The Nicaragua Government closes more organizations defending indigenous and afro-descendant peoples in an attempt to silence their struggle for lands and lives
In March 2022 the government of President Daniel Ortega has revoked the legal status of 29 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including two organizations founded by Indigenous and Afrodescendant Nicaraguans to defend their peoples’ autonomy and rights. This added to more than a hundred NGOs and other entities stripped of their legal status since 2018, including the most prominent Nicaraguan human rights organization and two environmentalist NGOs with a long track record of collaborating with Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples to fight the colonization of their lands. This is an attempt to silence Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples and their allies in the struggle for their lands, livelihoods, and very lives against an onslaught of violent colonization.
It is not surprising that the Ortega regime would choose to go after Indigenous and Afro-descendant organizations and their allies. Since coming to power in 2007, the Ortega government has prioritized profits for the elite at the expense of Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples. The government has provided financial incentives, deregulation, and institutional support for gold mining, commercial forestry, and cattle ranching,” said Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute. The Oakland Institute’s research, conducted alongside brave partners in Nicaragua, has shown that these activities push colonos into Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples’ territories, driving deforestation and violence. The Ortega regime wants to silence the Indigenous and Afro-descendant-led organizations that conduct on-the-ground research, documentation, litigation, and advocacy to protect their lives and lands.” Since 2015, settlers have killed more than five dozen Indigenous people and displaced thousands on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua.
The Paul K. Feyerabend Foundation is dismayed at learning that one of the organizations closed in March 2022 is the one founded and directed by its 2019 Laureate Lottie Cunningham Wren. We join the Oakland Institute and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in their call for the Ortega regime “to restore the legal status of civil society organizations, as well as to cease the repression against the media, human rights organizations and individuals defending the lives and lands of Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples”. They should rather carry out saneamiento — the final, crucial step of the land claims process demanded by Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples NGOs. Saneamiento requires clearing Indigenous and Afro-descendant territories of settlers and corporations living in or using the territories without a legal title or a lease agreement with the community.