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Date: Tue, 9 Mar 1999 15:39:56 -0600 (CST)
From: pmanews@panama.c-com.net (Panama News)
Subject: Panama: Embera leader freed, land claims dispute continues
Article: 57060
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.17825.19990310181516@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

Bacorizo freed: Land claims dispute continues

By Eric Jackson, Panama News, 9 March 1999

Arcenio Bacorizo, the Embera cacique of the Darien community of Arimae and former general cacique for all Embera and Wounaan communities outside of the comarca, has been released from El Renacer penitentiary after three years behind bars.

On February 7 Bacorizo was absolved of murder and conspiracy charges stemming from the 1995 stabbing of a Colombian drug dealer, but he remained in jail after Darien prosecutors accused him of inspiring the 1993 burning of a bohio that colonos built on land which Arimae claims as its own. On February 24 a Darien judge rejected the prosecution's theory that Bacorizo could be held responsible for an act that happened while he was out of town solely on the basis that he was the cacique of the community whose youths set the fire.

Thus all remaining charges were dismissed and Bacorizo was released. The civil case to clear Arimae's 1970s land title in the face of deeds to the same real estate given to colonos by the Noriega regime in the 1980s is still pending.

Bacorizo, who lost weight and a number of his teeth while awaiting trial at the La Palma jail and La Joya penitentiary, said that he's returning to Arimae to live, and reviewing the projects that he headed before he was imprisoned. The community organizations have come out of this stronger than before, he noted, pointing out progress by Arimae's agricultural organization and the Arts Foundation for the Embera-Wounaan Culture (FACE) in his absence. One pressing matter is the deteriorated state of Arimae's three-story bohio cultural center, which Bacorizo designed and the community built. Also, such projects as the construction of an Embera mythological park have been on hold during his incarceration.

We interviewed the cacique at a meeting of Embera and Wounaan leaders in the Panama City offices of the National Human Rights Commission of Panama (CONADEHUPA). The assembled caciques, traditional healers, and agricultural and cultural leaders were planning a March 10 reception for Bacorizo in Embera Puru, and plotting strategy for an April 22-24 meeting of the Embera-Wounaan General Congress, to be held in Chepigana district's corregimiento of Camaron.

Meanwhile, the cacique's busy with a few new projects. He's writing a book and talking with a Brazilian filmmaker who wants to make a movie about Arimae and its leader. But before he can cash any paychecks from those ventures, Bacorizo has a few more mundane errands to run. The police took his cedula, social security card and all other identification, and didn't return them when they let him out of jail, so he'll be spending a lot of time standing in line at government offices over the coming weeks.