University of Wisconsin–Madison

The Nicaraguan Crisis & the Reality of its Indigenous Population

In this week’s LACIS lecture series we had guest speaker Alex Fernandez, former mayor of a village in Waspam, Nicaragua discuss the Nicaraguan crisis as well as the reality of the indigenous people living in the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua.

Fernandez began by discussing the initial problem of the Nicaragua like the dictatorship, the fire in the infio maize reserve. The Government did not respond to the situation- other countries tried to help and aid Nicaragua but the Government refused it. The Nicaraguan people found out that the government had misused the Social Security Reserve for politicians and other things.

The people responded by protesting and the government responded to the protest by sending paramilitary groups to attack the protestors. Independent TV channels were taken off the air because the government controls cable companies and what the people should be viewing and what information they should be receiving. Thus, for channels that were independent and whose rhetoric could not be controlled and would cover the protest were targeted and discontinued through the cable companies.

The first murder of protestors took the form of a young 15-year-old boy Alvaro Conrado, who was trying to aid protestors by giving them water, was shot.  Healthcare institutions like hospitals were also controlled by the government and were under the instructions to refuse aid to people who were hurt as a result of protesting. Thus, when Conrado was shot he indirectly died at the hand of the government who did not allow him to get the medical attention he needed. Thus, was the story of many students and young individuals who died in pursuit of protesting the Nicaraguan Government.

Institutions like the catholic church tried to intervene and instead were also met with attacks thus making change impossible.

Fernandez, who lives near the river Coco which borders Honduras and Nicaragua is part of the Miskito indigenous people where it is expensive to live and expensive to help the Miskito out. The Miskito were at a disadvantage with the language barrier making education difficult and unlikely.

In the regions of Honduras and Nicaragua there were many ethnic and indigenous groups like the creole and Miskito

Fernandez relates that a big problem emerged from the start when Nicaragua established its government when all rule cam from a central government. In 1987 Honduras & Nicaragua entered an international agreement 169 that was meant to protect the indigenous people. Similarly, there was also another law 445 which was meant to protect the Indian territories where the land could not be sold or bought and rightly belonged to the indigenous people.

However, nobody seems interested in interfering and making wither governments accountable to the agreement both parties signed to protect those people. Both Governments do as they please and conduct illegal activity like sending people to invade and kill the people in these territories to obtain the land. In Managua for example, there is no more land left to develop and it puts pressure on the government to continue getting votes from these people so they make dals under the table and allow them to go and raid the Miskito land.

Some of the indigenous people have tried to stand up to their government and tried to take their cases to court- but it is the same story as the courts are controlled by the government.

Fernandez believes that in some sense it was irresponsible of England to not stick around to supervise and help establish Nicaragua and make sure that deals they made to protect the indigenous people stayed in place without illegal intervention. Fernandez sees a need for Honduran and Nicaraguan indigenous people that are being affected to create an alliance and try to come up with ways to make the government for conscious and make the practice the laws they agreed to. Fernandez made it very clear that they don’t want problems, they don’t want to break away from Nicaragua they just want the law to be honored which allows him and his people protection. He believes this is necessary for the next generation of indigenous people to have a good future.

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