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  • Twi Yabra

    Twi Yabra | Photo: Tortilla con sal

Published 3 February 2021 (20 minutes ago)
Opinion

Interview with Fresly Janes Zamora
President of the Indigenous Territorial Government Twi Yabra
Autonomous Region of the Northern Caribbean Coast,

TcS: We are here in Bilwi with compañero Fresly Janes Zamora, he is President of the Indigenous Territorial Government Twi Yabra.... How are relations between the indigenous people here in the area and the mestizo people who also live in the area?

Fresly Janes Zamora: My name is Fresly Janes and I am president of the GTI (Indigenous Territorial Government) Twi Yabra. Our territory is made up of 16 communities. I am the representative of those 16 communities. We are 100% indigenous Miskitos, our territory. Our territorial extension is more than 1520 square kilometers. With respect to your question, each indigenous people, we are all indigenous but of different ethnicities. We are supported, we are covered by Law 445, law of the indigenous properties, and at the same time each territory has a territorial statute, an internal regulation. So they can all be indigenous, but with different ideologies, cultures, their traditional way.

So in the case of us as Miskitos, our relationship with third parties, like the mestizo brothers, on the issue of property, yes at the beginning, before 2014 we can say that, to us the mestizo brothers did not recognize the rights of indigenous peoples. Because we have a property title, a property title in the region for I think it is 23 GTI, which means Indigenous Territorial Governments, that is the general name, but they have more specific names like Miskito, Mayangna, or in our case, as Miskitos of the Twi Yabra Territory, which is North Yabra in Spanish. Our relationship with the mestizos up until 2014, was they did not recognize that the lands are ours, that we are the owners.

TcS: Fresly, can I interrupt and ask you if you could give us some historical overview of why they didn't recognize that? Because what we understand is that many of these problems are inherited from the time of previous governments.

Fresly: On that score, you know that previously, the lands were not communal lands. It was national land that was administered by the municipal governments, the national government, since the demarcation process began during the administration of the Frente Sandinista government.

TcS: Didn't Autonomy give you rights?

Fresly: No, the Autonomy, more than anything else, the right it gave was the creation or the administration of the two Regional Governments, or we can say the Government Councils. That was what Autonomy was all about. But at the communal level there was no Autonomy. Because the lands were not delimited, they were not demarcated. But after 2007 onwards, the demarcation process started and the demarcation began in 2007 and ended in 2012.

TcS: Was that demarcation carried out by the Attorney General's Office?

Fresly: As a government institution they created a commission, and the commission was made up by ethnic group, one representative for each ethnic group, this commission was created and they were given the power and authority to carry out the demarcation process. So there were representatives of each ethnic group in the demarcation commission. And then they were in charge of carrying out the process of Law 445.

TcS: When was Law 445 passed?

Fresly: It started in 2008, because in 2007 it was approved, authorized so that the demarcation commission could be brought in and started the consultations.

TcS: And the law came into force when it was published in La Gaceta in 2008 or 2007?

Fresly: No. The law already existed. That law already existed since Liberal times but it had not been executed. So when the Sandinista government took over, that was one of the main points, because the biggest demand of the indigenous peoples was that they requested, they demanded that this demarcation be carried out and that they recognize that we are the original peoples and therefore we are the owners. Because ancestrally you know that there were kings and that here we had our own administration, ancestrally. As indigenous people we always insisted that we wanted at least that dominion over our lands.

TcS: So this process was able to begin in 2007, 2008?

Fresly: Well, it took almost five years. That process took more than five years because there are 23 indigenous territories and, you know, it had five points, five stages. So this process took almost ten years. Because there were five stages, the consultation, the harmonization. Then, in consultation, in what was the prior, free and informed consent authorized by each community.

For example, we, on our territory, we have had title since 1905. At that time it comprised ten communities, but now it is no longer ten communities, now it is more communities. So what does that mean? At that time, despite having real title, we did not have total dominion over our lands.

TcS: You only had possession?

Fresly: Yes, only possession. Since then, since 1905, more than 120 years or 105 years more exactly, we have not had dominion, we only have the right to possession. We only have the right to possession. Who had dominion? It was always the government. Back then those governments were Liberal governments.

So, what's going on now? Now, with this government, that right has been recognized and now we do have that dominion in our communities. So, what does that mean? The mestizos... you know that in the Northern Caribbean Coast Region there are indigenous peoples, while in the Pacific zone, things are different. So the mestizos that come here are immigrants from the Pacific. We are all Nicaraguans but they enter with this ideology, you understand, that the lands are not communal?

TcS: That they are national?

Fresly: That they are national and therefore they as Nicaraguans have the right to it. Now we as indigenous people, with us the culture is different from the culture of the mestizos, the outsiders. So then what? We the Miskitos occupy the forest or cultivation, not so much... not for commerce, only for subsistence, for their food, for their family. They don't do things, they don't work to have something to sell. So that's why they don't do so much, on a bigger scale. That is the culture. So now, they may make use of some woodland and then after 5 years they return to that same place they had already worked on. But the mestizos, their culture is different. That is why we indigenous peoples have always conserved the forest.

Now back to the issue of how we relate to the mestizos. The mestizos, their culture is to work extensively, not just in cattle farming, but also in agriculture. Because they need to eat too. They need to feed themselves too. They have families too. So, what does that mean? After we received the title deeds here in Twi Yabra, the 23 territories have their title in their hands. But there is another stage, a final stage, the remediation, which is what they insist on, that they need remediation, remediation. But to clarify indigenous lands is a very complicated issue. It is not just a matter of expelling outsiders. It also means making clear with our own brothers and sisters the delimitation of intercommunal boundaries, intercommunal limits.

What does that mean? There are ancestral boundaries and now there are communities that are recently... or not so long ago. As I told you, in the 1905 title there were only ten communities. Now there are more communities, each community, because it is a community, they also have rights, they are independent, they have autonomy. So now you as a father, your son went to occupy part of your area, and your son has the right for his family to occupy that area, you have to concede. So in this case, the ancestral communities, some ancestral communities do not want to concede that right to their children, which are the communities that emerged after 50 years ago. Do you see?

There is an internal conflict. And that is what causes us the most internal conflict. For us this is a remediation. Because to outsiders,  Law 445 clearly states that indigenous land cannot be sold, it cannot be given away, but it can be leased if they want to. So, what are the legal procedures?

Well, we are an administrative territorial directorate. We are the legal representative but at the same time we are administrators. So, what does does that mean? First they come to us. Then we hold a communal assembly. Even if the government does not want it, if the community wants it, it is leased. Because it has that authority, it has that autonomy.

TcS: Fresly, so that autonomy is based on the title of 1905? How was that title issued? What was the authority that issued that title?

Fresly: From 1905?

TcS: Yes, was it the national government? Or not?

Fresly: From 1905, at that time there were kings of the Mosquitia. So they had to go to register in Bluefields. Still, back then. OK now, but that was a title, it was just a piece of paper. But of course, over there, over here, by various means we worked things out and managed things administratively, but in terms of having dominion, no. But in that case, as indigenous people, we as an indigenous people, we had to go to Bluefields.

But now, as indigenous people, as our legal representatives, the national government, neither the government nor the president can say that someone can go to do something in the indigenous communities. He is not in charge there. We are in charge there, as the owners. And the president recognizes that, he always tells people, in relation to indigenous lands you have to reach an understanding with the owners.

And that is why there is a territorial government. That is why there is a wihsta. It is another government, ancestral. Because there is no law that says the communal governments are recognized as such, but the State of Nicaragua recognizes them, because they are a natural, ancestral government. Now the territorial governments, the wihsta, are our structures.

TcS: Fresly, many people like me don't understand the legal administrative structure here in the Caribbean Coast. So an obvious question is what is the relationship between the territorial governments, and the municipal governments? Are the GTIs part of the regional government, of the regional council? What is the legal administrative relationship?

Fresly: We are a communal government. We are apolitical. We are not elected under a political banner or as some political figure. We are a communal government. But we always coordinate, we work for the people. Because the same people elect the municipal government as political figures, the regional governments, the council members of the Regional Council. So, what does that imply?

They are structures of the regional government. We are a structure of the communal government that we represent legally, juridically. So, the relationship with them and us is one of coordination, communication. Be it regional government, be it municipal government, they always have to coordinate with us, because we are the owners of the land. And who represents the people? We do. They elected us so that we can represent them, so that we can represent them. So as long as they do so with us. For example, the regional government is the legal representative of this region at the national level, at the international level. The same for us. So here there are several territorial governments of different ethnic groups.

Now, we were talking about the coordination or the relationship with the mestizos. In the case of the mestizos and ouselves us, as I told you, there are different manipulations as too. Why? Because of the issue of remediation. Remediation is a broad topic and at the same time it is conflictive. Why? Sometimes, yes, we have the will to resolve things. Because we are a government, right? We have autonomy and the people are the owners of the land. At the same time we also have community leaders who advise us, they are people who know, who understand things that have happened, or that can happen. It is a structure that we have. In each community there are elders who are our advisors. So when we hold an assembly, be it communal or territorial, they are special guests with a voice and a vote, any opinion, any recommendation, any ...and so on. So what does that mean?

Sometimes we have a conflict, for example. With two, three, of the ten mestizos that are within our lands, not all of them agree to recognize us. Always, in everything, there are two, three families that do not agree, that do not want to recognize us. So what do we do?

When this is the case, we visit the place, because it is our land, and we go in a commission to explain to them the internal regulations of our communities, or the internal regulations of the territory. If they agree, we can reach an understanding. We can sit down and start a dialogue, negotiate. Because the lands cannot be sold, even if I want to sell, I cannot, even if I want to give them away, I cannot. Because that's a crime. But yes, the land can be leased.

So what we are doing is, as Twi Yabra, we are leasing land. We are leasing land, after several lawsuits, there was even bloodshed? But what good's that?

We were evicting, kicking people out, there is loss of life, there is instability in our territories, in our communities. Because the mestizos also threaten the Miskitos. The Miskitos threaten the Mestizos. In that area when it is like that, there are conflicts as a result of that.

TcS: Carlos explained to me that one of the problems is that they have been promoting the concept of self-remediation. What is that?

Fresly: Self-remediation means... At the beginning we were led to be convinced, manipulated, so that we would carry out self-remediation. There is international funding. There is funding for remediation, the issue of remediation. But the issue of remediation is the responsibility of the State. It is not the prerogative of just anyone.

But then again, the State cannot enter into remediation while there is conflict. Because you know that within the community, within the country, there are several political ideologies. There is opposition. And where there is opposition there is conflict. So, even more so with funding, the opposition gains strength. And that goes on within the communities. So what happens? They come. They train us. They make available the means to do self-remediation. Self-remediation means... self-remediation means that the community has the right to expel people in a violent way. I in my first term in 2014, I practiced that self-remediation. And I was not convinced. It was not... in that regard, I decided it is not right. There was loss of life, damage. In our territory that was back in 2014.

There in other territories it took place before and later. But what's going on? Always, always we, in our culture, the indigenous Miskito people always trust their leaders. They trust their leaders. So what does that mean? If they always come and want to convince or manipulate us leaders first. That's why they convinced me to begin with. They manipulated me. And I fell for it, I carried out and set up that self-remediation operation.

TcS: Who was encouraging you to do that?

Fresly: There are NGOs, for example CEJUDHCAN. CEJUDHCAN on certain issues they do training on the rights of indigenous peoples. But at the same time they have another interest. Two programs came for my territory, that they are going to help me, that are going to help me with remediation, this and that. But that apart, on CEJUDHCAN's program, that funding, at the outset, we said, look, these are our conditions and priorities. So help me on such and such a matter.

For example, when in my second year as president, they saw things were going to improve, change, become more formalized, and they did not like that. Why? Well, as long as there are incidents, then there are conflicts, so for them that means there is always funding. So what did I do? I told them, I sent two letters, saying that we want nothing to do with them. We no longer want to have a relationship with them.

Because the thing is that they want to drag things out in order to get some benefit. The benefit is meant for us. But since they are intermediaries, they are the ones who administer the resources. So that is why we said no. In a territorial assembly I said, we are no longer going to continue with this organization because they are promoting violence in the communities.

So what did we do then? First of all we went to the regional government to ask for their help. For them to be intermediaries in the dialogue with the mestizos. The mestizos... Why did we do this? Because when we expelled 86 families there, including children, pregnant women, adults, even? We took them out tying them up, they were effectively kidnapped people. They burned the houses.

The damage... the loss... I was sued for something close to eight million córdobas in losses. So we handed these families over to the regional government. As the community government we delivered them formally , alive and well. We handed them over to the regional government and the regional government sent them off. I don't know if they were relocated or something, but we did expel them from our area.

Then, the same families, not all 85 but 50 of the families presented themselves to the office of our institution, stating that they have need an area. So then a formal request was made up and it was signed. Then we carried out an assembly community by community, in consultation, and so, in that way, we did accept 50 families in 2015 so they can work there in our area, the same families we evicted.

So we did accept them but with one condition, that they would be forest rangers of our territory, that is, only them, just the 50 families. No more. But now what happens also? You know that within the communities there are also leaders. There are also leaders who have autonomy. For example the wihsta. They have autonomy within their community. We have autonomy within our territory, however we do not have autonomy at the municipal level because we are not municipal authorities.

So then other leaders, they also negotiated with other mestizos, with other families, whom they endorsed, they authorized, and who entered. After that, that's how things start... Now in our territory there are mestizos, there are mestizo families, but there is a certain number that are also illegal, without the consent of the community. So what we are asking the government is, "man, we need institutional support to put things in order, we need order in our territories". So for me, for me, remediation is for helping me to resolve internal conflicts. Why? Mestizo versus mestizo is different. Miskito versus Miskito is also different. Why? He's Miskito, I'm Miskito, we both have the same rights. Here what's in conflict is how to define what's his and what's mine. For me that is remediation. That's remediation.

Because to expel a mestizo, to give a mestizo a place, or to negotiate with a mestizo, for us that is not remediation. Why? Because from the moment that the State of Nicaragua recognized to us that the land is ours, then it's ours and we have the autonomy and the power to say what happens there. If we want to expel people, we expel them.

So on the issue of remediation for example. The government can come along and the government may want us to remove, evict the outsiders. But if we already... if we already have affection and trust with them and if we do not want to remove the outsiders, then you can't call that remediation. The ousiders, if they want an area within the indigenous lands, they have to reach an understanding with the owners and the owners are the indigenous peoples.

And the indigenous peoples have their leaders and their representatives. Without prior authorization from them, if they enter, they have to be expelled and for that the government is always there to support us because every time we ask for accompaniment they always support us. So for us, remediation is not just evicting or expelling third parties, it's an internal problem, one that is intercommunal in each territory.

So what then? For example, right now? Let's say a community does not have, as a community, that it still does not have its own domain. Who has dominion? The territory does. But the community still does not have dominion. Why? Because one person says that the boundary is this way and I say the boundary is another way. So there is a conflict. Every territory has this kind of things. For example, the ancestral territories. We talk about ancestral times, ancestral persons, ancestral communities.

As I say. Previously we only had ten ancestral communities. But now there are seven communities that are not ancestral but are recognized according to this new title extended by the government of the Sandinista Front. And this title has equal rights, however big it is, whether its ancestral, or is one issued now.

However, if the name appears on it, then that seals the community and it has equal rights, equal with the other communities. In the case of the mestizos, as the law stands... the law says, mestizos are "third parties". It does not say "mestizos" or "colonists". They are outsiders who came to live here from the 1980s onwards, and the law recognizes them. The law says that they are recognized....

TcS: As people living there with longstanding....

Fresly: That's right, they are recognized, why? From the 1980s to date, if that person lives in that area, in that community, they already know the language, the culture, they already live with the same culture. The children, for example, are already over 30 years old. So all these things give them that right. But what happened? The problem of the invasions started after the year 2000.

TcS: Could you tell me if this is correct? Carlos told me about a time in 1990 when Doña Violeta gave 22,000 hectares... as an example. So in the 1990s land was sold to the mestizos and apparently the indigenous leaders at that time, I guess they thought that a government was never going to come that was going to solve the problem, and they sold land to those people at the time of the neoliberal governments. And I guess you have inherited that kind of problem?

Fresly: Yes because at that time, that's what I was explaining. The land was national. Still the self-same national government administered it, managed it, had dominion. It was difficult for the communities... they didn't even have the authority to make decisions. So what happens then? From 2013 onwards, we do have that dominion.

We have that dominion, and we do still have that conflict, not with the government, not with the State of Nicaragua, but the people, the mestizos themselves are invading properties. Because as I told you, we conserve areas. Our ancestors, that is our culture. We are few but we have large tracts of land, because they are the areas where we go out to hunt animals, to sow our crops, to fish. So these are areas where we as indigenous peoples abide. That is our culture.

So, we now have the title. We have ... dominion, we do have now, and the government, the State recognizes it. The only problem we have is that sometimes outsiders want to invade us or are invading our property. So something that we have to teach them is to recognize that they are our lands, and that this land is not empty and unclaimed.

It has an owner. And the owner is the indigenous peoples. Therefore, although they do need land, they have to coordinate, to reach an arrangement, to engage in dialogue, a negotiation with the owners... We also have gold in our territories. We do have gold...

TcS: And you exploit it?

Fresly: Of course, we do exploit it. And now they are coming in to do cattle ranching. They come in for agriculture. But not everyone works in cattle ranching and not everyone works in agriculture. Everyone has their own vision. There are outsiders that want to occupy an area for cattle raising, so we apply the specific rules for cattle raising because there are prohibitions, their lease payment cannot be the same as the one for a farmer. Because agriculture is different from cattle ranching... and so on.

Now, the complications that our brothers have mentioned in other GTIs, that's.... really it's up to us. It depends on each government. Because you have to reach an understanding, engage in dialogue, get them to understand that we are the owners of the land. But if we don't get them to understand that we are the owners then they, as I told you, will always come with this ideology that the lands belong to the State. But that is only so over on the Pacific. In the Caribbean Region it's different.

So then what? Suddenly two, three impoverished looking Miskitos come to them and say "we are the owners of these lands". So then the mestizos say "you're wrong" and from where they are maybe the nearest miskito community is 30 kilometers away. So then they say, "This land is nobody's. This is an area that has no owner. No one owns this area." That's what they always think. So then what? You have to visit, talk, reach understanding, dialogue. Then in the end they realize, "man, it's true, someone does own this land."

Not all of them, but with one, with two, with three, with four, then they start to get it, to come around to saying, "man, yes, we have to reach an understanding with the owners because the Miskitos, the indigenous, the Mayangnas are the owners of these lands".

TcS: Is this issue of invasions intensifying or is it diminishing?

Fresly: Well, anyway, that's.... it depends on us, it depends on how the administration works. Because the mestizos, there are a great many that want to get in, but what happens? In my experience, my own experience. Five families settle, and I want to evict these five families. I mean, I don't even want to talk to these five families. Nor do I want to respond to their demand, to their request. Nothing, nothing, I don't want mestizos on my land. I want to evict them.

But for me to go to the area where they are, that's a day or two days' journey and we as a people are not occupying that area because the area our people are occupying is mostly close to their communities, maybe a two hour walk to get to their hacienda, but to get to where the mestizos are, it is much farther. So then what happens? When I arrive to threaten those five families, then those five families, fearing that I am going to do something, start to bring more people, as protection. As their protection, in my experience, right?

They start to bring more people, more people, more people, more people. So then over six months those five families will bring another hundred families. Then they really have strength. They have protection from the other families that they brought. So that's how the invasion starts to increase. And all those who come are illegal.

So what we did was to say ... "No, stop, hold on. Who is there? Okay, ten families". Well, we went to verify that there are only ten families. We went to verify that there are only ten families and see there are no more. So we talked, we negotiated with those ten families. Then, with those ten families we made an agreement..... What did we agree? I told them, we accept you all right but not others. That means, I can manage ten families, but I cannot manage 100 families. Because with ten families, are not going to occupy what 100 families are going to occupy, which I am not going to be able to control, put up with, nor tolerate, nor permit because it is going to affect my people.

So in this way we reach an understanding, we dialogue with them and we get them to understand that we are the owners and we let them stay with conditions. But any territorial government or community that does not reach an agreement, hold a negotiation or set conditions, if they don't set conditions, as I said, just making threats, brings more people, more people.

Now, what happens? A mestizo who threatens or hurts a Miskito, the Miskito stands up and hurts the mestizos again. And so the fighting starts, the conflicts. Then what happens? Death. This is due to lack of communication, lack of dialogue. Because if you, or if I am the owner of a house and I was traveling and someone came to occupy my house, as soon as I find out or when I realize that someone is living in my house, I have to go to my house and question them: "No, I moved in because I needed to...because I was in real need, and because the house was empty, I occupied it".

Okay. I as the owner will tell them, "No sir, I'm going to live here, I've come to live here so..." So that person leaves. Right? Ah, but if I stop living there and occupying that house for more than a year, two years, three years, then people see that the other person is really the owner because they have been there for a long time and nobody comes to complain. Ah, but from the moment I realize what's happened, then I visit. I say, "Ok sir, Juan", for example, "Juan, how did you come here, how did you end up here?" And sometimes he may tell me, "Well, I have this paper..." "Let's see, show me the paper." And when I look, man, somebody in my community authorized it. They authorized it. So in that case I can't say...

TcS: Without consulting with the community?

Fresly: No. Because  there's a leader or a former leader, so they endorsed it that yes that person can be there, it's illegal. But in this case, that person is not a settler, this outsider, this mestizo, is not a settler. Nor is he invading the indigenous properties. Why? Because he, one way or another, in good faith sought out a Miskito, an indigenous person, and that indigenous person endorsed him, but illegally. I have the competency to settle that case, when families are taking, occupying area in our territory like that. So, it is my responsibility together with the leaders to bring order. Whereas the remediation being promoted by other organizations, opposition organizations, their remediation is to immediately expel the mestizos from indigenous lands.

TcS: Under their interpretation...

Fresly: Yes, that is their vision, or their ideology. Their objective is to expel the mestizos from the lands of the indigenous lands and then put pressure on the State, because there are a great many mestizos. So, by evicting all those mestizos, where are they going to go? So there is pressure on the Nicaraguan government, because there is no land. There is no other land. Here we are the only ones who have land.

Now, we as a culture, our production, as I told you, indigenous people cultivate, not to produce quantities to sell, they produce only for their sustenance.

We Miskitos have a lot of cattle, quite a lot of cattle. But the cattle roam free, they do not have a corral, because that is our culture. Now the Mestizos, as I said, in the area where they are, there is no road for vehicles to be able to get their products out, there is no road. There is not that much cattle raising there either, but of course they have come to work there for that purpose, to bring cattle, although they don't have that much. There in those fifty families that we have, if you go there, it makes my heart ache to see how these families live. I feel sorry for the way they live.

TcS: Are they very impoverished?

Fresly: Yes, they are poor people. They are poor people but, of course, they are good at working hard. That's their culture. In this case, this cattle ranching thing, man, for example here in the unoccupied area of Tasba Pri there's quite a lot of cattle ranching and people are starting to sell cattle. So now people come with trucks, I don't know from where, they enter our territory and start buying cattle. There are families that have quite a lot of cattle. But they does not have the capacity to buy my cattle nor do I have the capacity to buy their cattle.

So, since there is no buyer, I have my cattle there. Who buys them? Not only us sometimes when we doing recreation, when we have cultural activities with that luk-luk meal which is beef with yucca and is a typical food. So when there are activities, inaugurations, maybe an improvement, a religious festival, when there are activities like that we even there we buy from those who have cattle. "Ok, sell me a steer to make luk-luk". But only like that.

Now people are beginning to see that there are buyers and their trucks arrive and they say, always in coordination with the communal authorities like the wihstas, "Wihsta look, we want to buy so many cattle, how many are there?" Then he starts looking and maybe there are ten people who have cattle, but not all of them want to sell their cattle. That's the way they are doing it. So directly and indirectly, this help the families' income.

We can see that there are many people who go around manipulating, inventing, falsifying news, because they may even come and tell you, "There's a kidnapping" they say, "There's a death" they say, "There's this...". Man, it is pure lies, there are times they even give me a fright and I say "how come I didn't realize that this type of conflict or problem exists within the community and I haven't taken care of it". And I immediately look for ways to go there and discover what's happened and the community says "man, here everything is calm"...

TcS: In general do you feel optimistic that the process that you have started since that stage of conflict, in 2014, 2015, is improving?

Fresly: After that agreement that we made, we had two years of calm, because it was orderly. But after two years it got a little bit messed up. I told you why. Because there are members of the communities who are also involved illegally. So those people are generating conflicts. So, for that reason, we do have certain difficulties within the communities, but the important thing is that the outsiders recognize, they recognize that we are the owners.

But what's wrong now? Now they are abusing a lot. They are occupying areas they are not authorized to occupy. So those families that are occupying unauthorized areas, we are going to evict them.

TcS: And in terms of the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve and the reserves, do your territories fall within the Bosawas Reserve?

Fresly: No, we don't. But it's like I tell you, we have our internal reserve. We practice conservation in our reserve and if they want to invade it, we don't agree with that. As I told you, always with prior authorization from us. If not, then they are illegal and those people have to leave. We, the territorial governments, our mission is the defense, protection, administration of our resources, of our lands. That is our mission.

But what happens? There are territorial governments that let themselves to be manipulated. Then they let themselves go along with this idea of self-remediation... then, since the regional government has to support us, to coordinate with us, because it has to, because as you know, we are representatives of the communities, of the indigenous peoples, we are representatives, so if the authority doesn't talk to us, how is he going to... so then he has to reach an understanding, he has to coordinate and cooperate, and in this case we are grateful to Carlos Alemán and we are happy in that part... But remediation is not the responsibility of the regional government either, so we understand, we understand that, but we do have a...we have a...

TcS: Is remediation an obligation of the State?

Fresly: Of course, because in Law 445, the last stage is remediation, but there it is something that is only stated as a concept and there are no set procedures, who is going to do it. So then, after the law took effect, when people saw that the indigenous communities really did have autonomy and control over their lands, then people began to maneuver because other interested groups didn't agree that the indigenous people should have that autonomy.

TcS: But the opposition alleges that the delay in the regulation process is the fault of the government because it wants to promote the invasion...

Fresly: No. That is not the case. remediation is an issue still outstanding, it is a process, a final stage because the other stages have already been completed. And no one can say that, because they have not completed that last stage, which is remediation, the indigenous communities do not have dominion. We have dominion. The communities, we recognize that the communities are the owners, the State recognizes that the communities are the owners. But then what?

Now, the outsiders, they're migrating, looking for land to work, to produce. So, as I say, in the Pacific, there they only plant, cultivate, produce with chemicals. While here they do not. In the North and South Caribbean Coast we have lands that are virgin, that our grandparents preserved. So, now they come to occupy that area for agriculture, for cattle raising, but, with norms, as I told you, the law is clear.

They may come to buy, they may want to take over, they may want to privatize, but the law forbids it. The law prohibits the privatization of indigenous lands. So we cannot cede that right either, the right to privatize. The only option we have is leasing. But in order to lease indigenous lands there are requirements and those requirements have to be fulfilled and if they are not fulfilled, the outsiders cannot stay, they cannot occupy that indigenous land. And if they do occupy it, it is illegal.

The opposition is promoting violence, violence between indigenous and mestizos. What's going on? As I told you, always when indigenous peoples respect and trust their leaders, then, the first thing others do is to convince the leader to promote that violence. Self-remediation is violence, promoting violence. Self-remediation means promoting violence, between indigenous against mestizos.

So, when they throw a stone, someone else will  throws stones. And when it is like that other people stoke the fire. When there is already fire they throw more brush onto it. When there is fire they go out to declare, there's conflict, there's a problem, they need help, they need this or that, so people send money... and that's how other people make a living. An then again, if organizations want to support indigenous communities, why don't they coordinate, why don't they send their money directly to the territorial governments?

Because we are the legal representative. Administratively, legally, we are the representatives. Why don't they send funding to the territorial governments of each indigenous people? Why do they send NGOs and programs for this? Because they do not do what... on paper it says one thing, but on the ground it's something else. That's it. So that's what they are promoting. When there is no fire, there is no money. As I told you, things are calm, things are resolved, but that's what they do.

So we as Twi Yabra territory are against those people. That is why we are not involved with any organization. Because at the beginning we thought they entered or wanted to enter in good faith to support us. But in the course of the execution of these projects, of these visits, which they did in my absence, they were already doing other things, so we immediately prohibited their visits to our communities, because they were trying to destabilize the structure of the territorial government, the structure of the communal authorities and at the same time to bring violence between the Miskito peoples and outsiders, so we are against it.

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