Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Rebecca Ismael Poveda, Vice President, Territorial Indigenous Government of Tuahka

Rebecca Ismael Poveda, Vice President, Territorial Indigenous Government of Tuahka
Rebecca.ismael@yahoo.com, cell: 8407 0682
The capital of is Tuahka is Tuahkakin.  (It is not clear to me if that is Rosita or where we are going tomorrow).

The Tuahka territorial government has a President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, and three others.  Of these seven, two are women.  We are working for women’s rights.  My role is looking after land and territories as well as complimentary areas and involves getting fulfillment of Law 445, Step 5.  We have had this land for more than 100 years, since 1905, and now we have our title.  The current Nicaragua government now recognizes that we have had this land for centuries.  There are other lands which are historical sites for our people, the complimentary lands.  We visited some of these last month and saw that Mestizo families had moved in.  The allowed us in and we saw where our elders had hunted.  All of the indigenous have similar problems.

The President of Tuahka called me and said that a delegation would be here from the U.S.  What is the objective of your delegation?  We knew you were here to learn about the land.
(We introduced ourselves, Nicanet and the delegation purpose.)

The first four stages are done.  Clearing out the invaders is not.  It is difficult.  Two years ago we lost some of our students from Wasakin – they closed all of the schools of the community while we were in mourning.  Some of the young people are in wheel chairs due to the land conflict.  There was an ambush and people were shot.

We hope we can get on with cleansing, but families from before 1987 will be allowed to stay, and each community can let some more families stay.

In some areas, our families can’t hunt, plant, or fish – what can we do?  We’ll talk with Mestizo families.  Fifty young people from Wasakin went out – we decided to send territorial and regional (RAAN) government leaders.  This was the first time we had gone to talk with Mestizo families.  There were some Mestizo families that didn’t want to talk with us, but we explained about our rights.  We asked them, “When did you come here?  How did you get here?  Who sold you this land?”  We went with army and police to be safe and there was no violence.  We found 573 Mestizo families in the area occupying 55,000 ha of our land, not including our historic (complimentary) sites.  We won over the families and now they work with us and are collaborating with us.

We found that there were 18 illegal land traffickers, and they did not want to collaborate with us. 
An Arab guy was selling land and was going to make a big deal – we captured two of his agents, and we got to town with them at 8:30 pm.  He had even burned two of our houses.  The police got a phone call and let them go, and they were gone by morning.  We are going to take this to higher authorities.  We were accused in Managua by the Arab of interfering with his business!  He said that the land was his and that the indigenous came onto his territory.  We saw where they were processing our elders at the police station.  Our elders don’t speak Spanish – we said that they must provide a translator according to the law.
We have accused other Mestizo people of land rights violations – they only get house arrest.  We can’t seem to get rid of them or prosecute them.

The local authorities and RAAN don’t give us help – they told us to get a lawyer – we don’t have money for one.

In none of these 574 cases did someone say that a Mayangna sold them this land.  We are NOT selling our land.

The elders ask if someone could help us enforce our rights – look at the case of Awaskingi where they sued the Nicaragua government and won – we must fight for the same kind of resolution.

We founded a commission that is going to Managua on Monday because there are the highest authorities and the ability to prosecute.   We have a lawyer and are struggling to pay him.  Tomorrow the community is meeting – we will tell you of our needs for Managua.

Kathy – the problems are not just with land – we also see education, health care, housing, mining, and fishing issues.

Charlie – The Wihta Tara decided to creat the Congress because they had some problems with the Council of Elders, and one individual in particular.  The Autonomy Statute of 1987 of the Nicaragua Constitution established RAAN and RAAS.  At the Municipality level of government, like Rosita, Bonanza, and Bilwi are more like counties, as well as often having a city of the same name.  The Indigenous Territorial Governments are another level of government, one for each demarcated area of which 22 are done.  The Demarcation law passed in 2005.  The Miskito say they don’t recognize RAAN and RAAS and that Nicaragua never owned this land, and it was never colonized.

The health centers have only nurses and there is no oversight.  The nurses are temporary.  In one community the nurse disappeared for three months, and when Jazelle visited, every woman was pregnant.

Cuban-trained doctors are not in RAAN / RAAS, but only in the hospital in Bilwi.  There is now a university that is training people and people can study traditional medicine if they want.

The Tuahka Territory is unique, because four of the communities are Miskito and twelve are Mayangna – the only mixed territory.  Eventually Matumbak will also be mixed, because Espaß┐ćolina will be included, which is not Mayangna.  

We have a problem of way too many Mestizos – the Mestizos are even trying to make their own territory.  They have been coming in for five years and are trying to call it their own land.
The territorial technician asked, “What is the biggest problem with the companies?”  We agree that they pay, that’s not the problem.  But what about the damage done that continues into the future?  We will see.

In Matumbak, they are not making a hard war – they are making deals with the companies.  Mayangna Sauni As people say that the BOSAWAS belongs to them.  However, HEMCO gold company is in Bonanza and they should not be.  Do we need MARENA / SERENA to help?  No.  It’s their own problem – they don’t need government help.  They decide who comes.  But they have trouble with more and more Mestizos.

We were joined by Rebecca again.  We are going into the BOSAWAS to meet with a community there.  Should we meet with the Ministry of Health?  In Managua, should we have a demarcation meeting?  How about the lack of police to report violence against women?  Only the judge (Wihta Tara) makes laws with traditional ways.  They could beat or kill a perpetrator, but he might run away and do it in another community.

There is so much rape of girls starting at about age five.  If a woman reports a rape (of herself or her daughter) she may fear to return to her community.  

The Wikda? Say they need laws so there will be no sanctuary for perpetrators.  We need a Wikda? Facilitator.

Only the Bilwi court is allowed to see the serious cases.  There is a jurisdictional issue helping defendants/perpetrators.  There are contradictions between various traditional laws and customs and state laws.

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