This past Thursday, the farmers from the National Council in Defense of our Land, Lake and Sovereignty presented their proposed bill for the repeal of law #880 before the Secretariat of the Nicaraguan National Assembly. Their initiative was backed by seven thousand notarized signatures plus 21,698 others.
All the signatures supported the call to repeal this onerous law awarding Chinese businessman Wang Jing the concession for the Canal project, stated Medardo Mairena, a farmer and native of the South Caribbean region of Nicaragua.
“There are 28,698 signatures in all opposing the Canal. We gathered well over the six thousand that the law requires for presenting a citizens’ initiative,” Mairena noted.
Lawyer Monica Lopez Baltodano presented the document to the Secretariat of the Parliament while the farmers from the National Council waited in another room in the building. At 9:16 am, the legal representative from the Popol Na foundation returned with the copy marked with the official “received” seal on it, and the farmers began to hug and congratulate each other. Some even shed tears. “Long live Nicaragua!” they cheered loudly.
“It’s a great triumph, representing two years of struggle. It embodies the sacrifice of so many marches. It embodies the violence against protestors at El Tule. It represents so much repression. It represents the gigantic effort we’ve made as a National Council, and all the people in Nicaragua that have said no to the canal. It embodies the joy of reaching a goal that we never thought was reachable. It doesn’t mean that the law has been repealed, but we’ve made our proposal,” declared a very moved Nemesio Mejia, a farmer from Punta Gorda.
Mejía assured that this proposed bill meets all of the legal requirements, and its approval is now “in the hands of the Ortega machine.” The producer explained that they felt great joy at having their proposed bill accepted in Parliament because with this they are sending a message to the country: “That when a social and rural movement struggles, they have strength.”
After confirming that the proposal to repeal law #840 meets all the legal requirements, the National Assembly should then send it on, in accordance with the process for formulating laws. “In other words, put it on the Agenda, present it to the plenary session and later have it sent to the Transportation and Infrastructure Commission that approved law 840,. They should then carry out an appropriate process of public consultation, issue a decision, and later submit it for debate,” Lopez Baltodano explained.
Francisca Ramirez, a farmer from La Fonseca, Nueva Guinea, said that the rural residents would exhaust all national legal channels to demand the repeal of law 840. “We’re going to continue to insist, and we’ll issue an ultimatum, because we’re prepared to hold work stoppages if they don’t listen.
Opposition deputy Armando Herrera maintained that law 840 represent “the most submissive law” in Nicaraguan modern history, “violating all the rights of Nicaraguans.” He added: “It’s deplorable. It was born with and belongs to the Ortega camp, handing over our national sovereignty. I ask you to reflect: if Sandino himself called Emiliano Chamorro and Adolfo Díaz ‘sell-outs’ – what would Sandino say to Ortega today?”
The National Council informed us that the struggle has included 64 marches and the mobilization of 350 thousand people over a two-year period. They invited the public to the next national march, to be held in Nueva Guinea on April 22.
Navarro, a loyal ally of the FSLN, criticizes the farmers
Wilfredo Navarro, deputy for the Liberal Constitutionalist Party, currently staunch allies of the Ortega led Sandinista faction, catalogued the farmers and rural residents that oppose the expropriations for the canal as a ”manipulated minority”.
“You should remember that surveys show over 70% of the population is in agreement with the Canal. These are a manipulated minority that receive financing from outside the country and from organizations within Nicaragua to generate a climate of opposition for the canal,” Navarro grumbled.
“Which organizations are you referring to? Could you mention them?” we inquired.
“Organizations. We can’t let ourselves be deceived. It’s just that there are so many initials, for example this organization ‘Nicaragua-I-don’t-know-what’. Even the initials get forgotten because there are so many.”
“You don’t believe that the struggle of these rural residents who are opposed to the canal law is legitimate?”
“I don’t know if it’s legitimate. What I do know is that they’re being deceived. They tell them that they’re not going to be paid for their lands that they’re going to be expropriated. The reality is something else. And here’s another thing that’s more important: according to the studies, at most there are five thousand families that would be adversely affected by the canal, and the beneficiaries would be six million Nicaraguans. The common interests of the general population can’t be held back by a minority, whose rights will be respected. The expropriations are clear in the law”.
“They’re going to pay the assessed price and not the market value. That’s what the law says,” we reminded deputy Navarro.
“No, no! We proposed it to them and they were told that it’s the market price.”
“But the law says something else, Deputy. The law is the law.”
“Buddy, you’re not a lawyer! The law guarantees you a minimum, but if you manage to make agreements above and beyond the minimum that the law permits, then it’s not prohibited. If I make an agreement with you, and your house is worth 10 pesos but I tell you that I’m going to pay 100, even though the law says that it’s worth ten, I’m paying 100.”
“What guarantees do these farmers have that it’s going to work like that?”
“It’s the agreement that’s being signed. Don’t you know that there’s already a bunch of people that are selling? You’re ignoring a whole bunch of things and putting forth realities that don’t correspond, that aren’t happening with the Canal.”
This article has been translated by Havana Times.