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The First Indian Government in the Americas Caught up in Neglect, Confusion and Disunity - Ways Out?  *

Christian P. Scherrer **

Copenhagen Peace Research Institute





Ethnicity and state in Central America

Roots of the Miskitu conflict in the context of the Americas

Sandinista popular revolution 1979 and the change in 1990: Nicaragua was put on the map again

The ethnic conflict in eastern Nicaragua

Reconciliation and conflict resolution in Eastern Nicaragua

Process towards autonomy for the East Coast peoples

Autonomous governance in Yapti Tasba: An ambiguous experience

Dim prospects for the autonomy process

Ethnicity and state in Nicaragua and elsewhere: A critical review


The colonial history and the regional context account for conflict roots. Although the Spanish colonizers subjugated the Indian peoples of Central America's Pacific coast, they were unable to control the eastern lowlands. The native Miskitu Indians and, since 1640's, run-away African slaves fiercely resisted. The Miskitu first allied with European pirates and then with British colonials against the Spanish threat. The Mosquitia was ruled indirectly. The Miskitu Kingdom (1687-1894) was incorporated into Hispanic Nicaragua just a hundred years ago.

Separate history of the eastern half of Nicaragua was reinforced by the US-dominated enclave economy, based on timber, fish, mines and plantations, and continued during the 45 years of the Somoza family dictatorship. The Sandinista revolution in 1979, mainly a Mestizo venture, smashed the old regime. Attempts to integrate the East more tightly resulted in a tremendous upsurge of ethnic revival among the Indian and Afro-American minorities. 1

The minority peoples initially welcomed the revolution. The FSLN's integrationist policy and further Hispanisation were first rejected by the Creoles of Bluefields. In November 1980, mass demonstrations were dashed. Repression caused apathy and civil disobedience. The motor of the more virulent conflict between the Miskitu Indians and the state has been a small élite of university students. They soon proved to be effective organizers and took over the Indian organization ALPROMISO renamed MISURASATA. 2 Native demands became more radical in 1980/81.

The trigger of the armed conflict between the Sandinista Popular Army  (EPS) and various Indian organizations in Eastern Nicaragua was the question of territorial claims. Exaggerated claims were seen as a threat to the state' s sovereignty, particularly in view of the increasingly aggressive stance of the USA. About 4.000 Indians were armed by the CIA and trained mainly by former guardsmen of Somoza. The Somocista contras had different objectives and were never sympathetic to the Indian cause, but the two wars in Nicaragua had some links.

Nicaragua's Indian movement has been divided during the whole period from 1981 till 1990. A pro-Sandinista civilian section (MISURASATA leaders in the FSLN, MISATAN, KISAN-pro-peace) and an anti-Sandinista militant section (MISURASATA-Rivera, MISURA, KISAN, YATAMA) were opposed. The latter organizations have in fact been one single organization, which has at different moments - under various names - represented the armed Indian opposition against the Sandinista State. The militant section not only represented the majority Miskitu population but gained legitimacy through its links with the highest Indian authority, the Council of Elders (Almuk nani asla takanka). The Council is entitled to organize general assemblies of the Indian movement every couple of years ever since the movement became its organizational form in Bilwaskarma 1973. The assemblies (held in 1973, 1974, 1979, 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1993) had decisive influence on the course of the movement and on its organizational shape. Three of seven assemblies took place in exile, on the Honduran side of the Wangki river.

Native demands became more radical in 1980/81. The trigger of the armed conflict between the Sandinista Popular Army  (EPS) and various Indian organizations in Eastern Nicaragua was the question of territorial claims. These claims put forth by MISURASATA were seen by FSLN officials as a threat to the state' s sovereignty, particularly in view of the increasingly aggressive stance of the USA. About 4.000 Indians were armed by the CIA and trained mainly by former guardsmen of Somoza. Besides their co-operation with the Indian fighters, the Somocista contras had different objectives and were never sympathetic to the Indian cause. 1981-1987 there were two wars in Nicaragua which had some links.

The response of the Sandinista Front (FSLN) from 1984 onwards was a triple strategy for pacification including autonomy (as long-term solution), cease-fire with armed groups and their integration into militias, and talks with some exiled leaders. The first two tracks worked, the war slowed down from 1985, but talks remained without results from 1985 until 1988. The mediation and trust building by Moravian Church leaders and by grass-roots committees (most prominently the women of the Peace and Autonomy Commissions) were critical to end the armed struggle and gave way for a wide political debate on autonomy.

Antagonism persisted below the level of armed struggle. Frustrated territorial demands were later brushed aside since its main protagonists allied with the opposition against the Sandinista rule just in time before the 1990 elections. The unexpected defeat of the FSLN brought Rivera's faction of the predominantly Miskitu Indian organization YATAMA (Yapti Tasba Masraka nani asla takanka; Sons of the Motherland) into higher central government posts. They were able to sabotage the implementation of the autonomy law. Rivera is in favour for a reservation-type of solution.

The dramatic economic situation of the country and specifically that of two eastern regions limited the space of the autonomous governments, while political feud among the Indian factions continued in the northern region. In the southern autonomous region (RAAS) the political polarization led to an institutional break-down. Additionally, there is an extreme level of corruption involving high-ranking government officials. After pressure from a broad spectrum, the UNOp-coalition gave up its 11 month boycott of the Regional Autonomous Council . A new group grew up among Creoles in defense for autonomy (MAAC-AACM, Authentic Autonomous Coast Movement ). Everybody seemed to wait for the regional elections in February 1994.

In May 1993, the Council of Elders held the 7th general assembly of YATAMA to overcome the divisions within the organization. Rivera was expelled, the leadership re-elected (Diego and Serapio), and the statutes were revised. YATAMA declared its support for joint efforts to elaborate a regimentation of the autonomy law, in order to clarify the competencies of the autonomous bodies and the rational use of Eastern Nicaragua's rich natural resources. But after an intervention of Rivera in July 1993 there was no unanimity for the adoption of a proposal by the regional parliaments to the hands of the crisis-ridden central parliament in Managua 3 since the YATAMA councilors walked out. 4 The urgently needed regimentation will most likely be further delayed.

The second regional elections in Eastern Nicaragua (financed by the Scandinavian countries) were held in February 1994 in the midst of internal division, strife and a nation-wide loss of credibility for every state agency. During the preparations of the elections a fatal division of YATAMA occurred. Mainstream YATAMA led by Fagoth and the Rivera minority faction both claimed to represent YATAMA. The impasse was only solved by a sudden maneuver of Steadman Fagoth's faction to be won over by the reactionary liberals (PLC) led by Managua's right-wing mayor Arnoldo Alemán. Fagoth practically surrendered YATAMA as the main broad-based indigenous organization to Rivera who was actually excluded as YATAMA leader during YATAMA's 7th general assembly in May 1993. The regional elections have been seen as a test for the up-coming general elections of 21st October 1996, an assumption which proved to be right.

The outcome of the 2/1994 regional elections was significant but not really puzzling: The voters castigated UNOp and YATAMA, the former dominant groups in their respective regions, for bad governance. In the RAAS the UNOp suffered a crushing defeat (with 5 of 24 seats left) and practically disappeared in RAAN. YATAMA lost control in RAAN (with 7 of 23 seats remaining), while the former mainstream YATAMA participated as local branch of Alemán's PLC, which won 19 (of 45) seats in RAAN and 18 in RAAS. The FSLN managed to loose only slightly and also got 19 seats in RAAN but just 14 in RAAS (instead of 19 in 1990). The name of YATAMA was highjacked by Rivera. This broad-based popular Indian movement subsequently appeared only as a shadow of its former strength.

The autonomy statutes are generally seen as an achievement by Indians in other Latin American countries, even thought its implementation and realization was hampered by internal division, corruption and neglect by the central government in the past six years. The former YATAMA-mainstream faction joined the so-called liberal party (PLC) before the 1994 elections. The option to develop its positive working relation with the equally strong FSLN in the Northeast into an informal alliance to defend autonomy is therefore badly damaged. The 1996 general elections brought Fagoth's ally Arnoldo Alemán to power. It remains to be seen if this alliance is any better than the previous.

Conclusions The Sandinista triple-strategy of pacification launched in 1984 attempted to resolve the armed conflict with the Indians. It could stop the war. Demands for Indian militias were acceptable for the FSLN, but the new government disarmed them in mid 1990. Claims for an Indian Territory leading to Indian sovereignty were rejected by the FSLN and are unlikely to be realized by any other government. The division of the two autonomous regions (designed by the former FSLN government) prevented Mestizo  control in Eastern Nicaragua and led to an Indian dominated region (RAAN) and Creole influence in the South (RAAS).

Indians constitute the majority population in RAAN, despite of representing a small minority (of 3%) in all Nicaragua. Claims for a contiguous Indian-ruled territory (by Rivera's YATAMA faction), covering a third of Nicaragua, seem not only exaggerated (compared to the settlement area) but inadequate to local conditions. The Indigenous concentrate along the Wangki and the northern coast, while they are scattered along other rivers, lagoons and the southern coast, interspersed with other communities. A Miskitu reservation would be cut off from major resources such as the gold mines and most rich forest resources.

Regional pluri-ethnic autonomy as the long-term solution to recognize Indian historic rights in the lowlands of Eastern Nicaragua seems more adequate to local conditions than a North American-style reservation. The costeños are a multi-ethnic community of six ethnic groups on half of the state' s territory and accounting for 10% of the total population. However, territoriality and self-determination are difficult to separate.

Effects of the armed ethno-nationalist conflict (1981-87) are still felt strongly in RAAN. The victims of the war were mostly civilians and great damage was done to the Eastern Nicaraguan economy. The once prosperous region is now among the most underdeveloped. Of decisive influence for the escalation of ethnic contradictions into warfare was the aggressive US policy to capitalize upon internal division in its attempt to overthrow an "unfriendly government".

The regimentation of the law has the highest priority for all parties in defense for autonomy. Additional regulations or a partial revision might them in mid 1990. Claims for an Indian Territory leadiclarify the competencies of central and regional bodies. The autonomous regions urgently need their own appropriate economic instruments (own budget, own taxes, benefits from resources). The main bone of content is the control of the coast's rich natural resources. But even the provisions of the present statute for the Caribbean Coast are unlikely to be implemented fully and without further delay by the central governments. Former president Barrios de Chamorro quickly forgot her promises (before 1990 elections) to deepen autonomy. The newly elected president Alemán (Alianza Liberal ) - who took over in January 1997 - is a populist right-wing leader accused of restoring a Somoza-type of rule. The future will show if ties forged between Alemán's PLC and Fagoth's faction will pay.

Eastern Nicaragua had the chance to develop one of the few advanced experiences of self-governance and autonomy in America. The legal framework provided by the former FSLN regime would have allowed such a development - provided the necessary political will. Regional autonomy combined with the recognition of the indigenous settlement area with its land-base could be seen a possible evolvement of the comarca -type of autonomy within a multi-ethnic context.

The non-recognition of traditional Indian political authorities and institutions by the law 28 is problematic but has so far only contributed to enhance their respectability in the Mosquitia. It avoids tight central government control as the usual problem in most existing Indian reservations in North America, and it might restrict or even prevent repressive internal control and the latent instability of the Latin American cacique-congreso  (chief & native congress) system, without excluding traditional leadership.

The recognition of the underlying, inherent aboriginal rights, such as the collective rights and communal property of Nicaragua's indigenous peoples became a constitutional law in 1987 (as later in Brazil). It is a limited attempt to eventually break with euro-centrism characterizing legal systems in Latin America. Ironically these achievements can only be defended by an alliance of the former adversaries, the Sandinistas and the Indian movement. Measures to benefit Indian nations, peoples and communities include provisions for their land base, respect for their cultures and languages, and affirmative action (regarding own mass-media and access to higher education), as a humble attempt at reparation of historic injustice done to indigenous peoples during 500 years.


Recommendations for further study

1) The influence of North-American Indian demands on the Indian movement of Latin Americas should be reviewed. The role of US-based umbrella indigenous organizations would be of particular interest. In the case of Nicaragua, such organizations and their advisors critically affected the course of formal talks between Indian organizations and the government in the second half of the 1980's, and might be responsible for their failure.

2) Regional territorial autonomy as a viable possibility to resolve manifold ethnic conflicts in the Americas (and eventually in other areas) should be the topic of systematic studies. Case studies comparing successful experience in Inuit Greenland, NWT-Canada, Panama, Columbia, Nicaragua, etc., would be of great help to indigenous organizations, support groups, and policy makers.

3) Such case studies on indigenous peoples rights and studies on different forms of autonomy and self-government should become part of the global study on treaties and agreements between governments and indigenous peoples presently commissioned by the United Nations and carried out by Special Rapporteur Alfonso Martínez.

4) In his 3rd progress report Martínez gave an accurate analysis of the situation in eastern Nicaragua following the treaty of Managua 1860, which provided for far-reaching autonomy Nicaragua agreed to accord the Indians but broke her promises. The situation we witness today is in line with the violation of the Treaty of Managua after the unilateral incorporation of the Mosquitia into the Nicaraguan State in 1894 - without the consent of the indigenous and black peoples. 5

Recommendations for action

1) In the case of Nicaragua, ideological conflicts and organizational competition between the state and the indigenous movement proved particularly harmful for the realization of indigenous rights. Shortcomings and misunderstanding were on both sides. Only trusted authentic leaders should have the legitimacy to talk on behalf of their peoples. Foreign advisers might have a different agenda. Financial aid for indigenous organizations should only be accepted without conditions imposed by donors.

2) The provisions of Nicaraguan autonomy statute for the Caribbean coast should be implemented fully and without further delay. Additional regulations or a partial revision should clarify the competencies of central and regional bodies. The autonomous regions need to develop their own appropriate economic instruments and strategies. The regimentation of the law presently has the highest priority for all parties in defense for autonomy. Individual rights such as self-identification shall be maintained, to avoid alien classification by state authorities.

3) The political situation has not changed dramatically after the second defeat of Ortega as the presidential candidate of the FSLN. The victorious Liberal Party  (PLC) of the newly elected president Alemán had made a deal with the majority faction of Indian movement in 1993. The Indian allies of Alemán would now be in a good position to show their best bargaining skills. It remains to be seen if they are capable of crosscutting the Liberal Party 's hidden perceptions and agenda. It is difficult to grasp the shared needs of this peculiar relationship - besides obvious opportunist drawbacks in elections.

4) For many observers the results of the 1996 general elections have been seen as a disaster. As a principle the Indian movement should keep out of Managua politicking. There is nothing to gain for them. Even the majority Indian faction would be (for the first time) in a position to unblock the deplorable situation of a disrupted autonomy project - by making use of their relative weight in this unholy political alliance - they are unlikely to gain sustainable and substantial concessions from their alliance. This has to do with the very nature of their alliance partners as being fiercely opposed to the very hard core of the Indian demands.6) Since 1990 and the government of Barrios de Chamorro the development of the Caribbean Coast has declined increasingly. The autonomy status of the region did not prevent that nearly all economic resources of the region were kept under central government control, that massive plundering went on and that the riches were sold out cheaply -- with no effect for the costeños. The Eastern regions were further impoverished. The successive autonomous governments of both regions failed to go against the sell-out and underdevelopment policy of Managua. In contrary, some governors did the same as Managua's political class: They tried to get rich quick! Corrupt governors should be accused of misconduct in office and impeached. The regional parliaments should control their governments more efficiently and to press for a minimum code of conduct.

7) The costeños civil society is growing in strength and organization. This development is a very positive one. Civil society actors and local NGOs might do more internal networking in the future in order to gain influence. This would make it much more difficult for state agents and politicians to act uncontrolled and impose their designs without resistance from below.

8) All forces supporting autonomy - in order to produce results that are mutually beneficial - should take immediate action. As stepping-stones a firm agreement about the aims and direction of the struggle has to be reached first among those defending autonomy. Then all forces shall press for change. The struggle for autonomy has to be put on a solid base if it shall be successful.

9) Autonomy without economy does not work. Autonomy without unity will be crushed or ignored. Only autonomy in unity and pride will bring solutions for burning problems and will lead to a lasting solution. Indians and Blacks can only win if they are not waiting for "Managua" but start to empower themselves.

10) In RAAN traditional institutions such as the Elder Council shall be reinforced in order to take up their task to mediate and moderate factionalism among Indian leaders. Unity is the key condition to successfully claim legitimate rights. The costeños of Eastern Nicaragua need a fair solution, which is finally going to satisfy the just demands of the Mosquitia's various indigenous and black communities.

Christian P. Scherrer
Copenhagen, February 1998

Ethnicity and state in Central America


The so-called ethnic question  and the perception of ethnicity in Nicaragua 6 like in other Latin America countries is obscured by the myth of national homogeneity within the colonial imposed state boundaries. States consequently treat indigenous peoples' struggles for Self-Determination as non-existent or as a subordinate internal problem.  

The Esquipulas peace process in Central America has been a successful conflict management experience. It gave place for third party confianza -based mediation and was combined with interventions of neutral outsiders. 7 Despite of its positive influence, the Esquipulas II Declaration doesn't mention the struggles of Indians and Afro-Americans. Recognizing multiplicity within Ladino-dominated societies eventually clashes with the actual character of their cultural socialization program.

The theoretical horizon of the debate on the relationship between ethnicity and state is still clouded over by ethno-centric concepts.

1. Identification of the subject

The following preliminary methodological and terminological remarks will be confronted with the essential notions of Central American realities:

Today indigenous peoples themselves increasingly use the concept of nation, which was first introduced by North American Indians. The Miskitu organizations talk about the Miskitu nation. 8 Of course governments avoid the term nation  to describe peoples they usually call minorities. The Nicaraguan autonomy law talks about Comunidades de la Costa Atlántica , in order to avoid the connotation of peoples entitled to self-determination in international law. The term community remains vague. It is generally used to the describe both, what is otherwise called an ethnic group as well as what is meant with a local community or a village. A people could be defined as a stable historically developed and/or emergent self-reproducing community (an ethnic community as such). The main attributes would be a distinct common culture and language, a collective historical memory and consciousness, thus a myth of a common ethnic origin producing a sense of solidarity. Nationalities (state-less nations) have a proper name; they constitute a sphere of communication and interaction, they develop a distinct mode of production and own way-of-life, as well as a certain social-political organization within a delimited territory. Its members usually identify themselves as members of their people or nationality, and they are identified by outsiders as members of a particular community. In traditional societies such as the Miskitu, the line between myth and history is difficult to draw. 9

An ethnic community becomes a nation by its aspirations for statehood, self-government or self-rule. Its sense of solidarity acquires a political character and is greatly reinforced by a political struggle for survival. This is certainly what happened with the Miskitu in the late 1970's, and more so in the 1980's. 10 A nation is distinguishable from an ethnic  group or comunidad  by its degree of political organization and its readiness to struggle for common goals. 11 It develops a nationalist ideology and national institutions. Compared with the Miskitu, a degree of political organization could hardly be found among the Sumu. Like the Creoles they are a nationality, an incipient nation, whose political status might change in the future. For the Rama and Garifuna the official term of comunidades  seems correct.

In the official language, nations are known as ethnic groups (éthnies ) and are often called minorities , while state-less peoples are still called tribes . 12 To make it clear, ethnicity is a universal and fundamental set of relationships that doesn't stipulate for any primordiality (as a natural thing outside time). 13 Ethnic identity as such should not be seen in a context of genetic selection, nor in a situational defined by fluid affinity. One becomes a Miskitu by speaking Miskitu language, behaving like a Miskitu, and defending Miskitu interests; attachment and association with the Miskitu lands (of the forefathers) might be primary, additionally adherence to the Moravian Church, and the love for turtle meat (...) could be mentioned. 14 The assumption is that fluid identity would allegedly be easier to use for the political interests of ethnic élites competing for power and resources. To overstate the fluidity of ethnic identity, as some authors did in the case of the Miskitu, would make any understanding for the durability of their ethnic ties impossible. The group formation of the Miskitu Indians must therefore be a secret with seven seals to those authors.

2. The context: The struggle of Indian peoples in Central America

Underneath the 7 Central American states are over 50 nations and nationalities with 8 million people, which accounts for 25% of the states' population. They live on 40% of the entire territory. In the state of Guatemala, native nations (Maya-Quiché peoples) demographically constitute the majority. Today nations and nationalities increasingly refuse assimilation and/or subjugation by dominant state societies. Central American indigenous peoples survived 500 years of genocide, assimilation and strained integration into the Ladino society. Some native peoples are fighting for self-determination in the form of autonomy, self-governance or a degree of independence. 15 The Kuna (in 1927) and the Miskitu (1987) fought for and attained a higher degree of autonomy.

The colonial mission of spreading 'Hispanidad' and 'civilization' was inherited by the new states . It included the idea of centralizing power and aimed at erecting homogenous (post-) colonial nation states. 16 But in reality there is no single homogenous nation-state existing in Central America. The indigenous peoples' right to self-determination, self-rule, and own juridical powers is not fully respected by any Central American state. The states' assertion of sovereignty over unconsenting peoples produced the main source of conflicts and wars not only in the Third World. 17

The majority of the Indian peoples of Mesoamerica are the Mayan peoples. Their epicenter is the altiplano  of Guatemala. Mayan peoples live throughout Mesoamerica 18 , in today's' states of Guatemala, South-Mexico (provinces of Chiapas, Tabasco, Campéche and Yucatan), Belize, El Salvador and Honduras. 19 Almost two thirds or 5 millions of Guatemalan citizens speak 23 Indian tongues, predominantly Maya-Kiché languages. Mayas are small-scale peasants. Most populous are the Kiché, Kaqchikel, Mam, Quekchi, Chol and Chorti, in Mexico the Tzeltal, Itza, Mopan, Chicomucelteco, and some of the above-mentioned. Most threatened by the Guatemalan regimes are the Ixil, Chuj, Jacalteco, Karjobal, and Mam. 20

The Mayans form a larger population than any Central American state. In Guatemala they suffered genocidal politics exercised by the small ruling oligarchy through its instrument, the armed forces, regardless of the form of governance (military or civilian). Counter-insurgency against leftist guerrilla forces (EGP, FAR, ORPA; URNG) imposed "total war"  on the Indian peoples, with mass relocation into "model villages"  and forced "civilian self-defense patrols"  (PAC). 21

Pipil and Lenca (21% of El Salvador's population and 60'000 Lenca in Honduras) have suffered very high casualties in the war between FMLN guerrilla and the US-supported regime. State security and death squads systematically caused "Peasant disappearances" . Pipil lands of high fertility were expropriated by "land reforms". Pipils are probably 2 millions, but "invisible" . 22

The British relocated Garifuna (Black Caribs) to the island of Roatán some 300 years ago. They now live along the Caribbean in Creole-ruled Belize (15'000), Honduras (90'000) and Nicaragua (2'500). They have suffered racial discrimination and were used as cheap labor force. 23

The indigenous Miskitu (130'000; 100'000 in Nicaragua) and Sumu (11'000; 8'000 in Nicaragua) are living along the Caribbean coast (only Miskitu) and the rivers of Northeastern Nicaragua and Southeastern Honduras. 24 They took up arms against the Sandinistas from 1981 up to 1988/89. The Miskitu have been intermixing with Africans for centuries, and are among the most populous lowland Indian peoples. Among the Sumu, a process of amalgamation of three separate units (with their own dialects spoken) may strengthen their common identity. 25 The traumatic developments from 1980/81 to 1984 renewed, rather than disrupted, the sense of common ethnicity among these two Indian peoples in Nicaragua. The much smaller group of Rama Indians (only 1'000) is basically an endogamic ethnic entity without proper language and probably without a critical mass to reproduce as a people.

The Ngobe or Guaymíes (100'000) live in western Panama (2'500 in Coast Rica). The delimitation of the proposed autonomous area (comarca ) is still under negotiation (since the 1980's); Latin settlers have invaded a part of their lands. Some Ngobe (Guaymí) work on banana plantations of United Brands, an US-based transnational corporation. 26 The Kuna (60'000) live along the Caribbean of southeastern Panama. An armed uprising in 1925 forced the new state of Panama to recognize the first autonomous Indian area (Comarca  San Blas) in Latin America. The Kuna call their lands Kuna Yala. The state of Panama has developed a reasonably successful nationality policy for its indigenous peoples (15 % of Panamá's population) since the 1960's. 27

Afro-Americans (Blacks and Creoles) live all along the Caribbean from Belize (majority) to Columbia, with large numbers in Panama and Honduras, smaller numbers in Nicaragua (35'000) and Costa Rica, and Guatemala (Livingston). They mixed with Indians, Ladinos and Whites. There is a growing orientation among Central American Blacks towards the Caribbean region. Afro-Americans dominate demographically and/or rule in 12 smaller states of the region. 28

Arbitrary boundaries of today's American states not only cut across the homelands of the remaining Indian peoples, such as Miskitu and Sumu Indians who were divided as late as in 1960, frontiers also artificially fragmented the majority population of the Ibero-Americans, contrary to the situation of North America. Pan-Ladino nationalism would unite 300 million Ibero-Americans in some 20 states. Half of the Ladino-dominated states are in Meso & Central America and the Caribbean (including Puerto Rico), the other half in South America. European descendants continue to exert almost total hegemony on the Americas. Most Latin countries are still ruled by a small white minority. Only a few American countries are ruled by Afro-Americans.

Until recently, Indigenous Americans ruled no country and no region. They continue to be at the bottom of the ethnic hierarchy. They had no power, nowhere, for nobody. 29 In May 1990, the very first Indian government took an oath in Bilwi, capital of Yapti Tasba, Eastern Nicaragua.

3. Multi-ethnicity and demographic situation in Eastern Nicaragua

Buvollen has completed a demographic study in the Northeast. 30 The cedularization  (distribution of ID-carts) of the urban and rural populations of Eastern Nicaragua in the course of the February 1994 regional elections was not completed, so there is still no official data.

The population in North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN) 31 according to Buvollen's study consists of:


57,9 %
3,5 %
1,1 %
37,5 %
100.0 %

The figures (given by INEC; in Rivera et al, CIDCA 1996, 40) for 1995 are 175,405 for the total population in RAAN. This might indicate that Buvollen's figures for are 1991/92 would be a conservative estimate.

Including Bocay (1,401) and an estimate for Karawala of 800, the Sumu population in Eastern Nicaragua is presently some 7,250 (RAAN and RAAS). Additionally, the estimated Miskitu population in Managua is some 3,500, the Sumu less than 50. In Matagalpa and other western areas there are probably less than 1'000.

There is so far no complete data for RAAS and the Pacific Coast. Estimates in 1993 for the Miskitu population in Nicaragua is some 100,000, the Sumu are some 8'000, the Rama might be some 1,000, the Garifuna perhaps 2,500, the Creoles around 35'000 and the Mestizo 85'000. The Mestizo population is growing steadily through the influx of poor campesinos to the East.

RAAN 1991/92: Urban/rural distribution per municipality


Rural (in %)
Puerto C.
18,698 (52,1 %)
41,936 (91,6 %)
7,522 59,0 %
3,418 38,6 %
27,811 77,7 %
7,782 100 %
107,167 73,0 %

The census should be co-related with the election results in 1990 and 1994. However, the data shows that the indigenous peoples are not tiny minorities but the majority in their respective areas.

In RAAN, the ethnic composition was as follows in urban areas:

Miskitu and Mestizos:

Puerto C.
12,821 (74,6 %)
2,940 (17,1 %)
3,298 (85,7 %)
460 (12,0 %)
782 (15,0 %)
4,246 (81,1 %)
1,427 (26,3 %)
3,824 (70,4 %)
247 (03,1 %)
7,711 (96,6 %)
39,686 100%
18,575 (46,8 %)
19,181 (48,3 %)

Creoles and Sumu:


Puerto C.
1,380 (8,0 %)
46 (0,3 %)
76 (2,0 %)
14 (0,3 %)
69 (1,3 %)
137 (2,6 %)
66 (1,2 %)
118 (2,1 %)
24 (0,3 %)
39,686 100%
1,615 (4,1 %)
315 (0,8 %)

Roots of the Miskitu conflict in the context of the Americas

1. The Spanish Conquest and the Atlantic triangle trade: A history of European expansion, genocide and slavery

The violent Spanish Conquista  of the New World was powered by several factors: There were centuries of warfare (the Reconquista ) against the Moorish Caliphate (714-1492) to re-establish Christian rule in the Iberian Peninsula. The dissolving of the medieval estates of realm gave way to a modern state in the form of a unified kingdom with centralized institutions (Spanish absolutism). The four expeditions of Columbus opened new horizons. Bellicose tradition, Christian mission and greed for gold and riches were the driving forces of the new Conquest (the Conquista  of the New World).

Spain was the dominant power in the 16th century. Migration of masses of Spaniards to the colonies and the forced exploitation of the Americas gave inputs to commerce, but not so much to production in Spain itself. In 1510 Spaniards first met the Kuna at the Isthmus of Panama. In 1519 they found the Pacific Ocean, and their savage attack on the Indian states of Meso- and South-America began. Cortez' soldiers conquered the tributary state ruled by the Aztecs in 1519-21. The area of Central America was subjugated in 1524. In the Andes, the Inca state was overrun by Pizarro's troops in 1531-33.

The Chibcha-states in the Colombian highlands were conquered in the 1530's, as well as the La Plata area. Spain took the whole Caribbean coast (from Florida to Texas) and westwards to California. The only exception was Cabral' s annexation of a huge piece of land as Portuguese Brazil. Cuba became soon the most important colony, based on slave labour in big plantations.

The Atlantic triangle trade promised exorbitant profits. Spain did not remain unchallenged for long. The weak point was overseas transport. The Spanish immediately incorporated the conquered lands and put them under direct administration (equal to other provinces). Merchant capitalism, administration and military were closely connected. 32

Genocide and terror against Indians, slavery and forced labour, famine and epidemics dramatically reduced the Indian population all over Ibero-America. The spread of Christianity took the form of a cultural ethnocide. 33 The first phase of the Conquista was solely based on military overkill. Terrorist subjugation and extermination ended with the almost total destruction of the Indian civilizations. The second phase began with the Recopilación de las Leyes de Indios  (1680). The official policy of filibustering by English, Dutch and French adventurers weakened Spain in the 17th and 18th century. Commerce instead of production, economic stagnation (through excessive warfare), the rise of Protestant naval powers and the French predominance in the European power struggle threatened Spanish colonies and led to decline. Paralysed between France and Britain, Spain first lost Jamaica (to U.K.) and subsequently lost territory after territory. Political restoration and an asymmetrical economic structure led to a retarded, slow and incomplete capitalist development in Spain.

After the English took Jamaica, they gained footing on the Caribbean coast of Central America: Belize and the Mosquitia, where they established trade contacts with the Miskitu as intermediates. The French took Haiti twice (1697 and 1795). The Pernambuco slave plantations changed from the Portuguese to the Dutch (1630-1654). In Guyana and the Antilles, all three non-Spanish powers established their own colonies (under the same name).

The Caribbean subsequently grew to be Europe's most important overseas economic area through the booming Atlantic slave trade in the 18th century. This trade accumulated the initial capital for the great industrial revolution taking place in England and Holland (from 1770) and later in France. The Spanish had to give the slave trade to contractors of the other three European powers. 34 .

Ibero-America began to develop a mixed society integrating elements of three continents. Mercantile colonial system and political restoration kept the Spanish colonies closed from foreign influence. Catholicism and Spanish cultural values remained untested. The change of commercial policy in the 1780's abolished protectionism, and had great influence on a new era of liberation. 35

The struggle for decolonization and liberation in Hispanic-America from 1810-1824 began with the Mexican revolutions (1810, 1812-15). It was not only a fight against motherland Spain but also a class struggle.

2. Bolivarism versus Monroeism: The American dichotomy

Conflicts of North America's settler colonies with the British rule since the 1760's and the declaration of independence of 13 settler states in 6/1776 led to an anti-colonial war in alliance with France (1776-1783) and to the defeat of the British. The French Revolution (1789-1794/99) exercised great influence on development in Europe and the Americas.

In 1791, a revolution eliminated slavery and colonial rule in Haiti. Blacks and Creoles defended their revolution against Spanish and British attacks and against Napoleon's army. The first republic (in the western hemisphere) ruled by Blacks was established in 1804 and influenced the situation of Blacks in the whole Caribbean.

In North America began the first phase of expansion of the young United States against the Indians and European colonies. 36 The main target were the "merciless Indian Savages whose warfare is an undistinguished destruction"  37 (sic!). Greed for land, violence, savage brutality and breach of all contracts with the Indian nations characterized the first expansionist phase of the USA into Indian lands. 38

South America began the struggle for independence 1810, when Ladinos in Venezuela, Argentina and Chile overthrew the colonial regime. 39 Simon Bolivar (1783-1830) was the 'libertador'  of Venezuela, Columbia and the Andean states. Within 15 years all Spanish colonies, except Cuba and Puerto Rico, were decolonized and immediately recognized by the USA and the British Empire as sovereign republics. Simon Bolivar's Pan-American unification project failed as well as all attempts for unification and fusion on smaller scale. 40

The USA had another agenda. The presidency of James Monroe consolidated the USA as regional power and was called Era of good feelings.  41 The extermination of the Indians reached its peak. The Monroe-doctrine  declared the hegemony of the USA over the Americas and forbade foreign interference. The declaration's target was originally to prevent the European powers from colonial activities. 42 The doctrine  gained importance for legitimating U.S. interventionism in Latin America up to the present day.

Bolivar's Panamericanism failed. Even Great Columbia split into Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and Ecuador. The Central American Federation split into five republics in 1839: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The failure of what could be called Bolivarism caused a fundamental weakening of Ibero America, facing a prosperous and unified USA 43 , which grew on the costs of neighbouring Mexico losing all its northern provinces in 1846-48. Possible annexation of all Mexico was at that time not a real option for the USA. 44

The United States were among the last countries to abolish slavery (after the secession war in 1863/65). In the defeated southern states the white rule was re-established. 45 Oppression of Blacks by WASP-Americans 46 continued, reaching new climax in the terror of the fascist and racist Ku Klux Clan (1920's and 30's). Uprisings and riots of oppressed Blacks are still a feature of the U.S. reality. 47

The last phase of expansion into the North-American continent brought the final displacement of Indians into small reservations. The buffaloes as their base of subsistence were almost exterminated in 1890. The final subjugation of the Sioux in 1891 established complete white rule in North America. 48 Dramatic growth of population, the doubling to 100 millions from 1890 to 1920, and a growing economy consolidated the position of USA as a great power. 49

Revolutions and uprisings continuously shook Latin American republics. Constitutions followed French and North American designs; they were not due to being realized in practice. The fight of radical spirit (based on European rationalism and enlightenment) dominated the ideology of the Ladino society versus conservatism (closely linked with the Catholic Church). This led to the political confrontation of anti-church liberals and clerical conservatives, which is a feature of Latin American politics up to the present day.

Political struggle developed on the base of economical interest: conservative landowners versus liberal industrial bourgeoisie. Party leaders (caudillos) ruled as military dictators - until the next revolt. From l870 up to 1900, a phase of great economic growth took place, most of it on the base of foreign capital from USA and Europe. Mass immigration of Europeans, economic growth and the fast opening up of huge lands by railway systems earmarked development in the Americas.

Growing economical and political dependence of Latin America led to the increasing subordinate integration into the capitalist world economy. 50 Aggressive interventionism of the USA in Latin America and the Caribbean based on the Monroe-doctrine  characterized the Inter-American relationship from 1890 onwards. 51

3. Bolivarism in Nicaragua: Sandino's anti-colonial war

Nicaragua suffered several interventions by the USA, and the longest period of occupation by U.S.-troops from 1910 to 1933. The predominance of the USA was challenged in many countries, in Nicaragua most prominently by A.C. Sandino and his 'army for defense of national sovereignty'  (EDSN). Sandino's guerrilla war in 1928-1933 against the National Guard and the U.S. marines successfully drove out the foreign occupants. But the alliance of the Nicaraguan oligarchy with the USA continued during the neo-colonial regime of the Somoza family (1934-1979).

The Nicaraguan case until the 1979 Sandinista revolution showed the general features of Latin American dependence on U.S. policy. Continuous military interventions of U.S.-troops and even of non-regular forces (Walker affair) expressed the regional hegemony of U.S.-imperialism. This pattern has characterized the relationship of the USA and Central America (as well as the Caribbean) for more than 100 years. 52

But Nicaragua's history is more like an exaggerated extract of Latin American history. Latent contradictions within its Ladino élites exceeded the usual mark. The reactions of the USA against all Nicaraguan nationalists (J.S. Zelaya, A.C. Sandino, the Sandinistas) were beyond all measures, because of geopolitical reasons. The possible construction of a transoceanic canal in Nicaragua gave (since 1900) "strategic value " to this small, poor and sparsely populated country, with its present population of just 4 million people.

In his political manifesto, issued from the mines of San Albino in July 1927, Sandino made it clear that a free Nicaragua would be in control of the canal and "will receive the tariffs that by right and justice belong to it" . The canal should be built with capital "from the whole world" , half of it from Latin American countries: "The world will be imbalanced if the United States of North America is allowed to be the sole owner of our canal."  53

Nicaragua's topography, as well as geographical situation, would actually be favourable for such a construction. In 1989 Ortega reaffirmed the option.

The revolutionary war launched by Augusto César Sandino became a symbol of anti-imperialist struggle and militant nationalism in all Latin America. Since the triumph of the 1979 revolution was made in Sandino's name, the man with the hat became again a symbol for a new Bolivarism .

Regarding the ethnic conflict in eastern Nicaragua, Sandino' s confession to be proud "that in my veins flows...the blood of the American Indian"  shall be remembered. Sandino' s "greatest honour is to have emerged from the bosom of the oppressed, who are the soul and nerves of the (ladino) race".  54 Sandino's projects of building co-operatives in the Rio Coco area (recognizing the Indian contribution to EDSN's struggle) fell into oblivion.

4. Economic crisis and political destabilization

During World War II nearly all Latin-American states stood neutral or on the side of USA. The Cold War and J.F. Dulles Roll Back -ideology had increasingly more aggressive consequences in Latin America. Revolutionary socialist and plain nationalist movements met USA-backed Ladino oligarchies and the big stick  of U.S. military intervention. Agrarian Reforms introduced by the government of Arbenz Guzman in Guatemala were smashed in 1954 by a phalanx of the private army of United Fruits (a major U.S. corporation) with local troops loyal to Guatemalan landowners (hacienderos ). 55

The Cuban revolution of 1959 had a tremendous effect in Latin America and other parts of the Third World. 56 Rising revolutionary and anti-imperialist nationalism in Latin America, the new Bolivarism , clashed with an aggressive containment-policy of the USA, consisting of some interrelated elements: "development aid" for loyal regimes, direct investment, "military aid" and the strategy of counter-insurgency  on a large scale. Interventions like the one in the Dominican Republic in 1965 were only the last means. The military putsch against the Allende government in Chile was the product of a new U.S. strategy to destabilize leftist governments and strengthen reactionary governments by counter-insurgency.

Industrialization in Latin America continued to grow incompletely, highly centralized and under foreign dominance in the 1960's and 1970's. Brazil was made a model for capitalist development and export substitution. 57 Since 1980, the economies of all Latin America were hit by a serious crisis. The cause was the exorbitant rise of interest rates, following the extreme monetarist policy of the Reagan administration.

Indebtedness grew dramatically. In the case of model state  Brazil or in Peru, bankruptcy could have only been temporarily avoided through fresh money. Such credits were connected with tough conditions aimed at controlling the economic policy in Third World countries, thus seriously threatening their national sovereignty. Debt paying is virtually impossible for most countries. Nearly all Latin American countries (except Mexico and Bolivia) presently get expropriated of their export earnings. There is a net capital flow to the industrialized countries. Famine revolts, riots and unrest are immediate consequences of the pauperization of the working class.

The population of Latin America reached 450 million in 1989. 58 The growth of the urban population is continuously increasing and reached 58% of the total population (Nicaragua: over 60%). 40%-80% of good soil was in the hands of only 1% big landowners. The majority of the rural population doesn't own land or owns only small plots, not sufficient for survival. Only a few countries experienced a successful Agrarian Reform (like in Nicaragua following the 1979 revolution). The majority of the urban population is not integrated into the formal economical system (through wage labour) and survives thanks to the so-called informal sector .

The economic crisis threatens the limited democratization in many Latin-American countries, such as Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and Peru. Some right-wing military dictators fell in the 1980s, including Stroeßner in Paraguay. The isolation of Cuba from the Latin American community was broken for the most part, but a trade boycott by the USA is still going on and was even reinforced recently. But the isolation of Nicaragua (until 2/90), designed by the Reagan's USA, never really worked. There has been considerable unity among the Latin American states regarding the rejection of aggressive US-policy towards Sandinista  Nicaragua.

The Contadora and Esquipulas peace process are a symbol of that growing unity. But that could not prevent the USA from invading Panama in 12/89, just 2 months before the decisive elections in Nicaragua. 59 If there are enough strategic and political reasons, the USA are likely to continue Monroeism  in its classical military form, increasingly so since the breakdown of the USSR. In the case of Panama for instance, the main interest of the USA was and is the control over the canal. General Noriega's continuation of Omar Torrijos' Bolivarist policy and his assertion of "total sovereignty"  was insupportable for the USA. 60 The Monroeism  seemed to decline, but then came the end of the Cold War.

Nicaragua's Caribbean coast: A separate history

Colonial destruction and under-development in the area of Central America and the Caribbean basin followed some particularities of significant importance regarding the case of Nicaragua: The Spanish Conquista  invaded the highlands of Central and South America. The extermination or subjugation of resisting Indian nations in the area of present-day Nicaragua began in the 1520's. The colonizers occupied in that area only the highlands and the Pacific coast. There were no permanent Spanish settlements along the Caribbean coast; not because of climatic reasons, but because the Spaniards were defeated several times by the 'Indianos bravos'  of the lowlands along the Caribbean coast (from Costa Rica up to Belize). Those brave Indians were later known as Miskitu (misquitos , miskitos  in: Conzemius 1932).

The Atlantic slave trade was established as early as 1500, and the first uprising of slaves reportedly happened in 1508 in Cuba. The plantation economy based on slave labour began to grow in Cuba, the West Indies and some places along the Caribbean. Ongoing resistance of the Africans accompanied the expansion. A growing influx of escaped slaves into the coast of Central and South America began in the 16th and 17th century. There are historical records for the arrival of Blacks in the area of the Mosquitia since 1641. Africans intermarried with local inhabitants. Their offspring assumed an Indian identity, as a significant pattern up to the early 19th century. 61

1. British colonialism and the rise of the Miskitu

European influence altered the political and military balance of the pre-Colombian times, which were based on the traditional Indian subsistence economy of hunting, gathering, fishing and some shifting cultivation. Inter-tribal warfare lost its ritualized and controlled patterns of raiding and trading. Transforming of the power relations within the inter-tribal frame was inevitable. The installation of a Miskitu Kingdom 1687-1894 by the British produced Miskitu dominance and Sumu subjugation. The Africanizing of the Miskitu along the coast and up the Wangki (Rio Coco) had already strengthened their position, and it certainly influenced their receptivity to Europeans. An innovation push among Zambo-Miskitu  (black Miskitu) led to their comparative advantage vis-à-vis the pure Miskitu . By the 1720's, the Africanized Indians gain advantage over the pure  Indians.

Co-operation of the Miskitu with British, Dutch and French pirates reinforced their dominant position. The use of firearms gave them a basic advantage. Joint attacks on Spanish oversee-cargo and raids against Spanish towns in the 17th and 18th century gave the Miskitu internally a hegemonic position towards the other indigenous peoples. Miskitu slaving expeditions reached as far as Chiriquí-Lagoon (Panama) in the South and British Honduras (Belize) in the North. Sumu and Rama were potential slaves for the Miskitu. The Miskitu population has grown dramatically since the 17th century - compared to the shrinking population of Sumu and Rama. 62

2. Creole ascendance and Miskitu decline 1770-1894

The deterioration of the Miskitu's intermediary position ran parallel to the influx of free blacks. A process of inversion of the ethnic hierarchy was the main result of Miskitu decline. 63 Whites, free blacks and African slaves formed the nucleus of Mosquitia Creoles 64 , later joined by black immigrants from Jamaica, the West Indies and Southern USA. The latter influx came together with US-transnational corporations from the 1880s. The Miskitu filled a temporary British withdrawal in 1787. 65

Britain's return in the 1830s and the competition of colonial powers to build a transoceanic canal had put Eastern Nicaragua on the map again. Central America became geopolitical central...

Missions of German Protestants ("Herrnhuter Brüdergemeinde" ) were established. This Moravian Church first grew among Creoles (since 1849) and then among the Miskitu, Sumu and Rama: The civilizatory project  of 140 years Christian-pedagogical works aimed at spreading Protestant working ethos  (Weber) among Creoles, and gave them the chance of education.  Moravians were fighting alcoholism and up-rooting those indigenous traditions, which were considered as uncivilized  and sexually permissive. 66

Dramatic social-economical changes came to the Mosquitia with the boom-and-bust enclave export-economy. 67 First came the other indigenous peoples. Miskitu slaving expeditions reachecaoutchouc-boom, then the White "gold-rush" adventurers, crossing the isthmus from Greytown to San Juan del Sur, and then the woodcutting, followed by the banana-boom in the 1890s. The Creolization of the Miskitu kings went on from the 1860s until 1894. 68 Their land came from 'Indirect Rule'  to an autonomous status of Mosquitia under limited Nicaraguan sovereignty (Managua Treaty 1860 between Britain and Nicaragua). The penetration of U.S. multinational corporations began to accelerate after the 1894 incorporation. In the 1890's, U.S. multinationals held 90% of the total capital investment in the area.

Capitalists from southern USA established ethnic division of labour with the Creoles as the skilled workers. Bush work was left for Miskitu and Mestizo peasant-workers; the latter came as migration workers, attracted by higher salaries. Chinese traders began to monopolize commerce along the whole coast (shops, restaurants, and services). Creole Mosquitian nationalism rose with the economic conjuncture.

In the 1880's, the Union Club was founded as a Creole élite organization; the Union Club kept considerable influence up to the 1930's. 69

3. The incorporation of the Mosquitia 1894 and the rise of the Mestizo élite

USA-backed military occupation of Bluefields and other coastal towns by Nicaraguan soldiers under the command of Rigoberto Cabezas provoked a revolt of the Creoles. Cabezas was driven out of Bluefields, but the rebellion was soon quelled. The rejection of Nicaraguan sovereignty over Mosquitia by both the Creoles protesting up to the 1920s and the Miskitu's passive denial and complete refusal of state claims, proved a latent challenge. Political unrest continued with the 1907/8 planters' strike against a branch of the United Fruit Corporation to secure rights as banana producers.

The Creoles have participated massively in the liberal revolutions  of 1909 and 1926. The Creole hero of the time was General George Hodgson. The Universal Negro Improvement Association  (UNIA) of Marcus Garvey was organized as a Black Nationalist movement in the entire Caribbean and in the southern USA. The UNIA attracted mass participation among Nicaraguan Creoles in the 1920s and 1930s. 70 Series of strikes in the plants of U.S. corporations continued.

Sandino's guerrilla war against the Guardia National  and the occupation army of U.S. marines (1927-34) involved the East Coast since the April 1928 attack on the La Luz Mines  in Siuna by Sandino's Army for the Defence of National Sovereignty  (EDSN). 71 There was a strong participation of Miskitu and Sumu Indian fighters within the EDSN. The legendary canoe fleet of Miskitu warriors on the Wangki river (Rio Coco) was associated to Sandino's EDSN; sub-commander Abraham Rivera co-operated with the Indians of Bocay. Attacks on the Bragman's Bluff Corporation  and other multinational corporations coincided with strikes and militant actions organized by the worker's movement. The UNIA movement developed links with Sandino's EDSN. There was considerable class-consciousness among black workers. 'Negro World' , the paper of the UNIA-movement, wrote sympathetically about the activities of the EDSN. 72

The constant influx of Mestizo campesinos   and of temporary workers to the East Coast accelerated and diminished with the economic boom-bust-oscillation. On the Pacific side, an increasing Hispanisation process (Ladinization) was going on. Demographic records of the Republic of Nicaragua dated 1870 spoke of 55% Indians and 40% Mestizo. In the 1930's almost 80% of the Nicaraguan population were classified as Mestizo, the remaining rest of 20% was split into Europeans, Blacks, and Atlantic coast Indians. 73

4. Somoza family dictatorship and Moravian collusion 1934-1979

On the East Coast, the Somoza era was dominated by the alliance of the Moravian Church with the Liberal Party  (of the three Somoza rulers). 74 The Creoles changed in the times of the Somoza dictatorship from being a potential national group to an ethnic minority. 75 The Creole élite stirred up regional assertions and claims for some control over the coast's economy, while other Creoles participated somehow with the regime. Somoza recruited some Creoles for the National Guard. The regime supported Moravian schools, and put a few Creoles into the Mestizo state apparatus. 76

Since 1970 the ethnic movement has grown under the protection of the Moravians. In the late 1960's, a Creole organization named OPROCO (Organization for the Coast ) emerged in the northern region, and in 1974 the Southern Indigenous and Creole Committee  (SICC), was started in Bluefields. 77 The SICC later developed to become the first incipient Black Nationalist organization.

In the north-east, ACARIC, a movement of agrarian co-operatives among Miskitu, emerged 1969-1973 in Waspám (Wangki) 78 , and 38 delegates initiated the first Indian organization in Bilwaskarma 1973. The second general Indian congress of 2'000 delegates in Sisin gave birth to the Alliance for the progress of Miskitu and Sumu  (ALPROMISO) as a sort of political and cultural initiative group. 79 A crucial role played the Council of Elders  (Consejo de Ancianos; Almuk nani asla takanka ), an informal but powerful traditional authority, which was reinforced by the developments after 1979/80. The Indian organizations became more political in 1975, developed international links in 1977 (with Dr. Armando Rojas in CORPI), and adopted Indigenist positions not far from claiming autonomy rights. 80

Much more radical demands for territorial autonomy and Indian Self-Government, as well as a possible irredenta including the Honduran Mosquitia (separated as late as 1960), 81 were developed as a result of the Sandinista  revolution 1979 - without the Indians having participated in the revolution. However, the Indians were woken up  by this predominantly Mestizo-based venture.

Sandinista popular revolution 1979 and the change in 1990: Nicaragua was put on the map again

1. The Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSLN)

The FSLN was founded in 1961. It took up armed fight against the Somoza regime in the 1970s, and became the driving force of the 1979 revolution. The exceptional degree of corruption of the regime, 45 years of family-enterprise, the sell-out of Nicaragua's riches and the increasing repression and brutality of the Somozan National Guard led to the popular uprising of 1979 in the cities of Nicaragua. 82

But the "new society"  was born in the bush or in clandestinity. Guerrilla warfare worked as a cohesive process. The unification of three political tendencies and the principle of collective leadership strengthened the FSLN from 1975 onwards. The Prolonged People's War  tendency  (GPP) represented the classic tradition of Latin American guerrilla strategies, led by Tomas Borge, the only surviving founder of the FSLN, who became a crucial figure in the management of the Miskitu conflict. The Proletarian tendency  grew out of the student movement and the militant workers' movement; its leaders were intellectuals like Jaime Wheelock and Luis Carrion.

The Insurrectionalists  (or 'Terceristas' ) became the strongest group only in the last phase of the struggle. They influenced the policy of alliances, with the Ortega brothers as leading figures. Each tendency had three members in the national directorate  of the FSLN. This body was the top leadership of the revolutionary state. 83 Its members still play an important role in Nicaraguan politics since the electoral defeat in 1990. The FSLN has kept firm control of all state agencies for security up to the present day. 84

The revolutionary struggle began on the base of a small nucleus of combatants. Collectivity, conspiratorial skills, discipline and a nearly religious spirit of sacrifice ("patria libre o morir" ) were the qualities asked for being a member of that vanguard. Much of this spirit was still alive after 10 years of Sandinism. Demonstrative actions of the FSLN in the last phase of the struggle against the dictatorship were widely supported by the Nicaraguan people. The 50'000 victims of the armed struggle and the final popular uprising were a high loss for a small country.

In the first phase after the triumph of the revolution  in July 1979, there was an alliance of the FSLN with certain sectors of the (anti-Somocista) bourgeoisie. Only the extensive holdings of the Somozas and their close allies were confiscated after the victory. The following nationalizations of foreign and domestic banks, insurance companies, the possessions of US-based transnational corporations, and some selected private industrial enterprises (such as a sugar mill), added to a state-owned sector, which should have been the base of making up for industrialization and agro-development.

2. The enthusiastic initial phase (1979-1981)

Great steps earmarked the initial phase. A land reform distributed soil to tens of thousands of agricultural workers and poor peasants. A literacy campaign in 1980 made half a million people able to read and write. The construction of clinics throughout the country, massive participation in neighbourhood projects, democratization of the political institutions and the building-up of Sandinista mass-organizations were some of the initiatives taken up by the new government which found an immediate response among the populace. A tremendous growth of popular expression and culture was one of the people-based responses.

Revolutionary "romanticism"  and the alliance of Sandinism with progressive Christianity stirred up a wave of international solidarity. The political principles of the FSLN were dominated by the positions of the Terceristas : Non-aligned foreign policy, western-style democracy with surprising political pluralism, mixed economy (combined with state control through credit, fiscal and pricing policies), defense of national sovereignty, broad national consensus and alliance with "patriotic sectors"  of the bourgeoisie.

The aim of following a Sandinista way to socialism  was confronted with perpetuated capitalist underdevelopment dominating most of production and distribution. The economic dependence through ongoing export orientation limited the space for change. The half-way Agrarian Reform soon frustrated the peasantry. Deteriorating wage/price-relation undermined the socio-economical achievements for the working class.

One third of the Nicaraguan surface is useful for agricultural production on larger scale and is in different legal forms of possession for agricultural purposes. The structure of land ownership changed considerably: 43% were expropriated after the revolution, mainly the Somoza family's and possessions of transnational corporations, including the best arable land. In 1984, 23% was state-owned, 20% was in the hands of co-operatives and of peasants profiting from the reform as individual producers (6%), but 57% of the arable land was still in private hands. 85 The agricultural production showed sustained growth in the initial phase (1979-81). 86 Fisheries have enormous potential, production rose eight times from 1977 to 1982 (to only 1'250 tons).

The main export products are coffee, sugar, meat, and cotton. Coffee stands for 25-45% of annual foreign currency earnings; the proportion depends on production and world market prices, which deteriorated by nearly 50% from 1979 to 1982, and completely collapsed from 1991 onwards. Nicaragua's dependant economy goes up and down with the coffee price.

The FSLN was unable to reduce the influence of external factors in a short time. Some socialist elements  were nevertheless decisive, such as the uprooting of the oligarchy, nationalization of their assets, a first step to land reform, and the promotion of agricultural and industrial co-operatives. Other elements have had a strong influence on the civilian society up to the present day, such as a moderate increase in social welfare (housing, health, insurance, low rents, and pensions for old people) and free education. The introduction of a social-democratic  oriented western-style democratization process is remarkable in a part of the world dominated by rather authoritarian regimes.

3. Militarisation forced upon Nicaraguan society

In the second phase of the revolution (1981-1984), the Sandinista government had to use much of the scarce resources to build up a strong military defense. Increasing attacks of Somocista counterrevolutionaries (called contras) as well as several factions of Indian fighters challenged the army (EPS).

The serious threat of a new direct U.S.-intervention launched by the extremely hostile Reagan government could only be answered by raising the price of an eventual military attack by all means, including political and diplomatic means (1984-1989). Threats only became obsolete after the change in February 1990. The main military and other developments showed a dramatic escalation from late 1981 to 1984. 87

Nicaragua became a major theatre of war in Latin America. 88 Reagan assumed office in late 1981 and immediately approved funds for a covert war against Sandinista Nicaragua. From 1981 to 1983 the Central Intelligence Agency  (CIA) allegedly ran the contra  operation through Argentine secret service experts. In Reagan's pathological Cold War designs, the FSLN opened the door for Cuba and the USSR to infiltrate the Western Hemisphere reserved for USA-hegemony since the times of Monroe. The revolutionary regime had to be destabilized by virtually all means  below a large-scale military intervention. Why Reagan's targets could not be met and why the contras lost the war has been analyzed by scores of scholars.

The main reasons for the defeat of the contras were often simply ignored: The FSLN-government had mass-support from the majority of the population, while the contras were closely linked to the brutal regime of dictator Somoza. Repeated contra  atrocities reaffirmed this fatal link with the former oppressors and made it impossible for the contras to win an appropriate social base among the Mestizo populace. Moreover, the contra  had no coherent political program.

The Contadora and later the Esquipulas peace process limited the political space for the counterrevolution and made some of the support impossible. Even thought the contras received more than 500 million US-$ "aid" from official US-sources, and more from other countries (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Portugal) and through covert aid, a "victory was never remotely possible".  89 Some observers stressed military factors, such as the limited field of operations, impossibility of contra  activities in towns and cities, lack of air support and advantage of the government with its helicopter gunships. The lack of reinforcement and the weak recruitment was earmarked. But these factors were not decisive or were simply the consequences of the above mentioned reasons. 90 The reduction and subsequent downgrading of war targets did not help to smokescreen the defeat.

4. The search for political solutions:
The Esquipulas peace process and successful internal mediation in Nicaragua

The Contadora peace accords have been signed. Contadora is an island off the Pacific coast of Panama, where representatives of the governments of Mexico, Columbia, Venezuela and Panama first met to talk about how to contain the Central American conflicts and keep the superpowers out of the area. Mexico and Venezuela had already taken the initiative in 1981, who proposed a regional peace settlement plan. Oscar Arias, who later became elected president of Costa Rica, participated in the talks and prepared his initiative, the Arias plan for stable peace in Central America, later adopted by the Central American presidents in Esquipulas. The Contadora Group was in August 1985 joined by Brazil, Argentina, Perú, and Uruguay, thus representing nearly the entire Latin America, and its advice could not be ignored. 91 In December 1984, a national commission for autonomy was established to find a political solution for the ethnic conflict in Eastern Nicaragua, by keeping it separated from the contra  war as much as possible. Talks with an Indian faction of ex-MISURASATA were under way. But tensions with the Reagan government reached a peak late 1984. In 1985/86 it became clearer and clearer that large-scale military actions taken by the USA would cost a high price on both sides. West European countries went into distance from the heavy-handed U.S. policy in Central America, and came to support the Contadora and Esquipulas peace process. Socialist  countries such as USSR and Cuba went on supporting Nicaragua militarily and economically.

The November 1984 elections in Nicaragua showed strong popular support for the FSLN (67% of the vote). A vast majority elected Daniel Ortega for president.

The third phase of the revolution (1984-87) brought the beginning of reconciliation with the Miskitu and a clear military defeat of the Somocista contra . U.S.-intervention has failed pitifully, in both the political and military scope. Internal politics in Nicaragua slowly became normal. The ongoing constitutional and legal process was marked by the ratification of the Autonomy Statute  (9/87) for the whole of Eastern Nicaragua and the total revision of the Municipality Law (6/88). On the other side, the economic crisis kept growing in 1988/89. Devaluation in 1988 reached 1200% with negative effects for all wage earners. A mass-exodus of qualified professionals and the ailing economy were the dire consequences. On top of that, Hurricane Joan (Oct. 1988) seriously hit the southern part of the Atlantic Coast. Near to 100% of human habitat was destroyed on the islands, in Bluefields, Bluff and the Pearl Lagoon area. Most trees were uprooted in a vast area. The entire fleet grounded. Fisheries and industry (sugar cane, palm oil) had to begin from zero. Almost all inhabitants of the area survived due to rapid evacuation by the Sandinista army. 92

Since the Iran/Contra-scandal became public, even covert military support and assistance to the mercenary forces became difficult, resulting in demoralization and internal struggles among the contras. Far from achieving their objective to threaten or even overthrow the elected FSLN government, the contra  bands committed massacres and terror against civilians. Finally many FDN members formed gangs of bandits raiding farmsteads. Such activities were also conducted in the neighboring countries of Honduras and Costa Rica, which was the hinterland for the contras. The respective governments felt increasingly uncomfortable and finally supported the Esquipulas peace process.

The efforts of the Contadora group since 1982 prepared the ground for a regional conflict solution. It has to be recalled that the Contadora  was a successful experience of collective mediation by Panama, Mexico, Columbia and Venezuela not only aiming at detaching the Central American conflicts from the East/West-conflict but also at limiting US-American influence. The group and its supporters comprised all the important Latin American. 93 .

The Central American heads of state made the Esquipulas agreements in order to take the initiative for dialogue into their hands. Some of the governments involved, such as the Honduran, were before put under pressure from the USA with its growing and threatening military presence there. The Contadora reached an impasse in 1986 because of the USA trying to undercut the peace process. Out of an impasse, the Esquipulas II agreement of 1987 opened ways for Central America of how to manage their own insurgency conflicts, such as the FDN-contras in Nicaragua, in El Salvador the FMLN, and in Guatemala the URNG. All ethnic conflicts in the region were left out as "internal affairs" ; at least what concerns the Esquipulas Declaration. 94 Nevertheless, Esquipulas II was a mediation success in Nicaragua. 95

The Sandinista government responded positively on the peace initiative and tried even to accelerate the process by unilateral steps. Most of the time in question, the Sandinistas were ahead of the process, having introduced most objectives earlier than those governments depending from the USA agreed them upon.

The four key objectives set by the Esquipulas agreement in August 1987 were demobilization  (through cease-fires, refusal of support and hinterland), reconciliation  (internal negotiation incl. mediation, amnesty for fighters, repatriation for refugees), democratization  (free elections, protection of human rights) and regional consultation  (periodic summits at the highest level). 96

The government of Nicaragua continued to distinguish the two conflicts in the country. Two different reconciliation commissions were set up. The Roman-Catholic cardinal Obando y Bravo was chosen to be the head of the commission concerned with the contra  mercenaries, the Baptist Church leader and head of CEPAD Dr. Gustavo Parajon was chosen to head the commission concerned with the Indian fighters. 97

Following negotiations in Sapoa (3/88), a series of agreements brought no solution in terms of demobilization of the contra , though the presidents agreed in San Salvador (2/89) to demobilize and disarm the mercenaries before the second general elections in Nicaragua (2/90). Since the contras refused to disarm before elections, the new government could collect some of the prestige to have "finished the war",  even though some of the leaders of the Union Nacional Opositora  (UNOp) were themselves obstacles in the peace process. Unrest caused by recontras,  recompas  and revueltos  (former contras and demobilized army members together) still continues to destabilize the poor rural areas in the North-west and results in farm occupations and harassment of cattle rancheros  in Chontales.

5. The 2/90-elections, transition of power and great confusion

The defeat of the FSLN by the opposition coalition named Union Nacional Opositora  (UNOp) led by Violetta Barrios de Chamorro (54% of the votes) came as a surprise or a shock. Observers and polls had predicted a Sandinista majority. The key reasons for the change have since been analyzed controversially.

In a demagogic campaign, the US-supported opposition made the Sandinistas fully responsible for the economic crisis, which was mainly caused by the war, the US-boycott and the negative development of terms-of-trade for Nicaragua's main export crops (such as coffee, meat, cotton and sugar). The opposition pretended that the USA would give massive development "aid" for reparation of war damages. 98 The promise to end the war, which in fact came to a halt two years earlier, to abolish the compulsory inscription (servicio militar patriotico , SMP) and to disarm the irregular troops, gave the opposition a critical advantage.

The FSLN failed to show flexibility in the case of obligatory military service (SMP), for which there was in 1989 almost no more military necessity. The FSLN-government made far-reaching concessions regarding the contras, but pressure by the USA on the Honduran government prevented the final demobilization of the contras before the election day. The new government is presently confronted with additional problems caused by land promises to demobilized contras. These promises were often not fulfilled. Some former contras, now called recontras , are likely to continue causing trouble in the north-western highlands and in Chontales.

The winning opposition coalition ranged from contra -leaders to the communist party (PSN). They had little more in common than to oust the FSLN from power. Contradictions quickly broke out. The right-wing group led by Virgilio Godoy was neutralized from the beginning by the centrist "La-Palma-group"  99 of the new president and her "advisors", Antonio Lacayo and Alfredo César, in order to come to keep the transition agreements with the Sandinistas and institutionalize a modus vivendi  with the still powerful former ruling party and its army..

The FSLN's political and institutional strongholds are far from being broken by an electoral verdict. An unique situation developed. The Barrios-Chamorro administration could be characterized as restricted governance , protected by a dramatically shrinking Sandinista army, 100 under the command of general Humberto Ortega (the brother of the ex-president), and the Sandinista Police (policia sandinista) . Apart from being the strongest party in the parliament (which led to unusual alliances in certain questions), the FSLN's mass-organizations still exist. A whole organizational network, from the top to the grassroots, was more or less intact and could still be mobilized, such as the trade-unions (CTS) and the peasant and smallholders organizations (ATC), the women (AMNLAE), the youth (Juventud Sandinista ) and the neighbourhood organizations.

Soon it became clear that the new government too was unable to stop the economic decline. Promises of massive US-aid were soon dashed. The USA even wanted to avoid reparation payments for the war. Harsh austerity policy with mass dismissal of civil servants (and army staff) and further impoverishment of the working class had political objectives and met with strong resistance from the trade-unions. A wave of strikes in May and July 1990 led to total disorder. The police force refused to repress mass rallies, an unprecedented occurrence.

For western media, the government and the peaceful transition seemed in danger altogether. The new administration had to follow the Sandinistas' call for negotiations with business and labour to forge a compromise. The result was the tripartite concertación   which became the "economic version of the transition accord".  101 Increasing class struggles in Nicaragua produced unexpected alliances between dismissed former Sandinista army personnel (so-called recompas ) and ex-contras  (so-called recontras ). 102 Co-operatives and trade unions were strong enough to secure their control over a third of the agrarian production, and they press for the continuation of the agrarian reform. 103

Lacayo's crisis management established in 1990 an effective working relation with the FSLN, by marginalizing the right-wing of the former opposition. By 1992 the Godoyistas countered by taking control of the parliament. César became, for a while, president of the parliament and allied closer with the right-wing today represented by him, Godoy and Managua's mayor Alemán, an ambitious right-wing populist and future candidate for the presidency. Since changes of the constitution are out of reach (two-third majority necessary), the right-wing majority of UNOp tried to sabotage Lacayo's working relationship with the FSLN, which secured the peaceful transition of power in 1990. But the attempts of the right-wingers failed so far. In January 1993, the Sandinistas together with a 9-member centrist faction of UNOp took themselves control of the parliament and even have some ministries again. 104 Economic privileges and power sharing by the FSLN-leadership has hampered its popularity among the populace. Recently, the Sandinista-controlled army and police forces were used against co-operatives and land-less peasants whose farms are claimed by old landlords returning from Miami. The concertación  could cost the FSLN credibility among its own social base.

Within three years, the rules of the political game in Nicaragua have been almost reversed. The presidency of Violetta Barrios de Chamorro, the former National Opposition Union's  (UNOp) top-leader, is now fully based on the parliamentary and extra-parliamentary support of the Sandinistas. The allegedly defeated Sandinistas continue to control much more than the armed forces, and guarantee - as former nominal opposition - law and order  in the country. The right-wing majority of restrictedly governing UNOp is still in fierce opposition to its own  president and has become an opposition not only by name. 105

In Eastern Nicaragua, the situation developed even more confusingly. Some exiled leaders made last-minute agreements with the then opposition (UNOp) before the elections in February 1990, and were well placed to ask for representative government posts. This behaviour was in open contradiction to their previous stands and to their revindications of autonomy of scale . The San José faction of the most important Indian movement, YATAMA, 106 led by its paramount leader Brooklyn Rivera, had earlier (in exile) advocated a position of mutual non-interference , with the state keeping out of Indian lands and the Miskitu Indians desisting from causing trouble in state politics. Despite such positions, Rivera became a major player on the level of central government, using central institutions to interfere with local affairs of the Caribbean coastal regions. He pressured for his indigenist model of Indian Self-Rule against the present constitutional concept of a multi-ethnic autonomy. Meanwhile he might have to accept, that the existing autonomy law is presently the only base for the Indian Self-Rule. The newly formed INDERA (Institute for de Development of the Autonomous Regions ) was supposedly the instrument of the central government to control the developments at the Caribbean coast, through Rivera as its minister-director.

New alliances were forged and the institutional confusion in the Mosquitia was at remarkable levels, even for Nicaraguan standards. Autonomous governance in the eastern regions was only possible to a very limited scale, due to internal divisions, institutional chaos and unclear provisions in the autonomy law. Recently the central government down-graded INDERA (without own budget it became a department of the Ministry for Social Action ). Rivera had to pay the price for his collaboration and was expelled from YATAMA during the 7th General Assembly of the Indian movement in Waspám (5/93). Ironically he was able to grab the name of YATAMA for the February 1994 regional elections but suffered a crushing defeat at the polls. Former mainstream YATAMA (Fagoth, Vanegas et al) who joined the PLC 1994 for electoral and economic reasons might have searched for a future alliance with the FSLN.

After their second defeat in general elections 12/1996 the Sandinistas have to remain in the opposition. Even they will still be the strongest party in the National Assembly in Managua their influence will be severely tested by the out-spoken right-wing new president Alemán. In order to give Nicaragua's autonomy a second chance new alliances have to be forged. 107 However, both the FSLN and Fagoth's faction will have great difficulties to come together.

The ethnic conflict in eastern Nicaragua

This analysis of successful resolution in the case of Nicaragua's East Coast Indian insurgency is based on repeated field studies carried out in the area, including 11-12 months of participating observation - most of it in Nicaragua's Caribbean coast. One of the main research methods has been the conducting of extensive qualitative and open-ended interviews with representatives of all involved parties as well as civil society actors and people I met in some of Eastern Nicaragua's 250 local communities. The result are two compiler of interviews published by ECOR with IFEK-IRECOR. 108

Research was partly carried out in co-operation with local research fellows including Indians, Blacks and Ladinos, as well as a few foreigners. The financing body had no vested interests, and I avoided formal co-operation with any Nicaraguan institution (including CIDCA, IH-UCA, etc.). 109

1. The legacy of separate history:
Non-involvement of Indians and Blacks in the Sandinista revolution

Members of minority peoples rarely participated in the Sandinista Front before the revolution. The Mestizo character of the revolutionary state was obvious. 110 It had a deep impact on the Creoles' and Miskitu's perception of that revolution. Their understanding of the Sandinista popular revolution was generally dominated by the aspect of ethnocentric continuity, obscuring changes in the structure of the state, as well as possible common interests.

The costeños are fairly mixed-up. An unknown percentage of the population (estimations go as high as 20%) does not identify or permanently identify with one particular ethno-social group of the above mentioned eight groups. Endogamic in a large sense are only the three smaller ethnic entities of the Sumu. The Sumu-groups are identified according to their distinct dialects; 8,000 members are estimated to live in Nicaragua. The majority lives around Musawas north-west of the mine area (Panamaka-Sumu and Twahka-Sumu). Minorities around central Wasakin and southern Karawala (speaking Ulwa which is considered apart from the other two idioms). The Garifuna in the Perl Logoon area of RAAS number about 2,500-3,000; they are considered as non-indigenous group mainly based in Honduras; Garifuna in Honduras have their own language, Creole English is spoken. The Rama Indians (only 1,000) live in the southern Bluefields Lagoon; they lost their language and speak Creole English.

The three larger ethnic groups of the Miskitu, Creoles and Coast Mestizo are all basically mixed people. The Miskitu have been heavily Africanized for centuries, then Whites, some Chinese and finally Ladinos inter-married or mixed considerably with the Miskitu and vice versa. The Creoles (as the term says) are the product of Africans and Europeans; their élite still feels like "torch-bearers of the British (colonial) culture" (Gordon). Some rural Creoles were called Negroes  (negros ), apparently because of their darker complexion, and ranked lower in the ethno-social hierarchy of the costeño society. Most negros  supposedly were migrant workers (mainly from Jamaica), attracted during the last century boom of the Mosquitian enclave economy.

Ethnic identity was greatly reinforced and forced upon individuals since ethnicity became a dominant political concept in Nicaragua from 1979 onwards, and especially since the costeños everyday-life and its saturated tropical backwardness  began to get disturbed by the Sandinistas' export of their revolution to Eastern Nicaragua. This "internal invasion"  was based on the ideology and the assertion of the revolutionary state's full sovereignty and its national integrity  as a nation state  (estado nacional ), where there was in fact a multi-national society. The tensions rapidly escalated into an armed conflict, instigated, supported and financed by the USA. All of a sudden, ethnicity apparently became the only viable political concept in the Mosquitia.

2. Mediate factors of conflict escalation: Integrationism produced ethnic nationalism (1979-81)

While consolidating the take-over and the transformation of the Somozista state, the Sandinistas pursued strong integrationist policies towards the ethnic minorities. The result was rejection and pronounced indigenism  on the costeños' side. 115

The building-up of a strong centralized state apparatus reflects the necessity for defense against the open aggression put forth by the Reagan government from 1980 onwards. Emphasis was put on Hispanic-based revolutionary patriotism",  which could only reinforce the gravity of Nicaragua's separate history. It contributed to mutual misunderstanding and cultural resentment as efforts towards an integrationist policy were greatly increased. 116 The policy consisted of administrative penetration, militarization, development projects (directed by Pacific Mestizo cadres), an alphabetization crusade, initially only in Spanish 117 , the improvement of health care (with a lot of assistance of internationalists mainly from Cuba), road-building, etc. This ambitious and centrally-designed modernization program was implemented at high costs with little or no adaptation to local conditions. 118 Development and integration were genuine element of the FSLN's approach.

The neglect of the ethnic question by the FSLN can be seen as an expression of both, Hispanic ethnocentrism and ignorance vis-à-vis the costeños, due to their non-involvement in the liberation struggle against the Somoza dictatorship. Ideological dogmatism was confronted with the alleged "backwardness"  of the ethnic minorities. 119 These conflict roots will have to be examined further in a review of the relationship of ethnicity and state in Nicaragua. 120

A key factor of the tension build-up in Eastern Nicaragua was the existence of a successful socio-political multiplier. A group of Miskitu students at the University of Managua had got involved with the Sandinista revolution to a certain degree. They felt the need to mobilize and "wake up" the indigenous peoples. The members of that small group will play an important role in all further developments. The group consisted of Brooklyn Rivera, Steadman Fagoth, Hazel Lau, Leonel Panting, Alfonso Smith, Armstrong Wiggins, Julian Holmes, and others. 121 The student group's plan was to reorganize the Indian movement. During the annual meeting of the ALPROMISU (Alliance for the Progress of the Miskitu and Sumu , founded 1973), in the presence of FSLN-commander Daniel Ortega in Puerto Cabezas (11/79) they made a sort of coup and took over the leadership, by condemning the older leaders as being "Somozistas" . Three of the group, Rivera, Fagoth and Lau, were elected as co-ordinators of the organization renamed MISURASATA (Miskitu, Sumu, Rama and Sandinistas united ).

This pressure group soon proved to be effective organizers by using modern  means and tools as well as the existing traditional  community-based structures. The students quickly received mass-support among the Miskitu, through continuing co-operation with the strong Moravian Church. The new young leaders successfully mobilized the "collective memory"  of former Miskitu power during the old times of the colonial Mosquitia Kingdom. Gradually they developed elements of cultural revival, quasi-religious configurations, combining revivalism, chiliasm, and traditional spiritualism mixed with Christian beliefs. On such an emotionally loaded base they forged ethnic populism and some elements of the Indian rights movement into a more militant brand of Indian nationalism.

On the southern coast, the Creoles saw the revolution happening via the Costa Rican television. In Bluefields came the hour of the "adventurous type of persons" in July 1979, after the breakdown of the ancien regime . The take-over of power nearly disintegrated into a racial conflict between Creoles and Mestizos. 122

Initially, the Creoles participated in the literacy campaign and in Sandinista-led neighbourhood activities. The SICC (Southern Indigenous and Creole Council ), basically a cultural initiative group, went into politics. The strong presence of Cuban development personnel, such as teachers, physicians and technicians, reconfirmed the Creoles' rather conservative ideological convictions. Tensions rose and led to mass rallies in September 1980, the first seen in Bluefields since 1926. The local functionaries over-reacted. Para-military forces dashed down the rallies. The SICC was disbanded. Apathy and civil disobedience grew among Creoles, strengthening mutual resentment and the Creoles "cynical disappointment"  (Gordon) with the FSLN and the revolution.

In the following two years, the base of the imminent conflict escalation in the North-eastern Indian areas was laid: It consists of a destructive mix of institutional and ideological competition between mainstream MISURASATA and FSLN, with the Indians pressing for concessions regarding ethnic demands and the state giving in. The demands started with the build-up of an organizational framework, financing its infrastructure, personnel and other budget, continued with demands for Indian representation on all levels, including an Indian representative in the highest political body, the Council of State. All of it was fulfilled by the new authorities. Somehow the FSLN created its future adversaries. The young Miskitu leaders grew self-confident in their struggle for recognition. 123 Their legitimate demands gradually took the form of a power struggle for control of the political arena of the North-east. The FSLN's fears were, that the Indian's lack of anti-imperialist awareness  would make them a potential ally of the historic enemy. The USA was just entering the Reagan "era", and soon those fears were justified.

The radicalization of MISURASATA's demands came to the crucial point of the conception of land rights, which took the form of competitive territorial demands threatening national sovereignty.  And it became an issue dealing with something state authorities in Latin American countries usually see as a sacrosanct principle. 124 MISURASATA's claims switched from recognizing collective community land titles, instead of individual land titles, to the recognition of one contiguous Miskitu territory. This was consistent with the policy of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples  (WCIP), the International Indian Treaty Council  (IITC), and other US-based organizations (ILRC, ICC, etc.). 125 The conferences of Barbados in 1971 and 1977 had unified the growing Indian movement of the Americas and were an adequate response to the threats of ethnocide by a number of states still encroaching Indigenous territories, deculturating, and even exterminating natives (genocide in Brazil, Paraguay, Guatemala). These serious threats did not exist in Nicaragua in 1979-81. Genocidal atrocities have never occurred. 126

3. Immediate factors of conflict escalation: The availability of arms and territorial demands

The ethnic conflict in Eastern Nicaragua has been an "unknown war"  to some extent. Many observers saw the armed conflict in north-eastern Nicaragua simply as a part of the counterrevolutionary insurgency launched by a mercenary force, called the "contras" (contra-revolutionarios ). These contra  troops were actually built up by former Somozista Guardia  leaders and notorious war criminals they recruited among former staff members of Somoza's Guardia Nacional  and among Nicaraguan refugees in Honduras.

The contras were financed by the USA and directed by the CIA as a force attempting to overthrow the Sandinista government. As CIA aspirations failed, the order was to destabilize the regime permanently, mainly through terrorist activities and economic sabotage. The armed Indian opposition had a different agenda. The perception of Nicaragua's ethnic conflict as an extension of the contra  war might fit into global East/West-frames and Cold War designs, but it is inadequate for a serious analysis.

There is little doubt that the availability of arms and ammunition in Honduras since 1981 was an important factor. The rapid increase of the US-army's indirect military supplies, by the channels of the Honduran army (under control of the CIA), stimulated the armed conflict and led to the escalation into a full-scale war. There is also little doubt that most armed Miskitu and Sumu factions had close co-operation with the Somozista Guardia (called FDN, RN, contras) or were even part of it, like Osorno "Blas" Coleman's YATAMA-troops of the frente atlantico . Other factions had a temporary alliance or no alliance with the contras at all, but all of them have been (at least partly) armed by US-sources, at the US-tax payer's cost. 127 Most Indian factions stood - at least for some period of time - under direct CIA-control, or they have acted within a CIA-designed framework. Some observers have tried to obscure these facts, others saw only these facts.

Exaggeration of territorial demands far beyond traditional lands used by the Indian communities led to an escalation, which began with a temporary arrest of most Miskitu leaders in February 1981. 128 Members of the literacy brigades were also arrested, under accusation of having instigated the Indians to rebel. The Prinsapolka incident of February 20, 1981, when soldiers broke into a church leaving eight people dead (four locals and four EPS-soldiers), raised tensions enormously. 129

Up to this point there was no foreign involvement of any importance. 130 The immediate trigger for higher tensions has undoubtedly been the question of land claims, which are politically central for the land-based Miskitu people (but not for Creoles and urban Mestizos).

Only some hundred Indians were able to show legal land titles issued to local dignitaries by the British colonials before their departure in the 1840s and 1850s. Many of the 220 Miskitu communities and the 32 Sumu communities never had such a thing, and they didn't care. Consequently the MISURASATA leaders asked for the recognition of communal land property, which is an appropriate demand regarding the Indian mode of production. But simple-minded and legalist civil servants saw that as an exotic idea (since there was no such thing in the Hispanic context), and did everything to block the demand.

Individual property has been alien to most of the Indian peoples, as to most indigenous peoples world-wide. The first to claim land in the Indian areas of the Mosquitia were white missionaries of the Moravian Church, which came to spread the gospel 150 years ago. 131 The fence around the church, the pastors house and the school, confronted the Indians with an alien concept of property.

The Autonomy Statute, ratified in September 1987, recognized communal property (Law 28, Art. 36 and 37). But in the meantime, some leaders radicalized their claims. It became the claim of a contiguous extension of land in February 1981. 132 Under influence of foreign advisors it became a territory from June 1981. In the Bogotá negotiations between MISURASATA (Rivera) and the FSLN in March 1985, the territorial claims were responsible for the break-up. 133

An argument put forward (years later) by some Sandinista leaders, in order to explain their position in 1981/82 concerning the ethnic question (which led to conflict escalation) was that there was only limited knowledge  about the costeños in general and the Indian society in particular. This of course was not the whole truth, even if we admit that limited or distorted knowledge has been a source of mutual misunderstanding. The above argument has been used as an excuse for the serious mistakes the FSLN committed in dealing with the so-called Miskitu question  from early 1980 until fall of 1984. - Was the relevant information really limited? Or didn't it reach the policy makers?

The top FSLN-representative for the Caribbean Coast, comandante  Luis Carrión, had a quite appropriate analysis of the "Miskitu problem"  at that time. He fully recognized their own distinct culture, their distinct identity different from the "Spaniards" (who once unsuccessfully had aimed at conquering and subduing them). Carrión recognized that the Indian claims for communal lands were based on a distinct mode of production. 134

There are good reasons behind MISURASATA's demand for a contiguous extension of Indian lands (later named Yapti Tasba , Mother Land), without mobilizing the more advanced and highly politicized discourse of North American Indian organizations. The political implication of the concept of a contiguous territory doesn't really correspond to the interspersed and mixed settlement structure of the six ethnic groups in vast areas of Eastern Nicaragua. Indians partly use the traditional shifting cultivation; that means the tracts of land necessary are wider than the tracts temporarily cultivated. Some areas are reserved for hunting. The Indian settlements are along the many rivers of the Northeast. A bona fide  interpretation would also consider another issue: A contiguous demarcation might prevent campesino  encroachment to lands, which are not "virgin" but part of the above-mentioned mode of production. Such encroachment led to permanent (sometimes violent) land disputes.

MISURASATA' s "plan for action 1981"  was a draft paper containing some exaggerated demands and some romantic ideas , such as an indigenous federation with indigenous communities of the Pacific coast, such as the Monimbó and Sutiava Indians. 135 Nowadays there are only about a dozen major indigenous communities in Western Spanish-speaking part of Nicaragua. Besides the two mentioned communities there are indigenous communities in several administrative regions of Western Nicaragua, such as Mozonte (Nueva Segovia), San Lucas and Cusmapa (in Madriz), Jinotega und Hamaka (in Jinotega), Matagalpa, San Ramon, San Dionisio and Sebaco (in Matagalpa) and Veracruz (in Rivas). These Indian minority groups still have a strong links of solidarity and a distinct identity as indigenous Nicaraguans.

The Minimbó and Sutiava Indians represent today sort of distinct social-cultural groups with their distinct indigenous identities. There is regular participation of its members in a community-based local ritual, for instance in ceremonies and fiestas  in honour of a saint, ancestral cults, and assemblies called by their Council of Elders. The autonomous administration of their affairs does not recognise the pre-colonial institution of the "oficios" , endogamic rules (marriage within the barrio), the importance of kinship etc. The coexistence of several generations in the same place and strong neighbourhood solidarity are still alive. The predominance of an informal self-controlled urban economic sector and rural subsistence production are typical. The collective possession of communal lands can also be found in the western Indian places as in Sutiava (but not in Monimbó). 136

Especially the demand of the 1981 "action plan"  to exclude all FSLN-led trade unions from the North-east, and the intensive consciousness-raising  and Indian Rights campaign among the Miskitu, gave the pretext to disband the organization and declare it as a counter-revolutionary  venture. 137 "CIA specialists allegedly designed the plan of action"; this has been the official analysis by the FSLN-government. 138

The following phase of conflict escalation was dominated by a leading MISURASATA figure, Steadman Fagoth Müller, 139 who was described as an egomaniac, and accused of grave human rights violations by his own people (during the general assembly 1987 in Rus Rus). At the time his prestige as a former member of the Council of State was considerable. When Fagoth defected to the Honduran side and called by radio upon the Miskitu youth to join the armed resistance, some 3'000 youngsters followed him. 140

Fagoth and others were not already acting as men of the CIA. Soon later, he and some minor Miskitu leaders became "war lords" . They got the money and the arms, both directly or through Somoza's guardsmen and the Honduran army. Guardias  (of a commander called "Bravo") and some Argentine counter-insurgency specialists began systematic training of Miskitu youngsters as early as mid 1981. Former guardsmen and the CIA won over Fagoth. 141 The "treason" of Fagoth seemed to confirm the FSLN's analysis of "ideological confusion"  and "backwardness"  of the Miskitu, which finally made them capable of an alliance with the historic enemy of a sovereign Nicaragua.

4. Ethnic insurgency - another war in Nicaragua (1981-1987)

The so-called "Miskitu-problem"  became a war in late 1981. In the Clausewitzean dictum, war is the (simple) continuation of politics by other means. 142 Does it make sense in the case of the Miskitu 3%-minority? The war was earmarked by the obvious contradiction of an Indian struggle for historic rights and its aspiration to realize ethnic demands by means of warfare and negotiations. The Indians participated (as a junior partner) in a military effort to overthrow the government and to liquidate a popular revolution.

Sandinista Nicaragua has been a threat for the neo-colonial governments in the region, thus a threat to the pax americana , but has it been a threat to Miskitu survival? The two objectives are fundamentally different. Ethnic demands should usually be resolved within a legal framework by means of different forms of autonomy, including affirmative action and positive discrimination (minority rights). The creation of an independent state for an indigenous people in the Americas is unlikely, and would only be possible in a framework of liberation from colonialism or a foreign state occupation. Indians don't even rule where they have an 80%-majority as in Bolivia. The classic Anti-Regime war or a destabilization war usually results in an ideological conflict, not an ethnic one.

Explaining the militarisation and the alliance of some Indian factions with the USA and their Somocista mercenaries, some authors spoke of a "tactical move".  This view  does not make much sense since an attempted restoration of oligarchic rule in Nicaragua (Somozism without Somoza) under US-hegemony would certainly serve the interests of the contra  leaders, but by no means guarantee the recognition of Indian rights and Self-Rule.

Nevertheless, both objectives (Indian rights and change of power on state level) were on the agenda of Indian contra  leaders such as Wycliffe Diego and Osorno Coleman ("Blas"). Some leaders only temporarily allied with foreign interests or not explicitly and maintaining own designs (Brooklyn Rivera, Eduardo Panting, Juan Salgado, and Uriel Vanegas). 143 Bernard Nietschmann, the chief advisor of the populist leader Brooklyn Rivera, advocated the two tracks, by pointing out clearly the aim that "only Indians can wrest eastern Nicaragua from the FSLN" , since they had the social base and fought on home grounds. The idea was that "a large Indian army would later represent a formidable counterweight to a new or a modified national government that tries to control Indian lands or people",  as Nietschmann put it in April 1984. 144

Serious war began in December 1981. Well-armed Miskitu fighters started systematically to kill government officials in towns and settlements along the Wangki river (Wanki or Rio Coco), the 1960-border between the Honduran and the Nicaraguan Mosquitia. Most victims were civilians. This was the first major operation of the USA-backed counter-revolution and an example for its design as a destabilization war. It was called low-intensity warfare and was mainly directed against civilians and infrastructure projects. 145

The response of EPS-army and State Security was to evacuate the potential social base of the contra  along the border by force, and create a "free-fire-zone" to prevent infiltration of armed elements from Honduran territory. The EPS attempted to evacuate more than 20'000 Indians living on the Nicaraguan river bank; half of them escaped to Honduras, the rest was resettled (100 km south) in Tasba Pri, until mid 1984. The Miskitu were supposedly being moved from their lands for their own protection. 146

The forced relocation and the fatal destruction of 30 villages in one of the Miskitu's main population centers brought the conflict on to the front pages of the international press. Reports on the Miskitu question by the world's mass media in 1982 made the Miskitu (for a moment) one of the best-known  indigenous peoples of the Americas. The war against the Indians caused severe damage to the Sandinistas' image, and it became a serious burden for the international solidarity movement attempting to help the threatened revolution. 147

The clearing of the Wangki (Rio Coco) area by the EPS soon proved to be a very serious mistake. The relocation and the massive flight of refugees to Honduras provided the warlords  with excellent possibilities to recruit more soldiers, partly forcibly, to extract more money from CIA-sources, and to use the refugee population and camps as social infrastructure. Several war lords  made extensive use of the situation, under conditions of restricted or non-existent control by international humanitarian agencies (mainly UN-HCR and ICRC), in one of the continent's most isolated areas and with the Honduran army colluding with the neighbouring state's rebels. 148

5. Unity and divisions: The dynamics of an ethno-nationalist conflict

Nicaragua's Indian movement has been during the whole period from 1981 till 1990 divided into a pro-Sandinista civilian section (MISURASATA leaders in the FSLN, MISATAN, and KISAN-pro-peace) and an anti-Sandinista militant section of armed rebels (MISURASATA-Rivera, MISURA, KISAN, and YATAMA). The latter organizations have in fact been one single organization, which has at different moments - under various names - represented the armed Indian opposition against the Sandinista State.

The militant section not only represented the majority Miskitu population but gained legitimacy through its links with the highest Indian authority, the Council of Elders (Almuk nani asla takanka). Only the Elder Council is entitled to organize general assemblies of the Indian movement every couple of years ever since the movement became its organizational form in Bilwaskarma 1973. The assemblies (held in 1973, 1974, 1979, 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1993) had decisive influence on the course of the movement and on its organizational shape. Three of seven assemblies took place in the Honduran exile. 149

A chronological list of Indian opposition organizations might illustrate the great influence of the assemblies:

ALPROMISU = Alliance for progress of the Miskitu and Sumu,  prepared at the first assembly in Bilwaskarma 1973; founded at the second assembly in Sisin 1973; renamed in Bilwi 1979

MISURASATA = Miskitu Sumu Rama Sandinistas asla takanka , Indians and Sandinistas all together; founded at the third assembly in Bilwi 1979

MISURASATA-Rivera, Rivera's faction of MISURASATA, based in Costa Rica, kept the name till 1987

MISURA = Miskitu Sumu Rama asla takanka , operating from Honduras, mainstream MISURASATA from 1981 to 1985; led by Steadman Fagoth

KISAN = Kus Indianka asla takanka , operating from Honduras, founded at the fourth assembly in Rus Rus, Honduras, in 1985; led by Wycliffe Diego, who was re-elected as leader of YATAMA in 1993

YATAMA = Yapti Tasba Mariska nani asla takanka , founded at the fifth assembly in 1987 at Rus Rus to unify MISURASATA, MISURA and KISAN; led by Rivera, Fagoth and Diego until 1993, by Diego and Serapio since 5/93.

Military activity along the Wangki and the Caribbean Coast increased from 1982 onwards, when Nicaragua became Reagan's favourite battlefield against "the evil empire" , in an attempt to open up another substitutive conflict of the Cold War. The CIA controlled supplies of large amounts of automatic weapons, grenades, rocket launchers, anti-aircraft missiles, light machine guns, tons of ammunition, uniforms, food and pay (for the commanders). Deliveries came direct by late 1982, due to friction with the Guardsmen (Spanish FDN-contras). 150 1973. The assemblies (held in 1973, 1974, 1979, 1985, 1987,

Several US-agencies supplied from 1981 onwards not only the Honduras-based MISURA, but also MISURASATA in Costa Rica. The latter was operating in some areas along the southern coast with a few hundred men, its main speaker was still Brooklyn Rivera. 151 The CIA paid Fagoth from 1981 until 1984 and supported him as the top leader of MISURA. He commanded at his peak 3'000 to 4'000 warriors, led by several semi-autonomous smaller war lords .

Nietschmann gave the figure of 6'000 fighters of "the Indian and Creole resistance groups" had which would be "less than one-half of the fighting force they could have raised". 152 Disputes over Fagoth's "heavy handed leadership"  153 had begun already in 1981 and led to critical breaks within MISURA and between MISURA and MISURASATA, with consequences for the fighting ability of the troops. Fagoth was sacked by the CIA and spent some quiet years in Miami. He later admitted grave human rights violations in a meeting in Rus Rus, Honduras in 9/1987. 154 He was allegedly "forced to co-operate"  within the Rivera-led YATAMA, thus rehabilitated by his adversaries, and he even managed to wrest again a top position after the 1990-elections, in fierce competition to Rivera.

The pattern of dissidence and division among Miskitu leaders, and the endless search for unity, is not really a point of weakness as seen by most observers and strongly felt by some of their supporters. It even makes it virtually impossible to hit their organized resistance critically, by neutralizing the top leader(s). Divisions are the expression of the simple fact that the Miskitu people never had (and doesn't need) a centralist leadership. This would be contradictory to the basic character of the Miskitu as an akephal society (stateless society) without a central authority.

The Miskitu never had any centralization above the community level until the British imposed the kings  (called sar  = sir among Miskitu). There is only the Council of Elders giving guidance in difficult times, 155 while the institution of kings  disappeared with the British colonials who retreated from their Mosquitia protectorate only to hand it over to US-corporations. 156

A major source of divisions in recent times was created by the activities of some younger and ambitious leaders such as Rivera and Fagoth. Rivera's MISURASATA was allied with Eden Pastora's Costa Rica-based ARDE from 1982 until ARDE's breakdown in mid l985, 157 while Fagoth's MISURA allied with the Honduras-based Somocista  contras  who first provided some arms and training. During 1984, arms supply somewhat slowed down, following the U.S.-congress decision to cut overt military support to the contras, after strong international condemnations of U.S.-policy in Nicaragua. Covert arms deliveries were partly withheld from the two rival Miskitu organizations by their Ladino allies, who were never ever sympathetic to the Indian cause. According to Nietschmann, lack of supplies was the reason why Rivera's MISURASATA finally began formal negotiations with the FSLN-government in December 1984. 158

The charismatic, populist Miskitu leader Brooklyn Rivera kept changing his position. In 1984 he declared he did not seek to overthrow the government nor to subordinate to the CIA and colonel Bermudez' (FDN) directives, because of their anti-Indian targets, as to say: "The CIA cowboys want us to be their little Indians..." 

The tactical move to negotiate had many reasons: The army (EPS) had nearly doubled its strength since January 1982. Together with MINT 159 the EPS began to exercise more effective control, while FDN-contras  and MISURA suffered major setbacks in the war as well as through internal divisions. Rivera as the head of the much weaker rest-MISURASATA consequently saw his chance to become a major player not on the battlefield but at the negotiation table. 160 He actually turned his weakness into strength, ironically with the help of the FSLN. The government at the time was under considerable international pressure concerning the Indian cause. The FSLN wasn't aware of Rivera being the cleverest Indian PR-man, using the media much more effective than the gun.

Reconciliation and conflict resolution in Eastern Nicaragua

Until February 1990 the Sandinistas were the main actors on the Nicaraguan scene. Any conflict resolution was depending to large degree from the willingness and understanding on the part of their dirección nacional , particularly considering the than hierarchic structure and character of the Sandinista party. The FSLN still had the structure of a liberation movement, which gained the power. The war and the struggle of survival were re-enforcing the command structure. Only after their electoral defeat in 1990, the FSLN started to democratically reform its structures. 161

Comandante  Tomas Borge prominently put the FSLN's plan for a resolution of the armed conflict in Eastern Nicaragua into practical policy. Borge is the only surviving founding member of the FSLN, a Marxist-Leninist intellectual and writer, head of the GPP-tendency, member of the FSLN's national directorate and for 10 years Nicaragua's minister for internal affairs. 162

I believe that the strategy (as described in the next section) was not only exercised but also "invented" by Borge and his collaborators. The contribution of Frente Sandinista  members from the coast and the pressure of civilian actors towards this process have not been fully disclosed. This hypothesis was criticised to a certain degree by Mirna Cunningham who stressed the costeños own contributions concerning the "intervention" of the autonomy process. 163

1. Borge's triple-strategy for conflict resolution

Borge's strategy which has been called "very successful"  by one of his prominent adversaries 164 consisted of three elements, in chronological order coinciding with their importance and their influence on the final outcome:

  1. The launching of a project for regional autonomy of the East Coast and the elaboration of an autonomy law, which became a veritable process from 1984 onwards, including mass consultations and massive campaigns. The result was not only pacification but also a potentially enduring (but so far incomplete) solution for the legitimate rights of Indians and Blacks in Eastern Nicaragua, which took the form of a multi-ethnic self-government scheme in two autonomous regions. The autonomy scheme later provided the Miskitu in the northern region (RAAN) and the Creoles in the southern region (RAAS) with a stable power base and prevented the Mestizo majority in Eastern Nicaragua to dominate politically;

  2. Cease-fire negotiations with guerrilla groups of different (partly rival) armed factions of Indian rebels based in Honduras were held. Negotiations mediated by different civilian Third Parties. The beginning was made in early 1985 with MISURA led by Eduardo Panting, then with KISAN (since September 1986) and YATAMA (until 1989), commander by commander. There were about two dozen cease-fire agreements signed from May 1985 (MISURA) onwards, including Sumu groups, such as Ampinio Palacio's FDN-aligned group in 1989, who was operating in the mine area;

  3. Dialogue with the allegedly moderate MISURASATA faction led by Brooklyn Rivera, later named YATAMA was started parallel. Talks took place in 1984/85 and 1988 despite changing circumstances but with changing intensity and continuing downgrading on the part of the government. Talks were held in three different countries, involving different members of tripartite delegations. Participants were 1) internal Indian leaders on the government side, 2) Moravian, Baptist and Catholic church leaders as mediators plus members of international indigenous NGOs as observers, 3) and Indian contra  leaders and their foreign advisors on the rebels' side. There were seven rounds of talks held without any final agreement as a real outcome.

The third step of conflict resolution in Nicaragua's ethnic war was the most attractive for the international media but the least successful in real terms. It began as a result of mediation efforts by foreign neutral outsiders.  In a secret meeting, initiated by US-senator Edward Kennedy, president Ortega and MISURASATA's former coordinator Rivera agreed in October 1984 to hold talks after the release of the kidnapped FSLN-Creole leader Ray Hooker by the guerrillas (in further exchange for some Indian prisoners). The Nicaraguan government as a sign of good will issued an Amnesty law. 165 In rapid succession, four rounds of talks were held within half a year producing no major advances at all. Talks were held:

SS in Bogota 12/1984, with Amnesty for cease-fire as a positive outcome,

SS in Bogota 3/1985 under mediation of US-based Indian organizations,

SS in Mexico City 4/85 with a non-escalation agreement and increased economic aid for the East Coast as result,

SS and again in Bogota 5/85, under mediation of Latin American Indian organizations, but without results.

In the framework of the Esquipulas II agreement of 8/87 three more rounds of talks were later held in Managua between January and May 1988, after the war had already ended.

2. The turning point in fall 1984

The turning point in the FSLN's policy towards the East Coast came in fall 1984 and resulted in the official constitution of a national commission for autonomy  in December 1984. This was the start of a dynamic process leading to reconciliation and to a framework for regional autonomy, the law 28, promulgated in September 1987. 166

Most important at this time (1984) was the initiative by the MINT to initiate cease-fire negotiations with the bulk of the Indian troops in Honduras, in order to stop the war. The aim of the CIA-designed low-intensity war was to produce as many human victims and as much material damage as possible in order to weaken the enemy, topple its government, and bring friendly forces  to power. Such an (unrealistic) scenario is pointless for an Indian people seeking self-determination within its own territory. Besides that basic contradiction, it doesn't seem plausible that a mercenary force, even when joined by fighters of an ethnic group, would ever be able to topple a revolutionary state built up by a victorious guerrilla army. The Sandinista State enjoyed overwhelming people's support even in elections, as proved in "reasonably democratic elections in November 1984"  167 with 63% of the votes. A prolonged attrition-war could only reduce the Indians to dependence upon the CIA for their very survival and really convert them to "cannon-fodder" .

After initial military success of the Indian armed struggle, the EPS gained the initiative, and by end of 1984, the FSLN took some important steps towards reconciliation with the Indians: An amnesty for indigenous fighters, a changing military policy regarding forced reallocations, and less military presence in the communities. The FSLN entered into dialogue with Rivera's MISURASATA and some sectors of MISURA. It promoted internal Indian and Black leadership in regional governments (6/84) and the parliament (9/84), and finally declared its recognition of multiplicity by starting the elaboration of autonomy rights.

The negotiations with Rivera's MISURASATA, later called YATAMA, had an important function on an ideological level, this time without the possibility of an institutional clash as experienced from 1979 up to 1981. The talks influenced both the autonomy process and the cease-fire negotiations with the military commanders of the fragmenting MISURA. The influence of civilian society initiatives on the whole process and particularly the achievement of a constructive climate should not be underestimated. It was most effectively in the form of Peace and Reconciliation Committees , with its active base of women and under participation of respected Church leaders (mainly Baptist, Moravian and Catholic Church representatives).

3. The break-through in May 1985 and the impact of the Yule agreement

Negotiations with MISURA finally brought a real break-through on May 17, 1985, with the supreme Miskitu commander, Eduardo Panting and the MINT (represented by José 'Cheep'  Gonzales) signing a cease-fire at Yule. Fatigue of war and the activities of local Peace and Autonomy Commissions , mainly attended by Miskitu women, had shown its first results. 168

Some setbacks were the result of the underlying division and competition among the Miskitu factions. The same day MISURASATA broke the non-escalation agreement (reached some weeks before in Mexico City). A surprise attack was launched on the Bluefields' cuartel  (army barracks), led by the two Rama Indian commanders 'Dante'  and 'Coyote' , to voice discontent with Panting's move and to remind the government of rival MISURASATA' s will to negotiate on behalf of the whole Indian movement. But the MINT outright rejected this. The dialogue with Rivera broke down, and it was not resumed until early 1988.

From May 1985 to early 1988 dozens of cease-fire agreements were stroke, commander by commander. The second part of Borge's triple-strategy was a successful process even it could not have been completed by Borge himself. Reconciliation and integration into local militias of almost all armed Indian groups based in Honduras has been reached, with the exception of some 1'700 Miskitu fighters led by Miskitu figures who were in bondage to the CIA and fully integrated into the FDN/RN-contra . The young Miskitu who commanded this mercenary force was Osorno Coleman called Blas. This force was not disarmed as a YATAMA group until June 20, 1990.

Fighting in Eastern Nicaragua went on at a continuously lower level from 1985 to 1987, both along the northern frontier and in some southern areas (such as Kukra Hill, Pearl Lagoon and Karawala). The CIA had replaced Fagoth by Wycliff Diego after the "Panting shock".  Panting himself died under mysterious circumstances soon after signing a cease-fire agreement with the MINT. Allegedly he was killed on Diego's order; some rumours say that Uriel Vanegas was the executor. 169 The "CIA-cowboys"  (Rivera) reacted by creating a new controllable Indian organization called KISAN (Nicaraguan Indian Unity ) in fall 1985. KISAN troops were sent out to break the six months old cease-fire. The last fighting slowly decreased and died down until spring 1988. This was not only the expression of shortage of arms' supply, but also even more of the mediation activities and the internal divisions, which were partly caused by external factors.

4. KISAN-por-la-paz and the failure of ethno-political manipulations by U.S. agencies

KISAN, created in September 1985, illustrates the ethno-political practice of U.S. agencies showing failure to grasp the ethnic character of the Miskitu uprising. KISAN's self-appointed artificial leaders without grassroots support were kidnapping Indian youth in refugee camps and conscripting them by force. It is not surprising that KISAN disintegrated in 1986/87. Subsequently, several KISAN commanders negotiated individual cease-fire agreements with the Ministry of Interior (MINT). As a weak response, the CIA created a third Indian contra  organization called FAUCAN, in order to bring the Miskitu under complete control and make them co-operate with the Honduran 5th Battalion. But not even former MISURA and KISAN leaders supported the new body.

KISAN split in 1986. The bulk of the organization, commander by commander, changed sides and integrated their troops into a territorial Indian self-defense militia , armed and supported by the ex-enemy (the MINT) and enjoying a semi-autonomous status. In the framework of the ongoing constitutional process for the elaboration of the Autonomy Statutes for the Atlantic Coast , the now KISAN-for-peace renamed organization was among the participants. 170 The whole proceedings are unrivalled and unprecedented in Latin America.

Operative actions by the remaining Indian contra  organizations gradually diminished to near zero in December 1987. The CIA operatives in Honduras were sacked and the US. State Department took control of the Indian policy. The military situation on the southern coast to Costa Rica had never been as serious as along the Honduran border and within the main Indian territory. Nevertheless there was considerable military activity around the Pearl Lagoon area, even attacks on Bluefields 5/85, and strategic economic projects such as the Bluff harbour and the huge Palma Africana  oil project near Kukra Hill, until early 1988. By then, most fighters in the South quietly integrated into civil life or into the Sandinista-created and supplied militias of their respective communities. I never heard that a youngster coming back on his own had serious problems of reintegration. However, participation of Afro-Nicaraguans and Africanized Indians (identifying as Creoles) in the armed struggle never reached a comparably high level, possibly with the exception of the pro-Sandinista Garifuna organizing a strong militia in the Upper Pearl Lagoon area. There was never an armed Creole contra  organization. 171

On the other side, MISATAN (Miskitu and Sandinistas united ), designed by a pro-FSLN Miskitu faction, grew out of the Tasba Pri settlement as an Indian interest organization in mid 1984, but never really got a profile of its own. Nevertheless, the organization kept its international contacts (within CORPI / WCIP and the UN-WGIP) and managed to survive the FSLN's electoral defeat in 1990. 172 Surprisingly, MISATAN-chairman Fornes Rabonias received the highest number of votes during the seventh general assembly of the Indian movement (in Waspám in May 1993) to represent YATAMA within the regional Indian organization CORPI. This bizarre precedent is jet another evidence of the perception among Indians that ultimately there is only one single indigenous organizations which is often simply equated with the Miskitu people as such. 173

5. The Managua talks in 1988 and the role of gringo advisors

The dialogue gave Rivera the possibility to travel to the East Coast several times, even to hold rallies there, attract a lot of mass media interest, and eventually become the best known Miskitu rebel leader. Rivera had extensive international contacts due to his positive image as an "authentic Indian leader" . The cease-fire agreements of his rivals finally eroded his position as an ambitious dialogue partner and made it obsolete later on (after mid 1988). 174

The FSLN's proposals made during the last negotiations between the government and YATAMA in 1988 (on which there was no agreement) would have been more favourable for the autonomous regions than the present practice. For instance a negotiated 60% share in the profits from natural resources for the region (and 40% for the central government) was not enough for Rivera. Today, each region barely gets 20% of the income from fishing licenses and, so far, zero from the mines and the logging! In the crucial question of resources, Rivera's inflexible position in the negotiations with the Sandinista government proved disastrous. According to Uriel Vanegas who participated in the talks Rivera's position was taken under influence of his foreign advisors led by Bernard Nietschmann. 175 The Indian movement misdealt an opportunity to obtain concessions.

6. The Afro-Nicaraguan's vexation at the revolution

Changes within Nicaragua's Afro-American community took place without western media attention. The Creoles were the first ethnic group to renounce the revolution after mass demonstrations were dashed by the military in September 1980. Protests then took the unspectacular form of apathy, civil disobedience, and (mutual) resentment. Armed struggle against the revolutionary state was marginal. A very few Creole fighters integrated into ARDE and MISURASATA based in Costa Rica or YATAMA operating from Honduras. 176

The Creoles' refusal is foremost a product of the Mosquitian separate historic development. Colonialism struck back and is still present in the strong position of the Moravian and other Protestant churches (Baptist, Anglican, Lutheran) and some legacy of US-enclave economy. Real integration never quite existed. The occurrences of 1980/81 embittered most Creoles. Most irritating for them, besides the dashing of mainly peaceful demonstrations, were the disbanding of SICC, the increasing influx of Pacific coast Mestizos into Bluefields, and the appalling economic slump the whole country and the East Coast in particular had to experience. Creoles blatantly refused the obligatory military service (SMP, servicio militar patriotico ). Their participation in Sandinista mass-organizations was minimal.

Creoles did not organize as an ethnic group, nor did they just join the Miskitu. The objectives of Blacks and Indians are rather different. The Creoles never had any territory-based conception apart from the Mosquitian autonomy dissolved in 1894. Their ethnic identity was quite a fluid thing that changed in adoption to hegemony. Urban Creoles were the torchbearers of the British civilization and tried desperately to save their vision of Britishness  as citizens of Mosquitia. They identified with outsiders as a way of achieving social hierarchical supremacy, like the Miskitu did as allies of the British earlier. 177 The coast hierarchy changed due to economic cycles; Creoles today are basically in a middle-class position. The élite normally identified with a free (labour) market, with capitalism and the USA. The Creoles' vision of being the most capable people to govern the area was frustrated by the policy of the FSLN. In the meantime, some Creole leaders reached top positions as delegates, deputies or coordinators. 178

Process towards autonomy for the East Coast peoples

The process towards regional autonomy of the Caribbean coast within the framework of the state began in the midst of the war. The decisions of the FSLN in late 1984 marked a turning point towards the recognition of multiplicity in Nicaragua. Those decisions came neither voluntarily nor spontaneously. The Autonomy Statutes (law 28, issued in September 1987) are, as Daniel Ortega admitted at the 7th general assembly of YATAMA (Waspám May 1993), a product of the war. Today, autonomy has to be defended jointly by the former adversaries against the neo-colonial politics of the central government in Eastern Nicaragua.

The following analysis includes the most important aspects and their interrelation. The premises, motives, structure, function and organization of the autonomy process will be explored. Issues are the outcome, the difficult implementation of the autonomy law, the impact of the process on the armed conflict, its contradictions, and the persistence of antagonistic conceptions. Finally prospects for the process in the future are outlined and some conclusions are drawn.

1. Autonomy within a triple strategy for pacification

The motive of pacification, as a hoped-for result of the autonomy process officially started in December 1984, was obviously the immediate target. 179 This was often denied by Sandinistas, but it was not the only aim of the ongoing process. The military pressure of some 4'000 well-equipped Indian warriors successfully challenging the Sandinista troops (EPS & MINT during 1982 and 1983) finally led to intensive occupation with the driving forces of that "unexpected"  ethnic conflict on all levels of the Sandinista party (FSLN) and the state apparatus, particularly the MINT. It included efforts in scientific research on relationships between the indigenous peoples and the state carried out by government-sponsored institutions (CIDCA, CIERA and Ministry of Culture) as well as some sort of co-operation with foreign anthropologists since the very beginning of the Miskitu problem  in 1981. Some of the anthropological studies gave advice to the government on how to deal with the problem it had created or provoked. 180

The structure of the organized debate on autonomy was designed as a constitutional process. The elaboration of a law granting regional autonomy should respect equal rights for all six ethnic reverence groups within the territories of the administrative Special Zones I and II, excluding Special Zone III, which later was put together with Chontales. Under a political and institutional perspective, the turning point  came late in 1984 with the formal inauguration of a national commission for autonomy . The commission was headed by Interior Minister Tomas Borge and consisted of three social scientists and two representatives from the Coast, the Creole leader Ray Hooker and the MISURASATA leader Hazel Lau, both became FSLN members first. 181

The autonomy project was started in the midst of war as the most important part of Borge's triple-strategy. Talks with exiled leaders and cease-fire agreements with military commanders (of MISURA/KISAN) were continuing. The first agreement was signed in May 1985 with Panting. The National Commission for Autonomy  served as a kind of think-tank, while the Regional Commissions  in Bluefields and Puerto Cabezas did the bulk of the real work such as consultations, official meetings, and polls. 182

The implementation of the project first followed the usual hierarchical concept from the top to the bottom (an authoritarian pattern earmarking most FSLN-projects), with the central body providing guidance or even imposing directions. This was subsequently challenged by the massive participation of different social groups in the regions. 183 The central body instigated and co-ordinated research on existing nationality policies, autonomy laws and other regulations and constructive arrangements between states and indigenous peoples. It organized an international symposium on autonomy in Managua 7/86, with indigenous leaders and scientists from different places examining a draft law. The FSLN strongly felt the need to counter the campaign by US-based Indigenist organizations against its minority policy .

In the eastern regions the process included several steps of organized consultations involving most sectors of the costeños. There was some difference in approach and participation between the regions, due to the war. The "autonomy process"  in the regions started in 1/85 and was terminated in 4/87 with the last multi-ethnic assembly held in Puerto Cabezas, where 220 representatives prepared the law for ratification in the National Assembly  in September 1987. In these 27 months, the process "kind of oscillated from the top to the grassroots and back"  184 . The two regional commissions included members of all ethnic groups. There was some political pluralism, including members of parties hostile to the FSLN (PCN, PLI, PSC), which of course did not make the task easier. The regional commissions were charged with the work to consult with representatives of the communities and with different sectors of the society. Meetings were also held for costeños living in Managua. From 7/85 the results of these consultations and the research were used in house-to-house consultations.

The outcome of the consultations 185 showed a very clear identification of the problems and demands among the southern coast peoples: 1) The people never benefited from the natural resources, 2) the new government should permit equal footing for all ethnic groups, 3) a Centre for higher education is badly needed, 4) direct relations with the Caribbean basin area shall be maintained (most Creole families have some members living outside Nicaragua).

In the northern part of the East Coast, the outcome of main issues was similarly clear: 1) guarantees for Indian lands, 2) profits of resources to remain in the region, 3) Miskitu, Sumu and English as official languages. But before all that, people had immediate worries. The Peace and Autonomy Commissions  of Miskitu and Creole women began their successful mediation work. These organizations grew out of an autonomy meeting. 186

2. Impacts of the autonomy process on the war

The dynamics produced by the autonomy process had a strong impact on the negotiations between government officials and Indian military commanders, as well as on the dialogue with the political leadership of MISURASATA / YATAMA in exile (Rivera et al). The most important impact of the autonomy process is its contribution to the relaxation and reconciliation in the northern war area: 15'000 refugees had already returned to their communities along the Wangks in 1986/87; many thousands followed in 1988. The integration of more Miskitu warriors into territorial militias continued until 1990, when the new government attempted to disarm them.

The competing Miskitu leaders had to react to the initiative taken by the FSLN and the broad support the Peace and Autonomy Commissions  enjoyed in their areas. A general conference of most Miskitu factions organized by the Elder Council took place in Rus Rus, Honduras, in June 1987. It convened badly burned Indian contra  leaders (Fagoth, Diego, Coleman, a/o.) as well as the MISURASATA leadership with Rivera (who was in exile in Costa Rica). They had to react jointly to their increasing marginalization by an internal solution brought about with the ongoing autonomy process. His former commanders condemned Fagoth; his support among the remaining troops seemed declining. Rivera repeated calls for non-alliance with the FDN-contra , but nevertheless accepted co-operation with Fagoth and Diego within an umbrella-organization called YATAMA. 187 The new YATAMA (Sons of the Motherland ) reaffirmed Indian self-determination and approved a "bilateral treaty"  (proposed by Rivera) to be signed by the government and YATAMA. The final decisions of the meeting remained unclear, but an outcome of Rus Rus, a so-called treaty  between the Indians and the Nicaraguan state came to the light. 188

In January 1988, Rivera accompanied by Fagoth submitted his proposal during a new round of negotiations with the government held in Managua. His initiative was joined by most Indian factions, excluding Osorno Coleman's group, who had been won over by the CIA and joined the FDN-contras in the Sapoa talks in March 1988. The revision proposed by YATAMA was seen as antagonistic to the grand design of the autonomy law. When the negotiations were suspended in May 1988, the proposal was qualified as an "absurd demand"  and as "outright separatism which no sovereign government (would) accommodate"  by governmental sources. 189 YATAMA was accused of "ethnocentrism"  and "ethno-populism" , "seeking to exaggerate ethnic differences among Nicaraguans" , as well as of promoting "Fourth World theories" . 190

In fact, Uriel Vanegas (who participated in the Managua talks 1988) believes that Rivera's chief advisor, Bernard Nietschmann, and other foreign advisors' influence might have been decisive for the break-down of the dialogue. 191 Rivera later admitted problems caused by external influence on YATAMA. 192

The FSLN's proposals in the last negotiations between the government and YATAMA in 1988 would have been more favourable for the autonomous regions than the present practice. For instance a negotiated 60% share in the profits from natural resources for the region (and 40% for the central government) was not good enough for Rivera. The outcome of the dialogue was negative. The Indian movement misdealt a historic opportunity to obtain concessions from the Sandinista government. The present government is unwilling to offer favourable terms.

3. Delay in the implementation of the promulgated law

The Atlantic Coast peoples were getting impatient to see autonomy put into practice. Since the formal ratification of the autonomy law in September 1987, elections to the Regional Councils of two autonomous regions designed by the law had been postponed twice. The new municipality law (ratified in mid 1988) had to give the framework to design 15 electoral districts in each of the autonomous regions. Each district will send 3 representatives to the 45-members-council, who will choose and give the mandate to a 7-member executive board. 193 Then a hurricane devastated the southern coast in October 1988 causing heavy damage around Bluefields, the islands and the Rio Escondido up to Rama, bringing heavy destruction to all settlements, infrastructure, production, and to the rain forests. Elections had to be postponed again. The first autonomy elections were finally held together with the elections for presidency and parliament on February 25, 1990, as promulgated by Daniel Ortega during the meeting of the Esquipulas II signatory states in February 1989 at Costa del Sol, El Salvador.

It could only have a negative influence on the autonomy process by linking it with the ideological conflicts among the Ladino majority, since the elections became a plebiscite about the political future of the whole country and Sandinism in particular. The decision of Costa del Sol was seen as instrumental for the disarmament of the contra  before elections, which of course could not possibly be implemented because the USA sabotaged the whole process. 194

Some limited local implementation had already begun in May 1986. Three peace zones and testing grounds for autonomy  were designed:

SS Yule, KISAN's stronghold, with some Miskitu communities around,

SS the area of the Garifuna, with Orinoco as center including four smaller places of the Upper Pearl Lagoon, and

SS the mouth of Rio Grande (de Matagalpa) with five communities and four ethnic groups living there peacefully.

In these three places, their own officials were elected, only local militias were defending the area, and some co-operative development projects in fisheries and agriculture were initiated. 195

4. The establishment of regional self-governance

The present autonomy statute has some short-comings, but it nevertheless is a historic achievement and an (incomplete) model for Latin America. Its influence, particularly in Central America, has not yet been systematically analyzed at all, but the repercussions in the region of what is perceived as Miskitu autonomy seem considerable. It has been reported that the autonomy statute "provoked reactions of most diverse nature"  not only in the neighbouring countries of Honduras and Costa Rica, but also in Guatemala, in the epicenter of Central America's indigenous peoples. 196 Such reactions prove what Ngobe (Guaymí) representatives told me in Panama, that "Indians have no frontiers" . Their strategies for survival can only be radicalized by the Nicaraguan experience.

The ratified Autonomy Law  can satisfy many of the demands which motivated the Indian rebels to take up arms. Even though some indigenous demands were left out, the law represents a big step towards regional self-determination, compared to the standards for indigenous rights and minority regulations in most Latin American countries. Some positive elements are of particular interest, such as provisions concerning:

  1. the reaffirmation of the multi-ethnic, pluri-cultural and multi-lingual character of the Eastern Nicaraguan society, non-discrimination (Art. 11.1) and the right to preserve, develop and strengthen the distinct indigenous cultures, traditions, knowledge, arts, and languages (11.2, 11.8), through education in the mother language and bilingual education (11.5), official use of indigenous languages and English (Art. 5);

  2. the recognition of the communal property of the indigenous communities (225 Miskitu communities, 32 Sumu communities and 4 Rama communities), including their lands, waters and forests that were "traditionally used" (Art. 9, 11.3, 11.6, 36);

  3. the establishment of two autonomous regions governed by elected regional parliaments having jurisdiction over its territory (Art. 6, 7, 8) and electing regional administrations;

  4. the institution of a pluralistic and democratic parliamentary system of governance with elements of a presidential system: regional councils in each region elect an executive junta  and a co-ordinator (commonly called governor ) and have some political rights/duties but limited economic possibilities; the juntas are regulating the work of the councils (Art. 27, 28) while not restricting the powers of the co-ordinator (Art. 30) to direct the executive activities, name functionaries, "discuss" (gestionar ) competence matters with the central authorities and administrate funds (a special fund for development, Art. 30.6).

  5. the balancing of powers in the regions by a combination of demographic representation and the principle of equality of all six ethnic groups to avoid inter ethnic tensions and to protect the rights of small ethnic groups; each community is entitled to have at least one member in the regional government (executive junta ); in RAAS settle six communities, in RAAN four;

  6. the right for ethnic self-identification is provided (Art. 12) thus members of the communities  have the right to decide and define their own ethnic identity.

On the other side, drawbacks can be seen in the serious power limits exposed in the Nicaraguan type of regional autonomy law as for the following strategic areas:

  1. the regional administration is not very autonomous: it can initiate its own economic, social and cultural projects (Art. 8,3) but apparently on the narrow base of regional taxes (Art. 8.9); for the bulk of the duties it has to "participate ", for instance in the elaboration and execution of plans and programs affecting the region (Art. 8.1-2, 23.3), such as development  in the region (no veto-right), in administrating programs concerning health, education, culture, food supply, transports, communal services, etc., in co-ordination  with the respective state ministries of the central government, thus following decisions taken elsewhere which results in a paternalistic rather than a autonomous process; resolutions and decisions of the regional council have to be "in harmony  with the constitution and laws of the Republic" (Art. 24)

  2. the promotion of "rational and fruitful use"  of natural resources and the right to benefit from it "in just proportion"  (Art. 9) through agreements (acuerdos ) between the central and the regional governments,  without indication of joint decision making nor procedures of how to reach such agreements;

  3. the possibility of establishing regional taxation but conforming  to the state laws (Art. 8.9) and promotion of an (inter-)regional market including the Caribbean neighbour states (Art. 8.7-8);

  4. the non-existence of an own budget, only the elaboration of a budget proposal (anteproyecto de presupuesto regional , Art. 23.5) by the council to the hands of the central authorities;

  5. no provisions for participation in decision making (no mixed bodies), for arbitration and for the mentioned regimentation of the law (Art. 44) are given;

  6. the recognition of multiplicity does not include traditional Indian authorities (almuks ) and native political institutions (assemblies); no financial attributions to traditional Indian political institutions.

These points proved very problematic: In all the sectors mentioned, the regional administration would depend on redistribution of political power and economic means by the central government. All provisions concerning the economic base of self-governance are kept in very vague terms, allowing for inaction of the central government in order to avoid the legal obligation to share benefits from resources.

The non-existence of real power sharing and independent judicial or a mixed political bodies to solve possible impasse and stalemate had dire consequences for eastern Nicaragua. The past four years have shown continuous usurpation of control over eastern Nicaragua's resources and over the budgets of the regional governments by central authorities.

5. The persistence of antagonistic conceptions

Nicaragua's indigenous peoples tried to abrogate the legacy of 500 years of colonialism (including 100 years of internal colonialism) in the crucial years of the early 1980's inspired and confirmed by the dynamics of the Sandinista revolution. During the war most exiled Miskitu leaders advocated exclusive Indian rights, which threatened to discriminate other oppressed communities. In order to respond on the autonomy process YATAMA proudly wrote in 4/1988 that its Bilateral Treaty of peace  would be "the most far-reaching manifestation of Indian self-determination in this hemisphere".  197 Since some of the issues dealt with in this proposal are part of ongoing struggles it is worth having a closer look at it. The YATAMA treaty  would in fact have revised the existing Autonomy Statute totally, particularly in the following points:

Conclusions drawn from a comparison of the two contradicting versions of Self-Government:
The grand designs of the two concepts seem antagonistic. In the law 28, rights of autonomy are assigned fundamentally to regions and their six distinct ethnic communities, not to a single ethnic group, due to ethnic heterogeneity of the Caribbean Coast society and a considerable part of mixed people. 198 Divisions among the costeños (the coastal population) should not be artificially enlarged, as it could be imagined as the result of the YATAMA proposal. Any "ethnically" or "racially" determined conception of autonomy only for Indians seems impracticable in eastern Nicaragua because of the very nature of the costeño society. Since ethnic interrelations had been dynamic during a long common history, ethnic based separation would be a break with all traditions and could provoke a serious setback for inter-ethnic coexistence.

The reproach of ethno-centrism concerning the proposal of YATAMA could be based on what is seen as discrimination of the Afro-American peoples, the Creoles and the Garifuna. The treaty clearly differentiates into "Indian nations"  and "ethnic communities" , the latter are also given the definition of "ethnic groups"  (Art. 1.4). The proposal talks of "rights of self-determination of Indian nations"  versus "rights of ethnic minorities" , definitions which stipulate a two-class-system. One ethnic group was even "forgotten". 199

The designation of the Ladinos as an ethnic minority is apparently related to the proposed delimitation of the autonomous area which is less than the surface of the Special Zones I and II (equal to the present autonomous regions) and much less than the original autonomous area of Mosquitia. The reduction of territorial demands is to avoid a future Ladino demographic majority within the above mentioned areas. However, the question of territory was not a closed subject for some years (up to 1990). In both texts some flexibility could be interpreted (Law 28, Art. 6.2; YATAMA treaty 2.2).

The 9-page YATAMA treaty might only be fully understood in the context of the historical competition between the Miskitu and the formerly well-established Creole élite, and could result in old animosities breaking out again. Creole representatives see a racist offence in the treaty: While excluding the Creole capital of Bluefields, to avoid majorization, all other areas sparsely populated by Afro-Americans were included into the claimed Indian territory to be dominated by the Miskitu. For instance the whole Pearl Lagoon area which is multi-ethnically populated by rural Creoles (so-called "Negroes" ), Garifuna and Creolized Indians, as well as by urban Creoles in all smaller towns out of Bluefields. The proposed territory for the 800 Rama for instance, shown on maps provided by Bernard Nietschmann, is much bigger than the excluded surroundings of Bluefields populated by some 55'000 people. 200

The YATAMA treaty of 1988 made it clear that only members of one  Indian organization (Art. 1.1) could be signatories of the proposed treaty and it "shall constitute the provisional government of Yapti Tasba" . This was confirming fears of exclusive Miskitu self-rule having "all powers"  (Art. 4.2.) over virtually all social sectors and institutions, including the political parties and labour unions, the press and mass media, etc., and even cultural expressions (sic!). This reminded of a concept for a rather totalitarian and ethnically determined rule of a "chosen people". 

This critique of the YATAMA proposal could be seen as relative since the "treaty"  had been functional in the framework of the talks between FSLN and YATAMA in 1988 (two rounds, no result). Rumours say that some of the revindications were reaffirmed in YATAMA' s "basic plan"  in February 1990, as part of the agreement between Rivera's YATAMA faction and the former opposition coalition. 201

The faction advocating exclusive Indian control was weakened considerably after Rivera's isolation by the 7th general assembly of the Indian movement (in Waspám, May 1993) and the crushing electoral defeat of his group in 2/1994. The mutual approach of the former adversaries (FSLN and mainstream-YATAMA) in the course of political struggles in the past four years established a informal but stable working relation in local politics within the RAAN. Nevertheless the dilemma of an ethnic-based conception in a multi-ethnic, mixed society is likely to continue, since only two elements of Borge' s triple strategy for pacification finally succeeded. The ongoing antagonism of the basic conceptions and political strategies is not jet resolved between the different factions of the Indian movement.

A structural  reason for the success of Borge's pacification strategy could be seen in the linkage of several autonomous  elements  having common contents and presents common requests of the actors involved. A set-back of one element did not automatically affect the other two, but progress of one did affect the other two. Cease-fire agreements with armed groups, gradually including all except "Blas"  (Osorno Coleman) were possible because of progress with the autonomy process, and vice-versa. 202 Talks with Rivera et al brought some credibility in the international scene and certainly influenced the reduction and finally the end of financing and "aid" for the contra  by the US-congress. This again made cease-fire agreements easier to achieve, since the morale of the contras could not sink lower.

Talks with exiled Indian leaders (the third element) became obsolete during 1988. Rivera's faction had no troops left but continued to reject the new autonomy law. He told me (in an interview in San José, 7/88) that the "Sandinista autonomy project (was) totally embarrassing"  and that it was no good for the "real aspirations of the Miskitu" . 203 However, internal leaders put some pressure on Rivera to change position. This has been analysed by Nietschmann as "division of labour"  among a sort of collective leadership.

A joint meeting in San José in July 1989 came to the conclusion that the framework given with the autonomy law brought about a historical chance to fight, not with arms in the bush but within a constitutional framework, for the legitimate rights of the indigenous peoples. 204 The exiled leaders, even ex-contra  leaders with criminal records, were urged to profit from the general amnesty and to join the competing internal leaders for the 1990 elections. In November 1989, after declaring their respect for the constitution and after some mediation work of the former US-president Carter, Rivera, Fagoth et al finally came back to Nicaragua. They came just in time to strike a deal with the united opposition forces (UNOp) before the "most closely watched elections in the country's history"  and probably in the recent history of the Americas. 205

6. Ambiguous response on the autonomy process among Creoles in RAAS

Only an amelioration of their living conditions and new economic prosperity would have significantly altered urban Creoles' attitude towards the Sandinista state (as Edmund Gordon put it). The Caribbean Coast is most hardly hit by the economic crisis shaking all Nicaragua. The situation got worse in October 1988 by the devastating hurricane Joan which caused heavy damage (of 800 Mio. US-$) to the southern coast (RAAS).

Constant mestizisation goes on in the Autonomous Region of North Atlantic  (RAAS). 206 Emigration among Creoles was high in recent years. Bluefields, once the capital of Afro-Nicaraguans, has already a Mestizo majority. Among urban Creoles there was a growing cynical disappointment with the Sandinistas and the Spaniards in general. Rural Blacks seem more interested in autonomy than urban Creoles. A congress on political rights in the partly reconstructed town of Bluefields in July 1989 (organized by Owyn Hodgson) 207 urged Creoles to gain political initiative and get organized for elections. In 1990 there was no party representing Afro-American interests in any form apart from the FSLN. In 1994 the Movimiento Auténtico Autónomo Costeno  (MAAC / AACM, led by Dr. Roberto Hodgson) was the first and sole Creole-dominated group to successfully participate in the regional elections. 208

The area of Orinoco was one of the three testing grounds  for autonomy from 1986. 209 The town has been defended against several attacks of the contras only by a well organized native militia. The chance for education, fishing and farming co-operatives, self-defense and free cultural expression were the main achievements of the Sandinista era for them. Garifuna usually were FSLN-supporters but in 1990 as well as in 1994 the majority voted for right-wing Mestizo parties such as the Union Nacional Opositora  (UNOp) in 1990 and the Partido Liberal Constitucionalista  (PLC) in 1994. 210

There are two competitive tendencies among Creoles. One is advocating the development of a Caribbean cultural consciousness, the other accepts an increased Hispanisation as an inescapable fact. Some influence of autonomy has shown promising but limited results in the field of restoring and developing their particular Afro-American cultural traditions. The most famous tradition are the May pole  (mayo ya ) celebrations. Less known are the free expression of the Garifuna rituals (particularly the Walagayo  socio-medical ceremony), promotion of herbal medicine and the recognition of traditional medical men (curanderos ). Creole literature and of local arts and crafts were promoted. Caribbean costeño  music is very popular in dancing places all over Nicaragua. The outcome of the 2/90-elections in the southern part (RAAS) reconfirmed the urban Creole's dissatisfaction with the FSLN. The opposition coalition (UNOp) won a two third majority in the 6 districts of Bluefields and all the islands' 3 seats, even though popular FSLN leaders were re-elected. 211

Positive for the FSLN was the vote of the Mestizo majority (mainly campesinos ) in the hinterland, such as in Kukra Hill, Kama, Kukra River, La Cruz de Rio Grande and in Tortugero, but also in the mixed communities of the Mouth of Rio Grande. This was despite the discontent with the FSLN's half-way land reform, from which they were largely excluded, and the fatal continuation of compulsory military conscription (SMP) by which the campesino  youth was most frustrated.

Autonomous governance in Yapti Tasba: An ambiguous experience The unexpected and narrow victory of the opposition coalition, the Unión Nacional Opositora  (UNOp), in the second general elections held on February 25, 1990, was likely to have a negative impact on the future autonomy process in both Caribbean regions. The victorious UNOp got a temporary majority in the south-east with the help of YATAMA, but not much influence in the former war area of the north-east, where the "first Indian dominated government in the Americas" (Mirna Cunningham) was run by YATAMA. In both areas the FSLN was the opposition but continued to influence the course of the events as the biggest and best organized political force. In the first four years of autonomous governance in Eastern Nicaragua the two governing groups (YATAMA and UNOp) never had a convincing alliance, and both lost the power after the February 1994 regional elections as a result of four years of exeptionally bad governance.

1. Surprising outcome of the 1990 elections in RAAN: Threat of an "ethnic dictatorship" ?

YATAMA and two UNOp deputies initially got a one-vote-majority in the RAAN's parliament. A similar constellation occurred in the RAAS, but the political struggle in the south soon turned the former political fronts up-side down. While traditional ideological polarization dominated in the RAAS, some observers were talking about an "ethnic dictatorship"  in RAAN. 212

After the ratification of the Autonomy Law, the FSLN has delayed the elections for the regional 45 members-autonomous councils, since there were fears of losing control in the area and the still existing threat of destabilization by armed Miskitu groups based mainly in Honduras (and Costa Rica). The demobilisation of those troops and the integration of the exiled YATAMA leaders had since been the declared objectives of the FSLN-government, to be accomplished before any election, but failed to materialize.

In September 1989, some twenty YATAMA leaders signed four conditions to re-integrate, above all to respect laws and constitution, not to receive foreign funds without declaring it, to desist from violence and to disarm the YATAMA troops. The last condition was not fulfilled before elections. Rivera and Fagoth had no control over YATAMA troops led by Osorno "Blas" Coleman, which have been part of the FDN-contra . These troops disarmed as late as June 20, 1990, after the elections took place already.

Regional organizations 213 Barricada. Organo oficial del Frente Sandinista, Managua
El Nuevo Diario. Un periodismo nuevo para el hombre nuevo (former redaction La Prensa, Dir. Xavier Chamorro), Managua
La Prensa (Prop. Violetta Chamorro Barrios), Managua (such as YATAMA or KISAN) were originally not allowed by law to participate in elections as parties, but as "popular listings" (suscripción popular ) who need to get 1% of the inscribed electorate in each voting district (circunscripción ). Members of such groups could also run as candidates on party tickets. In the RAAS, prominent Creoles ran on FSLN-lists (some on PSC).

In the RAAN representatives of ethnic groups ran on lists of five parties (FSLN; leftist PUC/CUC and MUR; centrist PSC; right-wing UNOp). 214 For instance, of the 45 FSLN candidates for the Regional Council there were 19 Miskitu, and even 4 of 5 FSLN-candidates for the National Assembly were Miskitu. For the UNOp there were mainly unknown Mestizo candidates (one of them got elected in the RAAN). That means, the representation of each of the six ethnic groups in both regions practically depended on their representation on party lists, which is probably a serious deviation from the spirit of law 28. This was rectified in 1994 by the emergence of quite a few popular lists in both regions.

In a first phase, the situation in the north-east remained volatile and far more polarized than in the south-east. Back home, Rivera et al began to become heavily involved in politics on the level of the central state. Thus, in total contradiction to the previous principle of YATAMA, not to mix in national policy, they originally supported Erick Ramirez' centrist Social-Christian Party  (PSC), together with Eden Pastora, the ex-leader of the ARDE. Just 16 days before elections, they met the international press, together with Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, Antonio Lacayo and ex-contra  leader Alfredo César, to declare their support of the right-wing opposition Unión Nacional Opositora  (UNOp).

This has been seen as flagrant opportunism of YATAMA top-leaders, challenging Rivera's image as authentic leader  since the UNOp-coalition didn't even have such an item like autonomy on their programme! The concerned US-agencies might have heavily pressured their former allies, and a secret agreement between Rivera's YATAMA faction and UNOp was signed, satisfying the personal ambition of himself and his competing companion Steadman Fagoth Müller. Simple opportunism and greed for personal gains are not the only impulses to observe in this respect, but a phenomenon amongst Miskitu what could be called last-minute bingo alternatives . I am talking about strategic decisions taken under different forms of stress and pressure which were not comprehensive or "rational" decisions and proved to turn out "wrong" since they were detrimental for the Indian cause. Such bingo  alternatives  used to happen in the immediate forefront of major events such as elections or at the end of important processes; they are sudden changes of intentions, policies and alliances without further notice and particular reasoning. It could be the sudden feeling not to "stand on the right side" (on the winner side) but it could also be a sudden position of total refusal. Such processes have been described as the social psychology of minorities who feel (and are) repressed and dominated. For the Miskitu such behaviour would be like falling back in history. The Miskitu are an incipient nation; they have been a minority  20 years back when they formed ALPROMISU.

In February 1994 it was Fagoth's turn to beat Rivera's opportunism. This time he abandoned YATAMA as abroad-based popular Indian movement. He "gave" YATAMA to Rivera in order to strike a last-minute deal with the (compared to the UNOp) even more right-wing Partido Liberal Constitucionalista . The PLC was led by then Managua's mayor Arnoldo Alemán, who was already seen by many as the future president of Nicaragua. Alemán posed as a powerful ally against the alleged threat of a FSLN-majority in RAAN. 215

2. Creation of INDERA and Rivera's attempted coup d'état

The unexpected victory of the US-supported opposition coalition in 1990, with 54% of the votes, soon disclosed the price Violeta Barrios de Chamorro had to pay for YATAMA's electoral support. It consisted of not implementing or promoting autonomy in the East Coast, but of giving Rivera a minister-director post in her government and naming Fagoth as her delegate for the RAAN. Rivera does not have a portfolio but was made head of an new body, called Institute for the development of the East Coast  (INDERA) 216 , in order to become a major player again.

Most surprising was the outcome of the 1990 elections for the Regional Autonomous Council  in the RAAN, which was undecided with 22 attached to UNOp/YATAMA, 21 to FSLN/ KISAN and 2 independents. Consequently, the allegedly moderate former administrator of the Moravian church, Lionel Panting, was chosen co-ordinator  (now called governor ) of the regional government as a candidate of consensus, having most of the executive powers in his hands. The representative function of a president of the regional council  was given to Uriel Vanegas, a young former YATAMA military commander having signed a cease-fire with the EPS in 1987. The potential line of conflict between the FSLN and YATAMA in the regional parliament of Bilwi (Puerto Cabezas) in North-eastern Nicaragua, didn't break up immediately, since a serious new institutional conflict developed rapidly, before the autonomous government was even formally constituted in July 1990.

This conflict between Managua and Bilwi, between the central government and the regional government, was caused (very ironically) by the ambitious former YATAMA-leader Rivera, now member of the central government and head of a newly created Institute for the Development of the East Coast  (INDERA). Rivera's provokingly illegal assertion of "all powers"  was anticipated in his proposed Treaty in 1987 (art. 4.2.). Such powers of a Miskitu governor, now used by himself as the first Miskitu minister of state, caused (even more ironically) the united resistance of FSLN and YATAMA representatives in the autonomous parliament and government.

Rivera's cold coup d'état  began immediately (in May 1990) with the tactical temporary move to appoint Fagoth as his proxy in Port (Puerto Cabezas). Then he began with the arbitrary, illegal dismissal of central government delegates (delegados ) in the two autonomous regions (sic!), who were replaced by people of his camp. Rivera' s transparent attempt to build up his own personal power base, to occupy the strategic administrative positions and to distribute the club goods is, of course, a flagrant violation of the autonomy law. He clearly tried to take advantage of the power vacuum created by the transition to autonomous structures and the unregimented assignation of competence and financial powers between central and regional authorities. Hence, Rivera purposefully capitalizes upon the weak points of the autonomy law in order to prevent its implementation and create "new facts".

Apparently Rivera's faction is still in favour of an Indianist type of autonomy. Rivera still sees the autonomy law as "very limited" but as a means for participation:

"We consider that with this autonomy statute we have, at least, a space, which is very limited, but it is a means for participating in some decision making. It's a means to influence the course of actions in the Atlantic Coast; it's a possibility to have some amount of control over our own affairs. So, the strategy is to take advantage of these autonomy statutes even if we don't agree completely; it provides a tool we can use within the context of the present democratization process, where we can slowly keep moving forward according to our capacity of action in this new situation." 217

In April 1993, Alfonso Smith, a centrist deputy in the National Assemble and former MISURASATA commander, who tried twice to take the government house in Bilwi by armed force and violent means, finally succeeded to overthrow Lionel Panting. He got elected as governor with some YATAMA votes and the FSLN votes from the mines. 218 Smith was supposed to prepare the scene for Rivera's alleged aspiration to become governor in the 1994 elections.

The FSLN party leader of Puerto Cabezas, Henri Hermann, publicly opposed the vote of the FSLN delegates from the mines. Apparently, the frustration with Panting's administration became stronger than the fear to gave support for a Brooklinista . After several scandals, such as the "Caribbean 2000 S.A." concession in 12/92 (when Panting sold the exclusive right to fish in the RAAN's waters to a dubious US-company, for some substantial kick-backs), and Panting's total neglect of the FSLN-dominated mine area the day of revenge came.

However, Panting has become an uncontrollable figure for Rivera, since he opposed INDERA's role. Panting told me RAAN was "almost at the verge of a civil war" during the institutional conflict with INDERA:

"When INDERA was first created, Brooklyn Rivera explained to us what INDERA was about, and we thought it was acceptable. I was the first to accept that INDERA was a necessity, thinking it would help us get experience in administration of the Regions; we also thought that it would help for obtaining international assistance. But this was only at the beginning, but later we saw how he turned against his own people. (...)
The crisis got so bad that we were almost at the verge of a civil war. Let's look for instance at the Regional Council. We have to admit that we wanted a minimum understanding among the people in this region, which was one of the most affected areas during the war in the decade of 1980's. We didn't want any more division or malicious feelings. Therefore, the Regional Council under the chairmanship of Uriel Vanegas pushed that attitude, and so did I, as executive of the government. I felt it was necessary to put an end to hatreds and reach some kind of unity with the central government to launch an integral development for Nicaragua and for our Regions.
However, the political divisions prevailed, although we had shown willingness to work together with all, even with the Sandinistas, who were our political enemies. This, together with the mistakes made by Brooklyn Rivera, took us to this disastrous situation we find ourselves in right now." 219

3. The crucial question of control over natural resources

Apart from all the controversies about influential positions, the major task of the regional councils is the establishment of an economic basis for the regions in order to perform some kind of autonomy. 220 The ordinary budget of 1,6 million Cordoba ($ 200,000) barely covers the administrative expenses of the regional governments. Alta Hooker stated: "Do you know that our budget is 0.030 percent of the national budget? That's all we have. It's practically impossible to do anything with that." 221 The central government assigned a budget to the region: "It is a ridiculous assignment. We practically can't do anything with that kind of budget." 222

A law for the use of natural resources is badly needed but the regimentation of law 28 is pending. Among the proposals is that 80% of the revenues must be reinvested in the region. Such a proposal is facing a bunch of difficulties. It is, as Dr. Rojas exposed, against the underlying "way of political thinking" in Western Nicaragua. Such a view was expressed by the former minister of foreign affairs by pointig out that "you cannot let go of all the resources and riches that are in the region", and that "you cannot put the resources in the hands of the savages  at the Atlantic Coast": 223

"The central government's fear is to have less and less control over the Atlantic Coast, which is where the natural riches are, and this is what they are interested in. So if they have less and less control over the Coast, they will get in a situation of coming down and establishing some kind of system in which the entire country could develop, and this would be against their way of political thinking. It's a big fear the central government has. This is why they are willing to fight against our autonomy."

While in RAAS, the lumber mill COMABLUSA (financed by Sweden) to take use lumber lost in the hurricane in 1988, has been transferred to the regional government, 224 large quantities of lumber is pulled out of RAAN without control. The respective state agency, IRENA, is not able to control the business. The company MADENSA has had virtual monopoly since 1991 on valuable mahogany which is shipped out. Since 1994 another foreign company, the Central American Line , is processing lumber and shipping it out. Governor Alfonso Smith did not even know about the details of their contract since: "They have an agreement with IRENA, not with the regional government". 225

Taxes collected by IRENA go straight to Managua, so the region nor the community benefit much. 226 IRENA usurped all so-called state lands  and issued concessions (on behalf of the central state). The real owners are practically expropriated. In many cases these are the Indian communities, but many communities lack titles and they cannot formally claim the right to their forests. The Indian communities deeply mistrust IRENA since this institution and the foreign companies take off with the potential profit. There is no base for an adequate control by the regional governments. IRENA does not pay the communities their share of the income nor do the regional authorities receive anything.

For the coastal population fisheries is the lifeline. There are new actors on the scene: "Foreign resource pirates and Nicaraguan resource traffickers". 227 Since the new government cut-down military expenses, the 650 km long coast has no surveillance anymore. As Johnny Hodgson put it:

Foreign pirates "only pay for the monthly licence, and what they catch is theirs. The law says that they should process their product here, but they don't do it. If a boat goes out and it gets 15,000 tons, they ship 14,000 to their country and bring 1,000 tons here and say: "This is all I got". They can do this because there is nobody is controlling and supervising. That's our main resource here in the South, and when that sea resources are finished, we will be finished." 228

4. Division and crushing electoral defeat of YATAMA in 1994

The main reason for Rivera's potential return to the coast would have been the central government's compromise with their allies (the FSLN) to cut down INDERA's budget or even dissolve it sooner or later. Against Rivera's return stand his "higher aspirations" and a incalculable uncertainty to be able to dominate a majority alliance in order to be elected as governor by the regional parliament. 229 Before the elections Rivera told the public that his faction is going for absolute majority in both councils (sic!). 230

Results of the regional elections in the autonomous area of north-eastern Nicaragua:


21 + 1
19 (35,2%)
19 + 1 (28,7%)
Legend 231


22 + 1
2 + 1
7 (21,4%)
0 + 1 (0,9%)

The present situation with a strong PLC (while the UNOp disappeared), a much weaker YATAMA, and a slightly reduced FSLN, is result of two main factors:

1) The voters castigated the governing parties for their bad performance during the last four years, and 2) The fatal division of YATAMA cause by internal contradictions, electoral pressure and blatant opportunism made the PCL suddenly the strongest party.

The fatal division of YATAMA took its beginning because both Fagoth and Rivera claimed the name and symbols of YATAMA. The impasse was suddenly "solved" by Fagoth joining the PLC because of its opulent funds and its growing influence in Managua. Hence Fagoth surrendered YATAMA as a formerly broad-based popular movement to the sectarian and ambitious Rivera. This could only have negative impacts on the formation of a strong indigenous movements and on the possibilities to defend and expand the scope of autonomous governance.

The disastrous result of rest-YATAMA in the 1994 regional elections reflects the old pattern of the division into three distinct Miskitu regional groups still separating the river people (pro-Fagoth, PLC), the coast Miskitu (pro-Rivera, rest-YATAMA) and the Llano (FSLN sympathies). The result clearly shows that Rivera would presently have to cut down his aspirations to zero. Only 7 seats were won by rest-YATAMA. Rivera's YATAMA significantly has its strongholds along the coast (3 seats in Bilwi, 2 in the Littorals and 1 seat in Rio Abajo. Just in two of the 15 districts rest-YATAMA got a majority of two seats. 232 No seats were won in Rio Coco area and in the mines. Not even a third of the original YATAMA's 22 + 1 seats won in 1990 could be secured. The bulk of the 1990 success was thanks to Rio Coco and Llano where Rivera is not popular at all. Rivera's potential allies, the YAAD and the Partido de Resistencia Nacional  (PRN) of the ex-contras , were clearly defeated. 233 The electoral performance of YAAD was below 10% of the vote even in its alleged strongholds. 234

Things look much different for the former YATAMA-mainstream, Fagoth's faction as well as the one led by Uriel Vanegas. Lionel Panting became the secretary of the right-wing Partido Liberal Constitucionalista  (PLC), led by then Managua's mayor Arnoldo Alemán, after being voted out of office as governor in April 1993. Even Fagoth took quiet late the PLC ticket, he was able to convince 38,4% of the electorate in his strongholds along Rio Coco and Llano that PLC and YATAMA is the same fight. In the mentioned three of districts are some 42,1% of the entire RAAN electorate but only 20% of the seats. PLC got 6 out of these 9 seats; it collected in the Miskitu heartland 16.2 % of the entire vote or close to half of all votes PLC received in RAAN. This shows clearly that in the Miskitu area votes for PLC were mainstream-YATAMA votes. In his home (Rio Coco Arriba), Fagoth came out as the candidate with the highest number of votes in the north-eastern RAAN (3'185 or 62%).

Rivera's old adversary, Steadman Fagoth, has the manifest aspiration to become governor and his candidature has much more strength. Fagoth will certainly be elected as governor in May 1994 if he would be able to strike a deal with the FSLN. The precondition formulated by Mirna Cunnigham is nothing less than breaking up the relation with the Somocistas  of PLC. 235 Borge did not exclude a future alliance with Fagoth in order to safeguard the strategic interests of the region, in particular the struggle for real autonomy. 236

Some analysts saw it as crucial that the Partido Liberal Constitucionalista  (PLC) made 11 of its 19 seats in the seven voting districts of the Mestizo-dominated mine areas of Siuna, Rosita and Bonanza. The mines account for 34.2 % of the vote but 46.7 % of the mandates. PLC managed to defeat FSLN in some former strongholds. The Sandinistas got there 10 of 19 seats. FSLN got 38.7 % of the local electorate, slightly more than the 37.8 % of PLC.

In the multi-ethnic area of Bilwi / Puerto Cabezas was the second important area for the Sandinistas; the FSLN got the majority there (5 of 9 seats). 237 Surprisingly the FSLN won the majority in the Miskitu-dominated Llano Sur around the KISAN-stronghold of Yulu, the former Tasba-Pri resettlement area and Kukalaya. 238 In these areas the PLC was only able to win one seat. 239

5. A comparison of the 1990 and 1994 election results in RAAS: Increasing participation and political pluralism

A comparison of the 1990 and the 1994 results shows interesting shifts: In 1990, the FSLN got only 6 out of 18 seats in Bluefields but 12 in the hinterland. In 1994 this pattern was nearly reversed, since the Sandinistas won more seats in Bluefields (8) but less in the rural areas. In 1990 the FSLN had won the majority in 4 of 9 rural districts (all 3 seats of Tortugero, 2 in La Cruz, 2 in Kukra Hill / Kama River and 2 in Kukra River). In 1994 the FSLN lost majority in all but one rural district (Kukra Hill / Kama River); surprisingly all its 3 seats in Tortugero, which is a place of very poor campesinos including a large settlement of former contras, were lost to PLC.

YATAMA could defend its 5 seats won in 1990 (2 in the Mouth of Rio Grande; 2 in Peal Lagoon area; 1 in La Cruz) by losing one seat in Pearl Lagoon but wining another in Corn Island. The UNOp who won 1990 in 7 districts (two third of the vote in Bluefields and all from the Islands) lost 18 seats mainly to the PLC and won not a single district. Surprisingly the areas of the two small ethnic minorities, the Rama Indians and Garifuna, voted 1990 two third for UNOp, one third for the FSLN and nothing for YATAMA. In 1994 the pattern was the same but UNOp replaced by PLC (and the only ADECO seat). A comparison of the 1990 and 1994 election results doesn't shows spectacular changes: 240

Results of the 1990 and 1994 elections in the autonomous area of South Eastern Nicaragua


18 + 1
5 241

14 +1 (24,6%)
(9 %)


22 + 1
45 + 2
5 + 1



45 + 2

In order to get the majority in 1990, the UNOp had to win over at least one YATAMA deputy. Two men loyal to Rivera gave UNOp a temporary majority to elect Alvin Guthrie as governor. 242 Later on UNOp lost its majority. Ray Hooker was elected twice as governor without being accepted by the central government. The parliament became paralysed through an UNOp boycott and stopped working for a year! Affairs and corruption scandals around UNOp leaders has thrown politics in the RAAS into a complete chaos. Governor Guthrie was accused of collusion with Mafiosi  and drug-traffickers. Guthrie was in a good position for the profitable selling-out the RAAS' riches. 243 Even deputies of his own PSC-party accused him of corruption and merchant morality. 244

Not surprisingly the voters settled their accounts with the UNOp and Guthrie in the 1994 regional elections. The UNOp lost all but 5 seats to Alemán's PLC (18 seats). Guthrie did not dare to face a popularity test and his newly formed ADECO only got one seat (among the Garifuna). The Sandinistas lost 4 (of 19) seats partly due to the rise of several local popular listings such as MJI, MAD and DEX, 245 particularly due to the success of popular movements such as the Authentic Autonomous Coast Movement  (MAAC / AACM) led by Dr. Roberto Hodgson. 246 The MAAC won two seats in the Pearl Lagoon area. However, the right-wing parties (PLC and UNOp) still hold a slight majority of 23 out of 45 seats in the Regional Council of RAAS, and they could continue to rule even without YATAMA's support.

Dim prospects for the autonomy process

The violent ethnic conflict in Eastern Nicaragua, starting in December 1981 and continuing until spring 1988, remained perilous and virulent as long as a foreign power tried to exploit it since it fitted into neo-colonial designs to destabilize the Sandinista revolution. The subjugation to foreign control or the temporary alliance with the historic enemy fundamentally questioned the political reliability of the Indian movement in the eyes of the Sandinistas. The Indians actitude attempted to undermine the FSLN's will to break with the heritage of Nicaragua being a banana republic , and to defend Nicaragua's right of Self-Determination in the backyard  of the USA.

The FSLN had to come a long way to see that Nicaragua's population is not homogenous but multi-ethnic. Thus the Ladino "nation state"  doesn't mean much to the costeños . Indians, Creoles and Blacks claimed Self-Determination in the face of internal colonialism and alien Hispanic nationalism. The FSLN finally began from October 1984 onwards to recognize some claims as legitimate , and gave it the quasi-irreversible form  of law no. 28. It could serve as a model to most states of Latin Americas. Recognizing multiplicity among Nicaragua's citizens induced a potential change of quality in the relationship between West and East Coast. Much depends upon full implementation of the promulgated law, as well as upon a possible revision of the law. The Autonomy Statute  constitutes a change of quality in the relation of ethnicity and state only if it will be regulated and fully implemented.

The failure of the FSLN-government to implement the law was obvious. The FSLN has been in power for more than 10 years but started to elaborate the law in 1984. It was ratified in 1987. The reason for the delay has not been disclosed yet, but it gave the new UNOp government the chance to sabotage the implementation with the help of some Miskitu leaders. In order to dissipate doubts about the seriousness of the central state to respect regional autonomy of the costeños, the law should be implemented fully, without further delay. The law was criticized as a simple model of decentralization, which seems an inadequate criticism since it is a recognition of collective property rights and contains a lot about promoting traditional culture and languages (in basic school and as official languages beside Spanish), etc. Moreover further decentralization can only be advocated.

Three remarks concern those elements which are of decisive influence on the prospects of autonomy in Nicaragua. First is the urgent regimentation and the elimination of weak points in law 28, second the resistance or even sabotage against further decentralization by all actors involved, and third the persistence of different position and division among Miskitu and Creoles:

1. The urgent regimentation and the weak points of the law 28

The political environment has changed dramatically since the general elections in 2/90. Anti-chauvinist alliances are now more difficult. Today YATAMA feels the necessity to defend autonomy. Rapid and full implementation of the autonomy law also depends upon the ability of the new regional councils and governments. So-far the performance of the autonomous administrations in the past four years has been frustrating for the costeños and shown deficiency in many aspects. The option for responsible regimentation and revision of the law should accentuate the decentralization to both regions and their municipalities. Full implementation of the law depends on the regimentation and necessary supplements.

At the present stage the central government has no interest at all to give hands for the enforcement and implementation and 33-pages-regimentation proposed by the two regional councils jointly in June 1993. 247 Such a regimentation could only be a deal based on initiatives taken by the FSLN and pressures on the presidency and the centrist parliamentary group. Pressures exercised by the FSLN as the stabilizing power was the guarantee for survival of the present administration. The UNOp-government will try to win time and continue its strategy of inaction in order to avoid any legal obligations such as sharing the profits from the rich resources in the East. Giving up control over the resources would be a loss of a source of income and kick-backs for top officials and the Lacayo-Chamorro clan.

With reference to the elaborated regimentation proposal by the autonomous regions, structured in eight titles, chapters and 85 articles, some of the key elements of the implementation, legal regimentation and facilitation of the autonomy law are:

Institutional and legal administrative division of competencies between the central and regional governments have to be clearly defined; the regimentation proposes (in Art. 50-52) nothing concrete; the same goes for the necessity to reach agreements between central and regional governments (in Art. 36); no procedures are proposed.

Regulation of real power sharing and the establishing of an independent judicial or a mixed political body are necessary to solve ongoing impasse and stalemate of the autonomy process, but no arbitration body is proposed in the regimentation draft.

The highly important question of rights over natural resources has to be revised. The law contains only a vague formula for a just participation in the profit-sharing for the region. The bulk of the profits (such as 80% in the first 10 years) should remain for the two regions.
The regimentation proposal contains some ideas and demands (Art. 33-35) to regulate fisheries, the most important renewable resource for Indians and Blacks. Joint agreements were made between the two region on the sustainable use of the rich sea resources, and active participation  in the policy definition of how to regulate the issuing of licenses and taxation of seafood production and export. No concessions for resource exploitation shall be issued without consent of the regions. 248

Lacking professional and moral competencies of the present government members, deputies and administrative staff has been exposed by the past four years' experience. Training courses for political actors and careful selection of representatives and personnel by the political parties and movements should focus on professional qualification, political dedication and personal sincerity.

More decentralization seems necessary. A possible solution of divergent conceptions of autonomy put forward by the FSLN (regional autonomy) and YATAMA (territorial autonomy for the indigenous) could be a shift of powers from the regions to the municipalities, which are more likely to be ethnically homogenous, or could be designed that way (Art. 41-49). The proposal for the demarcation and the organization of the municipalities has still to be worked out by the regional councils in co-ordination with the regions five deputies in central parliament (Art. 37.F). Representatives of the municipalities shall participate in development programs on all stages (Art. 43).

More powers should be assigned to the 250 - 300 communities with a sizeable number of members. Communal assemblies delegate members who shall be recognized as interlocutors (Art. 48). Community-based development projects would have the most direct impact and can be managed and controlled by the community assemblies and elders. Results of the Proyecto Wangki  in 50 Miskitu communities along the Rio Coco have to be studied carefully. 249

Presently, the central governments practice of partial redistribution concerning some income from the regions' rich sea resource (fisheries, shrimps and lobster) but no sharing at all concerning other natural resources (minerals, lumber, etc.) is unjust and illegal. Inaction of the central authorities is encouraged by unclear or non-existent provisions. The clarification of competencies including further decentralization from central to regional bodies and down to the municipalities and communities would be the best solution.

2. Resistance against further decentralization

Decentralization might clash with the involved actors or parties' ideologies as well as their organizational principles. The actors are the bourgeois parties (UNOp, PLC, PLI, PCN, PSC), the Sandinistas (FSLN) and YATAMA. Decentralization would certainly be adequate and conform to the political system of the Indian in the North-east of Nicaragua.

  • Since the change in 1990, the bourgeois parties, particularly the so-called Liberal Constitutional Party  (PLC), once the instrument of the Somoza clan, and the Conservatives (PCN), are simply aiming at restoring the oligarchic class interests of the former ruling cliques. Regarding the ethnic and national minorities they clearly followed the old policy of laissez-faire,  when it makes sense economically, assimilation, when it comes to culture and schools, and repression when security matters are concerned. In the past four years centralising decision-making and obstructing the regional governments were the common features of the UNOp-government's policy towards the coast .In fact their policies never meant anything else for the costeños  than economic underdevelopment and Hispanization.

  • At the east coast, the FSLN members are now first costeños  and "autonomic",  and then they are Sandinistas. 250 The aim of democratizing the party structure seemed genuine at the party congress held in February 1991. There was widespread support for change and an unprecedented public debate took place. A new Sandinista Assembly was elected and more pluralism is now possible. Members of the assembly now dare to challenge top leaders publicly. 251 Ideological change further professionalization are going on. Before 1990/91 the FSLN was convinced that nationalising the commanding heights of the economy would be revolutionary. The whole Sandinista movement itself was structured very hierarchically. 252 Co-operative spirit of equal members, workers participation (or even autonomy) and other expressions of genuine (mass-)democracy were largely missing in the organizational framework, substituted by top-heavy avant-garde party and central labour union, even though the rhetoric and some of the spirit was egalitarian.

  • A very different concept of political leadership existed among the Miskitu: The 300 indigenous communities and many of the rural Blacks still live in an egalitarian environment. In the past, the only hierarchic element was the Moravian Church. It is only recently, with the tough power struggle launched against the elders by a former student group (who took the leadership of the organizations), that the Indian movement in Nicaragua has become a battlefield for an educational élite. This élite largely copied an alien concept of personal leadership.

The militarization of the ethnic conflict from 1981 to 1990 accelerated the allegedly retarded  Indian history and made it more Ladino-like. It produced bigger and smaller "war lords"  who were able to organize supplies. Top Miskitu leaders in the past period had to be military commanders (distribution of resources, executive power) and impressive orators (Miskitu culture and history are oral). They pretend to fight for their people's interest and to know what is their people's interest (ethno-populism ). The Hispanic concept of caudillismo  was for some years fully applied by the élite (Brooklyn Rivera, Steadman Fagoth, Wycliffe Diego et al). Presently civilian leaders such as Pedro Mercado, Kenneth Serapio, Armando Rojas, Fornes Rabonias et al are coming back on stage. 253 "Cult of personality"  meant something "Spanish"  to the collectivist Indian communities, where decentralized structures were significant signs of a stateless society. The action of Rivera et al as the Miskitu representatives on the central state level could well be conjunctural, nevertheless it is a striking new phenomenon which calls for legitimating (for instance through elections).

The recent re-enforcement of the traditional authority exercised by the Council of Elders (Almuk nani asla takanka ) is a sign that the power of the young élite is limited and that there is little will among the elders and community leaders to tolerate further divisions.

3. The persistence of different position and division among Miskitu and Creoles

The cause of the costeño people has suffered from the restoration since 1990. The fundamental reasons for dissent and discomfort among Indians and Blacks are unlikely to be solved in due time. Nicaragua's ethnic conflict has not been fully resolved; it has only been fully pacified. Since the state's targets are met by now, and the irregular troops were disarmed by June 1990, pressure for further admission of redistributing power is missing today. This is the case regarding all other concessions to be made by the central government to accommodate Indian demands. The faction of integrationists  now definitely holds the majority in Managua's parliament and government. Legal and other political efforts to strengthen autonomy for the costeños will get less or no support from central state bodies. The systematic violation of the autonomy law by the new government (ironically initiated by an Indian leader) does not raise expectations of further decentralization and distribution of powers. Under the present circumstances the different positions of the Indians in RAAN and of the Afro-Americans in RAAS as well as the deep division of the Miskitu movement are likely to persist:

Creoles and Blacks still demand real recognition as a national minority with its distinct culture, own language and a way-of-life different from the Mestizo majority and the Indian minorities. Economic amelioration would considerably and positively alter the Afro-Americans disappointment with their situation as a "forgotten minority". Presently, all indicators for economic development in Nicaragua are more negative than before. The illusion of massive US-aid and war reparations expected to flow soon has been largely disappointed after the change in 1990. For the average citizen life becomes more difficult. The standard of living has slumped below levels known in the Sandinista era. The UNOp was castigated for bad governance and political polarisation. Its local officials suffered total defeat in the 1994 elections.

A faction of Miskitu ethno-populists still works for exclusive Indian Self-Rule within an autonomous territory. They might not concede to participating in a regional government with limited powers, based on equal footing for all ethnic groups. The attractivity of such a venture is even lower if it is confined to administrating the present economic misery. The co-optation of individual leaders into the national élite will not solve the problem because such leaders will loose support among the militant base. Hence it is likely that institutional and ideological controversy will continue in future.

The mainstream YATAMA has in practice moved towards an alliance with its former enemy, the FSLN, in order to defend autonomy. After four years of frustrating experience with a hostile central government changes were in urgent need. The regional elections of February 1994, financed by the European Nordic countries, brought a crushing defeat for the governing groupings of UNOp in RAAS and rest-YATAMA in RAAN, since mainstream-YATAMA (with Fagoth, Vanegas and Panting) made some last-minute-agreements with Alemán's PLC and abandoned the YATAMA platform to the Rivera group. 254 No group or party has won a majority in the two regions. Within the resulting new power constellation the three main contenders (FSLN, PLC and rest-YATAMA) are compelled to find workable alliances in order to give autonomy a second chance.

Ethnicity and state in Nicaragua and elsewhere:
A critical review

Conflict resolution in the case of Eastern Nicaragua has so far been successful on the plan of pacification. The war was stopped. More fundamental roots of the conflict could have only partly been tackled by a centrally designed triple strategy for conflict management, of which the process towards autonomy for the East Coast was the most important part. This process continues to face difficulties on a conceptual and ideological level, resulting in plenty of operational problems in the practice of autonomy and autonomous governance.

In this last chapter I try to expose some fundamental conceptual difficulties and conflict-loaded ideological root-problems. Finally, some ideas and possible ways of conflict regulation and resolution are out-lined. My remarks are neither attempting to have found the ultimate formula nor to represent a complete register of possible obstacles and problems plastering those ways.

1. Abrogating reductive analysis

Abrogating and relativating concepts, which are bound to political dogmatism, national chauvinism, ethnocentrism and racism, are a primary task to resolve within a process of conflict regulation. Some conflict roots have first to be brought to a state of awareness. Of particular concern are:

  • The opportunist and chauvinist policy of the present right-wing coalition government could undermine the standard of conflict resolution reached by the FSLN.

  • Analytical reductionism of the FSLN's conception regarding the relationship of ethnicity, race and social class has been exposed by out-siders, criticized by its members and modified.

  • Indigenist and Indianist positions of some Miskitu leaders might have been popular some years ago but they are still useless in grasping the complexity of the costeño  society.

  • Ethno-centrist positions of the Creole élite are basically functional as a smoke screen for pure class-interests and lost privileges.

The above-mentioned positions are the source for the reproduction of mutual mistrust and programmed misunderstanding. It reduces the political space for conflict resolution. Affirmative action to the benefit of peoples having suffered age-old oppression as ethnic entities shall be fully implemented. It should be prevented that such action is further blocked by Ladino-chauvinists and instrumentalized by self-declared leaders and élites to the benefit of their own interests. Such particular interests and foreign interference should be disclosed and condemned.

2. Ethnicity: a fundamental set of social relationships

The theoretical debate on ethnicity was marked by open controversy. This luxury should be limited when it comes down to such questions of ethnicity and state resulting in violent conflicts. The criterion of utility and applicability of such theories was questioned. Theories are supposed to be instruments to understand complex realities, in order to influence and guide conflict resolution.

Some of the basic hypothetical findings (exposed below) regarding the concept of ethnic identity  and ethnicity  did not have their adequate response on the level of real policy (Realpolitik), since they are fundamentally questioning euro-centric policy approaches:

The hypothesis of the relative autonomy of ethnocentrism and racism, and its (in-) direct relations to economic, social and political conditions has shown high plausibility in multi-ethnic countries. The majority of Third World states are not ethnically homogenous. Many industrialised countries have important communities of migration workers, emigrants, asylum seekers and other refugees. The rise of racism (and neo-fascism) in Europe in the very recent past has shaken countries which are usually proud of their cultural heritage and their democratic political system.

Ethnicity is not simply a form of class-relations. Its particular (not primordial) character is not bound to be neutralised by modernization. In fact ethnic identity eventually is a social relationship which guarantees the very survival of masses of marginalized people under the dramatic conditions of capitalist modernization and impoverishment (pauperization process in most Third World countries).

Ethnicity as a concept used in regard to indigenous peoples is often stripped of its quality as a fundamental set of relationships which have a totalizing character, breaking up the alleged universal tendency and the dichotomy of class relations. The role of warfare as a mobilizer of ethnic sentiment and as a centralizing force in the case of the Miskitu Indians can not be overstated; warfare provides myths and collective memories for future generations. 255

Regarding stateless societies, it has been the decentralizing, dispersing and pluralist character of such ethnic entities, which challenged the very idea of statehood. On the plan of colonial subjugation most indigenous peoples have been seen as uncontrollable and as mere obstacles to modernization since some fiercely resisted.

The persistence and magnitude of ethnic conflicts, which account today for the vast majority of all violent conflicts, finally questioned the applicability of the euro-centric idea of the nation state in most Third World areas, where the territorial delimitations and ethnic compositions of the new states are arbitrary and artificial.

3. Recognizing multiplicity versus
assertion of state hegemony and social marginalization

Historically (according to evolutionist and Marxist schools), only class societies developed states. State and class are seen as twins. The state classes, irrespective of their composition as oligarchy, military or bureaucratic establishment, educational élite or revolutionary avant-garde, have been extremely reluctant in recognizing multiplicity among "their"  people(s) within colonially delimited territories singled out as (new) states. Universally, state authorities aim at moulding "their"  ethnic entities into the class form. But indigenous peoples have their distinct identity. They began to refuse and to reject that their destiny  should be to become the lowest class of a state society. It can not be the destiny of the great Zulu people to dig the gold mines of white South Africa, as it can not be the destiny of the American Indians to become campesinos  or cheap workers for the plantations of hacienderos  and transnational corporations.

The new states in Asia and Africa, as well as the 19 th century states of Latin America, rarely have a different history than European colonialism. Apart from the great civilizations of China, India, Egypt, Ethiopia, and some parts of the Islamic World, colonialism destroyed age-old cultures and finally "replaced" them with hybrid states.

Recognizing the historic rights of indigenous peoples, nationalities and minorities living in areas which (suddenly) became part of a new state, somehow questions or undermines those states' legitimacy. State apologizers had to create the false figure of "history-less" peoples  (used in regard to indigenous peoples) even though the new states have a very recent history compared to the history of all indigenous peoples and nationalities comprised within their territorial assertion.

Since the European idea of a nation state  (originally consisting of one nation, one law, one territory, one central government) has been exported to the colonies, it has created great difficulties. Nevertheless it became an irreversible part of the world order. To avoid manifold inter-state conflicts over border disputes, colonial delimitations became virtually non-negotiable. That means most conflicts were declared "internal affairs"  of single states, even sanctioned by international organizations (such as United Nations, which actually comprises of states).

Non-intervention in "internal affairs"  was upheld for some decades, but it became a crumbling principle as conflicts between states (external) and within states (internal) became inextricably linked. In most cases, so-called internal conflicts have involved cross-border networks with neighbouring states providing sanctuary and resources to irregular forces.

4. Solutions to internal ethnic conflicts: Learning from positive experience

The complex nature of most internal conflicts (which were hardly ever impartially analyzed) made/make conflict management difficult. Moreover, international organizations like the UN-system are generally reluctant to intervene in cases of so-called internal conflicts . Possible solutions might have different forms:

  1. the creation of another independent state, in the case of nationalist conflicts within a (neo)colonial framework, for instance in Eritrea, West-Papua, Palestine, Sudan, etc.

  2. a federal association like in Tanzania and Nigeria after the Biafra war, as it should be created in Burma, Ethiopia etc.

  3. a devolution and sharing of power, as in free South Africa or in Tanzania

  4. a union with higher degree of Self-Rule for members or sub-entities (CIS, USA, EU)

  5. a federation according to linguistically designed units, as India' s 25 states, some of them created after violent conflicts recently

  6. territorial or regional autonomy, as in some areas of Russia (such as Jakutia, Tartarstan),

  7. limited Self-Rule and right of cultural integrity, as the 56 nationality areas in China

  8. Self-Rule for indigenous peoples: Kuna Yala (Panama), Kalaalit Nunaat (Denmark)

  9. regional autonomy for multi-ethnic regions (Eastern Nicaragua; a future Bosnia; the new Ethiopian constitution incl. mixed city regions)

  10. administrative and/or cultural autonomy for ethnic minorities, as for the Swedish minority in Finland (Åland island).

    Recognizing multiplicity regarding manifold Indian peoples firstly means respect for alternative designs of socio-political formation ("statelessness" ) and the recognition of their historic rights, their cultural difference, their distinct way of life and mode of production. Autonomy does not ask for the abolition of state's internal assertions but for a limitation of such assertions.

    5. Fighting internal colonialism in Latin America

    In Latin America, the recognition of ethnic multiplicity is closely linked to the problematic process of self-identification of the Ladino society. Growing Indian awareness and self-consciousness has been a trigger for this process of conflict. Indian consciousness has itself been influenced and accelerated by situations of revolutionary upheaval and unrest. The chance to make utopia real, to bring together traditions of a libertarian and democratic form of socialism, the anti-imperialism of Bolivarism, and the solidarian traditions of the indigenous and Afro-American communities, this project and "sole alternative"  (Rodrigo Montoya), seems at the moment a difficult option.

    The dialectics of recognizing multiplicity and the endless search for a national  Ladino identity:

    1. The legacy and persistence of national chauvinism and racism in contemporary Latin America has been a sad reality ever since. 500 years of forced Hispanization and 200 years of Ladino national chauvinism against Indigenous peoples has left the trace of genocide and ethnocide in almost all parts of Latin America. Throughout the five centuries of colonial and neo-colonial domination the distinct cultural heritage has been a source of strength for the indigenous, black and popular resistance.

    2. States' assertion of sovereignty over unconsenting peoples and the spread of Hispanidad  produced resistance, itself based on strong ethnocentrism necessary to counter aggression and oppression.
      In the Nicaraguan case, the armed Indian rebellion was a shock for the Sandinistas, and it set off a learning process. The product of that process is the autonomy project for the Caribbean Coast, encompassing half of the state's territory.

    3. Recognizing multiplicity is inseparable from reflecting one's own cultural ensemble. This dialectical process will expand awareness of the Indian cause to the buried and normally negated heritage of the Ladinos themselves, as a mixed (Mestizo) people: It will expose the drama and dilemma of the hybrid Ladino nationalism. In the words of Galeano, the dominant Creole (Mestizo or Ladino) class in Latin America is obsessed with Western culture.

    4. The rehabilitation of the Indian heritage has to include the recognition of the existing Indigenous populations as peoples, and their right to Self-Determination. 256 This venture might recover some rudimentary issues of Ladino-based Indigenism of the 1920's (in the thinking of Augusto C. Sandino or Porfirio Diaz).

    5. Recognizing multiplicity therefore includes recognizing the dilemma of the Ladino societies' self-identification: It implies to accept the paradigm of cultural distance from the familiar Hispanic-based values and configurations, in order to over-come the blind spot of "the Indian inside" .

    6. Recognizing multiplicity would consequently lead to a relationship of mutual respect between Ladinos, Indians and Blacks in Latin America. But instead the endless search for a so-called "national identity"  became the permanent project of the ruling classes in Latin America.

    7. Surrogate "national identity"  in this respect meant nothing but identification with a certain state. Nation-building  is actually State-building. A precondition for "national identity"  is the existence of a people distinguishable from other peoples by its distinct culture and language, its own mode of production and way of life, and its homeland / own territory. Identities, which still did not emerge fully, are confined to artificial states with arbitrary delimitations.

    Nicaragua's Indigenous peoples tried to abrogate the legacy of 500 years of colonialism, inspired and confirmed by dynamics of the Sandinista revolution in the early 1980's. Most Miskitu leaders advocated exclusive Indian rights, which threatened to discriminate other oppressed communities. The opportunist alliance of Indian fighters with US-militarists has been detrimental to the legitimate Indian cause. On the other side the FSLN's programme for "completing Nicaragua's revolution"  included fighting against all forms of national chauvinism and racist discrimination. This venture suffered a major set-back from the outcome of the elections in 2/90. Nicaragua is among a very few Latin American states to respond positively to the demands of the Indigenous. 500 years of colonialism - in the Nicaraguan case - including nearly 100 years of internal colonialism, since the 1894 incorporation of the Mosquitia, shall come to an end. Looking back on a decade of Sandinism ruling Nicaragua, the FSLN succeeded on the grand lines, in smashing oligarchic rule and building up lawful democratic institutions. Short-comings appear in the solution of two major revolutionary tasks, which are of great importance in the Latin American context: The implementation of a complete land reform, and the full recognition of ethnic multiplicity and socio-cultural diversity. The Sandinistas were not able to achieve a real break-through in the ethnic question. Even the present autonomy statute has some short-comings, it nevertheless is a historic achievement and an (incomplete) model for Latin America.

    5. From the Mosquitia to Chiapas -
    the struggle for autonomy continues

    The impact of the "Nicaraguan model" in Latin America has not been researched. Dunbar-Ortiz spoke 1988 of some "results" of the Nicaraguan autonomy process having "profound effect" on other Indian peoples as well as the development of international norms for the protection of indigenous peoples and minorities world-wide. 257 Reactions on what has been perceived as Miskitu-autonomy in the whole region were lively and vigorous. The autonomy statutes provoked "reactions of divergent kind", not only in the neighbouring countries Honduras and Costa Rica, but also in Southern Mexico and Guatemala, the epicentres  of the Indians of Meso-America. 258

    Themes and issues of Nicaragua's debate on autonomy came up soon after the rebellion of Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional  (EZLN) in Chiapas, in somewhat modified form, and subsequently took great influence on the political process and the struggle to reform the Mexican system of "institutional revolution" from the grass-roots. A "pact between the Indian nations and the state" will not only focus on Chiapas but the whole of Mexico. 259 The results from the "first serious negotiations" between the Zapatistas  (EZLN) rebels and the central government starting in Sept. 1995 in San Andrés Larráinzar and ending early in 1996 were a considerable progress but not yet a break-through. 260 Some claims are radical:

    1. reform of the constitution to include indigenous rights;

    2. autonomous self-governance linked with reform of the communal structure;

    3. Indian participation on the level of the federated states as well as the central government;

    4. reform to modify the boundaries of the municipalities to create regiones autónomas pluriculturales ;

    5. mixed boards / commissions for the agrarian reform and the other reforms;

    6. recognizing Indian legislation and jurisdiction;

    7. reform of laws concerned with bilingual education;

    8. new law for Agrarian Reform;

    9. new electoral law;

    10. access to media, esp. to 17 radio stations run by the Instituto Nacional Indígena .

    Officials apply different strategies not to be accused to block claims offensively. How-ever they now try to "sit-and-wait". The military establishment is integral part of the Mexican system and therefore politically bound. The card of militarizing the conflict can not be played that easily.

    The draft peace treaty concerning "democracy, Indian rights and culture" contains not only claims of the Indian movement but also general claims broadly supported by the Mexican opposition forces. Three further rounds of negotiations in 1995 were held about issues such as "democracy and culture", "development of indigenous communities" and "democracy and the rule of law". The PRI-regime found itself more and more in a defensive position while most political forces of Mexico began to identify with the demands of the Indian rebels. Instead of a requests based on particular interest the EZLN made demands as national aims and objectives of the whole civil society. The struggle for the rights of the indigenous peoples became part of the broad struggle for fundamental reforms in Mexico. The debate on autonomy (autonomía ) had its impact also in other neighbouring countries. Positive reactions prove what representatives of the Ngobe in Panamá told me that "Indian consciousness has no state borders". 261 Indian strategies for survival as distinct peoples with their distinct identities and their own cultures will learn their lesson from the Nicaraguan experience with its autonomy law and its ambiguous implementation as well as learn their lesson from current experiences and the development of the struggle for autonomy in Mexico. Some 60 Indian peoples of Mexico founded a national indigenous forum and demanded Paz con dignidad . They support the struggle against neo-liberalism which is has the nature of being ethnocide (etnocida por naturaleza ) against Indian peoples and cultures, only pushing for the "culture of power". 262 The forum made it clear that today autonomy is the key demand (autonomía es la demanda central ) in Mexico and Latin America. 263

    Note *: The analysis presented hereafter is reflecting the opinion of the author - after years of studies and field experience. His account of the conflict in the Mosquitia, impact assessment of the derailed autonomy process and presentation of policy options can not necessarily satisfy everyone. The objective is to meet the needs of the costeños. The author strongly encourages critisism and constructive feed-back. Back.

    Note **: Christian P. Scherrer (Dr. Phil., Ph.D. University of Bern 1985) is the head of the Ethnic Confluct Research Project (ECOR), founded at University of Zurich 1987, and conducted field research in four areas of violent intra-state conflicts. Scherrer was working for international and UN organizations (ICRC) and UNCHR), and contributed expertise to a number of organizations, e.g. the Conflict Precention Network of the European Commission. For the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights he elaborated a study on Justice and Conflict Prevention in Rwanda. He made several studies on indifenous peiples issues. Currently he is senior research fellow a the Copenhagen Peace Research Institute (COPRI), responsible for the new project on "Intra-State Conflicts. " Scherrer wrote the first ever series of handbooks on ethnicity and state in conflict (Ethno-nationalism. Vol. 1-3. Münster: agenda 1996, 1997, and forthcoming 1998).Back.

    Note 1: Analysis of the hitherto successful resolution of the armed conflict in eastern Nicaragua is based on fieldwork carried out in the area in the years 1987, 1989 and 1993. Most source material is published in compilers of interviews: ECOR 1 and ECOR 6. Back.

    Note 2: A chronological list of successive Indian organizations:
    ALPROMISU = Alliance for the progress of the Miskitu and Sumu; under discussion at the first assembly in Bilwaskarma 1973; founded at the second assembly in Sisin 1973; renamed in Bilwi 1979;

    MISURASATA = Miskitu Sumu Rama Sandinista asla takanka; Indians and Sandinistas all together; founded at the third assembly in Bilwi 1979;
    MISURASATA (in exile) = Rivera's faction of MISURASATA, based in Costa Rica, name till 1987
    MISURA = Miskitu Sumu Rama (operating from Honduras); mainstream MISURASATA from 1981 to 1985; led by Steadman Fagoth; KISAN = Kus Indianka asla takanka (operating from Honduras); founded at the fourth assembly in Rus Rus, Honduras, in 1985; led by Wycliffe Diego; later KISAN-por-la-paz split and made an cease-fire;
    YATAMA = Yapti Tasba Mariska nani asla takanka; founded at the fifth assembly in 1987 at Rus Rus to unify MISURASATA, MISURA and KISAN; led by Rivera, Fagoth and Diego until 1993, by Diego and Serapio from 5/93 to 3/94; Rivera's faction usurped the organisation's name for the 1994 elections. Back.

    Note 3: The prolonged crisis in the central parliament since early 1993 left only the Sandinistas and the small centrist group to support the central government. The two former governors of RAAS (Alvin Guthrie) and RAAN (Alfonso Smith) are members of the PSC which is part of the centrists. The boycott by the UNOp-majority faction made it impossible to pass new laws in Nicaragua. Back.

    Note 4: An exemplary case: The proposal to the hands of the central parliament should have been worked out by the two regional parliaments jointly in 1992/93. The FSLN and UNOp representatives only signed it since the YATAMA delegates walked out of the crucial meeting in Managua July 1993. They did so after being instigated to claim additional items designed to be breakdown the process (such as the abolition of state land and the formation of a regional police force as last-minute-demands). The proposal was a product of intensive joint work by FSLN, YATAMA, and UNOp; it contains 85 articles. There was no unanimity for acceptance of the proposal by the regional authorities in September 1993 (Art. 71). The submission of the text to the presidency in 1994 was delayed. (Consejo Regional Autonomo RAAS y RAAN: Anteproyecto de reglemento de la ley no. 28. Bluefields 6/1993.) Back.

    Note 5: M. A. Martínez: Study on treaties, agreements, and other constructive arrangements between states and indigenous peoples. E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/23. Geneva (UN-Human Rights Commission/ECOSOC) 1996 Back.

    Note 6: Analysis of the hitherto successful resolution of the armed conflict in eastern Nicaragua is based on fieldwork carried out in the area in the years 1987, 1989 and 1993. Back.

    Note 7: The confianza -based mediators were Nicaraguan nationals, thus insiders (mainly Moravian Church leaders). Outsiders were members of international organizations and NGO's such as Witness for peace, AI; indigenous organizations, the Carter Center in Atlanta, etc. Compare also: Wehr, Paul / Lederach, John P. 1991. Mediating conflict in Central America. In: Journal of Peace Research, 28, no. 1, pp 85-98. Back.

    Note 8: Some expressions are kept in Spanish since they have been used by the interviewed person and are common expressions in Eastern Nicaragua. The term Miskitu  is used instead of Miskito , since the Miskitu do not have the vocal o in their language. The same is valid for Sumu instead of Sumo. These generic terms do not need an S in the plural form. Back.

    Note 9: Attributes of an ethnic community are in dispute: Instead of common ancestry  according to Smith (1991, 21), I prefer the terminus of "creation myth". The most important objective attribute is probably the common distinct language . Instead of homeland  and its negative connotations I use the terminus territory. The sense of solidarity  (for significant sectors of the population) is primarily reproduced by political struggles. Back.

    Note 10: Gabbert 1992 perceived the Miskitu not as nation since internal stratification and "complexity", that means social classes and division of labour, are missing. In other words, self-determination would only be possible within the framework of a proto-state ruled by a dominant class; and worse, many peoples would be excluded, especially segmentary traditional societies like the Miskitu. Obviously it could not be the intent of international law to deny those peoples the right to self-determination and extinguish their inherent aboriginal rights. Back.

    Note 11: The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization  (UNPO) based in the Netherlands, a organization of 40 threatened peoples, applies conditions for membership, such as a geographic space (territory), common language and culture, common history, a sense of solidarity based on objective criteria. Back.

    Note 12: Some native nations had a long history of establishing states predating the European invasion. Most native peoples in Central America did not establish (pre-colonial) states, the Mayan civilisation did. Back.

    Note 13: The above mentioned attributes of ethnic communities show beside objective criteria (language, common culture, territory) some obviously inter-subjective components. Smith is certainly right to underline that myths are crucial, esp. that of common ancestry, not so much factual descent but fictive . Back.

    Note 14: In the case of the Miskitu, a minimum situationist definition was given by Judy Butler (in: Scherrer 1990). Back.

    Note 15: For a general overview: Burger 1987. World-wide, there are 3'000 to 5'000 éthnies, nationalities and nations still existing, but there are presently only 190 states, of which only a minority are homogenous nation states. Back.

    Note 16: Nation-states are geographically bounded territories of common nation peoples recognized by other states and international organizations. The concept of nation-states had emerged in Europe since the 18th century. Only about 10% of all recognized states are homogenous nation-states . Back.

    Note 17: Scherrer 1994. Nietschmann 1987a. World-wide, there are 3'000 to 6'500 éthnies, nationalities and nations still existing, but there are presently 190 states only, of which a minority are homogenous nation states. Back.

    Note 18: Mesoamerica, according to Paul Kirchhoff, is a region with common cultural elements stretching from actual Sinaloa (Mexico) to the gulf of Nicoya (Pacific) and Puerto Limon (Caribbean). Back.

    Note 19: The Mayan territory is some 325'000 square km, 900 km long and 500 km wide; it's the southern part of Mesoamerica. Back.

    Note 20: Garcia, Carlos Ochoa. 1990. Identidad, procesos culturales y conflictos; in: Revista del IRIPAZ, vol. l, no.2, 1990 Back.

    Note 21: The nobel prize for Rigoberta Menchù drew some attention of the western media on the sad internal situation in Guatemala. Back.

    Note 22: Nietschmann 1987a Back.

    Note 23: In Honduras, the Garifuna, Tawahka Sumu, Miskitu, Petch (Payas), Sikakes (Stolopán) and Lenca recently formed the Confederación de los Pueblos Autóctonos de Honduras  (CONPAH) under the leadership of a Miskitu, Jacinto Molina, in Yoro Yoro. As the Miskitu in Nicaragua (radio Miskut, Porto Cabazas / Bilwi) they have a radio in Puerto Lempira with emissions in four indigenous languages and in Spanish. Back.

    Note 24: Buvollen, H.P. 1993. Democraphic study on Eastern Nicaragua (publ.: Wani 15, Managua 1993.)
    Some expressions are kept in Spanish since they have been used by the interviewed person and are common expressions in Eastern Nicaragua. The term Miskitu  is used instead of Miskito , since the Miskitu do not have the vocal o in their language. The same is valid for Sumu instead of Sumo. These generic terms do not need an s in the plural form. Back.

    Note 25: Ronas Dolores Green (CIDCA) in: Scherrer 1990 Back.

    Note 26: Op.cit., C 2. Interviews with the Guaymis representatives L.A. Garcia and J.Jimenez, p 108. Back.

    Note 27: The Kuna experience gave way to the creation of other comarcas  for Panama's indigenous peoples such as for the Huahunán or Emberá Choco (15'000) and Terribe-Buglede (2'000), not for the Bribri (reserve in Panama and Costa Rica). Compare: Scherrer 1990. Interview with Primero Cacique of Kuna Yala, Leonidas Valdez, p 102. Back.

    Note 28: Black rule exsists mainly on the islands (Haiti, Jamaica, most Caribbean micro-states) and on the continent (Belize, three Guayanas). Blacks have large numbers in a several Ladino-dominated states such as Brazil (over 35 million), Columbia, all along the Caribbean, in Ecuador, etc. There are probably 100 million Afro-Americans, including 30 million in the USA, making them the third largest ethnic group (next to 300 million Ibero-Ladinos and 210 million white Europeans) in the Americas. From Brazil through the Caribbean Basin to the Southern part of the USA, there is one more or less contiguous cultural space of Black America. Back.

    Note 29: Indigenous Americans are the fourth group, numbering 40 million. (North America contributes only 5%). Even though they are the majority of the citizen in 3 of 20 Ladino states, they rule nowhere: Not in Bolivia (an estimated 70-85% are Indians), not in Paraguay (70%) and not in Guatemala (55%). There are large Indian minorities in seven more Ladino states (Peru 40%; Ecuador and El Salvador 21%, Mexico 15%; Chile, Panama and Belize 10%). In Mexico, where they make up 75% in central and southern provinces; in 1993/94 Indians of the Zapatista Liberation Army (Ejercito Zapatista de Liberación Nacional ) continued to revolt and fight against "a state of submission and almost colonial oppression"  (4th Russell Tribunal). Back.

    Note 30: Buvollen, H.P.: Report from the Coast. No. 6, Managua, June 1993; published in Wani 15. Back.

    Note 31: Abbreviations: RAAN = Región Autonoma Atlantico Norte; RAAS = Región Autonoma Alantico Sur. Back.

    Note 32: Loth 1981 Back.

    Note 33: General overview in: Frank 1980. Dubar Ortiz 1986, p 55 f. Extermination of the Pacific Coast Indians (in Nicaragua from 1 million in 1523 to 10'000 in 1600 (sic!). Back.

    Note 34: Frank 1980. The asientos-system was their response. Back.

    Note 35: 1778 reforms by king Carlos III. Back.

    Note 36: Louisiana changed hands in 1803, Oregon area was claimed in 1806. Attacks against the British in Canada and the Spanish in Florida failed. Back.

    Note 37: The declaration of 1776. This was exactly what happened, but it was done by the U. S. army. Back.

    Note 38: The organized Indian resistance in the Middle-West, led by Shawnee chief Tecumseh, could not stop the penetration of white settlers in the 1810's. The Black Hawk were defeated in the 1830's (in the North-West) and the southern Seminoles were nearly exterminated, after hard resistance in the 1830's/40's. Florida was declared U.S.-territory in 1819. Back.

    Note 39: Napoleon's wars in Europe opened the historical chance. Back.

    Note 40: Definitely during the Congress of Panama in 1826. Back.

    Note 41: Monroe (1758-1831; 1817-25 president) Back.

    Note 42: Aimed at the expansion of the Russian Empire at the north-american West-Coast. Back.

    Note 43: Apart from the secession war. Back.

    Note 44: Since the consequences of creating such a numerous Indian and Hispanic community would have been tremendous. Mexico will as part of a new North-American economic community be dominated by the USA and will have to provide cheap labour. Back.

    Note 45: Bourbon- governments grew after the civil war. Back.

    Note 46: WASP=White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Back.

    Note 47: Recently the Los Angeles riots, in spring 1992. Back.

    Note 48: Defeat of U.S. cavalry at Little Big Horn 1876, surrender of chief Geronimo in 1886. Back.

    Note 49: Structural theory of imperialism compare: Galtung 1969 (Journal of Peace Research, 1969, p 167 f) Back.

    Note 50: Frank 1980, p 44 f Back.

    Note 51: Military interventions of the U.S. in Latin America: Chile, 1891/92, 1974; Venezuela, 1895, 1902/03; split off Panama from Colombia 1903, forced colonial contract to grant U.S. control over trans-oceanic canal and repeated non-ratification of new contracts including an economic embargo against Noriega's Panama in 1988/89; Dominican Republic, 1905, 1916-24, 1965; Cuba 1906, unsuccessful intervention in 1961; war against Spain (1898) and annexation of Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Guam and the Philippines; Mexico, 1913-17; Haiti, 1915; etc.. Back.

    Note 52: Ziegler 1985, p 61 f Back.

    Note 53: Wünderich, in: Mschkat 1987, p 99 Back.

    Note 54: Jenkins 1986, p 99 f Back.

    Note 55: The overthrow was directed by J.F. Dulles. Hacienda-System, compare: Stavenhagen, in: Senghaas 1974, 281 f. Back.

    Note 56: Worldwide repercussions had the revolution in China, the liberation wars in Algeria and Vietnam, and the decolonization process in Asia and Africa. Back.

    Note 57: Compiler of analysis on dependence and underdevelopment regarding Latin America: Senghaas (Ed.) 1974: Peripherer Kapitalismus. Frankfurt/M; contributions by: Marini, 98-136; Furtado, 159-165; Cardoso, 201-220; Stavenhagen, 276-297; Quijano, 298-341. Back.

    Note 58: Brazil: 35%; Mexico: 12%; Nicaragua: 0,7% or 3.3 millions. Back.

    Note 59: Under the pretext of jailing dictator Noriega because of drug trafficking. Back.

    Note 60: The US invasion caused up to 7'000 victims (according to Ramsey Clark, former US-minister of justice), but the official number was just over 500 (sic!). The US-army bombed the urban area of El Chorrillo (an Afro-American neighbourhood), resulting in nearly complete destruction of that barrio.

    "Soberania total" was even written on the number-plates of vehicles circulating in Panama... Back.

    Note 61: Hale 1987a, p 35 f Back.

    Note 62: Miskitu advantage: Dunbar Ortiz 1986, p 65 f Back.

    Note 63: Gordon/Hale 1987; Gordon 1989 Back.

    Note 64: The example of superintendent Robert Hodgson is an illustration of this reversal. Back.

    Note 65: 40 years of colonial power vacuum were filled by the Miskitu. Back.

    Note 66: Traditions seen as sexually permissive, compare: Grey, in Scherrer 1990. Also: Jenkins 1986, 90 Back.

    Note 67: Jenkins 1986, 95 Back.

    Note 68: Gabbert 1992, 37. The institution of the "kings" became recently a symbol for independence among the Miskitu, even though such artificial institutions resulted from upgrading of traditional chiefdoms and have been a tool of British colonial technique in the whole empire. Back.

    Note 69: Scherrer 1990. Interview with Gordon Back.

    Note 70: Scherrer 1990. Interviews with Shaka, Nur, Coleman and Gordon (compiler 4) Back.

    Note 71: Wünderich, in Meschkat 1987, p 104 Back.

    Note 72: The costeños' view of the EDSN has been discussed controversially: Jenkins 1986, p 134f; Helms 1971, p 113f; Dunbar Ortiz 1986,p 76; Wünderich/Meschkat 1987, p 107 f. Back.

    Note 73: Campesinos in the East were poor driven out land-less ladino peasants. Back.

    Note 74: Scherrer 1990. Interviews with Norman Bent, Michael Grey, Fernando Colomer und Gustavo Parachon, compiler 1, 116-130 Back.

    Note 75: Scherrer 1990. Interview with Edmund Gordon-Gitt Back.

    Note 76: Scherrer 1990. Interview with Judy Butler (Institute of History, Univ. of Managua/UCA) Back.

    Note 77: Scherrer 1990. Interviews with Amalia Dixon (MISURASATA): "Who is who...", c 3; interviews with Ernan Savery (SICC), Michael Grey (CIDCA) and Burdis Coleman (WfP). Back.

    Note 78: Scherrer 1993, Interview with Raffael Dixon (founder of ACARIC, Waspám) Back.

    Note 79: Scherrer 1993, Interviews with Clinton Mitchell (vice president of the consejo de ancianos), Marcelino Jéron and Chacon Horacio (advisor of the Elders' Council). Back.

    Note 80: Scherrer 1993, Interview with Armando Rojas (lawyer in Bilwi / Porto Cabezas). Dunbar Ortiz 1986, p 81 Back.

    Note 81: Gabbert 1992, p 37 Back.

    Note 82: Informationsbüro Nicaragua 1981; Pisani 1981 Back.

    Note 83: Schulz 1987, p 42 f Back.

    Note 84: Humberto Ortega is still the top commander of the former, now down-sized Sandinista army (1987: 125'000; 5/1993: 15'600; the smallest size of Central America's armies exept for Panamá). The policia sandinista  was transformed to the National Police , having nearly the same staff. Daniel Ortega is in partnership with Violetta Chamorro-Barrios, the president, since the FSLN is still a major political force. Back.

    Note 85: Wheelock 1985, p 154 f. 14% of private lands were possessed by small producers, 30% by middle-size farmers, 13% by big land owners. Back.

    Note 86: Production of foodstuff such as cooking oil, eggs, chicken, and rice doubled; there were 45% more beans, Nicaragua's staple food. Back.

    Note 87: 2.81. Reagan becomes president of U.S.A. 12.81. CIA-backed Indian fighters cross the Wangks (Rio Coco) for "Red Christmas" operation, Somocista contras open training camps in Florida 2.82. Forced relocation of Miskitu to Taspa Pri 3.82. Official U.S. aid to contras; bombing of some major bridges in the North by contras; state of emergency declared in Nicaragua. 4.82. U.S. naval manoeuvres in region (39 ships) Eden Pastora ('comandante zero ') breaks with the Sandinistas and starts ARDE operating. 10.82. Standard Fruit (a U.S.-based corporation) cancels contract to market Nicaraguan bananas. 11.82. 800 FDN-contras suffer defeat in the North 2.83. major invasion of 2'000 CIA-backed contras "Big Pine" military manoeuvres (U.S./Honduras). 3.83. Pope in Managua: refusal to condemn the contras; 2'000 contras infiltrate from Honduras. 4.83. Reagan threatens openly with large-scale military action against Nicaragua. Back.

    Note 88: 10.83. CIA-commandos set fire to Corinto oil tanks; occupation of the island of Granada by U.S. 12.83. Thousands of contras infiltrate from Honduras. 2.84. "Big Pine 2" manoeuvres (U.S./Honduras); CIA mines ports of Corinto and Bluff-Bluefields. 3.84. Contras attack Corinto harbour; SMP obligatory. 5.84. Emergency wartime economic measures in Nicaragua. 6.84. Attack on Ocotal town (Nueva Segovia); contra suffers heavy losses in battles with militia;increasing contra-attacks on economic targets. 7.84. Women participation in Patriotic Military Service (SMP); U.S. right-wing organizations finance contras. 9.84. Nicaragua wants to sign the Contadora peace accords. 10.84. First round of talks with the Indian leader Brooklyn Rivera. 11.84. U.S. threatens open military action; state of alert declared by president Ortega; mass demonstrations of armed people to protest against U.S. aggression. Back.

    Note 89: Laffin 1990, 67 Back.

    Note 90: The Soviet Mi-24 Hind D helicopter gunships gave the EPS some advantage in the jungle warfare (Laffin 1986, 115), but much more decisive was the formation of the BLI anti-terrorist troups (Irregular warfare battalions); this élite troups smashed Reagans hopes for a big enough "liberated area" to establish a "provisional government"  of contra-sympathizers among the COSEP, in order to call the US-army for help, thus give a pretext for intervention. Back.

    Note 91: The Contadora group put forward 21 objectives accepted by all parties, in order to stop cross-border subversion, the arms race and the influx of foreign forces (experts, supplies, bases). They appealed to the Central American countries to take part in the dialogue. In 9/83 a document of objectives was signed, 1/84 the Contadora Act for Peace and Co-operation in Central America  was drafted. (Laffin 1987, pp 45-49). Back.

    Note 92: APIA reports 11/88 Back.

    Note 93: Contadora states were including Brazil, Peru, and Argentina Back. Cor

    Note 94: Procedimiento para establecer la paz firme y duradera en Centro America. 8/1987 Back.

    Note 95: Analysis by: Wehr/Lederach 1991 Back.

    Note 96: Wehr/Lederach 1991, 89 Back.

    Note 97: Gustavo Parajon was the central figure in the reconciliation process; he actually was member of both commissions. He and Obando y Bravo were certainly selected because of their status as spiritual leaders having some connections with the fighters (Obando had close relations with the contras and he hates the FSLN), not because of their neutrality. Compare: Scherrer 1990. Interview with Dr. G.A. Parajon, Managua 7/88, comp. 3, pp 95-99. Norman Bent, op.cit. pp 99-101. Back.

    Note 98: The UNOp received some millions of US-Dollars in "aid". Polls showed the FSLN ahead with 55%. This was inversed virtually during the last few days before elections. (Compare: Vickers/Spence 1992, 535). Back.

    Note 99: The decision power stays in the family and is exercised by Lacayo, son-in-law of the president, and César (husband of Lacayo's sister). Back.

    Note 100: From 120'000 in 1987 to only 15'600 in May 1993. Back.

    Note 101: Vickers/Spence 1992, 539 Back.

    Note 102: Some groups of Sandinista campesinos and ex-soldiers formed armed groups of recompas  (re-companeros), fought back the recontras  (former contras) and even allied with some recontra-groups to form revueltos  with common revindications for land promised by the government. They occupied farmland and even the northern town of Occotal 3/92. The abundance of arms in the country makes the popular movements of the poor campesinos a critical factor. Back.

    Note 103: The continuation of the revolutionary agrarian reform is supported by a vast majority. Compare; iz3w 184, 9-10/92, pp 14-17, particularly p 17 Back.

    Note 104: This came as a surprise to some observers (NZZ 11.1.93) but it only reflects the present composition of the 92-member parliament with the FSLN having 39 seats, the centrists holding 9 seats and the rest-UNOp the remaining 44 seats. In exchange, the centristas  got the presidency of the Assembly (Gustavo Tablada). Back.

    Note 105: The UNOp (National Opposition Union) never changed its name, which proved very forward looking! Back.

    Note 106: Compare: The ethnic conflict in eastern Nicaragua.

    YATAMA means in the Miskutu language "Yapti Tasba masrika nani asla takanka" (Sons of the Motherland standing all together united) Back.

    Note 107: Hans Petter Buvollen: Nicaragua. A second chance for autonomy. In: IWGIA-Newsletter June 1994 Back.

    Note 108: ECOR 1 contains 4 compilers of over 400 pages, mainly interviews with representatives of all involved parties to the conflict and gives their respective views on the developments of from armed struggle to autonomy. ECOR 6 follows further developments linked with the ambiguous experience of regional Self-Governance in the two autonomous regions. Back.

    Note 109: Field research on ethnicity and state in Nicaragua was financed by the Commission for the Promotion of Scientific Research, Zurich, Switzerland. Co-operation with CIDCA's scientific personnel did not include formal co-operation with CIDCA as an institution. Field research has been conducted in full independence from any institution involved on the spot. Back.

    Note 110: Mestizo  and Ladino  are used as synonyms. The term Ladino  is generally used in the Guatemalan context to describe people of mixed Indian and European origin (as the term Mestizo  indicates), who speak Spanish as mother tongue (in most cases exclusively), and who identify as Hispanic-Americans. Back.

    Note 111: The incorporation of the East doubled the territorial size of the Nicaraguan Republic. Back.

    Note 112: Process of assimilation and commercialisation among Miskitu: Nietschmann 1973, pp 195f; Dunbar Ortiz 1986, pp 81 f and pp 91-97. Back.

    Note 113: Bluefields' Chinese Club, with formerly 200 members, has presently some 10 members. Back.

    Note 114: Campesinos  is the Spanish expression for: independent small-holder peasants or land-less agrarian workers seeking land. Back.

    Note 115: The first to rebel were the Creoles of Bluefields in 1980, while the Miskitu élite was changing from indigenism to indianism (Barre 1982). Vilas, in: CIDCA / DSU 1987. Back.

    Note 116: Rojas 1980; Rivera 1980 and 1981; Gurdian, in: CIDCA/DSU 1987 Back.

    Note 117: MISURASATA initially recognized Spanish as the official language. Back.

    Note 118: Carlos Vilas, op.cit., p 70 f, p 75 (challenge for Moravian monopoly). Back.

    Note 119: Diaz-Polanco 1985; Vilas, op.cit., p 71-72 Back. co-operation with CIDCA as an institution. Field research ha

    Note 120: Compare remarks in the chapter "Ethnicity and state in Nicaragua and elsewhere: A critical review". Especially: 1. Abrogating reductive analysis. 2. Ethnicity: a fundamental set of social relationships. 3. Recognizing multiplicity versus assertion of state hegemony and social marginalization. 6. Fighting internal colonialism in Latin America: The dialectics of recognizing multiplicity and the endless search for a national Ladino identity. 7. A decade of Sandinism and the ethnic question Back.

    Note 121: Amalia Dixon, in: Scherrer 1990, "Who is who in North-eastern Nicaragua", C 3 / p 54 Back.

    Note 122: Events in July '79 described by: Michael Grey (CIDCA), op.cit. 4/27 Back.

    Note 123: Overview by Hale, in: Meschkat 1987, p lOl f, and by Vilas, op.cit., p 78 f. Back.

    Note 124: There are different ways of how states deal with this issue. Lawful minority rights in a Scandinavian country (for instance the Swedish minority's rights on the island of Åland, part of Finland) could be a case of high treason in many Third World countries. (Hofmann, 1992, p 39). Back.

    Note 125: Hazel Lau 1989 a. Vilas, in: Meschkat 1987, p 78 f. Back.

    Note 126: Amstrong Wiggins, backed by the Indian Law Resource Center, directed by Tim Coulter, and also Rivera and Nietschmann first made allegations. Back.

    Note 127: For details: Nietschmann 1989, pp 39f, 63, 79 Back.

    Note 128: CIDCA/DSU 1987: Vilas, 83f; Hale, 111 f Back.

    Note 129: Jenkins 1986, 331f Back.

    Note 130: US financial support for MISURASATA began in mid 1980 (Hale, p 109). Back.

    Note 131: Moravian Church = Mährische Kirche
    Missionaries were sent out by the Herrnhutter Brüdergemein(d)e some 150 years ago. Herrnhutt was a center of Protestantism in Moravia. Today the Moravian Church's headquarters are in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, some 120 kilometers west of New York. The Moravian church leadership in Nicaragua was mainly composed of Creoles and a few Indians. Back.

    Note 132: MISURASATA 1980, in: Ohland/Schneider 1983, p 34 Back.

    Note 133: MISURASATA 1981, op.cit., pp 163 and 175 Back.

    Note 134: Article published in the FSLN daily paper "Barricada", May 6, 1981. Carrion 1981, op.cit., p 131f Back.

    Note 135: A federation with the Sutiava and Monimbó Indians of the Pacific Coast, who could not even know about the plan, was a illusion. The Monimbó Indians are territorially restricted to Monimbo, which is part of Massaya town (barrio =urban quarter). They became heroes of the 1979 popular uprising, after their whole barrio  stood up against the Somoza dictatorship in February 1978 - without close co-ordination with the FSLN's military high command. The Sutiava Indians are living in the barrio  Sutiava of Leon and apparently persist as an ethnic entity. Back.

    Note 136: Compare: Membreno Idiáquez, Marcos. 1992. Persistencia étnica en Sutiava y Monimbó. In: Romero 1992. 1105-143, 140-41 Back.

    Note 137: MISURASATA 1980/81, in: Ohland / Schneider 1983, p 89 f Back.

    Note 138: Jenkins 1986, p 308 f Back.

    Note 139: Steadman Fagoth's father was a US-citizen, the mother is from a costeño family of German origin. The fact that his phenotype is the one of a white European doesn't mean much to the Miskitu, who are basically a mixed people. Important is that Fagoth grew up in a Miskitu place (San Esquipulas, Wangki) and is a very eloquent Miskitu speaker. Fagoth is married to his (second) Miskitu wife originating from Honduras. Compare: Scherrer 1990, comp. 3, p 56; p 30-32; Scherrer 1993, interview with Steadman Fagoth Müller. Back.

    Note 140: Gabriel, Leo 1987. Interview with Tomàs Borge (APIA) Back.

    Note 141: Nietschmann 1989, p 33. The Somozista contras began shooting in mid 1980. Back.

    Note 142: Clausewitz, Carl von. 1980. Vom Kriege. Hinterlassenes Werk nach der Erstauflage von 1832-1834. Frankfurt/M (Ullstein), S. 34. (Erstes Buch: Über die Natur des Krieges; Erstes Kapitel: Was ist der Krieg?, 24. Abschnitt: "Der Krieg ist eine bloße Fortsetzung der Politik".) Back.

    Note 143: Dunbar Ortiz 1986, p 117 f. Amstrong Wiggins and Brooklyn Rivera first took a moderate position; Rivera rehabilitated the isolated and expulsed Fagoth in 1987; in: Scherrer 1990, comp. 3/31 (Rivera); p 46 f (Logan); p 50 f (Salgado). Back.

    Note 144: "Firebreak nations against communism" (sic!), in: Nietschmann 1989,p 50 f CIDCA 1987, p 219 f Back.

    Note 145: Warfare directed against civilians is a violation of the Geneva Conventions. Nicaragua later appealed to the International Justice Court in Den Haag and accused the USA of terrorism and covert action. 1984 it became clear that the CIA was behind the mining of Nicaraguan ports. Back.

    Note 146: Laffin 1986, 113 Back.

    Note 147: US-based indigenist organizations, such as ILRC, NCAI, WCIP, NIYC, but not the older IITC, strongly accused Nicaragua's government of human rights violations (in div. issues of Akwesasne Notes and Cultural Survival Quarterly 1881-1985). The Miskitu-question actually split the whole US-American Indian movement in two parts. Back.

    Note 148: The access for journalists was severely restricted. A special entry permit is still required by the Honduran authorities for any place in the Honduran Mosquitia. The Honduran Miskitu do not enjoy even a portion of the rights granted to the Nicaraguan Miskitu. A future irredentist movement would be the price for the Honduran government's support for an indigenous rebellion elsewhere. Back.

    Note 149: For a chronological list of opposition Indian organizations compare: Scherrer and Buvollen 1993. Information on the Council of Elders compare: "Role and function of the Consejo de Ancianos". Interview with Horacio Chacon, in: ECOR 6, 219-226. "The communities are pushing us..." Interview with Mitchell Clinton (Vice president of the Council of Elders), Waspam 1993, in: ECOR 6, 227f. Back.

    Note 150: Nietschmann 1989, pp 39, 40, 41, 63, and 79 Back.

    Note 151: Arms and full equipment were given to Rivera's group 1982 until Oct. 1987, with stops during the talks with the government (resumed after talks failed); supplies never had the volume and quality received by MISURA. Back.

    Note 152: Nietschmann 1989, 102 Back.

    Note 153: Nietschmann 1989, 33 Back.

    Note 154: Interviews with Nietschmann, San José 1989, in: ECOR 1 Back.

    Note 155: The manipulation of the elders has been on MISURASATA's agenda since the action plan 1981 was elaborated in 12/1980. Ohland / Schneider, p 91; "creation of the council", "selection of 33 suitable elders" (sic!). Back.

    Note 156: Much has been written about the existence of "kings"  among the Miskitu during more than 200 years. However, the institution of a "king"  is alien to them, only introduced by the British for administrative purpose (as a condition for 'Indirect Rule'). Since 1870 the "kings"  have been instrumentalized by the Creole elite for their own (class-)interests. The kings were surrounded by Creole advisors. They spent more time in Jamaica and Belize than in the Mosquitia. The later successors eventually became Creoles, culturally and racially. Compare: Hale, in: CIDCA/DSU 1987, p 41 Back.

    Note 157: Hale 1987, p 117. Rivera was co-director of ARDE. Hale is wrong to believe that Rivera was cut off from supplies in 1983. Nietschmann (1989, p 39) wrote, that Rivera's men received 200 "equipos" in 10/84, and supplies were resumed later on; big amounts in 1987. Back.

    Note 158: Nietschmann 1989, p 63 Back.

    Note 159: MINT=Ministry of Interior, headed by Tomas Borge. The secret service, some anti-terrorist units and an impressive Police Force (Policia Sandinista) was under his command. Back.

    Note 160: op.cit, 67 f Back.

    Note 161: The FSLN introduced elements that were more adequate to the already existing pluralist structure of the Nicaraguan political system largely created by the FSLN. Back.

    Note 162: Borge was left as minister after the change following the election defeat in Feb. 1990 while Humberto Ortega kept his post as chief of the army. Borge was described by his adversaries as "a one-half scale version of Castro, minus the beard" (Nietschmann 1989, 81). Back.

    Note 163: Comp.: "Autonomy was the only solution to stop the war on the Atlantic Coast". Interview with Dr. Mirna Cunningham. Managua 6/93. In: Scherrer 1993b. 104-149 Back.

    Note 164: Scherrer 1990, interview with Bernard Nietschmann in 7/89, "The outcome of eight years of war in Eastern Nicaragua" Back.

    Note 165: Amnesty Law was issued in Dec. 1983. Since 1984 the Miskitu fighters were called "alzados" or "alzados en armas" (raised in arms). Borge was talking about "our Indian brothers raised in arms"... Back.

    Note 166: Republica de Nicaragua: Estatuto de la autonomia de las regiones de la costa atlantica. Ley no. 28. Managua 9/87 Back.

    Note 167: Laffin 1986, p 114 Back.

    Note 168: Scherrer 1990, interview with Juan Salgado (KISAN-pro-peace) in 6/89 (compiler 3, 50) Back.

    Note 169: Scherrer 1990. Interviews with Joel Logan and Juan Salgado. Wycliffe Diego (today president of YATAMA) strongly denied any responsibility (Scherrer 1993. Interview with W. Diego. Bilwi 5/93) to have killed people on order and "in cold blood" (en sangre fria ). Witnesses of the incident gave bizarre statements about a prepared revolver (donated by Borge) and other stories (Scherrer 1993. Interview with commandante Sivio "Hans" Angus Dixon. Waspám 5/93). Back.

    Note 170: Scherrer 1990. Interview with Juan Salgado (KISAN-por-la-paz) Back.

    Note 171: Brooklyn Rivera pretended to have organized the Creoles, Rama, Sumu and Miskitu together. (Compare: Interview with Rivera). But YATAMA was predominantly a Miskitu organization with some influence in few Sumu places. Back.

    Note 172: Scherrer 1993. Interview with Fornes Rabonias. Back.

    Note 173: Fornes Rabonias got 198 votes, his supplente  Gerardo Gutierrez only got 90. Objections raised by some participants that Rabonias as MISATAN member could not represent YATAMA were brushed aside. Past polarisation is not valid anymore. In the understanding of YATAMA every Indian is entitled to be automatically member of this organizations ("because he is an Indian...). Similarly, it was only possible to expel Rivera from the directorate of YATAMA not from the organization itself. -- Among the Sumu the organization SUKAWALA seems to have the same recognition as YATAMA among the Miskitu. Back.

    Note 174: The cease-fire agreements and the integration of most MISURA and KISAN groups (apart from Osorno Coleman's Miskitu contras) weakened Rivera's position since he maintained to talk for the entire Miskitu forces. Some of his former troops had changed for supplies to MISURA in 1984/85 and later signed cease-fire agreements. Scherrer 1990, compiler 3, pp 85f, 91f, 98, 101, 116, 118. In his endurable Costa Rican exile at San José, Rivera found plenty of time to think about his future role, and he was smart enough to find new fields of labour after the electoral defeat of the FSLN, which subsequently might affect his positive image among certain support groups. Back.

    Note 175: Scherrer/Buvollen 1993: Interview with Uriel Vanegas Back.

    Note 176: ARDE leader Eden Pastora (comandante 'zero') was ironically commanding the special troops dashing Creole protests in 1980; he was deputy minister of defence at the time. It's not hard to understand that not many Creoles joined ARDE (founded two years later). Back.

    Note 177: Compare: Gordon 1987; Scherrer 1990, interview with Edmund Gordon-Gitt 1988, Bluefields, 4, p 8f Back.

    Note 178: Leaders such as Lumberto Campbell, the only black Sandinista guerrilla commander, Ray Hooker, an ex-teacher and moderate politician, Johnny Hodgson, the manager of the local Autonomy Commission , and some others; op.cit., p 14 and 45 f (Ray Hooker); compiler 2, p 35f (Hodgson). However, much decision-making in the Southern Caribbean Region (RAAS) was still done by Pacific Mestizos. Back.

    Note 179: Autonomy Commission 1985, "Principles and policies" Back.

    Note 180: The first western anthropologists who studied the Miskitu question after the 1979 revolution were Philippe Bourgois (Stanford university, San Francisco) and Georg Grünberg (university of Vienna) who came to Nicaragua in July 1979. The two did some fieldwork in the North-east before the war broke out. (Bourgois/Grünberg 1980). Their recommendations to the hands of the FSLN government were officially ignored. Bourgois was even arrested, identified as an enemy of the Sandinista state and expelled from Nicaragua. Back.

    Note 181: Ray Hooker: "The autonomy statute a model for the Third World?", in: Scherrer 1990, compiler 2, p 34; Hazel Lau: "Autonomy is an opportunity for all ethnic groups to take power in the region", in: Scherrer 1990, 3, p 90. Back.

    Note 182: Compare ECOR 1, Part 2, p 35

    RAAS, Bluefields: Johnny Hodgson, "Identification of autonomy as a just demand

    RAAN, Puerto Cabezas: Amalia Dixon, "Institutionalizing the process of autonomy", in: op.cit., compiler 3, p 69f Back.

    Note 183: Judy Butler (CHCA), "How much autonomy..." op.cit., compiler 2, 16f Back.

    Note 184: Michael Grey (CIDCA), "Autonomy is probably the best solution, but the approach should be different", op.cit., compiler 4, p 39f, Judy Butler, op. cit Back.

    Note 185: cherrer 1990, interviews with Michael Grey and Burdis Coleman, 4/ pp 39 Back.

    Note 186: Susanna Marley Cunningham (AMLAE), 3/42f and 77f Back.

    Note 187: Scherrer 1990, interviews with Brooklyn Rivera, 3 / p 28f; Bernard Nietschmann, p 34f Back.

    Note 188: YATAMA. 1988. Treaty of peace between the Indian nations of Yapti Tasba and the Republic of Nicaragua. San José Back.

    Note 189: Carlos Tunnermann. Nicaraguan embassador to UN. in: New York Times. Letters to the editor. Back.

    Note 190: Miguel d'Escoto Back.

    Note 191: Scherrer/ECOR 1993. Peace talks in 1988 and the role of foreign advisors (Interview with Uriel Vanegas in Waspám 5/93). 184-187 Back.

    Note 192: Scherrer/ECOR 1993, 15: "During the years of exile and armed resistance, there were internal problems within our organization because of external influence. We were under serious difficulties because of the abnormal situation we were living in, outside Nicaragua, as an armed resistance against a powerful regime such as the Sandinista regime. Some of our members got involved with other groups and interests..." Back.

    Note 193: Additionally for each region their 2 (or 3) members in the National Assembly will have the right to vote. Back.

    Note 194: The Bush administration went on financing the contras in March 1989, while the FSLN government released 1'900 ex-Somozan guardsmen, under heavy protests of the families of civilians murdered by those contras since the 1980/81 creation of the mercenary force. Back.

    Note 195: Garifuna and autonomy, in: Scherrer 1990, C 4: Pearl Lagoon area. Interviews with S. Zambola, F. Solis, B. Boleman, A. Nur, J. Lopez, pp 52-72 Back.

    Note 196: Carlos Ochoa Garcia: "Identidad, proceso cultural y conflicto", in: Estudios Internacionales, Revista del IRIPAZ, vol.1, no.2, Cuidad de Guatemala 1990 (Institut for international relations & peace research), 118. Back.

    Note 197: YATAMA 1988, The "treaty" is a revision of MISURASATA' s 1981 "Proposal on land-holding" in a more systematic and radical form (concerning self-government). The Miskitu-dominated organization YATAMA proposed a Bilateral Treaty of peace  between the Republic of Nicaragua and the Indian nations of Yapti Tasba Back.

    Note 198: Mixed people, particularly Sumu / Miskitu, Miskitu / Creole, Garifuna / Miskitu, Mestizo / Miskitu, Rama / Creole, etc. Even some Chinese mixed with Indians and Creoles (producing an exclusive 4-continents'-mix). Back.

    Note 199: The Garifuna are non-existent in the proposals of YATAMA (1987/88) and MISURASATA (1980/81). They were earlier known as pro-Sandinista and fiercely resisted the infiltration of the "bushmen" (contras) in the Upper Pearl Lagoon area. Back.

    Note 200: The mainstream Creoles never supported MISURASATA or YATAMA because of their explicit Indianist bias. Nevertheless, Rivera pretended to represent the Afro-American's interests. The treaty eventually proves the contrary. In 1990 YATAMA and MOJUME (Miskitu and Creole Youth) only got 5 of 45+2 seats in the Regional Assembly of the RAAS but a decisive position between 23 UNOp and 19 FSLN consejales . YATAMA in the RAAS was divided with two consejales  supporting former UNOp governor Guthrie. Back.

    Note 201: The agreement itself has been kept secret. Back.

    Note 202: "Blas" certainly communicated with Rivera. If the latter had told him to integrate, "Blas" could have responded positively. Back.

    Note 203: Rivera, Brooklyn: The position of YATAMA in exile. "The Sandinista autonomy project is totally embarrassing". In: Scherrer 1990, c 3, pp 80-84. Back.

    Note 204: Elasio Holmes, in: op.cit., c 3, p 117 f Back.

    Note 205: Laffin 1991, p 55 Back.

    Note 206: In 1982 the Creoles and Garifuna still held a slight majority of 52 % of the population of Bluefields (48% + 3.6%) while Miskitu had 10% and the Mestizos 36% (compare: Gabbert 1991, 348). The rural RAAS, such as the municipio of La Cruz de Rio Grande, was already heavily populated by Mestizos (70%), compared to the Miskitu (20%), Sumu (5%) and Creoles (5%) there. Meanwhile the Creoles lost their majority in Bluefields. Back.

    Note 207: Owyn Hodgson is Creole lawyer, based in Managua and Bluefields (bufete popular). Presently his is vice-minister / director of INDERA for RAAS. His appointment by the UNOp government is designed to please the Creole community. Back.

    Note 208: The MAAC was expected to win more seats, especially to win votes in the Black residential areas of Bluefields. But MAAC got only faction of the vote in the central barrios, such as 10% of the vote in Beholden and Point-in, only 5% in Old Bank or 6% in Santa Rosa, compared to 41% of the vote in the Creole communities of Haulover and Pearl Lagoon. Back.

    Note 209: The Garifuna (Black Caribs) live dispersed over the Western Caribbean; a small community of 2'500 Garifuna live in the Upper Pearl Lagoon area. Orinoco is their center with some smaller places around it. Garifuna are independent lagoon-fishermen and agriculturists; their distinct culture shows a strong African heritage. Back.

    Note 210: The Garifuna area is by law a municipio  and the electoral area no. 11. The 2'500 Garifuna (2,5 % of about 100'000 inhabitants of the RAAS) have 3 of 45 deputies. In 1994 there were 1002 Garifuna inscribed as voters. (The Garifuna constitute the smallest electoral circumscription, followed by the Rama and the Miskitu at the mouth of the Rio Grande; all mentioned minority circumscriptions have less than 1200 voters).
    Among the Garifuna there were two UNOp-members in 1990; one was candidating on a FSLN ticket. (Florentino Solìs, ex-coordinator of the community of La Fé). In 1994 one representative was candidating for UNOp, one FSLN and one ADECO; only 12% voted for MAAC/AACM. Back.

    Note 211: Alvin Guthrie (UNOp/PSC) and Ray Hooker (FSLN) are the Creoles in the National Assembly. Back.

    Note 212: Roberto Fonseca: "Dictadura étnica en la Costa?", in: Barricada 5.5.90. Back.

    Note 213: Collection of reports in Nicaragua's daily papers:
    Barricada. Organo oficial del Frente Sandinista, Managua
    El Nuevo Diario. Un periodismo nuevo para el hombre nuevo (former redaction La Prensa, Dir. Xavier Chamorro), Managua
    La Prensa (Prop. Violetta Chamorro Barrios), Managua Back.

    Note 214: PUC = Partido por la Unidad Costena (led by Hazel Lau, Armando Roja et al); the lists with 2'500 signatures to support the PUC candidates in the RAAN "disappeared", so the PUC could not participate in the RAAN. PUC was renamed CUC = Centro de Unidad Costana, including the above mentioned leaders as well as Marcos Garcìa. Back.

    Note 215: Some rumours say that Fagoth first wanted to get a FSLN ticket but was refused. However, Fagoth might have his own plans and the alliance with PLC might well be temporary. Back.

    Note 216: INDERA = INstituto por el DEsarrollo de las Regiones Autonomas Back.

    Note 217: Rivera in: Scherrer/Ecor 1993, 15 Back.

    Note 218: Scherrer 1993. Interview with Alfonso Smith. Back.

    Note 219: Scherrer/ECOR 1993, 34-39. Back.

    Note 220: Scherrer, C.P. / Buvollen, H.P.: Nicaragua: Indians and new alliances; in: Indigenous Affairs 1, Copenhagen (IWGIA) 1-3 1994, 28-29. Interviews in: Scherrer /ECOR 1993: Autonomous governance in Yapti Tasba: Three years of ambiguous experience. Especially: 2: Weak economic fundament of autonomy: Control of resources, budget and taxes, 58-88; 5. Divisions and new alliances in RAAN, 111-149; 6. Chaos, corruption and new hopes in RAAS, 149-178. Back.

    Note 221: Alta Hooker (Head of the bancada  of the Frente Sandinista de la Liberation National  (FSLN) in the Autonomous Council of the North Atlantic Autonomous Region  (RAAN), Member of the Directive Board of the Autonomous Government),Puerto Cabezas, June 1993; in: Scherrer/ECOR 1993, 82 Back.

    Note 222: Pedro Mercado (President of the Regional Council of RAAN, YATAMA member), Bilwi, May 1993; in: Scherrer/ECOR 1993, 62 Back.

    Note 223: Dr. Armando Alberto Rojas Smith, lawyer in Puerto C., veteran leader of the Nicaraguan Indian movement, representative for WCIP, CORPI, adviser to the Miskitu's Consejo de Ancianos , delegate for the Dialogo Nacional,  Puerto Cabezas / Bilwi, May 1993, in: Scherrer/ECOR 1993, 66 Back.

    Note 224: Buvollen/Scherrer 1994, 28: "The workers have been on strike and there are problems with the management. The mill's size has been over proportional and has taken too long to be completed. The downed lumber has to a great extent rotted and the huge investment of some 30 million USD now needs raw material from the forests to prove its utility. It has to be shown if this is really a benefit to the region." Back.

    Note 225: ECOR 6: 79-82, cit. 80

    "The central government does not respect the regional government". Interview with Alfonso Smith. Puerto Cabezas 5/93; in: Scherrer. Back.

    Note 226: For instance the Sumu community Awastingni has proved to possess rich areas of mahogany. MADENSA and free lancers offer agreements with the community to fell the trees. The community does not receive any tax benefits and little is also paid to IRENA. A new law on forest administration that has been issued in order to implement a general policy on all forest lands in the country is not enforced. Back.

    Note 227: Nietschmann 1993, 7. Ironically the author is complaining about the collapse of the former Sandinista naval forces who once prevented supplies for armed groups to come in. Back.

    Note 228: Interview with Johnny Hodgson

    Hodgson is Co-ordinator, Frente Sandinista de Liberation Nacional in RAAS, Bluefields, June 1993; in: Scherrer/ECOR 1993, 45 Back.

    Note 229: If Rivera might have run as a candidate in fierce competition with his former companion Fagoth, he would only have one save voting district which is Litoral Norte y Sur. His municipality of 6'000 Miskitu fishermen is in the Litoral Norte/Sandy Bay area, where there is his home place Li Dakura. Back.

    Note 230: Katín, Jorge: Fuegos electorales estallan en la Costa. In: Barricada 13/1/94.

    Earlier Rivera declared that of the 23 YATAMA coucillors only about 4 would have chances to be re-elected! The rest "pasará al olvido". (See: YATAMA apuesta. Barricada 25/11/93. p 5.) The main task of YATAMA would be to confront the FSLN which had already lost influence in RAAN according to Rivera... (op.cit.). This was wishfull thinking since actually the contrary happened. Back.

    Note 231: Legend: PLC = Partido Liberal Constitutionista (led by Miskitu in RAAN); FSLN = Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (multi-ethnic); YATAMA = Yapti Tasba Mariska nani sla takanka = Sons of the Motherland all United, today only the Rivera faction (Miskitu only); UNOp = Unión Nacional Opositora (Mestizo); + 1 means that the respective party has a deputy in the National Assembly in Managua, elected in 1990 for 6 years. Those deputies have voting power in the regional assembly. The percentage is related to the number of voters (not the seats). Back.

    Note 232: Rivera's YATAMA actually got convincing 77% of the vote equal to two seats in his home area. (Comp.: CSE 3/1994. p 4.) My expectation was that he might get a few seats from Bilwi area. YATAMA got 44% of the vote in sector 2 and luckily won two seats there; one seat was won in Bilwi's sector 1 with 27% of the vote; an additional seat was won in Llano Sur. Back.

    Note 233: Rivera's potential partner is primary the YAAD-group, veterans of YATAMA esp. former military commanders led by Roger Hermann (the brother of Bilwi's FSLN chairman). YAAD is strong in Rio Coco Abajo, but it was looking for an alliance with the Partido de Resistencia Nacional  (strong among former contras who were settled in Siuna area) since early 1993. The PRN was expected to win a couple of seats in the Siuna area but came only close to it in Siuna's sector 4. However, Rivera's YATAMA got an additional seat in Rio Coco Abajo and comes to a total of 7 seats. Back.

    Note 234: Some votes were made in the YAAD strongholds of Rio Coco Llano (10%) and Rio Coco Abajo (7%) but far from being significant. Back.

    Note 235: Mirna Cunningham in: Barricada 3/3/94: "A menos que (Fagoth) rompa el cordón umnilical con Managua, con Alemán". Back.

    Note 236: Op.Cit.; Borge also calls Fagoth an "elemento muy cuestionado" but a potential ally.
    Fagoth got his save municipality at home, in Rio Coco Arriba, and in some areas of Llano Norte, Litoral Sur and Prinzapolka. He might well be supported by the strong Sandinista party (the mines and Bilwi) and could easily get more votes than Rivera (since the FSLN would not run with its own candidate and would not support Rivera). Back.

    Note 237: Bilwi is equally important for Riveras YATAMA who got 3 of its 7 seats in Bilwi. PLC could only grab one seat in Bilwi. Back.

    Note 238: YATAMA got one seat in Llano Sur. The ECA (led by the former KISAN-por-la-paz leader Juan Salgado) got only 5 % of the vote. Back.

    Note 239: PLC got an additional seat in the coastal Miskitu area where Riveras YATAMA won 2. Back.

    Note 240: Legend: PLC = Partido Liberal Constitutionista (led by Miskitu in RAAN); FSLN = Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (multi-ethnic); YATAMA = Yapti Tasba Mariska nani sla takanka = Sons of the Motherland all United, today only the Rivera faction (Miskitu only); UNOp = Unión Nacional Opositora (Mestizo); AACM = Autentic Autonomous Coast Movement (mainly Creole); ADECO = Alianza Democrática Costena (led by Guthrie, mixed);

    + 1 means that the respective party has a deputy in the National Assembly in Managua, elected in 1990 for 6 years. Those deputies have voting power in the regional assembly. The percentage is related to the number of voters (not the seats). Back.

    Note 241: 5 for YATAMA / MOJUME Back.

    Note 242: Dr. Alvin Guthrie Rivers, Creole lawyer, former trade unionist and member of Erick Ramirez' Social-Christian Party  (PSC). Back.

    Note 243: Guthrie was accused of selling-out the territory of RAAS for using as transit area for drug-trafficking by Colombian drug cartels and the Sicilian Mafia. Guthrie had personal contacts with the Coppola family. Guthrie and other merchants in RAAS-politics used their political influence for their get-rich-quick plans. Guthrie and his camarilla bought fishing licenses cheaply and sold them for high prices to foreign fisheries corporations; some of these were Columbian corporations suspected to transport drugs into Nicaraguan waters. Back.

    Note 244: Interview with Prof. Edwardo Arguello Rankin, ex-president of the RAAS-Regional Assembly, member of Partido Social Cristiano (PSC), in: Scherrer 1993b. Back.

    Note 245: MJI = Movimiento Juvenal Indigena (joined YATAMA); MAD = Movimiento Acción Democrática (related to ex-ARDE leader Eden Pastora); DEX = Salvemos la Costa Atlántica (led by Thomas Kelly Bent) Back.

    Note 246: Interview with Dr. Roberto Hodgson, leader of the Movimiento Auténtico Autónomo Costeno  (MAAC / AACM), in: Scherrer 1993b. 181-188 Back.

    Note 247: Consejo regional autonomo RAAS y RAAN: "Anteproyecto de reglamento de la ley no. 28." Bluefields 1993 Back.

    Note 248: The costeño  communities shall have quota priority:

    Priority to get technical assistance and cheap credits through the regional Fund for Development (Art.33.B). Creation of regionally controlled unidades economicas  (apparently public enterprise) which garantee the use of the natural resources by and for the costeños . The population shall have a right to compensation payment for damages caused by resource exploitation (for instance the intoxication of the water sources and rivers with mercury by the gold mining). Back.

    Note 249: The project's headquarters are based in Waspàm; the funds are provided by the European Community. All collaborators, technicians and community workers are Nigaraguan, exept for the Spanish co-director, Vicente Aguilar Cerezo. (Scherrer 1993. Interview with V. Aguilar C.)

    Even the National Directorate of the FSLN reflects some of the different factions. Observers speak of three factions emerging. Compare: Vickers, George R. / Spence, Jack. 1992. Two years after the fall. Nicaragua's balancing act. In: World Policy Journal, Vol. IX, no. 3, 533-562, p 545. Back.

    Note 250: Scherrer 1993. Interviews with costeño  FSLN-representatives (Alta Hooker, Myrna Cunningham and Pedro Rupilius). Back.

    Note 251: Recently a costeño deputy publically asked Daniel Ortega not to run as candidate for the 1996 elections. Interview with Ray Hooker: "Evitemos lo fatal para FSLN en 1996"; in: El Nuevo Diario. Managua 25.4.94. Back.

    Note 252: The FSLN was constituted as an Avantgarde. Slogans on the walls, such as "national directorate order" , or "Let's follow the front with the front"  (front = frente = FSLN) expressed voluntary subjugation under the command of the top leaders, who were seen as heroes and as sons of Sandino. Back.

    Note 253: Some of the civilian leaders:
    Pedro Mercado is the president of the YATAMA-group (bancada)  in the RAAN's Regional Parliament and active in the elaboration of a regimentation of the law 28. He seems not to have a bigger following within YATAMA but is seen as a professional politician.
    Kenneth Serapio is a medical doctor in Bilwi. He was a bushdoctor and military doctor in Honduras during the war. Serapio was supported by the YAAD (veterans of YATAMA) to become member of the YATAMA directorate as the new vice-president on May 14, 1993, in the 7th general conference of YATAMA in Waspàm (42 votes, Diego 68 votes; 50 absentions). Serapio is also YATAMA's delegate for the United Nations' Work Group for Indigenous Peoples.
    Armando Rojas Smith is a lawyer and long-time militant of the Nicaraguan Indigenous movement. He is elected delegate for the National dialogue (with Steadman Fagoth and Julian Holmes) and for the 500 years commitee (together with Rufino Lucas and Fransisco Palacios).
    Fornes Rabonias is the MISATAN top leader and was elected as YATAMA's delegate for CORPI (with all 198 votes; together with Gerardo Gutierrez). Back.

    Note 254: Scherrer 1993: Interview with Uriel Vanegas. Waspám 5/93 Back.

    Note 255: Smith 1991, 27. New myths already circulate and play a role in stratifying the political landscape in the Northeast (compare Matamoros 1992). Back.

    Note 256: Study of the cultural and intellectual property:

    Tupay Katari: Information concerning the report of the special rapporteur on the study of the cultural and intellectual property of indigenous peoples (E/CN.4/Sub.2/AC.4/1993/9)

    What should be the distinct difference between a Nicaraguan and a Honduran Ladino? They speak the same language; the cultural pattern is hardly different; their ways of producing, distributing and consuming are class-specific, but not nationally  distinguishable. But there are certainly a lot of differences between the Miskitu Indians in Nicaragua and Honduras and their Honduran or Nicaraguan neighbours. They speak a different language, nearly all their cultural patterns are different, they plant different crops, use different tools, eat different material in a different way, their cuisine  tastes different, they wear different clothes (particularly the women), and they think in different ways. Back.

    Note 257: Dunbar Ortiz, Roxanne: The Miskitu Indians of Nicaragua. London (MRG-Report 79) 1988, 12-13 Back.

    Note 258: Carlos Ochoa Garcia: "Identidad, proceso cultural y conflicto", in: Estudios Internacionales, Revista del IRIPAZ 1 (1990) 2, Cd. de Guatemala, 118. Back.

    Note 259: Georg Mayer: "Regionale Autonomie gefordert. Die mexikanische Indigenen-Bewegung bleibt beharr-lich"; in: Pogrom 187 2-3/96, 39-41. Back.

    Note 260: The first negotiations between EZLN and PRI-regime went for four days. In 42 of 49 points of the agenda there was understanding between the parties! Euphoria broke out. Compare: Leo Gabriel: "El rescate de la paz. Con la consulta nacional y el ultimo diálogo los zapatistas logararon romper el hielo político del gobierno mexicano"; in: Tierra Nuestra 12, Managaua 11/1995, 7-9, 9. Also: Anne Hufschmied: "Indiorechte in Mexiko"; in: Tageszeitung (taz), Berlin 22.1.96. Back.

    Note 261: "The struggle for an Autonomous Comarca for the Ngobe. Interviews with Louis Alberta Garcia Carrera (gen.-sec., Congreso Guaymi) and José Clemente Jimenez (chairman, Coperativa Socio-Guaymi). Tolé (Chiriquí). Panamá 6/1989; in: ECOR 12. "Central America's Indian peoples in quest for autonomy". Back.

    Note 262: Foro Nacional Indígena: Documento final. Planteamientos generales. C. de Mexico 1996, 3-4. Back.

    Note 263: A declaration was signed by 13 indigenous organizations from Guerrero (CGRI), Purepecha Nation (Michoacán), FIPI, CEOIC-Chiapas, ARIC-Chiapas, Sonora (Consejo Traditional de los Pueblos Indígenas, Indigene der Sierra de Zogolica in Veracruz, UCIZONI-Oaxaca, AED-Oaxaca, Zapoteken und Chinanteken der Sierre Oaxacas, SEDAC-Hidalgo, COCEI-Oaxaca, CIOAC (trade union of Obreros Agricolas y Campesinos). Compare: Organizaciónes Indígenas de Mexico: "La autonomía como neuva relación entre los pueblos indios y la sociedad nacional"; in: Lopez y Rivas 1996, 129-136. Most organizations are members of the Asamblea Nacional Indígena . Back.