Twenty-five properties, between 5 and 1,500 manzanas (hectares), have been invaded by “tomatierras” – land grabbers – in the context of the sociopolitical crisis that the country has been experiencing since April 18, according to the Union of Unión de Productores Agropecuarios de Nicaragua (Upanic) – Union of Agricultural Producers of Nicaragua.
The total area affected, says Upanic, amounts to 5,550 manzanas (13,600 acres), that includes farms for agricultural, livestock, housing, forestry, among others.
According to the organization’s count, 32.5% of the areas affected by the tomatierras are greater than 100 manzanas; 22.58% are of 50 to 99 manzanas; and 46.16% are land less than 50 manzanas.
The problem is in seven departments, but Chinandega is the most affected, according to the complaints that Upanic has received.
Of the total area, 43% of the land grabs is in Chinandega; 25% in Managua; 11% in Rivas; 7% in Estelí; 7% in Matagalpa; and 3% in Granada.
The agricultural areas represent 43% of the total area affected; livestock land represents 44%; housing, 7%; forest 5%, and others, such as industrial and mining, 1%.
“These illegitimate actions are carried out by heavily armed people, depriving their legitimate owners of possession through violence and mistreatment, which is usurping the private domain and violating the right to property, recognized in the Political Constitution of Nicaragua,” Upanic said in a statement.
Between June 10 and 11, around 1,000 people invaded the property of 32 blocks of land known as La Ceiba, in the Las Joyas sector, in Estelí.
Ulises Herrera, one of the owners of La Ceiba, of the Herrera Molina family, said that “these people have take our land and have divided it up.”
The tomatierras took it all. “The second day of the seizure, they destroyed a tobacco warehouse that was on the property, valued at thousands of dollars, “said Herrera.
The affected said they have gone to the authorities in Estelí, among them the mayor, Francisco Ramón Valenzuela, who made public a statement in which he said that “the Mayor’s office does not have any responsibility in the land grabs and that the mayor calls the tomatierras not to continue invading properties”.
However, Mayor Valenzuela later urged the owners of affected properties to try to persuade the tomatierras on their own and to evict them by force, if necessary, according to Herrera.
“There have been several properties taken (In Estelí). Ours is the largest. And nothing has been done. Now nobody assumes responsibility. Neither the Mayor’s Office, nor the Procurator’s Office, nor the Police, nor the Army, nor the Judicial Branch,” he said.
The La Ceiba property has been historically dedicated to the planting of tobacco. According to Ulises Herrera, it was owned by his grandfather and has been handed down from generation to generation. Today, the Herrera Molina family holds it legally. For some years, with the development of Estelí, the family decided to split the land, because “practically the property is in the urban area”.
Another property taken in its entirety and violently is the Hato Grande estate, in Villanueva, in Chinandega.
Arsenia Aguilar, the granddaughter of the owner of the farm, said that on the morning of June 11, “about 200 armed men broke into Hato Grande.”
They told their owners that they had six hours to get out and take the cattle off of the property. “They were taken out immediately. My grandmother is diabetic, depends on insulin and was not allowed to take her medication. My grandparents ended up taking shelter in the house of a friend of the family, near the farm,” said Aguilar.
The farm, with more than 700 manzanas of land, is dedicated to the production of livestock and basic grains.
As in Estelí, the authorities of Villanueva and Chinandega incited the owners of Hato Grande to evict the people who took over the farm on their own account.
According to those affected by tomatierras and Upanic, there is a latent fear among property owners throughout the country.
The land grabs have been qualified by the Consejo Superior de la Empresa Privada (Cosep)(Cosep) – Higher Council of Private Enterprise – as actions directed within the context of socio-political crisis that the country is experiencing.
“These groups continue to act in complete impunity and now it is also evident that they are being used (by the government) to intimidate and repress directly the private sector through directing and organizing land takeovers and invasions outside the Constitution and laws, violating and usurping the right to private property with the satisfaction of the Government and police authorities of the country, which leads us to observe with great concern forms of de facto confiscations in our country,” the Cosep denounced in a statement.
Likewise, the issue has been exposed in its reports by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
Source (in Spanish): El Nuevo Diario