Miskito Communities Still Under Siege

We wrote to you last year about land conflicts between settlers and Miskito communities on Nicaragua’s North Atlantic Coast.  Sadly, things have not improved.

ELAW partner Lottie Cunningham Wren, a Miskito attorney working with community members to end the conflict, says the situation is “urgent!”

In October 2015, Lottie along with other organizations successfully petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to take precautionary measures to halt the violence.  But the Government of Nicaragua has not acted.

Last month, more people died.

Settlers are drawn to the North Atlantic Coast for its natural resources, including abundant tropical hardwoods.  Natural resource destruction and illegal sale of indigenous territory are fueling the conflict between indigenous peoples and settlers.

In 2001, the Mayagna in Nicaragua won a landmark case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that resulted in the Government of Nicaragua moving forward to demarcate and title indigenous lands.

The process has stalled and ambiguity around land title for indigenous people’s ancestral lands is at the root of today’s conflict.

A similar conflict threatens to erupt across the nation as plans are put in place for the Nicaragua Canal.  Al Jazeera reports: “Leaders of Nicaragua’s indigenous and Afro-Caribbean communities say government officials are pressuring them to sign a document consenting to the proposed $50 billion Nicaragua Canal passing through their autonomous territory.”

Indigenous land rights are at the root of both of these problems.  Because of the Mayagna case, laws now exist to defend these rights, but those laws are not being respected.

Lottie founded the Center for Justice and Human Rights of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua (CEJUDHCAN) to provide educational programs, legal support, and practical assistance to indigenous peoples and Afro-descendant communities on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua.  ELAW has worked with Lottie for more than 15 years and is collaborating with her to end the violence on the North Atlantic Coast.  We will keep you posted on our work with Lottie to defend indigenous land rights and end the current conflict.

Bern Johnson
Executive Director

For more information on ELAW’s work with Lottie, please contact:

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

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