Wednesday, July 6, 2022
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Nicaragua: The invasion of autonomous land

Colonos seize land and take lives of indigenous people



This article is part of LAB’s new Blog Series, Environmental Defenders, inspired by the Global Witness report highlighting the terrible toll of killings of those who seek to defend their rights to land, water and their own way of life. The series is curated and edited by Katie Jones.

Other posts in the series can be seen here. Each new post will be released initially to LAB ‘patrons’ (paying subscribers), but will later be made available in full to all visitors to LAB’s website.

At the end of August 2021, news began to filter through of a massacre that had taken place at Kiwakumbaih, a sacred hill located in the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve in northern Nicaragua. Details were hazy at first, with initial media reports announcing the deaths of at least 13 people. The victims appeared to be members of the Mayangna and Miskitu Indigenous communities, their dismembered bodies showing signs of having been tortured before their deaths.

In Bosawás more than 13 indigenous people were tortured and killed. Video: Canal 10 Nicaragua, 26 August 2021.

Two weeks later, authorities reported that there were nine dead in ‘a dispute over mining between members of the two communities’. At a press conference, police revealed three of the accused had already been apprehended and a further 11 were being sought in connection with the crimes. It appeared to be a tragic case of inter-communal violence that the police were actively working to resolve.

However, in the days that followed, statements made by the victims’ relatives and organisations working with the affected communities cast doubt on the official narrative. Wilmor Waldan, whose son was reportedly shot and crucified in the attack, condemned the lack of investigation by police. He told Nicaragua Investiga that while some members of the Mayangna community had been arrested, the colonos, or settlers, allegedly responsible for the violence had yet to be brought to justice.

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Environmental Defenders

No-one embodied the courage of those defending their land, the natural environment and the future of their people and the planet, more than Berta Cáceres, Honduran environmental activist and indigenous leader, who was murdered in March 2016, a year after winning the prestigious Goldman Environmental prize.

Out of 227 land and environmental activists murdered in 2020, according to Global Witness, at least 163 of these killings were in Latin America, with Colombia (65) the most dangerous country.

This new blog series will document some of the work of environmental defenders in different countries, highlighting both the dangers and the achievements.

The series is curated for LAB by Katie Jones, who lived and worked in Mexico as an English teacher in the state of Puebla. Until the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, she was teaching in Costa Rica and was an active member of a local NGO aiming to assist the quality of education for children in an underprivileged barrio. She worked as an investigator for InSight Crime, a foundation specialised in the study of organised crime in Latin America and the Caribbean. She is currently studying a masters in Latin American Studies at the University of Oxford.

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