After more than 10 years of debate, lawmakers approved a bill in a first round vote Wednesday to reform Costa Rica’s Constitution to redefine the Central American country as a “multiethnic and plurinational” republic. The bill would add language to Article 1 of the constitution, which defines Costa Rica as a “democratic, free and independent” republic.
“It means that Costa Rica is now a country that recognizes everyone, that recognizes the ethnic-racial diversity, that recognizes us as Afro-descendants,” said Citizen Action Party lawmaker Epsy Campbell.
“It’s a historic step,” said National Liberation Party (PLN) lawmaker Maureen Clarke. “It’s fundamental to recognize our heritage.”
Clarke added that the reform could serve as a platform for future legislation on the rights of Afro-descendant and indigenous peoples in Costa Rica.
President Luis Guillermo Solís, who traces part of his heritage to Jamaica, previously had expressed his support for the reform bill. The president celebrated the vote Wednesday, releasing a statement saying, “We celebrate that lawmakers have taken this great step that recognizes Costa Rica as the cradle of multiple cultures and ethnicities that have enriched and made our country greater and will continue to do so.”
The reform was first presented by PLN lawmaker Joyce Sawyer in 1998, but it was tabled until recently.
Of 57 lawmakers, 46 voted in favor of the bill. The bill must be approved in a second-round vote before going to President Solís for his signature.