International Squatters IV: Nicaragua
The specific housing problems leading to squatting vary enormously around the world but underlying them all is the usual corruption around land and property which is found everywhere from Ankara to Zaria. This is part four of a four-part special on international squatters by Sam Beale with additional Spanish material by Emma Eastwood.
Squall 8, Autumn 1994, pg. 37.
Violent Evictions in Managua
Five hundred families were violently evicted from a squatter settlement, Villa Reconciliacion in Managua, Nicaragua, in the early hours of Monday, 2nd May. “This was nothing more than brutal repression, exactly like it used to be under Somoza,” said one of those evicted. At 5am 300 troops and members of the Nicaragua National Police arrived at Villa Reconciliacion, armed with rifles and tear gas and allegedly in possession of a legal eviction order. This did not actually exist.
The first home to be pulled down was that of 17 year old Carlos Javier Muniz Hernandez, who was badly beaten when he protested. Women, children and journalists were also beaten during the operation. By morning the police had destroyed every home on the settlement. Dr Bayardo Izaba Solis of the Nicaragua Centre for Human Rights (CENIDH) condemned the police action: “Instead of meeting its obligation to protect these people, the state uses the power of the police and the judiciary against them.” CENIDH, together with the Nicaragua Communal Movement, is currently engaged in efforts to procure plots of land for the resettlement of the evicted families.
The number of squatter settlements in Managua has mushroomed in recent years, a result of steadily increasing migration stimulated by both the violence and general lawlessness in parts of the north of the country and the lack of support for subsistence agriculture. As conflict over land ownership has become steadily more acute, evictions of squatter settlements have increased; these are frequently resisted. A recent attempt to remove squatters from Barrio Santo Domingo in Managua was met with the mobilisation of residents to stop them. One neighbour told the Central American Report: “It’s pitiful, I don’t know where they expect these people to go. All they want is to be able to work and feed their children, but instead they get pushed from pillar to post by the authorities and no-one seems to care what happens to them. When the police came, the whole neighbourhood came out onto the streets, we refused to let them carry out the eviction.”
Local human rights organisations say that the levels of violence used against squatters is increasing. The low wages of police officers encourages corruption. A recent CENIDH investigation revealed that traders in the Eastern Market of Managua have been paying police to beat up street children as a deterrent to petty crime.
Read the other International Squatters stories