Update: International Day of Action In Support of the Indigenous People and Land of Nicaragua's Atlantic Coast.
Please forward to interested contacts
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ACTION--10 November 1997--For the Rainforests and Indigenous Peoples of Nicaragua's North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN).
The central government of Nicaragua has granted logging concessions to SOLCARSA, a subsidiary of the Korean multinational corporation Kum Kyung. SOLCARSA has begun the process to cut into Central America's largest rainforest. Roads are being built and SOLCARSA already forcibly evicted one indigenous community from their communal land. SOLCARSA will cut their way through many other communities in their attempt to cut the rainforest. In the process they will destroy traditional cultures and steal the rainforest denying the indigenous peoples a future in their homeland. Please join us to help prevent this disaster.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Take part in the International Day of Action for the Nicaraguan Rainforest. Organize a protest, rally or vigil at your local Nicaraguan Consulate or Embassy.
Fax, send or hand deliver letters of protest to President Aleman directly or via Nicaraguan Embassies and Consulates on November 10, 1997, during the International Day of Action.
To get involved, contact:
Native Forest Network, Attn.: Orin Langelle, Phil Fitzpatrick
POB 57, Burlington,VT 05402 USA,
Tel: (802) 863-0571, FAX: (802) 863-2532, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nicaragua Network, Attn.: Soren Ambrose,
1247 E Street SE, Washington, DC, USA,
Tel: (202) 544-9355, FAX: (202) 544-9359, e-mail: Nicanet@igc.apc.org
Rainforest Action Group, Attn.: Patricia Awerbach,
P.O. Box 134, Newton Square, PA, 19073, USA
Tel: (610) 359-1931, FAX: (610) 325-4421
To write directly to Nicaraguan President Aleman:
Mail: President Aleman,
Casa de la Presidencia
In March of 1997, a diverse group of US activists from the environmental , indigenous rights and Nicaraguan solidarity movements joined with Nicaraguan environmentalists and indigenous peoples to document the destruction of the traditional lands of the Carribean coast. The group traveled up the Rio Coco to the isolated Bosawas Reserve, visited displaced Miskito and Sumu communities near the gold mines of Bonanza and Rosita, uncovered new logging roads on sacred indigenous land in Wakamby and met with numerous governmental and non-governmental organizations.
PREPARATION FOR DESTRUCTION
Logging in Nicaragua's North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN) is widespread already, but the disruption of the indigenous communities and the environmental destruction that will follow the newest logging concessions in the North Atlantic Coast will be severe. The concession, approximately 150,000 acres was granted by Nicaragua's central government to SOLCARSA, also known as Sol de Caribe, one of many companies, including 5 US timber companies, moving into the region. The concession area includes Wakamby, a large tract of ancient tropical hardwood forest located between the village of Rosita and the BOSAWAS Reserve. Both are part of the largest tract of virgin rainforest north of the Amazon. SOLCARSA is currently cutting a road into these valuable hardwoods. As of April, 1997, this new project had cut only 4.5 kilometers, but given the speed of the operation, the 40 kilometers to Puerto Cabezas, the regional capital and largest port, should not take long. Plans are also under way to lengthen the city's dock to accommodate the increased trafficking of lumber and other products.
The community of Finicia, in Wakamby, is a mix of Sumu and Miskito indigenous people located just outside of the mining town of Rosita. When SOLCARSA entered this area last year, each household was offered 1,500-2,000 Cordoba (US$120-$160) and promised additional money to move, as well as a school and scholarships, electricity, drinking water and jobs in exchange for relocating. And since the leading member of the Regional Council, Efrain Josejos, had already signed an agreement with SOLCARSA, community leaders felt they had little grounds for standing up to the company. Then, when community members continued to show concern and displeasure with the deal, they were visited by 30 authorities including members of the local and regional government and the military. It became dangerous for them to continue speaking out, and the military threatened to blockade the road to their community if they did not agree. Pressured into moving, they relocated their village, but received only the $120-$160 per family, which was used to cover their moving expenses. Recently, SOLCARSA, has again asked the community to move so that they can expand their logging decks and lumber yards. Now the community fears that they will be forced to make room for SOLCARSA again and lose their fruit trees, upon which they depend for food. When the village leader went numerous times to complain to officials about broken promises by the corporation, the local courts decided in favor of the company. The reason given was that the agreement made with the community was with the company's previous administration and the new administration had no obligation to uphold it.
Coercing Government Officials
The Nicaraguan North and South Atlantic Autonomous Zones make up 50% of the land mass of the nation but contain a diverse population (Miskito, Sumu, Creole, Garifuna, Mestizo and Rama) of barely 500,000. This region is becoming known internationally for its abundance of natural resources (with almost no barriers to rampant exploitation). These resources include endangered mahoghany, which companies can sell for US$15,000 or more , while a desperate labor force will work all day for US$8. Legally granted political autonomy by the Nicaraguan National Assembly in 1987, President Aleman has been unwilling to take any steps to protect the rights of the indigenous communities and appears to be actively opening the carribean coast to exploitation. This is evident through his unwillingness to revoke the SOLCARSA's logging concession, which has been found illegal by the Nicaraguan Supreme Court, as well as his recent order to the military to take down the indigenous flag flying over Puerto Cabezas. This flag was a very important symbol of indigenous autonomy.
1987 Statute of Autonomy Law
Under the Autonomy Law, the majority of land is property of the indigenous communities and it has been written in the Nicaraguan constitution that IT CANNOT BE SOLD. Still, large sales are common. It also states that the natural resources (i.e.. minerals below the ground, or trees above) belong to the state, but the natural state of the country should be maintained. -How can the natural state be maintained if they destroy the rainforest and all that live within?
"The pressures on Nicaragua's northern rainforest I understand to be...intense, from logging and mining interests. Ancient cultures and trees are severely threatened. Indigenous populations and their ecosystems are endangered, and we know that when these people and their lands are destroyed, we are but one step behind in our own extinction. For all the solidarity struggles of the past with Nicaragua and other Central American countries, it just may be that in striving to network with others around the preservation of nature that we may give birth to a new world view.
I can't stress enough how important it is for people in the US to establish direct links with people elsewhere who understand the relationship of the health of ecosystems to the dignity and sustainability of human culture..."
-S. Brian Willson, Quoted in a 1996 letter about his trip to Nicaragua.
The BOSAWAS Reserve is acclaimed as a triumph for protecting the rainforest in Northern Nicaragua. However, we have several concerns about the reserve. The indigenous people of the region were not permitted to participate in the process and the boundaries of the reserve are not clearly demarcated. The reserve is 8,000 square kilometers in size, about 15% of the coastal region. The Solcarsa logging concession is 61,000 hectares (150,000 acres). When the NFN delegation was there, 80 trees per day were being logged from the area, for the roadbuilding activities alone. Indigenous people living in the region say that illegal logging is going on within the reserve and believe that much of it is being done with unofficial consent of the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (Marena). In addition the Nature Conservancy and USAID, who pushed throught the project, will only fund it for an additional year, making it seem that the BOSAWAS reserve is nothing more than a ploy to stop people from worrying about logging in the surrounding region.