Nicaragua Anti-Canal leader Francisca Ramirez: “Ortega’s Gov. Treats Us Like Criminals”

October 20, 2017 |

Rural leader takes part in international event for human rights defenders.

By Vladimir Vasquez  (Confidencial)

Francisca Ramirez in Ireland at a gathering sponsored by the Front Line Defenders foundation. She criticized Ortega’s government for disrespecting those who oppose its abuses.

HAVANA TIMES — Nicaraguan rural leader Francisca “Chica” Ramirez criticizes Ortega’s government for abusing the human rights of those who oppose them. Ramirez was invited by the Front Line Defenders foundation to take part in a discussion alongside another hundred human rights defenders. The event took place in Dublin, Ireland, starting on October 17th and came to an end on the 19th this month.

The participating human rights activists and defenders were from 80 countries and the fact that they are being persecuted by their governments for carrying out humanitarian work is something they all have in common.

“The Dublin Platform is a time for building solidarity across continents and struggles, for defenders to remind one another that they are not alone in their dangerous, brave work for human rights at home,” said Andrew Anderson, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders, during the event, according to a press release sent out by the Foundation.

Human Rights Violations

During her speech, in front of a hall of people where members of the United Nations and European Union were also present, Ramirez said: “anyone in Nicaragua who stands up against any Government project doesn’t have the right to work. They take away jobs from our families. We don’t have a right to anything as a human being. We are treated as if we were criminals,” the rural leader said, her voice faltering.

“Chica” Ramirez, who has stood out for her leadership at farmers’ protests against the construction of an Interoceanic Canal because they believe it violates the right they have over their lands, reported that her son suffered an attack on the streets of Nueva Guinea, where they are from, in April.

Nineteen-year-old Mayor Lopez Ramirez, Ramirez’s son, was driving his motorbike last April when a barbed wire on the road caused him to have an accident.

Francisca Ramirez has suffered police repression herself at her anti-canal farmers’ protests. In December 2016, the National Police seized two vehicles she uses to work with.

The rural struggle

“I come from a country where people’s human rights are violated,” Ramirez said at the beginning of her speech, holding a Nicaraguan flag in her hand.

Later, she began to tell those present about the cause of her struggle: the concessions granted for the canal construction project to Chinese businessman Wang Jing, by the Nicaraguan government and the passing of Law 840.

She also took the opportunity to mention that spaces have been closed down for the media and NGOs ever since 2007, when Comandante Ortega returned to power.

“We have led 95 protests against this project. Protests with up to 30,000 people. We have Nicaragua’s Constitution that says that we have the right to move freely… When we want to hold a protest, it’s the town hall’s cars that are responsible for cutting off roads,” the rural leader denounced in front of the room.

Front Line Defenders had already nominated Ramirez to award her with the Foundation’s award for human rights defenders. Even though she didn’t win, she was left standing with the six runner-ups, commented Monica Lopez Baltodano, the rural movement’s legal adviser.

“Mrs. Francisca’s invitation and nomination for the award, clearly shows just how much the struggle for land, lake and sovereignty which is at the head of the rural movement has gained global dimensions. She also explicity recognized Mrs. Francisca for her leadership. We human rights defenders are proud to be represented by Mrs. Chica,” Lopez told Confidencial.

“The Nicaraguan Government sells the image that there is peace to a lot of people. That we live in peace, in great joy because they have a great ally with huge capital, the private company they have aligned themselves with,” Ramirez warned.

She also reported that as a part of the government’s pressures against farmers, their economic rights are also being cut short, because when they cut the roads, farmers can’t take their produce out to sell, which is the only way rural families make a living.

In tears, Ramirez ended her speech saying that: “sometimes she didn’t want to continue defending the Nicaraguan people’s rights, but I want to thank the organization that has invited us because I can see that there are many people out their who defend their rights and I feel like one more comrade in this struggle for all of us.”

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