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With the world’s eye on Chichigalpa, Nicaragua after a round of media visits over the course of 2012, the complicated circumstances surrounding the basics of the CKDnT issue do not fit easily into a nightly news program. OFF AIR explores a deeper and darker reality of intimidation that those affected by the disease face every day.

Intimidation of communities affected by the CKDnT epidemic from Nicaraguan Sugar Estates Limited (NSEL), owners of Ingenio San Antonio (ISA) is affecting medical research in the affected communities. Their brand of intimidation involves threatening workers and surviving widows, who earn between 100-250 US dollars a month, with losing their employment and/or food and medical stipends they were given.
These stipends were given via an International Finance Corporation (IFC) arbitration process that was supposed to resolve a complaint between a community organization, ASOCHIVIDA, and NSEL, which was the recipient of a multimillion-dollar loan from the IFC.

What has happened instead is that the community organization, ASOCHIVIDA, has been pressured by the sugarcane company into intimidating their own members by using the stipends as leverage over their membership. For talking to the press or working with independent researchers, like La Isla Foundation, families desperate for whatever help they can get have had their food stipends, jobs, and medical supplies threatened or taken away.

This has damaged our research efforts as community members have become too scared to participate in the studies that will help us identify the cause. Tierra Unida Films and LIF are explaining the complicated situation and asking the company to collaborate instead of prevent meaningful, independently funded and peer-reviewed research. Tragically, one of the men in the video has already passed away, a stark reminder of the urgent need to find the cause.

NSEL has also pressured other sugar producers in Nicaragua not to collaborate with independent researchers via their powerful lobby in the Nicaraguan Sugar Producers Association. This unfortunate turn of events occurs as La Isla Foundation and its research partners have a study protocol ready and funded that may find the cause of the disease. We only require the collaboration of a sugarcane company in Nicaragua to carry out research that is likely to identify a principal cause of the epidemic. This research must coincide with the beginning of the cane harvest in two weeks and will likely need to be suspended until next year because of NSEL’s actions.

Write NSEL (nicaraguasugar.com/es/contactenos/) to tell them that you think they should collaborate with LIF and our research partners. That research should be delayed and thousands of more men put at risk due to special interests is unconscionable.

Learn more about the CKDnT issue at laislafoundation.org and be part of the solution.

Learn more about Tierra Unida Films and our work on this issue at tierraunidafilms.org