Threats of attacks by armed settlers, in combination with the sighting of “new tracks” (paths), caused 68 indigenous Miskito families to abandon their farming areas and take refuge in the community of Sang Sang, located on the banks of the Coco River in the Li Lamni territory, in the northern Caribbean of Nicaragua, where they have no work, house or land to cultivate.
In an interview with CONFIDENCIAL, Juan Carlos Ocampo, from Fundación Prilaka, detailed that they carried out a census in which they counted 348 displaced people who integrate 68 families; 48 of them lived permanently in the productive zones, while 20 temporary ones only came and went to work.
“The communal judge of Sang Sang, concerned for the safety of the community members, went to warn them of new threats that the settlers had made. On the night of April 17, he arrived at the mountain, the productive zone where the indigenous people work, and the families began to leave on April 18, fleeing towards the center of the community of Sang Sang”, he explained.
CONFIDENCIAL spoke with two members of the displaced families, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals. They explained that prior to the threats from the settlers, which were made through audio messages that reached the communal judge, several of the community members reported that “they had seen armed settles” and “new tracks (paths) inside the productive zones”.
“Maria”, 54 years old, indicated that – before leaving the Kika Langni productive zone – one of her eight children saw groups of armed settlers roaming the area.
“While my sons were collecting food, the settlers were making a lane, a road, to divide, and they went out to the cornfield, and when the boys wanted to run, they told them to leave or they would kill them,” she denounced.
“I left with 20 members of my family. We didn’t take anything, we grabbed the children and left,” she said.
The citizen stated that, on her land, they had grown cassava, malanga, and plantain; and left “two quintals of beans harvested, about 40 quintals of rice, about ten heads of cattle, about 30 chickens, and eight pigs”.
“We worked so hard and now, after leaving the forest because of the threat of the settlers, I have no way to provide for my family’s needs,” lamented “María”.
“They say they are going to kill everyone”
“José”, 68 years old, is another indigenous Miskito who was forced to leave the area where he worked. He explained that he left the Killwia productive zone, located approximately four hours’ drive from Sang Sang, on April 18 itself, along with some 40 members of his family, after the communal judge warned them of possible attacks.
“The communal judge of Sang Sang came to the productive zone, where we are, to tell us that we had to leave. He played the audio messages that the settlers had sent, in which they say that they are going to kill everyone, without distinction, men, women, or children, so we had no choice but to leave,” he indicated.
“We could not take any food. We took some clothes, we took out the children, the elderly, we walked, some of us took the raft and others left on foot,” he said.
The man left some 40 head of cattle, 20 quintals of rice, ten quintals of beans, ten pigs, 20 chickens, and cassava and plantain plantations in Killwia.
He affirmed that he had lived in the productive zone for 48 years, and witnessed how the invasion of settlers in the area has worsened.
“In 2018 I ran into settlers and they told me to leave my machete on the ground, to approach them, and that they were going to talk to me. They told me that they were going to occupy our lands by fair means or foul. Now the fear is that the threats will be carried out, we see that they are making so many roads, going out in the tacotales, taking ranches in the area, so we were very afraid that it would reach us,” he said.
“We want to return to our lands safely”
“María” and “José” emphasize that their denunciation is made not only for them but for the more than 300 indigenous Miskitos who, like them, were forced to leave their lands.
“Although it is only two of us who are speaking, we are part of more than 300 people who are suffering from the invasion. Many do not speak out because the settlers may come to kill us on our farms,” they said.
They explained that in Sang Sang, although they are “a bit safe”, they have no house, work, food or land to plant.
“Sometimes we eat for a while, sometimes for two, because here in the community we have no land, we have no rice. We go out to look for supplies on other people’s farms, and we try to fish, but our concern is how we can return safely to our lands,” says María.
“We feel sad, impotent, we want the freedom to work our land, I want to return to my land to work safely,” she remarked.
“José” lamented not having land, house, or food in Sang Sang, but was also thankful that “some families have helped with food and others have given us work for food.”
“We are in a very delicate situation, because of the lack of food, and we ask the international community and humanitarian aid people to take into account the food situation we are going through in Sang Sang. We raise our voice because we want the authorities to listen to us and solve this problem of invasion”, commented “José”.
A data analysis carried out by CONFIDENCIAL, derived from reports of attacks in recent years, demonstrates that from April 2018 to January 2021, the invasions of settlers increased and left a death toll of at least 17 indigenous Miskitos and Mayangnas killed, without the arrest or conviction of those responsible being known so far.
This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff