In April this year (2019), we added to the TVOD website a report about
the assassination of Sergio Rojas, President of the Association for the
Development of the Indigenous Territory of Salitre in southern Costa Rica. As a
follow-up, we can now report that the office of Costa Rican President Carlos
Alvarado has issued an official statement that bilateral negotiations between
the government and the Bribri and Teribe indigenous peoples are ongoing. Rojas was also
the coordinator of the National Front of Indigenous Peoples (FRENAP) in
killing of Rojas, the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) urged the
Costa Rican government to take all necessary actions to resolve the killing of the
land rights defender as well as to guarantee the protection of the people of
Salitre. Costa Rica’s deputy minister stressed the commitment of the
government to comply with precautionary measures established by the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and “to continue in
a constructive process of dialogue and respect for the rights of Indigenous
peoples within the framework of the Inter-American Human Rights System.”
Rojas was one of the beneficiaries of the IACHR’s
precautionary measure. Vanessa Jimenez, the lawyer who filed the
case before the IACHR, noted that the Costa Rican state is
responsible for not enacting the precautionary measures. There have
been ongoing land ownership conflicts involving 12,000 hectares of
land that were distributed to the Indigenous peoples of the southern
region of Costa Rica under a 1977 Indigenous edict.
Rojas (pictured below) was murdered on 18th
March this year (2019) and it is believed that the gunmen who killed him did so
due to his defence of the Bribri’s struggle to regain their rights over the 12,000
hectares of land in southern Costa Rica that was originally pledged to them by
a 1938 agreement with the government.
The following is a summary of reports from Telesur and other press sources of the assassination of a Costa Rican Indigenous Bribri land rights activist who was shot and killedlast month (March this year, 2019) in his home in Salitre territory.
Indigenous land rights defender
Sergio Rojas was assassinated by armed gunmen who shot the activist
as many as 15 times at around 11:45 pm in his home, according to his neighbours,
in southern Costa Rica.
Rojas was President of the Association
for the Development of the Indigenous Territory of
Salitre and coordinator of the National Front of Indigenous
Peoples (FRENAP) in Costa Rica. He was a staunch defender of the
Bribri of Salitre Indigenous people who have been fighting for years
to regain their rights to over 12,000 hectares of land in southern Costa Rica
pledged to them by a 1938 government agreement.
This wasn’t the first time Rojas’
life was threatened. In 2012, shortly after the Bribri gained
back some of their lands, Rojas was shot at eight times by armed men,
but he escaped the shooting unscathed.
The Bribri and other Indigenous peoples have
managed to recuperate control of some of their native lands
but have become targets of violence from those
who oppose their rights and sovereignty. Last December, men armed
with guns and machetes held hostage two Bribri women and eight children on
land they had recovered in Salitre territory.
According to the women, when police arrived they spoke “aggressively” toward them and asked for their land deeds, which the authorities claimed were invalid. According to the testimonies given to Tree People Programme, the police made no effort to arrest the hostage-takers who escaped.
As this website often reports on the violence and threats suffered
by defenders of land rights, environmental rights and human rights in the
northern triangle of Central America, it is worth emphasising here that such
dangers are also experienced in countries such as Costa Rica whose environment-friendly
reputation is high. Capitalist interests will use violence to overcome local
objections and resistance wherever it occurs.