the Canal saved about US$5.4 billion. According to Jos Isaac Acosta, between 1970 and 1980 the savings were around US$ 8.055 billion (Acosta 1995). The benef its that the users receive from the Panama Canal are the relatively cheap to ll fees to use the waterway, and the advantage of using a safe and smooth pathway from one ocean to the another (Ohtake 2001b). Between 1989 and 1998, 68% of all agricultural shipments of the United States were sent through the Panama Canal and near 14% of US ocean-bor ne cargo used the waterway (Eriksen 2000, Sullivan 2005). From the perspective of the Panamanian commer cial elite, the construction of the Panama Canal represented the fulfillment of not only Panama ’s destiny to serve as a bridge for the world commerce, but also a good opportunity for beco ming an international emporium due to the economic boost that the megaproject would br ing to the deprived national economy (Conniff 2001, Figueroa Navarro 1982, Jan Su arez 1981, Navas 1979, Vsquez 1980).11 In this regard, the Panamanian scholar Juan Materno Vasqu ez (1980) points out, for example, that the construction of the waterway became an “obs essive idea” among the influential groups of Panama at the time of its construction with qui te specific innuendoes. Vasquez recalls the fact that, by the end of the 19th century, the interest of the econo mic leadership of Panama was so focused on the advantages resu lting from the construction of the canal, and the commercial activities around it, that Dr. Manue l Amador Guerrero – the first president of Panamaexpressed 11 This perception was canonized in one of the official symbols of Panama: its national shield, the motto of which is the Latin expression: Pro Mundi Beneficio (For the Benefit of the World). Other triumphant local slogans have proclaimed for generations that Panama was “ Puente del Mundo, Corazn del Universo ” (Bridge of the World, Heart of the Universe).

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79 the original intention of declaring independence from Colombia exclusively in the area assigned for the construction of the waterway (Vsquez 1980). As long as no other productive alternative with a similar promising dimension was fostered in Panama, the service activities around the tr ansit zone became the predominant national economic references, and the Panama Canal beca me the national icon par excellence as long as the benefits that the local econom ic and political elite perceived around the transit activities were identified and promoted as benefits for the re st of the country. For that reason, the dominant assumption was that investing in the canal wa s –as Ira Rubinoff of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute saidthe “manifest destiny of Panama’s geography” (Economist 2004). In this regard, the analysis of the relationship between power and rationality in the implementation of megaprojects described by the scholar Bent Flyb jerg is applicable here (Flyvbjerg 1998, p.36, Wolf 1999, p.5). Flyvbjerg argues –in the same line as Nietzsche and Gramscithat power defines rationality as well as re ality. This can be understood as th e capacity of those with power to define what counts as rationality and know ledge and therefore what counts as reality. According to Flyvbjerg, power is expressed as th e ability to make one’s own view of the world the worldview with which others live or one’s ability to impose one’s will on the actions and attitudes of others. However, this apparent faculty of those with power to define the rationality and reality within Panama was not absolute due to the f act that the waterway became a controversial instrument that subrogated Panamanian sovereignty to the interests of the United States with less than desirable consequences for the national evolu tion of that Central American country. In fact, as soon as it was completed, the canal became a US economic, political, and military enclave in Panama with geo-strategic ends. The United Stat us established, in what was called the Canal

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80 Zone,12 laws, a language, authorities, a racially segregated societ y, an economy and, ultimately, an administrative and military organization that became the pivotal point for several military interventions in the Panamanian politics and in the rest of Latin America (Beluche 2003, Diaz Espino 2001, Lindsay-Poland 2003, Mastellari Navarro 2003, McCullough 1977, Montiel Guevara 1999, Soler 1975).13 The connotations of the ambiguous regime of US sovereignty on the Canal Zone transcended the limits of the mechanical operation of the waterway, making inroads into the realm of international confront ation between the governments of the US and Panama when the interests of the Panamanian elite were affected or limited. Howe ver, as the following pages will show, marginal sectors of the Panamanian societ y also challenged, at l east partially, the dynamic that the construction of the Panama Cana l was imposing on Panamanian landscapes. Forced Relocations and Controversies with Local People Up to now, we have seen that, as happened w ith the transit megaprojects that preceded it, the construction of the Panama Canal, followi ng the rationality of m odernity, exploited the Panamanian ecosystem for its own functioning, and promoted, simultaneously, the development of a series of economic activ ities that reinforced the me rcantilist ideology among the Panamanian elite who profited from them (S oler 1972, Vsquez 1980). However, there were some cultural spaces where the rationality of s ubjugating natural resources to the needs of the waterway was not welcome. This was, for exam ple, the case of the Kuna people of San Blas archipelago, known also as Kuna Yala, at the northeast coast of Panama. 12 That was the area, immediate surrounding the Panama Cana l, where the United States established military bases, towns, and other infrastructure. It was ruled as an Americ an state within Panama with its own laws and governor. 13 The School of the Americas was located on a military base in the Canal Zone. This institution –devoted to the training of Latin American military personnelhas a tarnished reputation thanks to the content of the training they offered and to some of its Alumni who became dictators or were accused for serious violations of human rights in Latin American.

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81 For the construction of the Gatun locks, the pr oject was in need of appropriate sand. For that reason, engineers in charge of the project went as far as Nombre de Dios, about 40 miles northeast from the area of constructi on, to get suitable material. In their search for more sources of sand, the engineers reached the Kuna Yala ar chipelago. When the engineers approached the natives to ask if they would sell them sand, th e Kuna’s response was that the water, land and sand of the islands were God’s gifts to them, and th at they cannot sell or give those gifts to the white man. The engineers were allowed to stay overn ight on the condition that they left at dawn and never returned. Nothing more was said (McCullough 1977, p.594, Sherman Snapp 1999, p.47). This case seldom referred to in Panamanian historical accounts, reveals how a marginal group in the newly formed country rejected a foreign logic of commoditization of nature by alluding to their own religious values and relations hip with nature. Even today, the San Blas or Kuna-Yala people keep a regime of political autonomy that wa s officially recognized by the Panamanian government during the 1940’s and that has been respected by the following governments since then. Subsequent statements of this group kept challeng ing the intentions of bringing their lands into the orb it of interests linked to the expa nsion of the Panama Canal. As was confirmed with other future megaproj ects all around the world, forced relocation of communities was one the primary human effects of the construction of the Panama Canal. However, this issue was almost ignored by official historical accounts, probably because of the overwhelming power of the US over the Panamanian gove rnment and its inhabitants at that time. Archival references that I f ound at the library of the Minist ry of Foreign Relations of Panama, testify to some conflicts between th e authorities of the Pa nama Canal and local Panamanian communities that were forced to re locate. These references expose the ignorance

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82 and lack of skills of the agents of the Panama Canal when interacting with rural Panamanian people. These data complement the only reference made by David McCullough about the thousands of Panamanians who were displaced by the advance of the waters of the Gatun Lake. They were dispossessed of their lands and proper ties, and were resettled in higher settlements. However, they were not consulted when the decision about their fate was made, and they considered that they were not fairly compen sated, and were resentful of being relocated arbitrarily (McCullough 1977, p.587). McCullough c ites the words of a woman who, recalling how she and her family were forced to aba ndon their home, said: “The Americans took awful advantage of the poor people, because they had no one to speak for them” (McCullough 1977). Among the archival data I found, there are some pieces of correspondence dating from 1915. These references stand as interesting exampl es of the problems created by the process of relocation of the Panamanian settlements of th e communities of Nuevo Gatn and Limn in the province of Colon. The first refere nce is a letter that was writ ten by the Minister of Foreign Relations of Panama, Ernesto T. Lefevre to Mr. G.W Goethals, Governor of the Canal Zone. In that letter, Mr. Lefevre asked for support for a community that was relocated twice, something unexpected due to the guarantees the resident s received the first time they were displaced. Panama, Mach 6, 1915. Mr. Governor: The President of the Republic has received a memorandum signed by more than 150 residents of Nuevo Gatun, who -due to the notification made by th e authorities of the Panama Canal that they should move again from that townhave chosen as a new location for their residence, the site know n as “Guineal”, a place that is located at the margin of the Gatuncillo river, about a mile from the site assigned for the new town of Limn, lands that are located more than one hundr ed feet above sea level. The residents ask that, considering their pove rty, the government of Panama asks the government of the Canal Zone in order to get that this take charge of the relocation of their houses and the preparation of the land where they are going to settle their new town, as

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83 well as that they build again their church they had in Viejo Gatun and later in Nuevo Gatun. Considering that the residents of Gatun have been affected the most by the needs of the Canal because, since 1907, they were forced to move to Nuevo Gatun with the promise that they will not be bothered with another relocation. With this promise, they organized their agricultural labors at their convenience. I am addressing you, with instruction of the President of the Republic, to fi nd out if the government of the Canal Zone would attend to the pleas of those people, and as it wa s done with the people of Nuevo Limon, the relocation of their huts and the clearing of the area called “Gui neal” and that the church of Gatun be rebuilt at the expense of the government of the Canal. With this, the government of the Canal will prove its goodwill to th e inhabitants of the Isthmus, as a fair compensation for the sacrifi ces made by them at the benefit of the great feat that has transformed the continent, a nd in fulfillment to agreements signed by your government…. E.T Lefevre. In the second letter, resident s of the community of Limn co mplained to the Minister of Foreign Relations, Mr. Lefevre, about the situati on they were facing with their forced relocation and with the type of houses they were provided by the Panama Canal officers. It is interesting to see the different logic of Panamanians and the Am erican officers of the Panama Canal implicit, in this opportunity, regarding to the traditional architectural desi gn of the villagers in comparison with the housing that was provided by the Pana ma Canal Company, and how the logic of design of the foreigners is imposed, but also contested. Let us take a look to the letter of complaint written by some people who we re forced to relocate. Limn, March 8, 1915. The Honorable Ernesto T. Lefevre Secretary of Foreign Relations Panama Sir: As a resident of this district and one intere sted in the well-being of the town of Limon, which is about to be removed to a new site on the shore of Gatun Lake, I take the liberty to bring the following to your notice:

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84 The work of building the new houses on the site selected was begun last week by a working force sent by the Canal authorities and already the manner in which it is being done has given rise to complaints on the part of the householders of Limn. The houses in this settlement are of the cottage type, mostly roofed with palm leaves, the roof rising high with a steep pitch, and with a space varying be tween seven and eight feet between the floor and the roof plate. The relative height and steepness of the roof serve to break the effect of the sun’s rays, so that the interior of this t ype of house is usually delightfully cool even on hot days. The houses being erected by the Ca nal employees have less space between the floor and roof plate, the roof is lower and is of corrugated iron. The result of this change, the owners complain, is that w ith an iron roof more nearly flat and closer overhead, the houses will be unbearable hot during a great part of the day and will be quite uninhabitable during the dry season. This defect of construc tion is noticeable in all of the houses now in course of erection. At the request of the local inspector, Mr. Ju lian Aguirre, I interpreted to the American foreman in charge of the work the complaints of the people on this point. He replied stating that the houses being erected are really better than those they have to vacate, but that in any case he was ac ting under superior orders and could not deviate from them… In view of the circumstances set forth above, and the instance of Mr. Aguirre, I make bold to bring to your attention the necessity for early action with a view to having the Canal authorities erect comfortable houses for the vi llagers. They ask that the houses be built with greater headroom, or height from floor to roof-plate, and that the roof be made higher and steeper, or otherwise it will be necessary for them to remove the corrugated iron and replace it with palm. I would respectfully observe that if your desirable interventi on on behalf of the townsfolk is to be effective it should be prompt, a nd I trust you will pardon the suggestion that you take without delay the requisite steps to ensure he desired change in the method of building the new houses. I have the honor to be, Sir, your obedient servant, Gerald Hamilton.14 These pieces of correspondence show the open discontent and conflict created not only by the forced relocation, but by the imposition of hou sing conditions that were alien to the real needs of the locals. It was evid ent, as well, that the top down decisions made by the management of the Panama Canal were not necessarily accepted without question, desp ite the overwhelming power of the institution over Panamanian s villagers and the Panamanian government. 14 Archivos del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores. Ciudad de Panam.

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85 Despite these and other incide nts, and as happened during th e construction of the Panama Railroad and the French Canal, the Panama Canal became a magnet for people from other areas of the country, attracting them to the surrounding s of the transit region and shaping the actual demographic configuration of Panama. In fact, be cause of the developmen t of the transit region, an impressive migration of people near the ar ea of the Canal produced a disproportional human concentration in this area. For instance, by 1870, 26% of Panama’s population resided in the metropolitan areas of Colon and Panama. In 1920, it was 34%, in 1980 52%, and in 2000 nearly 60% of the Panamanian population lives in the transit area (Jan Suarez 1981). A subsequent phenomenon of this migration to these metropolit an areas was the disorganized expansion of human settlements that mushroomed along the tran s-isthmian highway, the main road connecting the cities of Panama and Colon. This and the e xpansion of ranching activities in the surrounding areas, have increased the process of deforest ation in the area surrounding the Canal (Sanjur 2000). One direct consequence of this deforestati on is the increase in the deposit of sediments in the area of the lakes of the Canal, and the growin g pollution of the streams that go to these lakes (Jan Surez 1986). The Panama Canal and the Panamanian Transit-Centric Economic Model As far as it was shown, the century-years-old patterns of international commercial relations that assigned and virtually restrict ed the use of the territory of Pa nama for the transit of products and people, is at the core of what I call the Transit-Centric Pa namanian economic model, that I define as the dominant cluster of economic ac tivities related to the transit of people and commodities throughout the Panamani an territory. The historic circumstances mentioned in the previous pages made possible, as well, th e rooting among the Panamanian political and economic elite that led the independence of Panama of a rationality and ideology that have kept identifying the destiny of the country with the ro le of being a place for transit. As a result, I

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86 argue that the type of rationality that has been promoted in Pa nama for generations has followed this logic: what is good for the international tr ade is good for the Panama Canal, and what is good for the Panama Canal is good for Panama. This logic is also supported by the series of se rvice activities that have been developing in Panama thanks to the existence of the canal. Port services, a logistical center, banking services, ship registration, ship chandlers, fuel supply, the Colon Free Zone, the Tran-isthmian Railroad, general maritime services, etc., were established as spin off activities resulting of the presence of the waterway.15 The consequence of the predominance of this cluster of activities is that nowadays the macroeconomic structure of Pana ma is highly dependent on these service companies, which represent more than 75 per cent of the GNP. These activities have formed an economic enclave in the transit area of Panama that contrast ostensibly with their socioeconomic surroundings. For example, despite the Panama Canal and the Colon Free Zone –an area of tax free import and re-export activities located in Colon Cityrepresent 15 per cent of the GNP, they support just about 3 per cent of the labor force (MEF 2004a, World Bank 2000, p.28).16 By 2003, the rate of unemployment in Panama was 12.8%, the highest of Central America,17 and 40.5% of the population of th e country was living in poverty,18 26.5% of them in extreme poverty (MEF 2004a).19 In this regard, the World Ba nk recognized that three quarters of the poor and 91 per cent of the extreme poor live in the countryside of Panama. Two thirds of 15 Cf. page 122. 16 Cf. ACP Master Plan. Power Po int presentation. August 2004. 17 Report on Unemployment in Central America made by the Panamanian Businessmen Association. La Prensa, May 29th, 2005. According to the economic report of the Ministry of Economic and Finances of Panama, this percentage is 9.2%. 18 This proportion continues unaltered according to more recent estimations. 19 Panam en Cifras. Contralora General de la Repblica, Panam, 2002.

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87 all rural residents fall below the full poverty line, and close to 40 per cent live in extreme poverty.20 The data about the level of poverty in Panama ha s been reinforced by the fact that this is one of the most unequal countries in the world. According to an assessment made by the World Bank in the year 2000, the bottom quintile consum es 3.5 percent of total consumption and the top quintile consumes 53 percent. In terms of incomes, the poorest quin tile receives 1.5 percent of the total income, whereas the richest receive 63 pe rcent (World Bank 2000, p.6). The enormous structural concentration of power and wealth in Panama has been politically, economically and soci ally constructed and reinforced. The unequal distribution of wealth favors the small, local elite that generally assumes the process of decision-making in the country and whose interests are not oriented to the countryside through links to food or industrial production (Dougherty 2000). And, as it has been pr oven historically, the population of Panama has not been able to create a grass root political force to counterbalance the economic and political elites. Another important factor to consider is the foreign debt. Accordi ng to the Ministry of Economy and Finance of Panama, the internat ional debt of this country in 2004 was 7.2192 billion dollars (MEF 2004a, p.3) The burden of the national debt of Panama has prevented the adequate allocation of economic resources to ar eas that could provide improved living conditions for a great number of Panamanians. In any cas e, Panama, like the rest of Latin American countries that have experienced the economic se tbacks of the 80’s and 90’ s, is in need of investments that could boost the national ec onomy and help to solve the problems of 20 This study defines poverty as the level of per capita annual consumption required to satisfy the minimum average daily requirement of 2,280 calories. The annual cost of this minimum yields a poverty line of $519. Below this level of expenditures, or extreme poverty, individuals cannot maintain the minimum level of caloric consumption even if all resources we re allocated to food.

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88 unemployment and poverty, generally consider ed among the main objectives in national development policies (MEF 2004b, p.11). Background of the Panama Canal Expansion Megaproject As happened in the previous centuries w ith the evolution and development of the technology of transportation and the evolution of internati onal trade that demanded the adaptation and transformation of the Panamanian landscapes, today there is a direct relationship between the evolution of inter-oce anic global trade, naval strate gic needs, and the technology of maritime transport, with the demands to expand the Panama Canal. However, it has to be acknowledged that the expansion of the waterway is an issue that was pondered as far back as 1928 just fourteen years after it s inauguration. The possibility of expanding the Panama Canal or building a new sea level waterway was especial ly considered after World War II when the Panama Canal Company pondered about the alternativ es needed to protect the canal against the probability of an atomic attack, and to keep pace with the increase of the traffic though the waterway. According to these ev aluations, a sea level canal would recover more easily after an attack than a lock canal, and could accommodate wider ships like the aircraft carriers built for the US Navy (Lindsay-Poland 2003). At that time the main criteria for such interest were military strategy and defense needs. Nowadays, the objectives of expansion are related to the policy of adapting the services of the waterway to the demands of the world maritime trade (Benjamn 2001, p.7). Fernando Manfredo, a former deputy manager of the Panama Canal, recalls that, by 1964, US President Lyndon Johnson recognized that the useful life of the Panama Canal was limited. Manfredo quoted President Johnson when he pointed out that soon the Canal will not be able to fulfill the needs of US world trade. The president alluded that, at that time, more than 300 of the existing ships or ships in construction were too big to pass through the Canal (Manfredo 2000a,

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89 p.16). In consequence, the US Congress ap proved US $17 million in funding to study the possible sites of a sea level canal. A parallel considera tion was taken regarding the use of nuclear explosions for the excavations. According to John Lindsay-Poland (2003, p.74), th e “nuclear canal” re presented a hope to give a beneficial use to nuclear explosions by transforming a savage jung le into a new pathway for civilization. However, the enthusiasm for the us e of atomic explosions to dig a sea level canal was deflated, on one side, by an international mo vement that promoted the ban on atmospheric nuclear tests. This movement and other initiativ es produced the signature of the Limited Test Ban Treaty, the Non Proliferation Treaty, and th e Treaty of Tlatelolc o, which banned nuclear