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Outrage over assassination of Sergio Rojas in Costa Rica

“This is a political crime and the State is responsible for its lack of action and failure to protect defenders”: COECOCEIBA

On March 18th, Sergio Rojas, a Bribri indigenous leader, was murdered after being shot 15 times in Yeri, Salitre area, in southern Costa Rica.

As a member of the National Coordination of the National Front of Indigenous Peoples (FRENAPI), Rojas fought for the restitution of ancestral lands and the conservation of native ecosystems.

Local organizations condemned this “vile murder” and blamed “Carlos Alvarado´s administration and the previous governments for the death of Sergio Rojas and for failing to comply with their obligation to ensure the physical and territorial safety of Costa Rican native peoples”.

Indigenous peoples have been resisting the violence of land grabbers who violate Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and Costa Rican laws, while Carlos Alvarado´s administration remains unacceptably silent.

Hours before his assassination, together with other members of the indigenous community, he filed complaints with the Public Prosecutor’s Office regarding the usurpation of land by non-indigenous persons in their territories, and the constant threats they have suffered for several years without any effective response from the Costa Rican authorities.

“This horrible crime took place despite the precautionary measures issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) for Salitre, a fact that has shocked the indigenous peoples and social movements in the Mesoamerican country and the entire Latin American region”, stated Friends of the Earth Latin America and the Caribbean  (ATALC)  in a  statement [1] issued on March 19. The statement calls on the international community and social movements of the region and the world to denounce the murder of Sergio Rojas and “remain on permanent alert in the face of the injustices against our peoples and the impunity with which such actions continue to be protected”.

To know more about this case, Real World Radio interviewed Alejandra Porras, member of COECOCEIBA – Friends of the Earth Costa Rica and ATALC.

Porras said that FRENAPI and other social, environmental, and political organizations argue that this has been a “political crime” and that the Costa Rican State is responsible for its “lack of action and failure” to ensure the protection of defenders of human rights and territories, just like Sergio, who had been given precautionary measures since 2015.

She also said that the State is responsible because they have failed to solve the cases of land grabbing perpetrated by individuals who are many times sent by businesspeople or members of the government who want to keep these lands for themselves.

On March 19, several social organizations held a vigil outside the Legislative Assembly and on Wednesday 20 there will be a demonstration in downtown San Jose de Costa Rica to demand justice and identify those responsible for the murder.

Porras said that the Human Rights Observatory of the Indigenous Autonomy Support Committee has identified some land  grabbers  by name and investigated how they hire people to attack the indigenous communities and take their territories away from them.

This information is in the hands of the Costa Rican government, so COECOCEIBA is demanding State and judicial authorities to take into account these events to find the murderers, as well as the records of the people who threatened the Bribri defender.