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UPDATE: Government negotiates peace agreement between farmers, indigenous group in Salitre conflict zone

July 8, 2014

UPDATE, Monday, July 8, 2 p.m. Tico Times reporter Lindsay Fendt is in the conflict area and reported the following on Monday afternoon:

Presidency Vice Minister Ana Gabriel Zúñiga is now meeting with the indigenous people who are still occupying the land. The farmers removed their roadblock last night, but they remain at the road at the entrance to the reserve. They are no longer prohibiting the passage of indigenous residents passing through the area.

A group of indigenous people put up another roadblock further up the road. It consists of a giant rock guarded by a group of Bribrí residents with sticks and machetes. They let me and police pass, but checked my car for guns and wrote down my name. They said they were not creating a blockade like the farmers, but were ensuring none of the farmers were able to access the area. They turned away a taxi in front of me because they said he was going to pick up an indigenous person further in the reserve who was against the rest of the group. They didn’t want him to get out.

When the vice minister, who is acting as a mediator in the conflict, arrived, she urged the Bribrí residents to take down the blockade, but it was still there when I left. Police are stationed every several hundred meters in the first section of the reserve where the conflict has been occurring.

At this point, the vice minister is negotiating with indigenous residents about security. The Bribrí say they are vulnerable to attack and want more police officers to guard them.

Representatives of the National Registry are here to begin mapping the area under dispute. They are currently demarcating the limits of the protected area to ensure that the land the indigenous residents have reclaimed is in fact within the reserve.

Regional police chief Reynaldo González said that police are now patrolling the entire reserve because tensions have spread all the way up through the territory. He said that the house-burning was the height of the violence, and other than that, police have no reports of gunshots fired or physical altercations.

The original story continues here:

BUENOS AIRES, Puntarenas – Just before 1 a.m. on Tuesday morning, government officials successfully negotiated a peace agreement between indigenous Bribrí residents and local farmers in Costa Rica’s southeastern indigenous reserve of Salitre, where violence broke out Saturday due to a land dispute.

Officials from the government’s Ministry of Peace have been in the area since June 28, when a group of indigenous Bribrí set up encampments on farms that had been occupied by non-indigenous people, a legal land reclamation according to Costa Rica’s indigenous law. Officials from the Presidency Ministry and the Ombudsman’s Office have since joined in the negotiations.

“The issue is that what the law and the indigenous people see as a reclamation of land is seen as an invasion by the non-indigenous people who had been occupying that territory,” said Presidency Vice Minister Ana Gabriel Zúñiga, one of the agreement’s mediators. 

A week after the initial reclamation, a group of 80 angry farmers converged on the newly formed encampment, burning down at least one home. The farmers then set up a blockade on the main road into Salitre, building a small wall of stones and dirt that trapped indigenous people inside the reserve.

After coming to an agreement with the indigenous group occupying the land, Zúñiga and the other government mediators held a meeting with the farmers to negotiate an end to the blockade. After more than five hours of talks, the farmers agreed to take down the blockade on Tuesday morning.

In return, government officials agreed to review the reclamation to see if any of the disputed lands was owned by non-indigenous people before the indigenous law’s passage in 1977. Officials say the evaluation will take approximately three months, during which time the indigenous people still on the land will be permitted to stay.

 

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