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Indigenous Crops Torched in Suspected Arson Attacks in Costa Rica

Reports from Semanario Universidad unvelied that four fires that occurred last week burned the crops of the indigenous community of China Kichá. This marks the fourth consecutive year that the community has been targeted, alleging deliberate arson orchestrated by farmers opposed to their land reclamation efforts.

Greivin Fernández, a spokesperson for the community, recounted the terrible events.

“It started on Monday (February 12) at 2 p.m. and spread quickly. That day alone about 60 hectares were burned and then two others appeared and burned more. Yesterday they continued burning, all the fires were provoked and we know who they are, they are a problematic and violent family,” he said.

The affected land, spanning approximately 1,100 hectares, was utilized for cultivating a variety of crops including bananas, pole beans, cassava, cacao, guava, mamon, oranges, sugar cane, tangerines, and medicinal plants.

In just one week, four fires, reaching flames of 5 to 7 meters in height, laid waste to around 170 hectares of the indigenous territory. Fernández expressed frustration at the lack of support from firefighters, lamenting, “The firefighters do not bring water, what are they going to put out the fire with? For that reason, we are outraged.”

Jorge Barboza, chief of the Perez Zeledón Fire Station, acknowledged the annual occurrence of fires in the indigenous territory during the summer. He highlighted the challenges faced by firefighters, including the necessity to navigate security protocols due to the potential threat of attacks while entering the area.

“The area is quite complicated and presents insecurity for the fire department, especially at night, since the personnel are exposed to poisonous snake bites and because it is, in some way, guarded by the same armed neighbors to protect their lands,” Barboza noted.

The indigenous community expressed disillusionment with the perceived undervaluation of their reclaimed land by firefighters. Despite formerly being used for pasture, the land now sustains approximately 60 indigenous families and provides habitat for numerous bird species.

Efforts to restore the ravaged territories of Yuwi Senaglö, Kono Jú, and Nama Jú through reforestation had commenced with donated trees.

The indigenous leaders of China Kichá commenced the de facto recovery of indigenous lands in 2018, citing decades of non-compliance with Indigenous Law and land grant decrees. Since then, they have consistently reported instances of harassment and violence, including arson allegedly ordered by opposing farmers.

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