Costa Rica: UN condemns violence against indigenous populations; Pope criticizes in-vitro ruling; Forest fire season starts
UN condemns violence against indigenous populations
On January 8, the United Nations (UN) strongly condemned the violence that was inflicted upon the indigenous community of Salitre in the Southern area of the Costa Rica. The events occurred in relation a dispute over land rights.
January 4, various individuals of Bríbrí indigenous descent were attacked by a group of non-indigenous people in their homes. The victims were wounded using guns and machetes. Some were also beaten and stoned.
Both the UN and the Defensoría de los Habitantes (Ombudsman), called upon the Costa Rican authorities to resolve this issue in the respect of law and through the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights in their territory.
They also called for indigenous and non-indigenous people to do everything in their power to dialogue in order to coexist in peace.
Such violence had not been reported since 2012, when the leaders of indigenous communities in Costa Rica had previously been attacked.
For years, indigenous Costa Ricans have been struggling to recover their territories, which are protected by ILO Convention 169 and resolutions of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Pope criticizes in vitro ruling
At the start of 2013, Pope Benedict XVI reiterated his rejection of abortion. He also expressed concern over the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ ruling in favour of in-vitro fertilization in Costa Rica.
In mid-December, the Court ruled in favour of 18 couples that had been prevented from undertaking in-vitro fertilization. The Court condemned the State of Costa Rica to pay for the damages caused to the couples.
The Court’s ruling also opened the way for the de-penalization of abortion in Latin America by stating the “embryo cannot be understood as a person”.
The Pope stated that in-vitro fertilization “redefines the moment of conception in an arbitrary way and weakens the defense of prenatal life”.
He added that, “especially in the West, there are unfortunately many misunderstandings regarding human rights”.
Following the ruling, Costa Rica has a year to ensure that this practice is allowed and implemented in Costa Rica.
Costa Rican bishops have also strongly criticized the Court’s decision and the effects it has on the country.
Forest fire season starts
The first forest fire took place at the beginning of January in the protected Guanacaste Conservation Area. 7 hectares were burnt down.
For Diego Román, coordinator of the Comisión Nacional sobre Incendios Forestales (National Commission on Forest Fires – CONIFOR), this phenomenon was even more worrisome than the fire season was expected to start three to four weeks later.
According to CONIFOR, the fire season will hit hard due to the lack of rain during the previous winter and the dryness of open areas.
In response, the Costa Rican government plans to rent high tech helicopters and equipment as part of the prevention program during the fire season. These will be able to prevent, detect and control fires. The equipment will cost up to ₵100 million ($200.000).
The government also plans to propose a law that will increase the penalty for people found guilty of starting forest fires. It will consider sentencing criminals to up to twenty years of prison.
The Instituto Nacional de Seguros (National Insurance Institute) also issued a new insurance policy that will provide protection against fires for residents of the Guanacaste area.