Tico Times: Letters to the Editor (Dec. 28, 2018)
The Tico Times is proud to be an independent, English-language news source in Costa Rica. Our readers regularly submit editorials and responses to our articles; we appreciate your opinions and feedback.
Below is a selection of editorials we have received recently.
Addressing Gender Violence
By Rebeca Berrocal Blanco, University of Costa Rica
Costa Rica has been dealing with an increasing rate of gender violence against women to the point that the government had to declare this issue “a national priority” to address immediately, in cooperation with several public institutions. According to the observatory of gender violence against women and access to justice, the period 2007-2018 registered 334 femicides. (2018). Bearing in mind the fatal consequences that such crimes have caused in the lives of hundreds of women and their families, it is crucial to take advantage of all means to report this situation, educate people, and offer a light of hope to potential victims through pertinent information. In the article “Demonstrators march against gender violence: ‘If you are in a relationship and in love, it’s difficult to see that something is wrong’ ”, published on September 24, 2018, the author fails to properly portrait the depth of the context surrounding not only Andrea’s femicide, but all the terrible acts of gender violence against women. Such serious problems must be ethically analyzed according to the complexity of its nature.
The first flaw in the article is the lack of background information regarding the victim’s murder that originated the march. The author states in literally one sentence that a woman was killed by her husband in “early 2018”. However, context of Andrea’s femicide is essential to understand what happened, what is the purpose of the march, and why people that knew her are highlighting her refusal to end an abusive relationship. The author places special emphasis on testimony from the victim’s friends and family but it is hard to read between the lines and relate those affirmations with the case due to the way it is reasoned. It is not about presenting a sensationalist description about the case, but about offering the reader an opportunity to establish empathy and solidarity with victims’ grieve.
Furthermore, statistics provided fail to support the gravity of gender violence and its consequences in the country. Taking into account the current state of mortality for aggression against women, all opportunities to inform people and raise awareness are essential to fight this type of crime. The author makes reference to July’s statistics from the Gender Violence Observatory of the Judiciary; however, a more effective way to explain the case, in terms of creating an impact on the reader, could have been to reveal that from 2010 to 2018, 224 women were killed by their husbands, boyfriends or partners, according to a technical sheet on the subject published by La Nación this year. This flaw may lead the reader to the assumption that either the problem is not that serious, or that the author did not thoroughly research on the subject.
Another reason that make the article weak is the fact that the text does present poor analysis of the topic. The author merely provides a list of statements from the different parties involved without establishing a basis to expand further explanations regarding the causes of the problem, governmental initiatives to fight femicide, possible red lights, or even safe protocol for potential victims. For instance, experts’ opinion regarding the topic are absent even though this is an issue that must be handled carefully. It is only pointed out that victims usually tend to neglect help or refuse to report domestic violence. Moreover, the author could have taken more better advantage of the reference to the Gender Violence Observatory of the Judiciary by pointing out that their website offers plenty of information about gender violence in general as well as help for victims.
I strongly suggest that, given the gravity of this issue and the importance of raising awareness, analysis on the subject carried out conscientiously with the purpose of educating, and uncovering the tragic reality that we all should try to change.
Invisible in their own land
By Sebastián Muñoz Ramírez, University of Costa Rica English major
Dear Tico Times:
I agree thoroughly with the message behind “Lessons from indigenous communities in Limón Province”, written by Regional Peace Corps Leader Crystal about raising awareness on the lives of indigenous societies in Costa Rica. It is such a shame that these are practically invisible to the rest of the country. For this reason, the government and the media should encourage citizens to come in contact with these populations; not out of pity, but rather to realize, just as Crystal did, that they have a rich culture with traditions that are, for the most part, unknown to the rest of Costa Rica.
These communities have had a rough history ever since the Spanish conquest, and it is only fair that we, as a country, treat them as they deserve: providing them with adequate basic services and resources as well as giving them equal opportunities to thrive in society, which they so much lack.
National media should dedicate more spaces to them, just as this Peace Corps article did, with information about their traditions that we are not properly taught about in school. We learn about them from an academic standpoint, but not in a human sense. Some might say that learning about indigenous communities from an academic standpoint is necessary, and I agree. However, the absence of cultural education aimed at human nature is a reflection of the government’s attitude towards this prevalent issue. We do not learn that, according to a 2000 census done by UNICEF, 90% of them live below the poverty line and that their mortality rate is three times greater than that of the rest of the country because they lack proper medical services. They receive discrimination even when they leave their native community to look for a better job in a city, and that is unfair and unacceptable.
Peace Corps Costa Rica is doing an amazing job in changing that general attitude of indifference, but they should also try to reach out a bigger audience so more people join their cause. Personally, I had never heard of them, and I am sure that many would be willing to help in any way possible if they knew about them. Other forms of mass media have also contributed to the cause aside from the efforts of organizations like Peace Corps.
Recently, there has been more media exposure of indigenous individuals, especially in television commercials, where they mainly highlight their language. However, as cynical as it may sound, it is only an appeal to emotions and it is not accomplishing much in terms of providing these communities with a better quality of life. Television networks especially should use their influence and funds to help those in need instead of using them as an exotic accessory for people to look at without them actually helping.
The silver lining of all of this is that it is a first step on the way to visibilization of disfavored sectors of society, and perhaps in the future more groups like Peace Corps Costa Rica will arise to make that positive change needed. I encourage every company to seek ways to help not only indigenous communities but also anyone in areas of extreme social and economic risk. Let us make that social gap smaller one step at a time.
The value of lifeguards
By Nicole Vargas Vega, University of Costa Rica English major
Dear Tico Times:
The government has always boasted about how Costa Rica is one of the best countries in the world for ecotourism mainly because of its multiple pristine beaches. Yet, how dare the government attract tourists to our shores when they do not count with the most essential element of safety and prevention? A few weeks ago, I read an article called “Lifeguards call for help in Costa Rica: support their work in Osa” where The Asociación de Guardavidas de la Zona Sur was asking for contributions to afford the continuity of lifeguards on the beaches. I thoroughly approve of this initiative; however, I believe the municipalities of the coastal communities are the ones who must procure yearly financing to lifeguards.
Apparently municipalities forget that being a lifeguard is not an easy occupation. It is not about sitting in the sun all day overseeing tourists as they enjoy their vacations. No, lifeguards patrol thousands of miles of ocean coastline each day knowing that at any moment they have to risk their lives to try to save somebody else’s. Hence, it is inadmissible that lifeguards do not count with an appropriate division within the municipalities to oversee all the logistics such as recruitment, training, equipment and salaries.
Costa Rica cannot lose its few lifeguards left. Even during rainy season, the flow of tourists that visit the beaches is rather high; nonetheless, the current number of lifeguards is not enough to ensure the protection of every individual. Most of the time, tourists are oblivious of how the weather patterns can cause hazardous conditions on the shores as there is nobody to inform them; consequently, what begins as an exciting travel could end in a devastating tragedy. Then again, if municipalities validate the importance of lifeguards and provide them with the necessary conditions, these fatal accidents might decrease to a bare minimum.
Furthermore, it is impossible not to highlight the irony of the government’s discourse towards tourists. For being a country that relies a great deal on eco-tourism to generate profits, Costa Rica presents an unfavorable image. Who will want to vacation in a country where the government does not make sure the basic security measures are met? Still, even if people decide to come to Costa Rica, the reservations might decrease considering that people might prefer to spend time in other areas like the mountains. Under those circumstances, the small businesses near the beaches might lose clients which might ensue a massive loss in revenue for the country.
Although there are several organizations that intercede for the work of lifeguards, the municipalities must take the full responsibility in guaranteeing them a stable income. Lifeguards should never be underestimated or belittled; on the contrary, their role should be appreciated and recognized by the citizens.
Every life is important, and people should be able to feel safe and comfortable when they vacation; particularly when it comes to traveling to coasts. It is shameful that lifeguards had to resort to pleading for help to preserve their jobs instead of the government willingly offering them support.
To share editorial ideas, comments or news tips, please email Katherine Stanley Obando, Editor, email@example.com
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