(published Feb. 23, 6:40 p.m.)- TOLA—A week after sounding the alarm bells by accusing the Sandinista government of trying to confiscate 20 manzanas (34.5 acres) of their family’s land adjacent to their $2 million Eco-resort Punta Teonoste, the Bühler family is now saying there is “white smoke” in their private negotiations with the government.
Without offering details about what his family is actually negotiating with the government, resort owner Walter Bühler announced Wednesday that talks are advancing in a positive manner.
“There are advances, we’ve had a couple meetings now and that is positive for everyone. We are working on an agreement,” Bühler told journalists Wednesday afternoon, at his resort in Tola.
On Feb. 13, the Bühler family accused the government of invading and occupying 20 manzanas of its land—nearly one-third of the property claimed by the Bühlers.
“This is a land invasion, plain and simple. The government entered by force and snatched the land like delinquents,” Bühler told The Nicaragua Dispatch in an interview last week.
By Wednesday of this week, however, Bühler had changed his tune and softened his tone.
“This government has demonstrated on many occasions that it is a government of dialogue, a government that tries to retain investment in the country. So we are confident that these talks will develop properly,” Bühler said. “We are very satisfied with the way the Prosecutors’ Office has been handling this case.”
Asked by The Nicaragua Dispatch if his family still considers its land “confiscated” by the government, Bühler responded, “The land is still occupied, but we are confident that things will turn out well and produce positive results for everyone.”
COSEP, the nation’s most important association of business chambers, is publically celebrating the news as a positive step towards dialogue and a negotiated solution. Privately, however, several business leaders are worried about what kind of message the situation is sending about Nicaragua’s fragile rule of law.
Indeed, for many investors, the Punta Teonoste situation—a conflict whose resolution is a murky as its origins—has raised far more questions than answers about Nicaragua’s judicial security.
The conflict has also caused a stir among former Sandinista soldiers. The government’s effort to gift the 20 disputed manzanas to former Sandinista guerrilla leader Edén Pastora has reportedly caused grumbles of discontent among other demobilized Sandinista soldiers, who are demanding equal treatment for their years of military duty to the country.
On Wednesday, hundreds of ex-Sandinista combatants blocked the Nueva León highway at KM 13 demanding social benefits from the government. The opposition daily La Prensa reported that among the protesters’ complaints was the fact that the government is trying to give 20 manzanas of beachfront land to Pastora, who switched sides after the triumph of the Sandinista Revolution and fought against the government as a southern-front contra in the 1980s.
Read The Nicaragua Dispatch’s full report on the Punta Teonoste conflict and its implications in next Monday’s publication.