Background: The Nicaraguan government has granted logging concessions to Solcarsa, a Korean multinational corporation, and several other companies in the country's North Atlantic Autonomous Region, inhabited largely by indigenous peoples (Miskito, Sumu, Rama) and site of the largest rainforest in the Western Hemisphere north of the Amazon Basin. These concessions violate Nicaraguan law; its autonomy statutes provide that the people of the Caribbean coastal region control the lands and resources and must approve of any designated use. One community has already been forcibly evicted from its communal land by Solcarsa's activities. Roads are being built into the rainforest, and the cutting of these precious trees has begun.
The Nicaraguan government has a ban on mahogany exports, but maintains it does not have the resources to enforce it. The administration of President Arnoldo Aleman has an abysmal environmental record; despite a Supreme Court ruling that the Solcarsa concession is illegal, the Ministry of Natural Resources has already created loopholes to allow logging to continue.
Suggested Action: On November 10, activists in Nicaragua--both on the Caribbean Coast and in the capital, Managua--will lead an international Day of Action. A Statement of Principles, outlining the demands on Nicaragua's indigenous peoples for the preservation of their lands, will be presented at Nicaraguan embassies and consulates worldwide. On Monday, November 10, 1997--12 Noon to 1:00 PM, there will be a demonstration in front of the Nicaraguan Consulate at 870 Market, San Francisco (Near Powell St. BART Station). This is the first event sponsored by the new Environmental Task Force of the Nicargua Network and is co-sponsored and supported by various Rainforest Action groups throughout the world. If you would like to be on the Environmental Task Force or part of a regional environmental committee, please get in touch with Suzanne Baker at: Nicaragua Network-California Region, 609 Aileen St., Oakland, CA 94609 phone number (510) 704-5242 or directly with her at (510) 654-8635. If possible, send along the attached letter to either or both of the addresses listed below; one to President Aleman or to the Nicaraguan Consulate:
Sr. Arnoldo Aleman
President of Nicaragua
Casa del Presidente
Nicaraguan Embassy and Consulate
1627 New Hampshire Ave., N.W.
Washington D.C. 20009
tel. (202) 939-6531; fax (202) 939-6545
Consul: Harold Rivas Reyes
636 S. Plymouth Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90005
Consul: Adolfo Jose Jarquin Ortel
870 Market St.-Suite 1050
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 765-6821 Fax (415) 765-6826
Consul: Maritza Rosales
Sample Letter: Please send to any of the above addresses
Honorable Sr. Arnoldo Aleman,
Please receive my respectful regards. I am writing to you to express my concern for the Indigenous people and the environment in the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua. With respect to the political autonomy of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua, and in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Nicaragua adopted by its National Assembly in January, 1987, I recognize the right of the Atlantic Coast communities to preserve their multi-ethnic cultural identities and to organize themselves according to their historical traditions. I recognize their rights to traditional lands, forests and waters and I support their ongoing request for the demarcation of Indigenous lands. These things concern me:
* that the Statute of Autonomy, Law #28. passed by the National Assembly of Nicaragua in 1987 has not been implemented, and the proposal for Rules and Regulations to the Statute of Autonomy prepared by the Regulation Commission of the Regional Council of the North Atlantic Autonomous Region in September, 1991 has not been given due consideration;
* that although the Supreme Court of Nicaragua on February 28,1997 has ruled unconstitutional the natural resource concessions granted to Sol de Caribe, S.A, in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region, the construction of facilities and extraction of timber continues;
* that the elected representatives of the Autonomous Regions have been excluded from the National Dialogue and from the National Forum.
National and multinational companies are profiting from natural resource extraction on communal lands without the permission of the Indigenous communities. The number of jobs created for the people of the region is not proportionate to the profits from resource extraction. Labor is imported into the Autonomous Regions, leaving the people of the Autonomous Regions with fewer economic opportunities.
Indigenous Communities have their own vision of economic development and their own solutions for meeting their basic needs. The Western vision is not the only vision for improving the quality of life on this planet. It is questionable whether mass production, mass distribution and over consumption have provided meaningful jobs and meaningful lives for the masses of people anywhere. Thus, we respect the economic decisions of Indigenous Communities, and we recognize their initiatives to develop and empower their own economic capabilities.
For these reasons, as an individual concerned with Indigenous Rights and Forest Conservation, I offer my support to the many popular organizations in the Autonomous Regions that have formed to bring about sustainable development by the people of their own Region and for the people of their own Region. I am in solidarity with the following demands:
1. I call upon the government of Nicaragua, and upon all national governments, to recognize and uphold Article 55 of the United Nations Charter, acknowledging the sovereignty of Indigenous Nations and their right to enter into treaties.
2. I call upon the government of Nicaragua to recognize, uphold and implement the Statute of Autonomy of the Atlantic Coast Regions of Nicaragua, Law No.28 passed by the National Assembly of Nicaragua in 1987.
3. In conformity with the forty-two Articles of the Statute of Autonomy, I call upon the government of Nicaragua to:
* terminate all leases, contracts, or agreements with foreign and domestic enterprises that are mining or extracting timber in the Atlantic Coast regions without the agreement en pleno of the Atlantic Coast communities:
* investigate and seek restitution on behalf of Atlantic Coast communities wherever enterprises engaged in natural resource extraction have broken their agreements or caused harm to the people of the Atlantic Coast communities;
* grant no new resource concessions in the Atlantic Coast Regions until the Autonomy Law has been implemented.
4. I urge the government of Nicaragua to recognize the uniqueness and importance of the forests of the Atlantic Coast Region, not only as a natural resource to be exploited but as a living ecosystem capable of providing wood, water, wildlife and soils to the people of Nicaragua in perpetuity. I call upon the government of Nicaragua to implement the Environment and Natural Resources Law, Law No. 217, passed by the National Assembly in August, 1995.
5. I call upon the government of Nicaragua to maintain controls over the harvesting and export of precious woods, sufficiently strict as to guarantee that all species which rely upon this unique forest ecosystem will be able to reproduce in perpetuity. I also urge the government to require that foreign and domestic companies engaged in timber extraction be responsible for reforesting an area equal in size to the concessionary areas they have deforested.
6. I request that the government of Nicaragua introduce in the National Assembly a law that will grant to the species Switenia macrophylla (known as 'Caoba' or 'American Mahogany') the status within Nicaragua of an Appendix III listing under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna.
7. I call upon the government of Nicaragua, and upon all national governments, to acknowledge that the rights of natural persons take precedence over the rights of governments or business enterprises. Governments and business enterprises possess no intrinsic rights of their own. They are created by people for a purpose, and they are subservient to the people whose purposes they serve. Among the self-evident rights of people are the right to political and economic self-determination and the right to a livable and sustainable environment.
8. I acknowledge my own obligation, in being in solidarity with these principles, to bring the government and society where I live to the same level of accountability toward the ecosystems and people of the Earth as I am asking the government of Nicaragua. I commit my power to assisting the people of Nicaragua and the people in my nation to conserve their natural resources and to achieve full and equal partnership among all the members of my society.