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Originally published February 4, 2012 at 5:22 PM | Page modified February 4, 2012 at 5:39 PM

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Indigenous protesters block Pan-American Highway in Panama

A group of indigenous protesters has blockaded the Pan-American Highway in Panama for days to protest the recent approval of mines and reservoirs in their region.

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PANAMA CITY, Panama — A group of indigenous protesters has blockaded the Pan-American Highway in Panama for days to protest the approval of mines and reservoirs in their region.

Some 5,000 members of the country's largest indigenous Ngobe-Bugle group have blocked the only highway into neighboring Costa Rica since late January, after the Panamanian government approved the projects in their home province in the western part of the Central American country.

Hundreds of trucks are stuck in about a half-mile-long traffic jam on the border and stranded tourists had to be rescued by authorities. Local media have reported that the protest is resulting in supply shortages.

President Ricardo Martinelli has blamed the opposition and "foreign elements" for inciting chaos. The United Nations and human rights organizations have called on the government to negotiate and called for calm on both sides. A police action against the group last spring left one person dead and several others injured.

The protest focuses on the Cerro Colorado mine, with one of the largest copper reserves in Latin America.

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