The Nicaraguan Ministry of Energy and Mining plans to distribute solar panels as a benefit to colonists within the nucleus of the Indio Maiz Biological Reserve. The distribution would be through an initiative that forms part of the “renewable energy development project for the rural areas,” using funds from South Korea.
The denunciation comes from the Fundacion del Rio [River Foundation], the same organization that last April sounded the alarm about the forest fire in the reserve, and that seven months later had its legal status revoked by the National Assembly.
It’s widely believed that the decision was a reprisal from the Ortega government against an organization that has frequently questioned the government’s environmental policies. Another eight organizations had their legal status cancelled at the same time by the Ortega machine in the National Assembly.
Through an official call for bids, the project will “benefit” colonists of the Samaria community, located in the municipality of El Castillo in the department of Rio San Juan. This zone, which was established within the limits of the biological reserve, is considered the principal port of entry for the land squatters who’ve been deforesting and introducing cattle into the area.
The “negligent” government response to the forest fire in the Indio Maiz Biological Reserve, which devoured five thousand hectares at the beginning of April 2018, triggered the initial university protests, demanding that the environment be protected. The youth then continued with their protests, despite the repression. A week later, the proposed Social Security reforms led to an upsurge in the protests, followed by a huge escalation of government repression, with an eventual toll of 325 confirmed deaths, over 3,000 wounded, dozens of people missing, around 600 political prisoners and some 60,000 who have fled the country due to the police persecution.
“Hundreds of colonists and large cattle-raisers have come into the area. In that sector, there’s so much cattle trading that there’s already a place with a scale to weigh them. People bring in their cattle and finalize the transaction with the buyers. There are national cattle ranchers who are buying meat raised at the expense of the forests in the reserve,” critiques the River Foundation.
This organization has been monitoring the area since 2016, when the local residents informed that functionaries of the Mayor’s office and the government party were holding campaign events and promising solar panels in exchange for votes and “loyalty to Comandante Daniel Ortega.”
Up until a few days ago, the official website nicaraguacompra.gob.ni featured a request for bidding on a project funded by South Korea. Samaria stood out as one of the communities slated for development.
“We don’t believe that South Korea is fully aware that their funds are being used to finance actions harmful to the reserve. Rather, we believe that once again the government is seeking to promote the land invasion and benefit the people that have supported them. It’s the first time that we‘ve managed to confirm the direct involvement of international funds in these actions,” adds the environmental organization.
At the end of November, the Fundacion del Rio directed a letter to the South Korean ambassador, noting their denunciation of this project and requesting that the South Korean government “examine the case and take the measures necessary to assure that the implementation of the project doesn’t contradict the country’s laws.” However, up until now they haven’t received a response.
Amaru Ruiz, the Foundation’s director, affirmed that there are repeated occasions when Daniel Ortega’s regime has “promised” benefits to the colonists in the zone in exchange for loyalty. Ruiz also warned about the zero concern shown by the State in the face of the advancing deforestation of the Indio Maiz reserve, amid policies that “support the invasion of the reserve.”
Ruiz remains in exile, after receiving threats of imprisonment. He’s confirmed that at the end of 2018 he left the country via an unmarked border crossing, days after the National Assembly, dominated by the Ortega faction, rescinded the Fundacion del Rio’s legal non-profit status. The River Foundation was one of nine NGO organizations to have their status revoked.
From that time on, the organization affirms that it has the “legitimacy of the population” to continue realizing the work it‘s done for 29 years, and that they won’t stop denouncing the irregularities that are occurring in the environmental reserve areas.