From Thu Nov 7 07:30:07 2002
Date: Wed, 6 Nov 2002 17:04:02 -0600 (CST)
From: Nicaragua Network <>
Subject: Nicaragua Nework Hotline
Article: 146847
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Atlantic Coast Still Awaits Regulation of the Autonomy Law

Nicaragua Network Hotline, 4 November 2002

There was a carnival atmosphere on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua last week as residents celebrated the fifteenth anniversary of the approval by the National Assembly of the Autonomy Law of the Atlantic Coast. The Autonomy Law and the autonomy clauses in the Constitution of were passed by the Nicaraguan National Assembly in 1987 after a process of consultation including the people of the entire Atlantic Coast region. It addressed the concerns that had led numerous members of the Miskito community to take up arms against the Sandinista Revolution. That uprising ended with the peace agreement of 1985. The celebration of the anniversary was held in Bluefields with the participation of President Enrique Bolaqos, his cabinet, and authorities of the North and South Atlantic Regions.

The celebration comes at a time of tension in the region when the regional authorities of the South Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS), who were sworn in by only the Sandinista members of the Supreme Electoral Council, were not recognized by the Liberal majority on the Council.

With the recent compromise resulting in the re-election of Council president Roberto Rivas, the payment of salaries to the members of the regional council has been resumed. Schools and hospitals, however, which had not been funded by the central government since May, are still suffering the impact of that neglect.

The regional authorities from both the North and South asked the president to make every effort to see that the National Assembly approves the regulations for the Autonomy Law. The Law has not been fully implemented since its approval fifteen years ago, for many reasons, but mainly because the “regs” (as they are called in the United States) had not been passed. Regulations lay out the details of how a law is to be put into force.

Some residents of the region were not enthusiastic about the celebration. Psychologist Grafe Kelly said that, after these fifteen years, the Atlantic Coast continues to be the same. “Unfortunately there isn’t any change, on the contrary the exploitation of our natural resources has increased, our rights as inhabitants of the region have been denied,” she declared. “It is wrong to call this a celebration; it should be a demonstration demanding our right to enjoy real Autonomy, as the law states,” asserted Kelly.

Enna Wilson, a teacher at the Moravian School and participant in the celebration, added that the Atlantic Coast continues to depend on Managua. “We still have a long way to go to be truly autonomous. The truth is that they have to approve the regulations of the Law. If not, our resources will continue to be exploited by others and no benefits will come to the region,” she concluded.

President Bolaqos, who delivered his speech in English in recognition of the English-speaking Creole population of the area, promised the residents more investment in the region. He promised to transform the present local airport at Bluefields into an international airport and to build a paved road between Bluefields and the Pacific region. [The present route includes both unpaved highway and an approximately 50 mile boat trip on the Escondido River.] He also announced a US$9 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to strengthen the regional governments of the North and South Autonomous Regions.

The Indigenous Council of Elders in Bilwi-Puerto Cabezas is on record as opposing a similar highway to that which the President proposed which goes to Bilwi. It is seen as a project to open the area to more resource exploitation, destruction of the environment, and increase in mestizo immigration from the Pacific Coast to the disadvantage of indigenous land and cultural rights. It is unclear what the reaction of indigenous and other ethnic groups of the coast will be to this proposal.

When asked his opinion on Atlantic Coast autonomy, Reni Anderson, a resident of Bluefields and an engineer, said that the Caribbean coast has religious rights, cultural rights, but it lacks the most important thing, economic rights. The only answer, he said, is the passage of the regulations of the Autonomy Law in order to have a true autonomy in the region.