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Cablegate: (U) Sandinista Suspicious Sale of Timber-Rich Ancestral

VZCZCXYZ0021
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #1192/01 3221448
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 181447Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0147
INFO WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL IMMEDIATE
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS MANAGUA 001192

SIPDIS
DEPT FOR WHA/CEN
DEPT FOR INR/IAA
STATE FOR USOAS
STATE PASS TO USAID/LAC
STATE PASS TO MCC

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PINS SENV ETRD EIND EAGR NU
SUBJECT: (U) SANDINISTA SUSPICIOUS SALE OF TIMBER-RICH ANCESTRAL
INDIGENOUS LANDS THWARTED

REF: MANAGUA 1051; MANAGUA 79; 2008 MANAGUA 1149

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In August, approximately 12,400 hectares of
indigenous land in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN) was
sold to a foreign-owned timber company under suspicious
circumstances. The tract from the Awas Tingni community, home to a
large Sumo Mayagna indigenous group, was only recently titled by
the central government. The tract was sold by the indigenous
Miskito-controlled YATAMA political party, which is closely allied
with the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), instead of by
the local residents. Sumo Mayagna leaders denounced the illegal
sale of their ancestral lands for commercial purposes by the YATAMA
party, filed lawsuits with the Attorney General, and successfully
lobbied the RAAN Regional Council to annul the sale. While the
Sumo Mayagna were successful in defending their ancestral land, the
corruption and political overtones to the sale raise concerns that
indigenous rights are easily trampled for political and profit
motives. END SUMMARY

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MISKITO AND SUMO?

2. (SBU) Nicaragua's largest indigenous group is the Miskito, with
a population of approximately 130,000 that is concentrated in urban
areas on the Caribbean coast of the RAAN and RAAS. For historical
and geographical reasons, the Miskito indigenous people are
generally better educated and integrated than other indigenous
groups in Nicaragua, yet remain homogenous culturally. The Miskito
people are politically organized into a regional political party
called YATAMA, which has formed a political alliance with the FSLN
to share power and central government resources in the region. The
YATAMA-FSLN political alliance is not popular with most Miskitos,
but it benefits the self-appointed leaders within the community
(see Reftels).

3. (SBU) The Sumo Mayagna people represent Nicaragua's second
largest indigenous group, with a population of approximately
40,000, located principally in the western and central RAAN. The
remote geography of the region has limited Sumo Mayagna access to
education as well as their integration into Nicaragua's culture.
As a people, they are less politically active and organized, when
compared with their Miskito neighbors. This difference in
geography and exposure to national and international influence may
be at the heart of the historic animosity between the Miskito and
Sumo Mayagna peoples. It is said that the Miskito often refer
pejoratively to their Sumo Mayagna neighbors as "country bumpkins"
because of their lower level of education and integration.

SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES IN INDIGENOUS LAND SALE

4. (U) On August 12, La Prensa (national daily, right-of-center)
reported that veterans allied closely with the FSLN-allied YATAMA
indigenous party sold 12,400 hectares of rain forest to a timber
company called the Indigenous Precious Woods and Industries of
Nicaragua. This timber company is neither indigenous nor
Nicaraguan, but rather owned by a French businessman named Clement
Marie Poncon who is rumored to have close ties to the FSLN
government. The land sale was suspicious because it involved a
large tract of approximately 74,000 hectares recently titled to
YATAMA supporters by the central government in December 2008 that
is supposed to be collectively owned by Sumo Mayagna indigenous
community of 11,000 people in Awas Tingni.

4. (SBU) The Sumo Mayagna who occupy the 12,400 hectares of rain
forest land sold to the French-owned timber company are not
politically allied with the FSLN, nor have they been able to secure
land titles from the central government, despite strong efforts to
follow the demarcation process established in Law 445 (see Reftel).
Instead, it appears that the FSLN-controlled central government
gave the valuable Sumo Mayagna land as a reward to their Miskito
regional allies in YATAMA with the intention to enter into a timber
contract with Mr. Poncon.

THE SUMO MAYAGNA STRIKE BACK

5. (U) Modesto Frank, the leader of SUKAWALA, an indigenous Sumo
Mayagna NGO, filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of the land
sale with Hernan Estrada, the country's Attorney General. Estrada
subsequently brought a complaint with the Supreme Court (CSJ)
against the registrar of lands (David Rodriguez Gaitan) in Bilwi,
RAAN for acts of corruption in handling the land sale. The RAAN
regional council eventually annulled the land sale by invoking Law
445, which governs the disposition of native lands in the RAAN and
RAAS (see Reftel C). According to this law, land communally owned
and occupied by native groups cannot be bought, sold, taxed or
seized.

6. (U) After the land sale was annulled, approximately 400
disgruntled YATAMA members, who are former contras, blocked the two
main roads to Bilwi for several days and promised to burn any
government vehicles that passed their way. Frank stated that
almost all of the 74,000 hectares which are owned by the Sumo
Mayagna people in the Awas Tingni region are at risk of being sold
to wealthy timber interests by profit-minded individuals-mostly
YATAMA-FSLN supporters.
CALLAHAN

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