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Tensions mount between Nicaragua government and separatists

June 19, 2009

BILWI, PUERTO CABEZAS, Nicaragua – A political showdown between indigenous separatists and the Sandinista government appears to be steaming toward a larger-scale confrontation in this sultry Caribbean port town, following several weeks of mounting tensions and spats of violence, including unconfirmed reports of six people being shot.

The Sandinista-run mayor´s office is accusing separatist leaders of working with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to agitate a labor dispute between lobster divers and fishing companies in attempts to destabilize the regional government.

The separatists, however, argue the government is using the strike as an excuse to squelch their historic claim to the Communitarian Nation of the Moskitia, which announced its rebirth April 19 (NT, May 1).

Both sides say tensions are heating quickly.

“Patience is running out and we can´t continue to allow this,” Puerto Cabezas Mayor Guillermo Espinoza told The Nica Times.

Espinoza said the government of Daniel Ortega, which has not responded to the Moskitia´s independence claim, has been too lenient with the separatists, thinking the issue would go away on its own.

However, the mayor said, the movement has gained momentum and become increasingly disruptive.

Now, he says, the Moskitia movement “has to be stopped.”

Espinoza said the municipal government is organizing protests against the separatists and collecting signatures to demand its leaders be brought to justice.

Independence leaders, meanwhile, say it´s the municipal government that´s violating the law by limiting indigenous people´s rights to self-determination. Independence leader Rev. Héctor Williams, known as the Wihta-Tara, or “Great Judge,” of the Moskitia Nation, says his movement is still committed to a peaceful transition to power.

The separatists have given the municipal government six months – until October – to hand over the state machinery.

However, he warned, if push comes to shove, the separatists have got the numbers to run the Sandinistas authorities out of town whenever they want.

See the June 26 edition of The Nica Times for more on this story.

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