Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Between Daniel Ortega’s return to the Nicaraguan presidency in 2007 and the outbreak of protests and state repression last year, Nicaragua’s GDP grew at four percent annually while the official poverty rate dropped by nearly half. This was achieved through a three-pronged strategy: cooperation with neoliberal budget guidelines from international financial institutions (IFIs) in exchange for direct financial support and loans; an alliance with the Venezuelan government that brought financial support for anti-poverty programs until last year; and the promotion of industries that would bring GDP growth and foreign exchange savings—especially agriculture, mining, and tourism. Only this last prong partially survived into Nicaragua’s new ‘normal.’
This paper focuses on a feature of the one surviving prong that is erased in quantitative indicators of ‘sustainable growth’ employed by the Nicaraguan government and IFIs: the promotion of agriculture and mining through the often violent seizure of Black and Indigenous communal lands, especially in the country’s Caribbean coast autonomous regions. After outlining the countrywide scope of this dispossessive project, the paper focuses on ethnographic data from a territory where settler agricultural activities and especially cattle ranching in communal lands have dispossessed Black Kriol and Indigenous Rama people. While government officials have been complicit in this violence, Rama and Kriol communities have developed creative alliances to document their dispossession and, at times, impel government action. Still, the current crisis, its economic ramifications, and pressure from quantitatively-obsessed IFIs raise the prospect of further entrenchment of growth strategies rooted in settler colonialism and anti-Black racism.