As of January 2020, the land conflict and the pattern of systematic and widespread violence against those defending the rights of the Mayangna and Miskitu indigenous peoples of Nicaragua has escalated at an alarming rate. This is due to the impunity of the perpetrators and executors of illegal land trafficking and the usurpation of natural resources and land in general, facilitated and permitted by state authorities in what appears to be a policy of covert internal colonisation by the state.
The Mayangna and Miskitu communities and territories are located in the Coco (Wangki) River basin and the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve, located in the Autonomous Region of the Northern Caribbean Coast (Región Autónoma Caribe Norte – RACCN). This Reserve was recognised by the UNESCO “Man and the Biosphere” programme in October 1997 and ratified by the Government of Nicaragua in 2001.
Amid the ongoing devastation caused by the hurricanes, the occupation of indigenous land continues unabated. Between the two recent hurricanes, the Mayangna People’s Union in Defense of Territory reported that on 14 November, 2020, settlers ambushed a group of Mayangna leaders conducting a patrol of a piece of land they had reclaimed from settlers several months earlier. This latest attack brought to eight the number of settler attacks on Mayangna communities in the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve in 2020.
Nacilio Macario, a 43-year-old father of five children, was killed in the attack. So far,12 people have been killed in these attacks while since 2015, nearly 50 Indigenous people have been killed in settler attacks in Nicaragua.
Macario was allegedly killed by settlers while taking water and food to members of communities protecting their land.
Previously on 5 November, 2020, he had received death threats from five people allegedly linked to the gold mining company Exportadora de Metales S.A. (EMSA).
Macario and his Indigenous community had been peacefully protesting against the company’s expansion since 2017. These attacks have occurred in the context of a socio-political and human rights crisis, that has steadily worsened since 2018.
The laws approved recently by the National Assembly further restrict the civic and democratic space. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic health crisis, attacks on Mayangna communities in the Bosawás Reserve have increased, including the forced displacement of 30 families from the Sangni Laya community.
Mary Lawlor, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said in a statement: “The Government has a duty to ensure a safe and supportive environment for those who defend the environment and the rights of indigenous peoples in Nicaragua. This time it was Mr. Macario who stood up for his land against the illegal exploitation of people associated with the extractive industry, but if those responsible are not duly investigated and brought to justice, these murders will continue to be carried out with impunity.”