Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 437 | Diciembre 2017



After 30 years of the Autonomy Statute, another autonomy is possible

Thirty years after its inception, the Autonomy regime has taken root in the Caribbean Coast’s social and political life. It’s an important benchmark establishing the rights of indigenous, Afro-descendant and mestizo peoples. However, an historically centralist and centralizing State, plus the present-day clout of the extractivist and agrarian models of wealth accumulation, pose considerable challenges for the Coast’s autonomy.

Francisco Sequeira Rankin/ Dolores Figueroa/ Miguel González/ Arelly Barbeyto

We four researchers met to evaluate these first 30 years of the application of Autonomy Statute for the Caribbean Coast regions, authorized in 1987. We organized our ideas based on three focal points: the autonomous institutions, the development model and the conflicts over land and resources. This article evolved from that discussion by several voices with a shared desire to contribute to understanding the different realities coexisting today on the Caribbean Coast and the challenges and limitations after 30 years of autonomy; and also with a desire to highlight the possibility of rethinking our autonomy so the model created in wartime becomes effective for coast people today.

Each of us also summarized our own thinking. Arelly Barbeyto sees it as “important to review and dynamize inter-generational dialogue, reconnecting with autonomy’s moral reserves, because today’s Coast leadership is co-opted.” Dolores Figueroa, who chaired our dialogue, suggested that “the paradigm of intercultural dialogue between peoples seems to have failed to visualize a common development project.” Miguel González concluded that “we are left with an empty discourse, one without base or roots that has become irrelevant in the current exercise of rights.” And Frank Sequeira Rankin offered the idea that “given the current challenges, universities could mediate dialogue between all the actors to outline courses of action and build shared visions.”

Advances, limitations and ambiguities

Nicaragua’s present-day complex situation can be understood through the current conflicts in the North and South Caribbean regions and the resulting socio-ethnic dynamics in this extensive area of our country.

The FSLN government passed the Autonomy Statute for the Caribbean Coast on October 30, 1987, in the midst of that decade’s civil war. For the ensuing thirty years we have been under a formal regime of multiethnic territorial autonomy, which recognizes the right to self-determination of the indigenous, Afro-descendant and mestizo peoples who inhabit these territories. During these 30 years, this regime has experienced various dynamics which to some extent have helped strengthen it but at the same time have limited its scope. A recent example of this ambiguity is the public questioning by Rama and Kriol leaders of the consent agreement for building the interoceanic canal across Rama-Kriol land in the South Caribbean, signed in mid-2016 by the Grand Canal Authority and only some representatives of the Rama-Kriol Territorial Government.

The Caribbean Coast has great potential for Nicaragua’s development due to its geographical location, territorial extension, tourism potential and natural resources. However, the current development plan is also an arena of conflict area as long as the rights that autonomy recognizes for Coast peoples aren’t realized.

They see the Coast as a reservoir of natural resources

An extractive model of development has prevailed in the region all the way back to when General José Santos Zelaya’s Liberal government incorporated the Mosquitia into the Nicaraguan State in 1894. During most of the 20th century the Caribbean Coast was considered a terrain with abundant natural resources to be exploited via an enclave economic model, which US companies used to extract fishing, timber and mining resources.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s this extractive model was transformed as a function of the socio-political and economic changes Nicaragua was going through in those years but that mutation didn’t mean a change in the economic development paradigm; it was simply an adaptation to the new rules of the game. During the FSLN’s first administration (1979-1990), this involved moving from private ownership and economic monopoly linked to the Somoza family to state ownership. After the change of government in 1990, those state companies, including the mining and fishing operations on the coast were reprivatized as part of the economic stabilization and structural adjustment plan.

During those 17 years of Liberal governments (1990-2007), the Caribbean Coast continued to occupy a predominant place in the vision of the national political classes as a valuable reservoir of resources. A very clear example of this was the concession granted by the Chamorro government, to the Taiwanese lumber company SOLCARSA for forestry exploitation in lands owned by the Mayangna community of Awas Tingni without consulting them. A suit filed by Awas Tingni with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ended in August 2001 in a ruling against the Nicaraguan State.

The Court ruled that the State “violated the right to judicial protection enshrined in Article 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights.” Consequently, the concession was ruled to be a clear violation of the Coast communities’ constitutional rights to communal property established by the 1987 Autonomy Statute. The ruling reminded the Nicaraguan government that “in accordance with Article 2 of the American Convention on Human Rights, its duty is to adopt in its domestic laws the legislative, administrative and any other measures deemed necessary to create an effective mechanism for the delimitation, demarcation and titling of indigenous communities’ properties, in accordance with customary law, their values, uses and customs.”

2007 brings a new government, but no real change in the model

This ruling led to the passage of the landmark Law of Communal Property Regime of the Indigenous Peoples and Ethnic Communities of the Autonomous Regions of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua and the Rivers Coco, Indio and Maiz (Law 445) in January 2003 and the creation of the National Demarcation and Titling Commission (CONADETI) under the Liberal government of Enrique Bolaños. But it was the new FSLN government elected in 2006 that gave the go-ahead for that commission to proceed with its work. According to official sources, 23 land titles have been issued to 304 indigenous and Afro-descendant communities in the North and South Caribbean and the Alto Wangki Bocay Special Regime Zone between 2007 and October 2016. This area, which encompasses 31.6% of Nicaraguan territory, is inhabited by 39,531 families.

With the FSLN’s return to government in 2007 a new institution emerged: The Caribbean Coast Development Council. It was established with an advisory body of the Secretariat of Caribbean Coast Affairs, created during the Bolaños government. Lumberto Campbell, President Daniel Ortega’s most trusted Coast man, was appointed to head the secretariat. According to these two bodies’ constituent documents, the Council’s main function is coordination between the central government and the autonomous regional governments and other autonomous institutions to contribute to the sustainable human development of the region’s peoples.

The 2009 Caribbean Coast Development Strategy (EDCC) evolved from that articulation. Different Coast sectors welcomed it as an important change in the options for the region’s development, including relevant aspects such as revitalizing cultural and multiethnic, multicultural and multilingual identity. It was seen as potentially strengthening intercultural health and education models as well as all autonomous institutions while effectuating a solid regional leadership.

The program includes a strategic focus called “economic, equitable, sustainable and harmonious transformation between people and Nature,” with proposals for environmental protection programs and revitalization of key economic sectors: fishing, agribusiness, agroforestry, tourism and mining. Throughout the almost nine years the different phases of the strategy have been in force, however, we have been unable to observe any drastic change in the development model promoted on the Caribbean Coast.

Outside of the regional authorities and local representatives of central government ministries, Coast people aren’t familiar with the strategy. It needs to be discussed but this hasn’t been done. Meanwhile, the extractive economic model continues to regard natural resources as the main generators of growth. We have one example in the fishery resources: Nicaragua has continuously increased its absolute production over the last five years: according to Central Bank figures, fishery extraction in 2016 increased by 7.6% over the previous year.

Locked into the extractive model

The extractive model has predominated on the Caribbean Coast since even before 1894, when the British extracted its mahogany for export. It has caused ever more devastating environmental impacts and blocked conditions and opportunities to achieving sustainable development. It has also negatively affected the wellbeing of families living in both Coast regions.

For a better understanding of the forces or dynamics fueling this model, it’s important not only to know the historical national and regional setting but also to consider Nicaragua’s current insertion in the global economy. Changes in the world economy are of such magnitude that the products of greatest value today, at least in countries like ours, are raw materials: timber, oil, gas, gold… This has led the region’s dependent economies towards a neo-extractivist model that some authors, such as the Argentinian sociologist Maristella Svampa, have called the “commodity consensus.” In the case of Nicaragua, the extractive model on the Coast is perversely articulated with an exclusionary agrarian dynamic of wealth accumulation in the Pacific that displaces poor peasants to the eastern regions. The combined effect of these two processes has produced an unprecedented wave of peasant colonists into indigenous territories.

Nicaragua reinserted itself into that model before 2007 and, like other countries historically tied to that model—Bolivia, Ecuador and even Venezuela—it has never disassociated itself from it. Changing from extractive dependence involves making structural changes that are still pending on the development agenda not only of the Coast but of all Nicaragua.

Challenging extractivism is a fundamental task

This model not only hinders experimenting with alternative development schemes, but also obstructs collective action, focusing attention solely on the importance of generating development “opportunities” by increasingly exploiting more natural resources, which we already know aren’t infinite. This gives continuity to a “tradition” of neoliberal privatizing models that not only destroy the environment and disempower the communities, but also favor the creation of hierarchical ethnic relationships and limit the spaces to generate community-level endogenous development options.

The advance of the agricultural frontier, speculation with indigenous and Afro-descendant lands and exploitation of forests, all producing their corollary of armed violence are all dynamics derived from the extractivist model and those promoting it. We have a clear example in recent years with the Alba Forestry Program, which has extracted substantial timber resources from both Coast regions without transparency, sustainability or even compensation.

Under the current political conditions, challenging the perverse and destructive extractivist model is a fundamental task but doing so requires strengthening regional political coordination skills around a common agenda and vision that ensures the development of Caribbean Coast autonomy. And this, in turn, requires active participation by the communities as agents of change in a regional autonomy-building process.

Do the territorial and communal governments really govern?

The polarization characterizing national political life and the dynamics of the major national political parties has permeated the territorial governments, posing difficulties for the different levels of governance within the autonomous system. This makes it hard for the communities’ own initiatives to be taken into account in municipal, regional and national development plans, which results in people in the communities and territories feeling disheartened with the national parties and continual elections. It also contributes to an increase in perceived corruption and distrust of community and territorial leaders.

The alliance/estrangement seesaw between YATAMA and the FSLN are evidence of this dynamic of rapprochement and distancing that has characterized political organizations on the Coast. After six years of alliance (2006-2012), YATAMA and the FSLN are presently in opposing camps, competing in the continual elections but unable to achieve the necessary consensus alone to restore confidence in the autonomous institutions.

The roles of regional, territorial, municipal and communal governments are very complex in the current model. Equitable, fair and empowering development can’t be promoted if the local authorities are exclusively used, as they are being today, to grant endorsements for exploiting resources in their territories.

Some sectors argue that this level of “recognition” and “participation” is a change of model for building development opportunities on the Caribbean Coast, but it really isn’t. In fact, it’s a reflection of neo-multicultural strategies that recognize only indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples’ rights that don’t endanger either the model or the real distribution of political and economic power within the State and don’t affect the interests of the elites operating in central government. They are measures that don’t promote the structural changes that would ensure real self-determination.

An overlay of authorities with different mandates

The Caribbean Coast is today facing a crucial challenge regarding the exercise of self-determination. The 23 Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples’ territories titled under a regime of collective ownership cover an area of 14,600 square miles, equivalent to almost a third of all Nicaragua. The size of this area isn’t minor. How can these communities and peoples, now owners of such extensive lands, effectively exercise their rights? The answers must be viewed in the light of the autonomous regime’s advances and challenges. We’re facing what could be an historic change in Coast self-determination but, if we don’t defend it correctly, it could be torpedoed by an autonomous regional hyper-governability that would immobilize collective options in territorial governance.

This warning isn’t new. In 2015, US anthropologist Charles Hale and a team of researchers from the Coast universities accompanied people in the Pearl Lagoon Basin in their land reclamation process. The most conflictive element he perceived while talking to different actors and institutions in the area was the overlay of authorities with different mandates and competences. This “excess of governance,” as he calls it, caused the erosion and occlusion of genuine self-determination processes in this area.

Hale’s critical perspective on the contradictions of the autonomous process must be taken into account because there are sectors that, in the name of autonomy, generate processes and policies that actually obstruct it.

The challenge of creating skilled personnel and critical reflection

In both autonomous regions, important initiatives have been generated to produce and strengthen territorial and community leaders’ skills in the governance of their domains.

Positive, albeit short-lived, experiences have also existed in the attempt to respond to the communities’ own development visions, but the lack of consistency and coordination each process requires, and the dependence on foreign financing, have prevented them from having direct and sustainable consequences in undermining the bases propping up the extractivist model. For one reason or another, the generation of skills hasn’t managed to reverse the presence, influence and expansion of extractivism.

The challenge of creating skills also requires actors and ideas that facilitate critical reflection processes, in which the University of the Autonomous Caribbean Coast Regions of Nicaragua (URACCAN) and the Bluefields Indian and Caribbean University BICU, the Caribbean’s two communitarian universities, play a fundamental role. Both originated from the autonomous spirit and have the potential to develop educational processes that question concepts about the development model, value community knowledge and initiatives, and promote professionals who distance themselves from the traditional uncritical university education, which works so well for the extractivist model.

Rethinking the current development model in a way that explains many of the Latin American Left’s current tensions and paradoxes, also involves rethinking autonomy, a debate that has yet to happen. There will be profound consequences to our autonomy regime’s ability to generate self-determination if the extractive model isn’t changed both on the Caribbean Coast and in Nicaragua as a whole.

State centralism and the Coast elites

Between 1986 and 1987, the consultations that took place prior to the passage of the Autonomy Statute were an opportunity for Coast men and women to reflect on how to improve their living conditions, consolidate a rights platform and outline ways of participating in politics, understanding it as a means to achieving the good life. But unfortunately it was a time of war and upheaval in the region, with many people displaced and others experiencing trauma and loss. Only some could dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to the consultation process.

Achieving autonomy was and still is a long process developed through plural dialogue and a context of massive polarization. More recently this process has enabled the reaching of minimal consensus about the new forms of territorial governability in the region. Plurality, dialogue and consensus, which were the inspiring principles of autonomy, are now weakened, leading us to wonder how far our living conditions have improved with autonomy. This question directly addresses the ability of both the autonomous regime and the Coast’s political leaders to realize Coast peoples’ aspirations.

Analyzing this ability doesn’t follow a direct path of cause-and-effect or progressive development. From the inception of its institutional life, when the first Regional Councils were elected and installed in 1990, Coast autonomy was limited. In the 16 years of Liberal governments that followed, it’s possible to trace the legal, political and administrative mechanisms through which they eroded autonomy, limiting the Councils’ capacities and governmental coordination.

This outside limitation found within the central government, also had accomplices on the Coast. What happened was only possible to the extent that the Coast’s own political elites submitted to the interests, agendas and disputes of the national political parties. Today, these Coast elites have accommodated themselves and reinforce the centralist manner in which the Nicaraguan State has always acted on the Coast.

The population is skeptical about autonomy

The influence of the national political dynamics has determined the regional elites’ agenda, reducing their capacity to determine their own political project and negatively affecting the legitimacy and trust people place in autonomy as a political regime and system of government.

Today, the challenge is to consider how we can return to the original autonomy project in order to recover its legitimacy and how to curb the influence of regional political and economic actors who, by concentrating so much power, constrain the autonomous regime. Achieving this requires promoting hope because Coast people are skeptical about the autonomy regime. They don’t feel or see it responding to their demands, improving their economy or contributing to their social wellbeing.

Different studies have always pointed out that the Coast process began with weaknesses: a context of war, opposing visions of autonomy from one that’s indigenous to another that’s regional and multiethnic. It must be remembered that the regime we have today is multiethnic and that there are no places where we can publicly debate the tensions between the existing autonomy and the one we want, let alone any democratic political processes to resolve them.

Opposing visions for amending the autonomy

In 2009, the Secretariat for Caribbean Coast Development prepared a proposal for amending the Autonomy Statute, but it had grown out of a closed-door negotiation with Yatama, the regional indigenous party with its strongest base in the Miskitu population in the North Caribbean. To date few others endorse its contents and even the small group of those who negotiated it hasn’t been able to reach consensus.

Behind the proposal to amend the Autonomy Statute we still see the two opposing visions created from different initiatives promoted by the FSLN and Yatama. The former proposes a multiethnic autonomy while the latter an indigenous and Afro-descendant communitarian autonomy, a model that finds a strong basis for its realization in the now-demarcated territories.
There are also tensions between visions of the existing and desired autonomy that haven’t achieved resolution. For example, the new indigenous territorial governments—created by mandate of Law 445—dispute governance with the municipal and/or regional governments as an alternative form of administration. How to resolve this tension is an issue still to be discussed.

The recent constitution of the territorial governments also involves important challenges for their own internal development, especially regarding their functioning, capacity and transparency. It’s important that these different government levels operate independently and complementarily within a subnational autonomous system of governance.

A compliant autonomy

What’s being currently promoted is a compliant autonomy: an exercise of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples’ rights aligned to a neoliberal model. It’s a copy of other Latin American models, such as in Ecuador and Bolivia, where there are minimal and formal—but never radical—guarantees to expressions of indigenous peoples’ rights that fall far short of challenging the neoliberal capitalist accumulation model, based on the extractivism in which both countries’ governments are invested.

Compliant autonomy on the Caribbean Coast is personified by the regional political elite, who use their symbolic capital and means of access the power of both the central government the FSLN to maintain their influence in the territory. The autonomous regime seems to be conditioned by two dynamics: that of an economy forced to operate under the extractive model and that of the centralist political model, which has even more profound implications for autonomy because it pertains to a government with a political and economic project that seeks to diminish the territories’ autonomous expression of power granted by law and restrain them by restructuring their forms of government and authority.

For the purpose of aligning the Coast governments to its own political interests, the central government used cooptation to limit the autonomous institutions’ capacity to question the State. In this way it is consolidating a centralized vision of autonomy, which is itself a contradiction of terms, reducing the level of indigenous communitarian self-determination and forcing a type of autonomy that’s completely disassociated from people’s individual, communal and territorial interests. Neither the territories nor their visions of how autonomy should be are taken into account.

Is it possible to think about reformulating autonomy under a constructive new agreement? If regional autonomy means self-determination by the region’s peoples, rethinking it requires an intercultural dialogue among those peoples so as to visualize a common development project. What is particularly clear is that autonomy cannot stay in the hands of an elite aligned to the interests of national political forces.

Revitalizing the autonomous utopia

The regional universities can play an important role in generating responses to this complex scenario. Academia can be a place for building alternative visions of Caribbean Coast development and of both the autonomy we have and the one we want. Universities can facilitate an inter-sectoral and inter-generational dialogue in which different actors on the regional spectrum think about where we’re going and the kind of regime we want. Amending the Autonomy Statute could be an opportunity to open a new dialogue between the community and territorial bases that strengthens democratic and autonomous institutional values and principles.

We need to embark on a sustained effort that enables us to link struggles, build inter-generational relationships, revitalize the utopia of the autonomous regime, change the role of actors—such as young people—and their potential contributions if they are empowered and committed to an alternative vision of autonomy, understanding that it isn’t simply encapsulated within the government’s regional institutions.

Working with young people is a crucial challenge today

Work with adolescents and young adults is very important to making certain changes of direction in the future of autonomous institutionality, especially considering that the current context is different than the one from which autonomy emerged.

There are important experiences of regional institutions—URACCAN, the Foundation for the Autonomy and Development of the Coast (FADCANIC), the Center for Human, Citizen and Autonomous Rights of the Coast (CEDEHCA) and the Center for Justice and Human Rights of the Coast (CEJUDHCAN)—that are training, organizing and mobilizing young people at both the regional and territorial-community levels. Their work shows that there are skills, knowledge and above all potential for the future.

The common theme in dialoguing with young people must be an inter-generational vision of the autonomous regime. We need to generate a dialogue process that enables us to historically reconstruct the different concepts of autonomy, generating conditions that permit today’s autonomy to recapture the real spirit of self-determination we had in 1987, not as a utopic idea but as a reality with many possible horizons.

In addition to working with young people and generating dialogue about autonomy’s future, it’s important to recognize the need to revitalize and re-legitimate community leaders, a core element for dreaming a new autonomy. It needs another social contract, another kind of arrangement, another redistribution of power to resist the influence of the national-regional economic and political interests that seek to impose their own vision of a compliant autonomy.

The challenge of title clearance in the territories

Among other major challenges, there’s no clear proposal today on how to address the territorial governments’ demand for title clearance, the fifth and final stage in the demarcating and titling process. It’s the stage that defines the legal status of inhabitants who are neither indigenous nor Afro-descendant but live on lands that have been titled as indigenous or Afro-descendant.

The problematic situation caused by the massive migration and settlement of mestizos and others without legitimate title to the land they are on has exceeded the State’s capabilities. Seeing the lack of governmental action today we recognize that no title clearance plan will involve expelling people, especially poor people, and everything suggest that the government is committed to promoting forms of harmonious coexistence in the territories through dialogue with the communities wherever possible.

A governmental response of evicting mestizo families settled in indigenous territories would surely result in an armed conflict of the scope we experienced on the Coast in the 1980s. We based this interpretation on what’s been happening throughout the national territory, where there are still so many violent conflicts through unresolved property problems.

Arriving settlers and dark forces

Since 1990, there has been an increase in the number of both properties exceeding 35 hectares and of medium-sized farms (140-350 hectares) in Nicaragua at the cost of state and cooperative agricultural property. This increase has meant rural unemployment in the Pacific region and, at the same time, a process of “returning to the countryside” in rural regions of the Caribbean. As a result of their displacement and the increasing unavailability of land, squatters and wage workers continue migrating toward the Caribbean Coast in search of land. Behind this trend is a highly exclusionary dynamic of expanding areas for extensive livestock production, subsistence agriculture and monoculture plantation that displaces colonist families to the Coast. That unending process has destroyed most of the forested land in the center of the country, extending what is known as the agricultural frontier into the coastal territories.

These families believe that resettling on Coast lands is an escape valve from major conflicts. The fact that they are occupying indigenous lands on the Coast is thus not isolated from the dynamics of privatization and the extension of medium-sized property in the country; it’s actually one of its consequences.

Most of these migrating families support the FSLN, which has no intention of upsetting them to consolidate a model of political governability in the region. The governing party isn’t interested in a title clearance that involves evictions in line with Law 445, preferring to promote a less politically costly model of coexistence, which could generate political returns. It goes without saying that the constant influx of mestizos over time has already shifted the electoral balance between native coast people—including generations of mestizos who over time have adopted coast values—and the newer mestizo migrants who for the most part do not share their cultural, political, environmental or religious views. Complicating matters even further, actors whose questionable responsibilities haven’t been clearly investigated by the authorities are found within the complex and sometimes violent situation the settlers currently face with the indigenous peoples.

One such dark actor is the opportunist who trades illegally in indigenous lands, which by law cannot be bought and sold. They come from everywhere, have every ethnic identity and have all kinds of occupations and political networks. Another dark actor is the drug trafficker, who takes advantage of the uncertain economic-political circumstances such as the decline in the timber trade and the rise in land speculation.

Coexistence initiatives with the settlers possible but not the only way

Although the context surrounding the legal obligation for title clearance is extremely delicate, important initiatives are being developed. One example is that of the Awas Tingni Mayangnina Sauni Umana (AMASAU) territorial government, which has achieved positive experiences of coexistence between settlers and indigenous Mayangnas. AMASAU has worked out a regulation taken from the experience of the Karata territorial government in Bilwi: the plan is to charge mestizos for the use of and benefit from the land on which they live and work. The regulation will stipulate the number of acres that can be leased for work, balancing it with criteria of peaceful coexistence among the peoples.

There’s a similar experience in the Rama and Kriol territorial government in the South Caribbean, which already has a regulation and procedure for settlers in the territory who recognize Rama and Kriol rights over the land on which they live. This regulation will facilitate establishing intercultural coexistence between settlers and indigenous peoples wherever possible, making regulated use of resources and ensuring peaceful coexistence agreements.

Indigenous women between two forms of violence

While these alternative solutions already exist on the Caribbean Coast, they haven’t yet achieved greater visibility due to the fragmented trust and the failure of dialogue, especially in territories where there’s an alarmingly intensive level of violence between the indigenous peoples and the settlers.

Community women are the frontline victims experiencing the invasion of their lands by groups of armed settlers. Along with their sons and daughters, they suffer mistreatment and violent looting, which also this threatens indigenous community life. From these women’s perspective, the line dividing outside and local male violence is erased when those who should defend them collude with or tolerate those invading their communities. We’re seeing harmful effects, both from the mestizo colonization of indigenous territories and from the lack of action in mediating violent acts that damage the dignity of Mayangna, Mískitu, Rama and Kriol women.

The complex and violent colonization scenario in areas of the Caribbean Coast is causing serious human rights violations. New dialogue and consensus initiatives are urgently needed to pull together positive experiences/lessons learned from previous processes, even when they haven’t always ended successfully. The State’s authorities, autonomous institutions, territorial leaders and communal leaders, in fact all civil society’s actors, must share responsibility.

Another autonomy is possible

Thirty years from its inception, the autonomy regime has taken root in the Caribbean Coast’s social and political life. Today it’s an important benchmark establishing the rights of indigenous, Afro-descendant and mestizo peoples. However, a historically centralist and centralizing State such as the current one, added to the present-day clout of the extractivist and agrarian models of wealth accumulation, pose considerable challenges to Coast autonomy.

Our most urgent need is to rethink autonomy with more inclusion of those who are the subject of autonomous rights and to renew autonomy’s social agreement with more participation by young people, women, workers and leaders from the territories and communities, to reignite the hope of a democratic, self-determined Caribbean Coast that participates in Nicaragua’s future on equal footing with the rest of the country.

Arelly Barbeyto is a sociology lecturer at URACCAN’s Bilwi campus. Dolores Figueroa is a researcher at the Social Anthropology Research and Higher Studies Center (CIESAS) headquartered in Mexico City. Miguel González is assistant professor in the Social Sciences Department at York University in Toronto, Canada. And Francisco Sequiera Rankin directs BICU’s Human and Autonomous Rights Observatory in Bluefields, South Caribbean.

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