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Nicaragua: Whether Blacks experience racial discrimination by the population in general and by the authorities (1980 to present)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 June 1998
Citation / Document Symbol NIC29549.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Nicaragua: Whether Blacks experience racial discrimination by the population in general and by the authorities (1980 to present), 1 June 1998, NIC29549.E, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Specific information on acts of discrimination perpetrated against blacks in Nicaragua could not be found among the sources consulted. However, the following  information relates to blacks and indigenous groups feeling discriminated against by the authorities.

Ethnic groups such as the Miskito, Sumo and Rama indigenous groups, as well as English-speaking Afro-American Creoles and black indigenous Garífunas, reside primarily in Nicaragua's Autonomous Atlantic Coast Region (CAR 29 Jan. 1998, 5). The same report states that the region is considered the most marginalized of the country. During the Sandinista régime period, the ethnic peoples of the Atlantic coast, principally the Miskitos, were "ignored" by the government (ibid.). In 1985 Blacks fled to Costa Rica and the United States because of anti-Sandinista contras attacks against them (ibid.).

Another CAR article states that the region's ethnic groups took up arms against the Sandinista government and as a result, the government established the autonomous region (25 Sept. 1997, 4). The report states that "the statutes creating the Region recognize the multi-ethnicity of the zone and its right to autonomous government. However they also place this degree of independence within the national framework, stressing unity with respect for diversity." (ibid.). The 29 January 1998 CAR article states, however, that the area, where unemployment runs at around 90 per cent, has only gained in theory and that in practice, without local control on natural resources, the population cannot gainfully exploit the area (5).

Two reports state that the increase use of drugs by indigenous and black peoples in the Atlantic Coast area has devastated communities (Los Angeles Times 8 Feb. 1997; Washington Post 6 June 1997). According to Eduardo Cuadra, the deputy director of the Nicaraguan Police, drug traffickers have "bombarded" the coast with drugs to ensure drug addiction and the maintenance of local drug dealers who will collaborate against law enforcement initiatives (Los Angeles Times 8 Feb. 1997). The same report states that the drug traffickers take advantage of the area's poor economic situation and cites Rev. Farán Dometz of Nicaragua's Protestant Moravian Church as saying: "We are a colony of Nicaragua...We are second-class citizens in this country...We produce lobster here, but we can't eat it. " Like the CAR article, the report also states that the unemployment rate is around 90 per cent in the region.

In the Washington Post report, Rev. Joel Brown of the Roman Catholic Church in Bluefields, the Atlantic Coast's largest city, whose parish is heavily affected by drug use, is cited as saying: "We are not treated as a part of Nicaragua...The government takes everything we have and leaves us nothing for hospitals, for schools, for rehabilitation. No government has ever been interested in the coast, and now we see the results." (6 June 1997).

According to a Barricada report, the Sandinist National Liberation Front (FSLN) had "rejected racist remarks" by President Aleman during a FSLN assembly meeting        (4 Nov. 1997). In defending the autonomy of the Atlantic Coast ethnic communities during the meeting, FSLN members criticized comments made by President Aleman that "belittled" blacks (ibid.).

A 6 February 1988 National Journal report states that then secretary general of the Nicaraguan Confederation of Trade Union Unity (CUS), Alvin Guthrie, was the first black to obtain political prominence in the country. The report also states that blacks "have suffered significant discrimination," but does not elaborate in what way.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Barricada [Managua, in Spanish]. 4 November 1997. Carlos Garcia Castillo. "Sandinist Assembly Announces 'Sweeping Changes' in FSLN." (FBIS-LAT-97-314/WNC) [Accessed 8 June 1998]

Central America Report [Guatemala]. 29 January 1998. "Nicaragua: Atlantic Coast Election Contest Opens."

_____. 25 September 1997. "Nicaragua: Atlantic Coast Elections Warm Up."

Los Angeles Times. 8 February 1997. Juanita Darling. "Nicaragua's Coastal Epidemic." (Central America NewsPak [Austin]. 17 Feb. - 2 Mar. 1997, Vol. 12, No.2.)

The National Journal. 6 February 1988. Christopher Madison. "Alvin Guthrie; Walking a Tightrope Over a Political Caldron." (NEXIS)

Washington Post. 6 June 1997. "U.S. Bound Cocaine Ravages Culture of Nicaragua's Miskito Coast." (Central America NewsPak [Austin]. 9 June - 22 June 1997, Vol. 12, No. 10)

Additional Sources Consulted

Asociación Nicaragüense Pro-Derechos Humanos. 1998. Situación de los Derechos Humanos Nicaragua 1997.

Amnesty International Report. 1994-1997.

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. 1993-1997.

Latinamerica Press [Lima]. 1989-1998.

Latin America Regional Reports: Caribbean & Central America Report [London]. 1996-1998

Reflexcion [Managua]. Oct. 1997-Feb. 1998.

Electronic sources: IRB Databases, Global News Bank, LEXIS/NEXIS, Internet, REFWORLD (UNHCR database).

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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