Contact: Tom Laffay (English/Spanish); Media Producer and Communications Manager, La Isla Foundation


Ex-sugarcane workers suffering from Chronic Kidney Disease of nontraditional causes (CKDnT) today began a march on foot from the Nicaraguan city of Chichigalpa en route to Managua, a distance of 125 kilometers (over 77 miles).

Known as ASNAAPIRC (The Nicaraguan Association of CKD-Affected Persons and Their Allies), the 400-member organization of ex-workers is petitioning the Nicaraguan National Assembly to pass a reform bill proposal submitted just over two months ago.

If passed, the proposal would reform the labor code and empower state health and labor institutions to ensure greater pension rights for CKDnT-affected ex-workers. It would also increase the liability of the sugar industry for costs related to the above.

The march began Monday morning with over 60 participants. It will take seven to eleven days before arriving in Managua, according to protest leadership.

In addition to the threat of police violence, protesters acknowledge health risks inherent to marching a long distance on foot. Some men and women participating in the march are senior citizens with advanced stages of renal failure.

ASNAAPIRC is the same group of protesting ex-workers that planned demonstrations in Chichigalpa in January 2014 to demand compensation from their former employer, the local sugar mill Ingenio San Antonio (ISA), for their illness. These events culminated on January 18 when local police officers disrupted a nonviolent protest with live gunfire. The officers, who still have not faced public trial, killed a 48-year-old man and incapacitated a 14-year-old boy.

Given the turbulent history of CKDnT-related public demonstrations, as outlined in a January Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights report, La Isla Foundation urges the state and its intermediaries to avoid repressive or disproportionate use of force against nonviolent protesters.

Leading scientific researchers have discovered that working conditions in the sugarcane industry are primary drivers of the CKDnT epidemic among sugarcane workers. La Isla Foundation encourages both the Nicaraguan government and the Nicaraguan sugarcane industry to sufficiently respond to emerging scientific discoveries and take precautionary action to address the CKDnT epidemic.

For this reason, La Isla Foundation views ASNAAPIRC’s protest as an invitation for all relevant stakeholders to begin collaborating on a solution together.

To read specific recommendations to the Nicaraguan government and sugarcane industry made on the basis of our human rights investigations in Chichigalpa, read LIF labor conditions report Sickly Sweet.

La Isla Foundation (LIF) is a public health and policy NGO addressing a fatal epidemic of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) among sugarcane workers in Latin America.

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