International community is monitoring Nicaraguan government’s response to film, which exposes human rights violations and environmental destruction by the cattle industry in heart of protected rainforest
For immediate release, June 09, 2023
Despite Nicaragua’s record as the most dangerous country per capita for land and environmental defenders, a team of filmmakers, conservationists and Indigenous Rama and afro-descendent Kriol peoples have bravely released a scathing indictment of the government’s human rights violations and environmental destruction in a new documentary called PATROL.
“The Nicaraguan government is failing to act to protect the rights of the Indigenous and afro-descendent communities in Nicaragua,” said PATROL co-director Camilo de Castro, who is living in exile and was recently stripped of his Nicaraguan citizenship for speaking out about human rights abuses in the country. “PATROL is only the beginning of our efforts to show the world what is happening in Nicaragua’s rainforests and to help tell the stories of the courageous individuals trying to protect their home and the planet.”
PATROL follows Nicaragua’s Indigenous Rama people, in alliance with the afro-descendent Kriol community, who are fighting to stop illegal cattle ranchers from destroying the Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve—their communal land and one of the largest tracts of rainforest north of the Amazon. While on an expedition to confront the illegal ranchers violently invading the rainforest with full impunity from the government, the rangers discover a large cattle farm deep inside their territory.
The documentary traces their findings, from inside the Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve, to the current Nicaraguan administration, all the way to the dinner tables of families in the United States. PATROL premiered to a standing ovation at the Mountainfilm Festival in Telluride, Colorado, on Friday, May 26.
“Re:wild and the PATROL team are monitoring the Nicaraguan government and the cattle sector’s response to the film, which reveals the pervasive and violent threat of cattle ranching in the heart of the Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve,” said Chris Jordan, Re:wild’s Latin America director and a key player in the documentary. “If anyone involved with the film is threatened or hurt, the team will alert the companies buying Nicaraguan beef and ensure we communicate with the growing audience supporting PATROL.”
Nicaragua is home to an intensifying environmental and human rights conflict that has incentivized illegal mining and cattle ranching. The country has one of the world’s highest rates of deforestation and has lost nearly 60% of its forests over the last 40 years. Civil society organizations and Indigenous communities have documented numerous cases of forests being cleared for cattle and cattle feed inside protected areas and Indigenous territories.
Some of that meat is then sold to slaughterhouses that export beef to the United States. In 2021, the United States was the largest importer of Nicaraguan beef, accounting for 42% of exports by weight and 49% of exports by trade value. Deforestation for animal agriculture, including for feed, is among the largest drivers of biodiversity loss and climate change globally.
“The destruction of Indio-Maíz is absolutely devastating, not only for the people who depend on the rainforest for their livelihoods, clean water, and food, but for the planet as a whole,” said Brad Allgood, PATROL filmmaker.
The Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve is one of the Five Great Forests of Mesoamerica, which together expand over an area three times the size of Switzerland. Indigenous peoples and local communities govern more than half of the total area encompassed by the Five Great Forests. Indio-Maíz is one of the last bastions of biodiversity in Nicaragua, providing critical habitat for rare and threatened species including Baird’s tapirs, jaguars, great green macaws, and wild almond trees. It is also a Key Biodiversity Area, or a site of global importance for the persistence of biodiversity and the overall health of the planet.
“We are going to continue to share what our team is finding on the ground, while also demanding that the Nicaraguan government protects its Indigenous communities by upholding the law and prosecuting those who are invading and deforesting protected areas,” de Castro said. “In recent months, the invasion has become worse, which means that now is the moment for us to apply pressure to ensure that the Nicaraguan government addresses this problem.”
Support for PATROL was provided by Re:wild, Pacific Pioneer Fund, Ambulante and Mountainfilm.
Learn more about the documentary and what U.S. consumers can do to help at Patrolmovie.com.
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Re:wild protects and restores the wild. We have a singular and powerful focus: the wild as the most effective solution to the interconnected climate, biodiversity and human wellbeing crises. Founded by a group of renowned conservation scientists together with Leonardo DiCaprio, Re:wild is a force multiplier that brings together Indigenous peoples, local communities, influential leaders, nongovernmental organizations, governments, companies and the public to protect and rewild at the scale and speed we need. Learn more at rewild.org.
Lindsay Renick Mayer