From Wed Jul 3 10:30:06 2002
Date: Tue, 2 Jul 2002 16:08:27 -0500 (CDT)
From: NicaNet <>
Subject: Nicaragua Network Hotline
Article: 141263
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Coffee Farmers Block Pan American Highway

Nicaragua Network Hotline, 1 July 2002

At least seven police officers and an unknown number of protesters were injured on June 24, as violence broke out at a roadblock on the Pan American Highway near Sibaco. Eighty anti-riot police attacked some 300 coffee farmers who were protesting the Nicaraguan governments lack of response to their demands. The protesters threw rocks and the police responded by launching tear gas grenades. Twenty-six coffee growers were arrested. Farmer Luis Martinez said that the police carried him off to the station where they handcuffed him and beat him, giving him a split lip. The previous day, four people were injured at the same site when police tried to remove protesters.

By the middle of the week, the protesters had been visited by representatives of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), while leaders of the Union of Farmers and Ranchers (UNAG) announced that coffee growers from among their members would be joining the protest.

The coffee farmers from the departments of Matagalpa and Jinotega set up the roadblocks on the highway after having failed to reach an agreement with the government. They said the government had failed to fulfill its commitment to extend them credit through private banks after restructuring US$120 million in debt. The government program was set up in order to offset the current low international market price for coffee. Matagalpa and Jinotega produce 80 per cent of Nicaraguas export coffee.

According to Alm Zeas, president of the Nicaraguan Coffee Growers Union, The union rejected the options that were proposed, because the government just wants to play with the growers. Zeas said that the governments proposal for the banks to provide financing for 3,000 large-scale coffee growers was simply repeated. However, thus far, only 70 farmers have received any benefit from the program. In addition, said Zeas, a plan to establish a State-run Rural Credit Fund to help some 28,000 coffee producers has not moved forward.

Amilcar Navarro, president of UNICAFE, asked why the government had been able to find US$400 million to bail out failing banks but could not come up with a similar sum to save coffee which is the crop that supports the countrys economy. The proposal from the Ministry of Agriculture (MAGFOR) included a promise that 1,400 small farmers would receive relief immediately, recognizing that 16,400 others would be left without help. MAGFOR also noted that the IMF was providing US$6 million to aid the large coffee plantation owners. The President of UNICAFE responded that this was not enough, and demanded that bank foreclosures be stopped.

The Nicaragua Network continues to collect money for aid to unemployed coffee workers. Please send your check made out to: Nicaragua Network, 1247 E Street SE, Washington, DC 20003. Be sure to write aid for coffee workers in the memo line on the check. For more information and background go to: