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Impunity to Man Accused of Attacking Indigenous Communities

Land colonist Ariel Castro, accused of attacks on Mayangna communities, was freed after prominent FSLN members lobbied on his behalf

Children in hand-carved boats along the Rio Coco in northern Nicaragua. Archived photo / Confidencial

Redacción Confidencial

18 de abril 2024


Despite the absence of any investigation, the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship has freed land colonist Ariel Castro, accused by the Mayangna communities of being the intellectual author of an attack on the Amtrukna community in Nicaragua’s North Caribbean region. One person, Esmelda Palacio, was wounded in this attack. Castro’s release has been denounced by exiled environmental activist Amaru Ruiz.

According to Ruiz, the colonist has been accused on multiple occasions of attacks in the Mayangna territories. He had been detained by police as part of the investigation over the attack against Esmelda Palacio. The victim, who received a bullet wound and had her house burned down, had repeatedly denounced the constant presence of land colonists on the indigenous lands.

“This release leaves the attack on Esmelda Palacio in Amtrukna completely unpunished. On the contrary, the principal figures arranging the assailant’s release were Omar Noel Medina, FSLN political secretary in Bonanza, and Elvin Urbina, from Bonanza’s regional council,” the environmental activist stated.

Speaking during an interview with Confidencial, Ruiz insisted that this release reveals: “not only the dictatorship’s complicity with the colonists’ land takeovers in the indigenous territories, but also the impunity with which the colonists commit their crimes.”

“In the case of Ariel Castro, he was freed under the argument that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prosecute him, despite the evidence that has been gathered against him. There wasn’t even a formal investigation,” Ruiz continued. Amaru Ruiz directed the now-shuttered Fundacion del Rio, one of over 3,500 NGOs the Nicaraguan dictatorship has declared illegal.

Member of the Mayangna community only one still in jail

The Bonanza Police originally detained seven men in connection with the attack, three of them members of the Mayangna tribe, and the others land colonists. At present, the only one still in jail is Eusebio Lacayo, a member of the indigenous community.

According to Ruiz, Lacayo is one of eleven members of the Mayangna community currently in jail in Nicaragua. Eight of them were forest rangers.

“The indigenous territories continue to be completely unprotected in full view of the government, which instead of protecting them lobbies for the release of criminal perpetrators,” Ruiz added.

Government is an accomplice of the colonists”

Attorney Yader Valdivia of the Nicaragua Nunca Mas Human Rights Collective pointed out that for years people have been denouncing the State’s complicity with the invasion of land colonists into the indigenous territories.

“Despite the rulings of the International Court of Human Rights; despite the fact that the Army has established an Ecological Battalion; historically, the government has been involved in these massacres, because there’s been complete permissiveness on the part of the Police, the Army and the Judicial Powers regarding the violations [land colonists] commit,” Valdivia continued.

The lawyer affirmed that the release of Castro and the other colonists “demonstrates the total lack of independence of the State institutions in Nicaragua and indicates that these decisions are coming from the Executive Branch.”

“In Nicaragua, the victims are jailed while the perpetrators go free. In the case of the Caribbean Coast, this has been occurring since well before 2018. We’ve seen how the survivors of massacres of the indigenous people are blamed and jailed,” he declared.

Valdivia noted that instead of carrying out effective investigations of the land invasions and extra-judicial killings, what the dictatorship’s power structures have done is to “try to silence the indigenous voices so they no longer even denounce the occurrences.”

In 2016, the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights granted precautionary protection to six of the indigenous groups in Nicaragua’s North Caribbean region. These groups have found themselves engulfed in a spiral of violence over tenancy of their lands and the resulting confrontations with those they call colonists.

This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times


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Redacción Confidencial

Redacción Confidencial

Confidencial es un diario digital nicaragüense, de formato multimedia, fundado por Carlos F. Chamorro en junio de 1996. Inició como un semanario impreso y hoy es un medio de referencia regional con información, análisis, entrevistas, perfiles, reportajes e investigaciones sobre Nicaragua, informando desde el exilio por la persecución política de la dictadura de Daniel Ortega y Rosario Murillo.