Mayangna leaders tell The Nicaragua Dispatch that National Police have finally started to respond to illegal land invasions inside Bosawás Biosphere Reserve by forcibly removing 180 mestizo “colonists” from the indigenous territory of Sauni Tuahka.
“We finally have a response from the government; the order has come down to remove the invaders,” Mayangna leader Rolando Davis said in a phone interview this afternoon. “The Mayangna community is now working together with the authorities.”
Mayangna president Gustavo Sebastian Lino says the government’s recently appointed inter-institutional commission created to deal with the Bosawás crisis finally met with indigenous leaders today and vowed to coordinate efforts to continue removing land-trafficking interlopers from indigenous territories.
Lino says there are some 2,500 mestizo colonists living in the heart of Bosawás—and they’ll be the next to go.
“We are confident that the government is now responding to the situation,” Lino told The Nicaragua Dispatch today in a phone interview from the RAAN. “But we have to keep the pressure up.”
In the meantime, Lino says, the traditional indigenous army that was arming itself with spears, arrows, “snakes,” and “magic” has been ordered to stand down to allow the Nicaraguan authorities to handle the situation of land invaders. Still, he says, “we will remain prepared, and if they don’t act, we will.”
In an interview with The Nicaragua Dispatch last week, congressman Brooklyn Rivera, president of the National Assembly’s Commission on Indigenous and Afro-Descendant Affairs, warned that the Mayangna were arming themselves to oust the squatters by force because the government had not responded to repeated pleas to uphold the law and remove the invaders from Bosawás.
However, some of those tensions have been defused in just the past two days as the government has finally lurched into action by evicting the first group of squatters.
First Lady Rosario Murillo this week announced that the Sandinista government will request outside help from UNESCO, which declared Bosawás an international biosphere reserve in 1997. UNESCO’s Director General Irina Bokova arrived in Managua today and spent the morning flying over Bosawás and other protected areas in a military helicopter to get a sense of the damage done to Nicaragua’s forests.
Eviction is just the first step
Mayangna president Lino says he is heartened by the Sandinista government’s recent response to the Bosawás crisis, but says evicting the outside land invaders is just the first step.
Once the colonists are gone, they need to remain gone, he says.
“Many times, the people get evicted by the police but as soon as the authorities are gone, they come right back,” Lino told The Nicaragua Dispatch. “We need a permanent security presence in the forest to prevent that from happening.”
After the area has been secured, it then needs to be replanted, Lino says. The deforestation of Bosawás is extensive. Since 2009, the Mayangna’s have documented the invasion of nearly 11,500 squatters who have reportedly devoured 150,000 hectares of forest (370,658 acres) in seven Mayangna territories. That’s nearly one-sixth of the entire reserve cut, cleared and burned in just five years.
“This isn’t just about recovering the lost tree cover, but also the watershed,” Lino says. “When the government talks about Living Pretty and Living Well, for us that is about respecting biodiversity and living in harmony with nature. Once the last tree is cut and the last fish is caught, the indigenous people will lose their way of life.”