Nicaragua seeks to solve indigenous land disputes
MANAGUA, Nicaragua (Reuters) -- Nicaraguan President Arnoldo
Aleman proposed groundbreaking legislation on Tuesday to solve ancient
conflicts over land occupied by indigenous peoples.
Aleman proposed a law that would give title to communal lands traditionally
settled by indigenous populations in the Atlantic region. He called the
proposal a starting point for national dialogue on the issue.
"After 506 years, indigenous peoples still have not won formal recognition
their lands in various American nations," Aleman said at a news conference.
"It's not an easy problem to solve, but my government has made the decision
to take firm steps toward a just and timely territorial delimitation."
His announcement, which won praise from the World Bank and the
Organisation of American States, triggered the release of $15 million for
Nicaragua's Atlantic Biological Corridor Project, a conservation project
funded by the Global Environment Facility, the World Bank, the Canadian
and Dutch governments, among other institutions.
"This is an important step for securing a sustainable future for the people
the Atlantic Coast and, indeed, for all Nicaraguans," Donna
Dowsett-Coirolo, director of the World Bank's Central America unit, said in
a letter to Aleman.
The hope is to clarify the rights of Nicaragua's indigenous populations
traditional lands and to fairly resolve their claims, administration officials said.
Indigenous Indian and Afro-Caribbean inhabitants number some 185,000
along the Caribbean coast, about half the region's population.
Largely undeveloped and semi-autonomous, the Atlantic region has
remained isolated culturally, politically and economically from the more
urbanized Pacific coast, fuelling territorial conflict.
Aleman emphasised that his proposal should be a departure point for a
national dialogue and outlined four fundamental criteria for reform: the final
plan should promote national unity; the process should be open; the results
should reach beyond the Atlantic region to benefit the entire nation; the
process should be completed within six months.
Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.