Nicaraguan Police Prohibit Farmers’ Meeting

Executive Board and members of the Safe and Sound Association. Courtesy photo

Association spokespersons say their members are “of all political stripes”, and that their Assembly wasn’t about political matters.

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – Without warning, police kept the “Safe and Sound” Farm and Indigenous Association from holding their February 15th Annual Assembly.  Members denounced the prohibition, issued by police officials from the municipality of Nueva Guinea.

The police that blocked them obeyed “superior” orders by Otto Nicolas Portillo, assistant police chief for the department of Nueva Guinea. The organization stated that the police action constituted a violation of their “rights of organization and association”.

The organization’s full name is the “Safe and Sound” Farm and Indigenous Association for Culture and Ecological Production in the Southeast Biosphere. The group issued a formal statement, denouncing Monday’s events.  

According to the statement, on February 13th, Norvin Diaz Somoza, Nueva Guinea’s police chief, telephoned Elba Rivera a teacher and member of the rural organization. The police chief asked her if it was true that they were holding an event. Rivera confirmed the planned meeting. Diaz then asked her if it was a political event, to which she responded, “no, it’s not”.

“Rivera explained to Officer Diaz that it was merely an assembly of people associated with the group. They came from several towns in the South Atlantic Autonomous Region and the area around Rio San Juan.” So states the declaration signed by the board of “Safe and Sound”.

Nonetheless, the following day, Rivera learned that the Diaz had gone to the organic farm “La Esperanzita” to inquire further. She also “learned there were plainclothes police stationed at the baseball field of the community” around the farm. That community shares the same name: “La Esperanzita”.

Stopped by the police

According to “Safe and Sound”, on Monday, February 15, “the farmers began arriving. They wanted to enter the street that leads to “La Esperanzita”. The food and the folding chairs were being brought to the farm in a pick-up used for hauling. At that point, they were stopped” by Commissioner Diaz, together with police and riot squad members.

Elba Rivera called the police station “some three times, to explain once again the objective of the meeting. But they never answered.”

When she couldn’t get an answer over the phone, Rivera went to speak personally with Commissioner Diaz. He informed her that “due to superior orders, they couldn’t grant them permission.”

“The officer promised to consult with his superior, and the response wasn’t long in coming. Departmental Police Chief Nicolas Portillo let him know that the activity wouldn’t be permitted.” The above details are all noted in the rural and indigenous organization’s statement.

Those attending went to great effort and expense

The president of the “La Esperanzita” organic farming project appealed the decision. The site is a foundation and a Rural School of Ecological Agriculture for the Humid Tropics. It’s known as the cradle of organic agriculture in Nicaragua. The president explained to Commissioner Norvin Diaz the economic repercussions of the sudden prohibition. These affected both the “Safe and Sound” Association and also the farmers. But there was no response.

The farmers who were attending the Assembly had traveled from a number of remote areas of southeastern Nicaragua. They’d come from Rio San Juan, Bluefields, El Rama, Kukra Hill, Laguna de Perlas, Nueva Guinea, El Castillo and from the community of Rama Cay.

“[This prohibition] is a serious violation. It inflicts great harm on over 80 mestizo and indigenous farmers from those distant communities. Some have to travel for up to two days to participate in their assembly.” These were the words of the organization’s statement on the matter.

“We have members of all political stripes”

According to the statement: “Commissioner Diaz justified the decision by saying that the country was in an electoral year. As such, events like that are outlawed.”

“As rural people, we feel that our constitutional rights have been violated,” continues the “Safe and Sound” denunciation. “This [prohibition] greatly affects our economic situation. Our members come from all political tendencies. In our assemblies, we never speak of party politics because of the religious and party diversity of the association.”

The association also indicated that the Assembly “is required under the statues and regulations” imposed by the Interior Ministry itself.

“This arbitrary action leaves those local, national and foreign figures who still want to justify the repression without an argument,” insisted the organization’s board.

The text of the statement is signed by Virginia Lopez, president of “Safe and Sound”, Abelardo McCrea John (Vice President); Orlando Lopez Jarquin (secretary); Jose Santos Lopez Lira (treasurer); and Eulalio Aleman Granja (member).

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.