Indigenous Rights at Stake in Nicaragua: Live Video Public Hearing — March 18

March 18th, 2021 - by The Oakland Institute
A Miskito boy leaps from a tradition canoe on the Rio Coco.

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to Hold Public Hearing on Colonization of Indigenous Lands in Nicaragua

The Oakland Institute

  • On March 18, 2021, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will hold a public hearing on the impacts of the colonization of Indigenous lands on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua at its 179th Period of Sessions.
  • In 2020 alone, at least 13 Indigenous rights defenders were killed, eight people injured, two people kidnapped, and one community forcibly displaced in the Indigenous territories of the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve in northeastern Nicaragua, as part of ongoing violent colonization of the region.
  • The public hearing comes after months of growing international pressure on the Nicaraguan government and the private sector to take concrete action against the invasion of Indigenous and Afrodescendant lands on the Caribbean coast.

OAKLAND, Calif. (March 12, 2021) — On March 18, 2021, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will hold a public hearing on the impacts of the colonization of Indigenous lands on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. Six civil society organizations will participate in the hearing and bring attention to the causes, magnitude, and impacts of colonization of Indigenous territories in northeastern Nicaragua and the drivers of this violence.

Videocast Event: The public hearing will take place from 2:00 to 3:30 PM EDT on March 18, 2021 and will be held virtually through Zoom and the IACHR Facebook page.

The latest information on the violence against Indigenous peoples and land defenders caused by colonization will be communicated at the hearing, as well as details on the collusion and complicity of the Nicaraguan government and private sector actors involved in gold mining, cattle ranching, and forestry, as revealed in Oakland Institute’s 2020 report, Nicaragua’s Failed Revolution: The Indigenous Struggle for Saneamiento.

In 2020, there were 13 killings, eight injuries, two kidnappings, and the forcible displacement of one community in the Indigenous territories of the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve alone. This violence has continued as recently as March 4, 2021, when settlers carried out an attack on Mayangna people in the area of Kimak Was, leaving one person injured with five bullet wounds and temporarily kidnapping another person.

Community members and civil society organizations will provide testimony on the impacts of colonization on Indigenous communities’ economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights, including their ability to maintain access to food sources and clean water, traditional medicine, and relationships with their lands more generally. Participants will also discuss the enduring effects of Hurricanes Eta and Iota, which struck the northern Caribbean coast of Nicaragua in late 2020.

The hearing comes as international pressure on the Nicaraguan government and complicit private enterprises grows to take concrete steps to halt the process of colonization. On February 1, 2021, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders sent a letter to the Nicaraguan government calling for a full investigation of the November 2020 murder of Nacilio Macario, a Mayangna leader who was campaigning against illegal gold mining and forestry operations. The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment and the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises endorsed the letter.

In late February, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported to the Human Rights Council on Nicaragua and, for the first time, included a section on the situation of Indigenous and Afrodescendant peoples. The High Commissioner denounced the “recurrent invasions and violent attacks by settlers (colonos)” against Indigenous and Afrodescendant peoples and the failure of the Nicaraguan government to adequately investigate the attacks and allegations of local authorities’ collusion in the attacks.

The State has also systematically failed to implement the precautionary and provisional measures granted by the IACHR and IACHR Court to one Mayangna and 12 Mískitu Indigenous communities.

Most recently, the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility announced that it was dropping Nicaragua from its portfolio after determining that it will be impossible “to put in place the necessary systems for environmental and social management, monitoring and evaluation, and independent certification of outcomes.” FCPF funding in Nicaragua was set to pay out up to US$55 million for the reduction of deforestation. 

The organizations participating in the hearing are the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), the Center for Justice and Human Rights of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua (CEJUDHCAN), the Center for Legal Assistance to Indigenous Peoples (CALPI), the International Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights, the Oakland Institute, and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The state of Nicaragua has been invited to participate.

Nicaragua’s Failed Revolution: The Indigenous Struggle for Saneamiento

The Oakland Institute

Nicaragua’s Failed Revolution details the incessant violence facing the Indigenous communities in the Caribbean Coast Autonomous Regions, as evidenced by recent attacks against the Alal, Wasakin, and Miskitu communities, and provides in depth information about the actors involved — foreign gold mining firms, national and international actors in logging and cattle ranching industry, as well as prominent Nicaraguan officials.

Whereas much international attention is directed to the threats on the peoples and forests in the Brazilian Amazon, the so-called socialist Ortega government has not only failed to enforce legal protections of Indigenous land, but actually plays an active role in the colonization and exploitation by transnational firms. Official government documents, obtained by the Institute, reveal an offer to potential investors of over 7.1 million hectares of land for mining concessions (60 percent of the country) and over 3.5 million hectares for forestry projects (30 percent of the country).

Over the past three years, the amount of land under mining concessions has more than doubled, reaching 2.6 million hectares, or 20 percent of the country. Similarly, Nicaragua’s primary forests, majority of which are found along the Caribbean Coast Autonomous Regions and are essential for the livelihoods of the Indigenous, are under intense pressure by corporations and illegal settlers for cattle ranching and lumber operations. The forest cover in Nicaragua has dropped from 76 percent in 1969 to 25 percent today. The report details President Ortega and his family’s personal links to the forestry and logging business through the Alba Forestal company.

Based on extensive field research, Nicaragua’s Failed Revolution, provides first-hand testimonies from members of communities who have been subjected to intense violence, including murders, kidnappings, burning of homes, and other intimidation, linked to land invasions. The report reveals the complicity between Nicaraguan government officials and foreign companies as they dispossess the Indigenous, driving them into hunger and disease and creating a stifling map of confinement.

By examining how past “development” schemes, resettlement of ex-combatants, and business friendly policies advanced by successive governments have exploited the Caribbean Coast’s lands, the report provides in-depth analysis and historical context to the current situation. It also details how the Indigenous have turned to the Inter-American Court for Human Rights because of the long denial of the legal protections afforded to them by law.

Nicaragua’s Failed Revolution also exposes how government officials are complicit in land invasions through direct involvement in illegal land sales and the formation of parallel governing bodies to circumvent Indigenous autonomy. 

Nicaragua’s Failed Revolution breaks this silence and calls attention to the Indigenous’ ongoing struggle for Saneamiento, the final step of Law 445 which requires clearing the Indigenous territories of colonos as well as corporations, who are living and using the territories without a legal title or a lease agreement with the communities.

Download full report here.

The Oakland Institute is an independent policy think tank, bringing fresh ideas and bold action to the most pressing social, economic, and environmental issues of our time. The Oakland Institute | 1506 40th Avenue, Oakland, CA 94601.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

In Nicaragua, Supplying Beef to the US Comes at a High Human Cost

PBS NewsHour