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Sugar cane worker killed in protest: police patrol detained

News from Nicaragua | Thursday, 23 January 2014 | Origional source: laislafoundation.org

The San Antonio refinery, owned by the Pellas family, produces sugar, rum, and biofuels for local and international markets. According to the NGO La Isla Foundation, the company’s working conditions have been linked to an epidemic of chronic kidney disease (CKD). In the most affected communities, 68% of all men, nearly all sugarcane workers, have been affected. CKD is responsible for 46% of all male deaths over the last ten years in the community of Chichigalpa near where the refinery is based.

For three weeks from the beginning of January, community members had been regularly protesting outside the refinery. Violence broke out on 19 January after a promised meeting between the Pellas Group and workers affected by CKD failed to take place. The protestors took over the entrance to the refinery and, when police attempted to open a passage to the plant, the protestors attacked them with homemade weapons. The police responded with live fire, fatally shooting Juan de Dios Torres, 47, and also wounding a 14 year old boy, Jose Valladares.

Speaking on behalf of the National Police, Fernando Borge announced that the members of the police patrol responsible had been detained and were under investigation. He went on to condemn the police action and express to the family of the deceased “consternation and decision to make sure that justice is done.” Borge said that a team from the Directorate of Judicial Assistance (DAJ) and from Office of Internal Affairs had been sent to Chinandega to investigate the incident.