In response to your article “Government Investigates Borderland Titles,” published Feb. 19 Nicaragua Dispatch, I want to make a couple of legal clarifications regarding the penultimate and antepenultimate paragraphs, where you write:
The law establishes a 5-km “Border Security Zone” (the first five kilometers from the border towards the interior of the country) that is “inalienable” state land to which no foreigners can claim title.
Foreign ownership and land usage are also seriously limited within a broader, 15-km border zone. The preamble to the law states that border-zone property “should be in the hands of nationals” and that the state of Nicaragua has “preferential right to buy land for sale not only by foreigners but also by Nicaraguans.”
The law that you are making reference to, the Frontier Regime Law (Ley de Régimen Jurídico de Fronteras) does not establish that the 5 km Border Security Zone is “inalienable State land.” It establishes that no foreigner can own land within those 5 km along the Nicaraguan borders, but keep in mind that according to Article 38 of our Constitution, the law can’t have retroactive
effects, thus, any foreigner that owned land before this law was enacted has a full legal legitimate title. It is for the future that foreigners cannot own land within those 5 km along the border.
There is a confusion made by ND regarding the “inalienable condition” within Article 1 of the Law. When the law uses the term “inalienability,” it is referring refers to State-owned land, not private land. In Art 6.2 this term is also used to describe State-owned land within the 5 km Security Zone. It does not apply to privately owned lands.
Article 3 of the Frontier law confirms the above when it reads: “…This law will not change the acquired legal ownership or possessory rights that people have on the frontier zones, but give them legal certainty…”, so it is clear that the intent of the law is for future regulation and to respect the rights acquired by national and foreigners.
In the article also mentioned that the Sate of Nicaragua has preferential rights over land being sold along the 15 km Border Zone. This is not correct. The law does not establish the preferential right for the government. This was a disposition that was included in the bill that was passed to the Legislative Assembly, but was fortunately not part of the final approved law.
Article 34 of the law also reaffirms that rightful owners within the 5 km Security zone can sell or donate their land only to Nicaraguan individuals or Corporations (but with Nicaraguan stockholders).
Sergio Corrales is Partner of the firm and Director of G&B San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua since 2007. Prior to that, he
was Senior Attorney G&B Managua, Nicaragua 2002-2006.