Saturday, March 15, 2014

Victor Campos of the Humbolt Center, Sat March 15, 2014

Centro Humboldt, Busto José Martí 5
cuadras al este/arriba. Bº Largaespada,  Tel: 2248 7149-51
Victor has had over 30 years of experience working on environmental and indigenous rights issues in Nicaragua.
He showed us a slide show that he has recently created, analyzing the situation of the indigenous territories and BOSAWAS bio-reserve. 
Marco Juridico Relevante, 2006 to present, new recognition of indigenous rights.  There are 300,000 indigenous people who have 21,000 sq. km. of land, which is about the size of El Salvador.
Law #28 from 1987, Article 11 – recognized the rights of the indigenous to have access to water, forest and lands in a communal way.
The North and South Regional Atlantic Autonomous Zones (RAAN and RAAS) each have their own regional governments (each?) with 45 elected representatives, based on the autonomy statute.  They have the right to make laws for their own region and propose laws for the Nicaragua National government.  Their laws cover misdemeanor offenses such as neighbor and family violence and abuse, but not felonies such as murder, which fall to the National court.
Law #445 says that the indigenous territories belong to the communities, not to individuals.  Various communities have title to land.  Families have land for use and production but cannot sell the land because it belongs to the larger community.  The process that Law #445 put in place is ongoing.  Previous land titles, which belonged to the state, were sold or given to individuals.    Now, we recognize that the lands have always belonged to the people.  We are authenticating it and titling it. 
Susan pointed out that the land for Lake Apenas was taken from the indigenous people of Jinoteca.  On the Pacific side, in Jinoteca, people bought land from the King of Spain, so a more European kind of title and recording process was used.  On the Atlantic side, the government recognizes the eternal, inherent rights of the people to the land.
 Convenio 169 de la oit (2020)” International Organization of Labor was on a slide – look this up.
To acknowledge rights of Pacific and Caribbean to rights of their territory was recognized most widely.  In 2010 Nicaragua acknowledged the Convenio, so could give rights to the Pacific side as well.  The Atlantic side already had them.
Maps were shown
* The 15 tribal lands were titled between 2007 and 2012, and some before that.  Much has been titled since.  10 – 20% is all that is still left to be titled.
The non-indigenous people of Bilwi must pay rent to the indigenous whose land they live on.
In Pearl Lagoon, the keys and islands, mi-Tsocos(?) took over and sold land to people, and this is still a problem.  The keys were declared National territory, but some people did buy some land, so there is a conflict.  Although the Nicaraguan government recognized that the sale took place, the “owners” can’t legally sell the land, nor can they pass it to their children.
* Overlay of indigenous lands and protected land/sea areas.  The protected areas extend around the keys, which are for the common use of the coastal tribes.  Communities fish and catch lobster there.  There is definitely a problem of over-fishing.
* Hurricanes, tropical storms, tropical depressions – there are lots of high-risk areas on the Atlantic side, because of the hurricanes and because they are among the most impoverished areas of Nicaragua, so the communities don’t have the resources to withstand the weather nor to recover.
* Flooded areas
* Minerals and mining concessions – these overlap a lot with indigenous lands.  Who controls these concessions?  The central government must get the OK from the regional government, which must consult with the communities, but this doesn’t really happen.
* BOSAWAS – has a nucleus and a buffer zone.  The buffer zone includes parts of RAAN, Jinoteca and Nueva Segovia.  The nucleus is divided into National Park and National Reserve lands.  In the area encompassing both the nucleus and buffer zone, 67% was forest in 1987.  (Presumably it was even greater in the past).  In 1999, it was 63% and in 2005 had dropped to 54%.  It is expected that much more had been lost by 2010 and by 2035 it is predicted that there will be only 33%.
Campesinos come in from the South.  The forest is mostly gone in the non-indigenous buffer zone.
Zalaya declared State land and settlers were allowed – in part of the nucleus zone.  There is no real protection except where the indigenous are.  People think they have rights to state land and campesinos also come in from the West.
This forest is very bio-diverse.
* Growth of DRY forest, which is advancing from SE to the North and East.
* Mining concessions – are in the buffer zone but not the nucleus.  However, there is the problem of contamination flowing from the mining areas into the nucleus area.  They mine gold, silver, and nickel.
Humbolt Centro has recommendations for the territorial government.
The invasion of campesinos into the Basawas that is presented in the media is simplistic – we need to all come together to understand the situation.  We have worked with indigenous and the campesinos.  The rights of indigenous are not up for discussion.  But Humbolt Centro listens to both and works with both.
Bosawas is our primary national wealth, but the population has very little contact with this forest.
We must maintain the right to a dignified life for ALL people, including both the indigenous AND the campesinos.  The autonomous regions must also have a right to self-determination.  The indigenous people are a fundamental part of our National identity.
Indigenous vs Mestizo peoples
An indigenous people has a common language, history and cosmovision. They live in communities and have family links, and they are aware that they are part of nature.  They are harmonious with nature and have communal identity in movement, towards territorial identity.  Indigenous people have personal identity rooted in communities where they live, with wider reality of bigger territories coming into their sense of self.  Election of leaders for communities and territories are sometimes more, sometimes less democratic.
Mestizos / campesino characteristics – weaker social bonds, more separate, dug up their geographic roots, no unity of who they are, only a little understanding of the land.  They were mostly plantation workers.  They come in from the outside and demand education, land, health care and a house.  Most desire to be cattle ranchers. 
Co-existence:  These differences produce conflict between marginalized peoples.  They have different histories, but both have the right to a decent life.  In trying to solve the conflict, we get an opportunity to find long-term solutions. 
The government must renew their commitment to preserve BOSAWAS productively.  The National Council on BOSAWAS hasn’t met since 2007.
Victor made some distinction between the UNESCO biosphere reserve, where mixtos and campesinos live and they can produce but not exploit, and the National Park, where nobody is supposed to live.
People have a right to a dignified life, to produce but not exploit.  The campesino movement has been going for a long time.  The rule was that if you possess the land for more than 10 years you had a right to keep it.  People who have arrived in the last two years can be expelled.
What about big mining and forest companies?  The law of demarcation is difficult to apply – money for compensation (to get them to leave) may not be available.
Co-habitation – there is not enough money to recompense everyone, those who invaded, so we might have to allow them to co-habit the land.
Indigenous people must now enforce their laws, but training and the means to do so are limited.  Amplification of the sense of self has not been assimilated yet, and there is a lack of resources for training.  We need a dialog with all – campesinos, indigenous, and government.  In 2006, they got rid of a campesino who set the forest on fire in retaliation.  So now we must be more sophisticated and careful.  We can’t make broad generalizations.
The government must make funds available for solutions, considering the high cost of logistical processes.
They must define policies to include everyone, including forest and mining companies.
We must revitalize campesinos of TOSAWAS to get them to protect the forest.
We need more coordination between the BOSAWAS Ecological brigade and civil authorities.
We also need to focus on the growing threats of organized crime and narco-trafficing. 
One campesino group, in defense of BOSAWAS, has protected against new incursions.
Susan – This govertment has worked hard to resolve land title problems all over the country, not just BOSAWAS.  My husband has a title on one property, to use and enjoy this land, but not pay taxes to the government, but instead to the indigenous who own it.
The Canal is a huge environmental threat – it is politically delicate.  The government decided to just do it.  This government concession is damaging to Nicaragua sovereignty and the whole natural environment is under serious threat.  Very little real information was given and long term implications were not set out for the people.  John Negroponte, infamous on many fronts in Latin America, Vietnam and Iraq, is Vice President of one of the two companies that have the contract, McKenzie.  The other company is McClarty.  We’re studying the environmental impacts.  We’re appalled that the contract gives these companies rights but no obligations.  Businesses in the concession cannot be challenged – they are immune.
This is like David and Goliath – this was negotiated with Chinese businessmen with good lawyers.  Who represents Nicaragua?  We don’t have those resources.  MORENA is the government and is helping with the (not independent) study.  Humbolt is doing an independent study and presenting to universities, but this is a thorny issue.
The environmental study and report to MORENA took only 8 months to produce.  The company gave the report to MORENA, who has 14 days to revise it – if they disagree, the company can take Nicaragua to international court and sue for loss of profit.
Although we ran out of time, Victor said that GMO crops are now being re-introduced in Nicaragua.

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