Autonomy in the Caribbean Coast: neoliberalism, landless peasants, and the resurgence of ethnic conflict

Alejandra Gaitán-Barrera, Govand Khalid Azeez

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


A new wave of socio-political and economic challenges have undermined the exercise of self-determination and autonomy in the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. The increasing advance of the frontera agrícola into the autonomous territories has led to the clearing and destruction of vast areas of rainforest for agricultural and cattle ranching purposes—fundamentally changing the landscape, demographics and the livelihood of indigenous and ethnic communities. The advance of the frontera agrícola is correlated to the phenomenon of mass migration of Pacific and central mestizo Nicaraguans (mostly peasants and lumpen-proletarians) to La Mosquitia. In the past decade, this migration has wrecked havoc and ethnic conflict in the indigenous territory. The mestizo peasant and lumpen-proletarian migrants, known by the local inhabitants as colonos, being forced out by large land-proprietors and transnational agricultural firms, have illegally settled into lands and territories originally protected by the System of Communal Ownership of Land of Indigenous Peoples and Ethnic Communities of the Autonomous Regions of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua and the Bocay, Coco, Indio and Maíz Rivers (Law 445), which came into force in 2003. In this paper we examine the roots of this phenomenon of internal migration and ethnic conflict between the mestizo peasants and local indigenous forces in Nicaragua. We place the forced displacement of mestizo peasants, the illegal occupation of indigenous lands and the subsequent ethnic conflict in the symbiotic yet unequal relationship between the local bourgeoisie and its state, and the omnipresent and omnipotent global capitalist apparatuses.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIndigenous struggles for autonomy
Subtitle of host publicationthe Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua
EditorsLuciano Baracco
Place of PublicationLanham, USA ; London
PublisherLexington Books
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781498558822
ISBN (Print)9781498558815
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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