Autonomy day


Autonomy day came and Autonomy day went…and the message from the politicians and radio hosts on stage during the celebration in the park was we need to fight for autonomy (wasn’t that tried 25 years ago?). They held a march for autonomy downtown chanting slogans and displaying signs and culminating with the burning of a casket in front of the local government office. According to the national newspaper, the casket represented the “hunger, misery and exploitation” that the RAAS (Autonomous Region of the South Atlantic) has suffered in 23 years of rule under the central government.

There is hunger, though it isn’t blatent. There is misery, but it doesn’t seem worse than the Pacific coast. What rears its ugly head time and time again is exploitation. I recently attended a talk by a UN consultant who discussed the effect of the multi-layered governments on natural resource management. I know, sounds fascinating, doesn’t it? One example, in a nutshell:

The majority of the RAAS is protected land. Cerro Silva Reserve. Indio-Maiz Reserve. Hundreds of thousands of acres. Most of it has been demarcated as indigenous land giving them the rights to use it as they wish.

National, Regional, territorial, municipal and more!

Imagine the government like those russian nesting dolls…
There is the National Government, the Regional Government, the territorial governments, the municipal governments and so on. The government that works for the indigenous people is their territorial government.

The territorial government is, by law, supposed to get 25% of the profit from the sale of the resources of their land. The National Government gets another 25%. To claim their share, representatives from the territorial government have to go to Managua and file with the National Government.

Here is the catch… only the National Government knows how much of the resources have been sold because the sellers have to claim their sales only to them, not the territorial governments who, by law, have the say over how the land is used. So imagine… a rep from the territorial government shows up in Managua to claim their 25% of an unknown amount from resources sold on their land. And after getting the ridiculous run around (the T wasn’t crossed correctly on the claim form…yes, that really happened) and after several weeks of waiting (all the while costing the meager territorial governments food and lodging in Managua), they finally are handed a check for something like…$20.

And that is 25% of all the lumber sold, all the ores mined, all the fish caught from their territory says the National Government. Come back in six months to get your next claim. Thank you, goodbye!

Make sure you cross your Ts!

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