SAN VITO DE COTO BRUS – Officials from the Public Security Ministry, Immigration and a host of other government agencies yesterday went to inspect a “massive concentration” of more than 700 people – mostly foreigners – on a private farm about an hour outside this southern town.
Police said the inspection was ordered after they received complaints of “strange activity,” including nudity and alleged drug use in the area.
Visitors from around the world began entering the area last week as part of the “One World Rainbow Gathering,” scheduled to take place from the full moon March 6 to the full moon April 5, according to a Yahoo! Web site about the event.
THOSE who attend rainbow gatherings are part of the “largest non-organization of non-members in the world,” said another Web site (www.welcomehome.org). The purpose of such gatherings, participants say, is to promote peace and well-being on the planet.
“It is not like other systems, like Christianity, where there is a hierarchy – here we are all on one level,” said Carin, who asked that his last name not be used.
“If nobody cooks, nobody eats,” he told the Tico Times.
After building clay ovens on site, starvation is not a concern. The group is capable of making enough pizzas for 700 people in less than three hours, participants said. Vegetarian meals are provided to everyone who attends the camp, located on a private farm about 45 kilometers southwest of San Vito – the last 20 by fourwheel drive only – and another kilometer more by foot down a steep hill.
APPROXIMATELY 50 government officials participated in the inspection, according to the Public Security Ministry.
Government agencies participating in the investigation, which began with an initial inspection of the camp on Tuesday, included the Ministry of Health, the Child Welfare Office (PANI) and the Direction of Intelligence and Security.
At approximately 8:30 a.m. yesterday, unarmed officials entered the camp and began checking participants’ passports for valid visas.
The task was performed despite an injunction filed before the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) by former judge Edwin Duartes on behalf of the Rainbow Gathering.
The injunction claimed the participants have the right to meet on private property without prior government authorization, in accordance with Article 26 of the Constitution.
It also cited Article 28, which states: “Private actions which do not harm the morals or public order, or which do not cause any damages to third parties are outside the scope of the law.”
AFTER reviewing a sample of approximately 200 attendees’ passports, officials found no immigration violations, according to Public Security Vice-Minister María Salazar. However, she said they plan to continue monitoring the situation.
“There is a gathering of more than 500 people, so we have an obligation to remain alert,” she said.
Ministry officials said no major crimes related to the event have been reported.
Officials from the Child Welfare Office (PANI) also reported no reason for alarm in their investigation of the camp. All children were with their natural parents or carried necessary legal documentation, according to Dinia Vallejos, coordinator of the Corredores PANI office in Ciudad Neily.
Although initially concerned about the children’s living conditions, PANI reported children in the camp were in excellent care and good hygiene.
OFFICIALS also reported the group – which prefers to think of itself as one giant family – provided two medical stations and a doctor; had enough water for drinking, bathing and latrines; and kept feces away from a nearby river.
Aprivate attorney consulted by The Tico Times agreed the Constitution allows such activities on private property without the permission of any government agencies.
However, he added, police also have the right to enter such a gathering, without special permission, to ensure laws are not being broken.
“FOR the police, it is a matter of public security, (making sure) they are not selling drugs or …causing any sickness that could arise from the contamination of rivers,” attorney Marco Ureña said.
The Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT) issued a statement saying that like all tourists groups, “this group is obligated to respect the law of the country and its customs.”
Despite initial complaints by neighbors, Aparicio Barrantes, assistant to the mayor in Coto Brus, said the gathering is being held on a remote, private piece of land and has caused no noticeable disturbance.
“I don’t see any problem,” Barrantes said. “They’re pacifists.”
PARTICIPANTS greeted police and immigration officials with smiles.
“Their actions here were a success. Costa Rica is a place that will receive us with open arms – it doesn’t happen that way in other countries,” Carin said. Gathering organizers said they were attracted to Costa Rica for the tradition of peace and the abolition of the army. “What better example is there,” Carin said.
Similar gatherings have been held throughout the world since the first one in Colorado in 1972, according to participant Hart, who chose not to provide his last name.
“THERE are people here who are pretty crazy, but you have to pay that price to understand each path, and each time you find a new path you find a little more truth,” said Hart, a physicist who has lived in Costa Rica for 25 years.