While the recent indigenous push-back against outsiders is nothing on the scale of the Miskito rebellion in the early ‘80s, local leaders warn it has the potential to quickly spiral into violence because the issues are similar.
“This is a time bomb,” Miskito leader Reynaldo Francis, the regional YATAMA leader said in a phone conversation from Bilwi, the capital of the North Atlantic Autonomous Region on the Caribbean coast.
“This is a very dangerous situation,” Mr. Francis says. “The Nicaraguan government has to respond quickly to this situation because it could get out of hand fast.”
The Caribbean coast of Nicaragua is home to roughly 15 percent of the country’s population, but represents 46 percent of its natural territory. Those natural resource are key to many of the Sandinista government’s long-term economic development projects, including logging operations, the construction of an inter-oceanic canal, a 253-megawatt hydroelectric dam, and a deepwater port on the southern Caribbean coast.
The government of President Daniel Ortega has not addressed the Caribbean confrontation, and in the Sandinistas’ vertically structured government, rarely do politicians speak out until President Ortega or his wife address an issue first.
“The state needs to pay attention to this situation,” says Francis.
The recent hostage situation prompted the non-indigenous Mestizos living on the Caribbean coast to take action. They created a series of roadblocks, cutting off land transportation to and from Bilwi. Police finally convinced the protesters to allow trucks through the roadblocks early Tuesday morning, in order to prevent food and gas shortages. Still, the community of Lapan refuses to release its hostages.