Panama’s Wounaan community receives land rights certificate

In early April 2012, members of Iglesia Evangélica Unida Hermanos Menonitas de Panamá (United Evangelical Mennonite Brethren Church of Panama), requested prayer for the peaceful settlement of land claims, following a confrontation between members of the Wounaan community and loggers. The recent incident involved members of the Wounaan community from Platanares confronting persons who were cutting down valuable and endangered hardwood cocobolo trees even though such logging had been officially suspended by the national environmental authority. The clash resulted in the death of Aquilo Opúa, from the Wounaan community, and Ezequiel Batista, a tractor operator with the loggers.

The following email, sent to Mennonite World Conference on June 5, 2012, provides an update, with a note of celebration and thanks. “Today is an historical day in Panama. For the first time, the Wounaan received an official certificate for their collective lands in two territories (Puerto Lara and Caña Blanca). All this is the result of years of hard work, sacrifice, patience, frustration and even death.... Thanks to God, the right they were claiming for years is a reality today. The government, represented by its local minister, directors and authorities, witnessed this celebration of legitimately granting land to the Wounaan.”

MWC release


From left: Tiliano Tovar, a leader of the community in Puerto Lara; Elibardo Membache, leader of the Collective Land in Embera; Cardenio Membora, Cacique del Pueblo, leader of the Wounaan people; Aladino Bipuru, a leader of the community in Puerto Lara.