A leading opposition business leader today accused the Sandinista agrarian reform ministry of expropriating almost all of his farmland in retaliation for the stand he has taken against the Sandinista government.
Enrique Bolanos Geyer, 57, told a press conference that expropriation of his property in Masaya province, some 20 miles south of Managua, announced last week by the government, would cost him more than 3,000 acres of land, or more than 90 percent of the land of which he is owner or part owner.
The agrarian reform director for Masaya province, Miguel Gomez, said today that Bolanos Geyer still owns 700 acres and will be allowed to rent and plant an additional 3,500 acres, making him still the largest individual planter in the province.
Agrarian reform minister Jaime Wheelock announced Friday that more than 10,000 acres belonging to both private owners and the state would be given to peasants who had been staging demonstrations and forcibly occupying land, pressuring the government to speed up land reform.
He said the government was negotiating with other private owners for payment for the lands, which will be distributed to about 2,000 peasant families. Wheelock said Bolanos Geyer had refused to negotiate.
Although Bolanos Geyer acknowledged that many peasants in Masaya province do not own land or own very little, he insisted that the demonstrations and the land takeovers last week in Masaya province had been provoked by the government and aimed at taking away his property. He said many other landowners in the province had not been affected.
"This is an act of retaliation," he said. "The real reason is because I am president of COSEP The Superior Council of Private Enterprise and a critic of the regime."
Bolanos Geyer said the Sandinista government had been looking for an excuse to appropriate his land for some time and had conducted a two-year audit on his operations in an attempt to accuse him of fraud.
"They tried to find a hair in the soup, but could not," he said.
Wheelock said Friday that Bolanos had been offered twice as much farmland along the rich Pacific coast but in a less congested area than Masaya province, but Bolanos said today he had received no such offer.