Saturday, 4 July 2020

Indigenous land activist shot dead in Costa Rica

Unknown attackers shot dead Sergio Rojas Ortiz, 59, a prominent indigenous leader and defender of the rights of the Bribri indigenous population over the lands of Salitre, in Buenos Aires de Puntarenas, about 200 km (124 miles) south of the San Jose.

Sergio Rojas indigenous land activist is pictured in October 2015 during an interview with La Nacion in Salitre, Buenos Aires de Puntarenas.

Hours before the shooting on Monday, Rojas had accompanied two indigenous people to the Fiscalia (Prosecutor’s Office) of Buenos Aires, precisely to file a complaint for threats.

The police have not established links between the homicide and the complaint, but the case exemplifies the constant tensions in the area and its violent manifestations. According to the Ombudsman’s Office, the indigenous people reported having been intimidated by gunshots to abandon reclaimed land.

- paying the bills -

Everything points to a prolonged dispute over land as a motive for the homicide. The Ombudsman’s Office itself pointed out the indigenous people’s exposure to “discrimination, offenses, aggressions and now to murder”. 

In an editorial today (Thursday), La Nacion says “the State contributed to create the conflict with the intervention of institutions in charge of solving the problems related to land tenure, such as the Institute of Agrarian Development (IDA) and the Land and Colonization Institute (ITCO). Now, it violates agreements adopted in the dialogue processes mediated by the Ombudsman, according to the latter entity. On the other hand, government actions against the precautionary measure of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in safeguarding the life and rights of indigenous people have not been effective.”

President Carlos Alvarado called the killing “regrettable” and ordered protection for the Rojas’ family. At a press conference Casa Presidencial, Zapote, the president said that he also asked the Minister of Public Security, Michael Soto Rojas, to strengthen security in the indigenous territory of Salitre, which covers some 11,700 hectares.

Rojas’ body was found on Tuesday, in a room on the second floor, mainly with bullets wound to the abdomen.

- paying the bills -

Costa Rica has 24 indigenous territories inhabited by eight ethnic groups, with occupation and encroachment on their land by ranchers causing conflict since the 1960s.

Rojas had survived at least one previous assassination attempt. In 2015, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) ordered the government to provide Bribri and Teribe people with protection, arguing they were at risk because of actions taken to recover their lands.

Salitre has experienced land conflicts for generations, with Bribri activists trying to remove non-indigenous farmers from the land in recent years.

Costa Rica’s 1977 Indigenous Law prohibits the sale of indigenous lands, but is not clear on what to do in cases where land within reserves was already farmed by outsiders.

Q Costa Rica
Q Costa Rica
Reports by QCR staff

Related Articles

Costa Rica: Ongoing impunity prevents effective protection of indigenous defenders, says UN expert

A UN expert today expressed grave concern for the lives of...

OIJ “Can’t Hold On To Their Man”

While the Canadian Mounties (Canadian Mounted Police) have the reputation of...


Costa Rica and Nicaragua: a border drawn by the covid-19 pandemic

He brought in a bag the avocados that his aunts gave him, and a pair of sandals that he bought on the other side,...

Restrictions leave US travelers high and dry

(CNN) — In downtown Buffalo, New York, crossing the border into Ontario, Canada, used to be as easy as driving one mile across the...

Two more weeks with so many new cases of COVID-19 could collapse Health

(QCOSTARICA) From Sunday 21 to Sunday 28 June,  a total of 1,003 new positive cases of COVID-19 were registered. In the last five days,...

Costa Rica reaches 40 hospitalized by COVID-19

(QCOSTARICA) This Monday, the Ministry of Health reported 40 patients hospitalized for COVID-19, the highest number since the start of the pandemic. According to the...

Nicaragua, which has minimized the pandemic, will assume the presidency of Council of Ministers of Health of the region

(QCOSTARICA) Starting in July, Nicaragua, through the Ministry of Health (MINSA) will be in charge of the Pro Tempore Presidency of the Council of...

Retailers ask customers to wear face masks inside stores

(QCOSTARICA) The Costa Rican Chamber of Commerce is urging all customers visiting points of sale to wear face masks or face shields during their...

Let's Keep This Going!

To be updated with all the latest news and information about Costa Rica and Latin America.