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Dispute Over Indigenous Miskito Lands, Nicaragua

Indigenous communities all over Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast say they are under attack by settlers who have taken over their ancestral lands. At least 30 Miskitos have been killed in this conflict.


As part of the negotiations after many years of internal conflict, in 1987 the Nicaraguan government created the Autonomous Regions of the Atlantic (RAA-North and RAA-South) and conferred its management to the indigenous Miskito and other ethnic communities. These lands are protected under the Law 445 which recognizes the "indigenous communal property" and established these lands as non-derogable, inalienable, non-attachable and tax exempt (Art. 3 "Las tierras comunales no se pueden gravar y son inembargables, inalienables e imprescriptibles"). The Political Constitution of Nicaragua establishes that these indigenous lands cannot be sold, bought or exchanged. However, illegal land trafficking is threatened Miskito´s livelihoods since the last decade. The increase of settlers or "colonos" in the area has provoked land disputes. Settlers are made up by small peasants but also by large farmers willing to expand their businesses, wood smugglers and ranchers. The land conflict has reached high levels of violence: fire attacks on indigenous communities, kidnappings, tortures, and murders are some of the violent acts denounced by Miskito. They blame the attacks on "settlers" who are occupying their ancestral territories -sometimes- with the support of the local government authorities. According to an in-depth report (1) both officials from the official party Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN) and Yatama political party are part of the illegal land sales. In 2015 settlers attacked with fire the Polo Paiwa community. The inhabitants ran away to other near communities. Due to the violence and displacements, indigenous groups have crossed the borderline looking for refuge in Honduras. According to a Center for Justice and Human Rights (Centro por la Justicia y Derechos Humanos de la Costa Atlántica de Nicaragua- CEJUDHCAN) the land conflict has left 3,000 displaced people and at least 32 Miskitos have been killed. Misko´s claim for the Tasba Pri which means "Free Land" to continue their ancestral activities such as agriculture, fishing, and artisanal mining. For Miskitos, these events hark back to another time, when they battled the leftist Sandinista government in a quest to keep their land in the civil war in the 1980´s. 

Basic Data
Name of conflict:Dispute Over Indigenous Miskito Lands, Nicaragua
State or province:Región Autónoma del Atlántico Norte (RAAN)
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Logging and non timber extraction
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Miskito is the largest indigenous group on the Caribbean coast (up to 300,000 Miskito).

Type of populationRural
Affected Population:300,000
Relevant government actors:Ministerio de Recursos Naturales (MARENA); Policía Nacional
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Ejos: Asamblea Territorial y Comunal.;
Supporters: Centro por la Justicia y Derechos Humanos de la Costa Atlántica de Nicaragua (CEJUDHCAN),
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Artisanal miners
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
National Ejos
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Property damage/arson
Threats to use arms
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Health ImpactsPotential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Violent targeting of activists
1) Trespassed the existing law 2) Kidnapping 3) At least 30 Miskitos have been killed.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Violence is rising and the Nicaraguan government has not done enough to settle this land conflict.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Régimen de Propiedad Comunal de los Pueblos Indígenas y Comunidades Étnicas de las Regiones Autónomas de la Costa Atlántica y de los Ríos, Bocay, Coco, Indio y Maíz (Ley 445)
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El infierno de los miskitos
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Nicaragua Dispute Over Indigenous Land Erupts in Wave of Killings
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El éxodo de los miskitos
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(1) Corrupción y muerte en territorio miskito
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La guerra oculta de Nicaragua
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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Reportaje Especial: Corrupción y muerte en territorio miskito
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:ENVJustice Project
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2917
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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