Contact: Jason Glaser (English & Spanish), President and Co-Founder, La Isla Foundation

Community members protest company linked to epidemic of chronic kidney disease

January 19, 2014 – Chichigalpa, Nicaragua – A workers’ rights protest turned violent when Nicaraguan police attempted to dissolve the demonstration on the evening of Saturday, January 18. Protests began again on Sunday, January 19, with confrontations with police lasting into the evening.

At least one man is dead and there are many with serious injuries from the clash of police with protesters; as many as 36 are detained.

For three weeks, community members were regularly protesting Nicaraguan sugar producer Pellas Group’s Ingenio San Antonio. The company’s workplace conditions have been linked to an epidemic of chronic kidney disease (CKD), which has affected 68% of all men, nearly all sugarcane workers, in the most affected communities. CKD is responsible for 46% of all male deaths over the last 10 years in Chichigalpa.

The continued protests ceased Saturday, January 11, pending an agreement with Ingenio San Antonio to hold a meeting the following Saturday (January 18), to address community grievances. This meeting did not occur, and the community subsequently protested, according to witnesses and participants of the protest.

Community members reported that during the week without protests, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) (an organization headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland promoting worldwide proprietary, industrial, and commercial standards) visited Ingenio San Antonio for a previously scheduled evaluation.

Police Chief Commissioner Fernando Borge said the police went to the protest “to restore public order.” The protest was located at the entrance of the sugar mill.

Confirmed dead is Juan de Dios Torres, aged 47, a former sugarcane worker afflicted with CKD, who was shot by police and died Saturday night.

A teenage male was injured by police and is in critical condition in a local hospital; his family has not been informed about his condition. At least one other man was also seriously injured and is believed to be in the hospital. Both are reportedly employed at Ingenio San Antonio.

Reportedly, over 30 people have been arrested, some are believed to have injuries from the confrontation with police, and it has also been reported that all or most are afflicted with CKD.

There are no reports of injured police. The National Police reported that members of the police unit involved were suspended and are under investigation.

Ingenio San Antonio produces sugar, rum, and biofuels for local, regional, US, and European markets.

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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