Panama Human Rights Network condemns criminalisation of Larissa Duarte
Larissa Duarte is a peasant leader and environmental defender working to protect the River Cobre region. She is a founding member of Movimiento Campesino en Defensa del Río Cobre (Peasant Movement in Defense of River Cobre), a grassroots movement dedicated, since 2003, to the defense of the water and territory of the community against hydroelectric power plants. The movement is also involved in promoting community-based leadership and political participation and intiatives for sustainable development and environmental conservation in their territory.
In October 2016, Larissa Duarte was sued for 10 million USD by a private company, Hidroeléctricas Los Estrechos S.A., which held her responsible for the costs incurred when their hydroelectric project in Río Cobre was cancelled, allegedly as a result of her activism. In July 2017, the claim was dismissed by the judge due to lack of evidence. However, the defamation efforts against Larissa Duarte and Movimiento Campesino en Defensa del Río Cobre, labelling them as terrorist and criminals, persist.