On Saturday 18 January, reports the Spanish El País, the Nicaraguan police attacked hundreds of former cane cutters, who were peacefully demonstrating near the Ingenio San Antonio in Chichigalpa, in support to their demands for compensation for the chronic kidney disease, insuficiencia renal in Spanish. One dead and three wounded were the result of the police repression using live ammunition.
The chronic kidney disease is a collapse of the kidney normal functions to eliminate toxins from the human body. It has no cure and the only option currently available is a kidney transplant. Although the causes of the disease have not been identified, the Spanish paper says that some 14,000 deaths can be attributed to it, including 3,400 in Nicaragua. A report by the Panamerican Health Organisation (OPS in Spanish) dated on 17 July 2013 says that this type of chronic kidney disease predominates among young males and farm workers, who live in conditions of “social disadvantage” on the Central American Pacific strip, and has been associated with several factors, including “toxic environmental (probably agrochemicals) and working conditions (inadequate work hygiene in the context of high temperatures and insufficient ingestion of water…”  One of the main Nicaragua centres of the chronic kidney disease epidemic is Chichigalpa, where the powerful Grupo Pellas owns the San Antonio mill and the popular rum, Flor de Caña, among many other businesses in the country.
While the issue has been in the public domain for some years, this recent episode condenses the dramatic situation of the sick. Demonstrators had been demanded a compensation of USD 26,000 per person for 479 affected people. On 11 January, after fifteen days of protests near the San Antonio mill, they agreed to suspend their protest with a condition that by 18 January they expected a reply. With no answer arriving, they resumed protest on that day. In the evening, witnesses said, three policemen with a driver showed up and shot at the demonstrators.
- Read from El País, La sangre enturbia los cañaverales de Nicaragua.
- Watch Azúcar amargo: la epidemia misteriosa with Esteban Félix, winner of the 2013 Gabriel Garcia Marquez prize for his photographic report.
- An Interview by Rel UITA with Esteban Félix.