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Two Environmental Protesters Shot To Death In Panama As Group Blocks Major Highway

  An American professor and lawyer who holds dual American and Panamanian citizenship is   suspected   of murdering two environmental protes...

 An American professor and lawyer who holds dual American and Panamanian citizenship is suspected of murdering two environmental protesters who were part of a group blockading a highway in Panama.

Video showed an elderly man with gray hair and glasses approaching the demonstrators  on the Pan-American highway before an argument ensued and the man opened fire. More video showed the bodies of the victims; one died at the scene and the other at the San Carlos hospital. The video also showed the shooter handcuffed and taken to a police car.

Police released a photo of the suspect: Kenneth Darlington, 77. The victims were identified as Abdiel Díaz and Iván Mendoza; one an educator and the other the husband of an educator.

The demonstrators, who were in their third week of protests, have cost roughly $80 million in losses for local businesses with their roadblocks, the New York Post reported. “Demonstrators now have shut down streets and vandalized businesses,” The Washington Post noted.

The demonstrators were protesting against a mining contract permitting Minera Panamá, a subsidiary of the Canadian company First Quantum Minerals, to keep mining the huge Cobre Panama mine for at least 20 more years.

The deal with First Quantum Minerals is estimated to bring thousands of jobs to Panama and give the government roughly $375 million per year; the country’s per capita GDP is less than $19,000, the Post noted. Roberto Cuevas, president of the Mining Chamber of Panama, told the Post, “It’s a resource that can bring a lot of good to the country if it’s well exploited. It’s a resource that Panama needs.”

Bonita To, director of investor relations for First Quantum Minerals, stated that the Cobre Panama mine is responsible for roughly 5% of Panama’s GDP and has created at least 40,000 jobs.

Darlington was arrested in 2005 by the National Police and investigated for alleged possession of weapons of war and ammunition; he was later released.

“I express my condolences to the families of the two citizens who lost their lives in an incident that occurred this Tuesday in a sector of Panama Oeste,” Panama President Laurentino Cortizo tweeted. “This is a fact that has no place in a society called to be supportive like ours.”

The Pan-American Highway, running 19,000 miles, is the world’s longest highway. It travels from Alaska all the way south to Argentina, with one break: a 66-mile gap called the Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia.

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