At 2 a.m. Tuesday morning, Aug. 10, police forcibly removed two dozen indigenous people who were staging a sit-in at the Legislative Assembly.
The protesters were calling on the assembly to approve the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Agreement 169 regarding the autonomy of indigenous people, which was signed by Costa Rica in 1992, but never ratified.
The agreement would give indigenous tribes more control of their lands, according to the protesters, and would make it a legal requirement for lawmakers to consult with the indigenous community regarding any bill that affects their territories.
“The Costa Rican state has a historic debt in terms of the recognition of the human rights of our native people,” wrote legislators from the Citizen Action Party in a press release. “Today, in practice, we continue to disrespect and violate many of these rights with the complacency and silence of the institutions in charge of their protection.”
Protesters and members of opposition parties accused President Laura Chinchilla of not addressing the bill in the current session, which is when the Executive Branch determines the agenda of the Legislative Assembly.
The demonstration, which was scheduled to coincide with the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, escalated into violence when protesters wouldn’t retreat.
At 10 a.m., all visitors, including press, were barred from the Legislative Assembly. Although the assembly’s president, Luis Gerardo Villanueva, said he never gave instructions to restrict the media, a Tico Times reporter witnessed the exclusion of a television crew.
President Laura Chinchilla blamed parties from the opposition for provoking the outburst and for “using people of humble means” as pawns.
“I truly regret that some legislators have chosen to resort to obstructionist tactics and not political dialogue,” she said during a press conference on Tuesday.
Because agreement among indigenous communities still doesn’t exist, the ILO accord can’t be adopted, Chinchilla said. “The bill first needs consensus.”
–Tico Times and EFE