A Costa Rican court has sentenced a man to 22 years in prison for killing an indigenous land rights defender in 2020. An incident that fueled decades of tension Between indigenous communities and farmers over disputed territories.
Brörán tribe leader Yehry Rivera was shot in the back and killed by farmer Juan Varela during a land dispute in the Terraba community, 80 miles (130 km) southeast of San Jose, capital of Puntarenas.
Rivera, 45, was killed in February 2020 after being surrounded by an armed non-Indigenous mob during a spate of violence against indigenous activists seeking to reclaim ancestral territories.
“I killed him,” Valera said in cheers and applause at a community rally last August. This comment was recorded and used as evidence at trial.
Costa Rica is an ecotourism hub with 5 million inhabitants and is considered one of the fairest and most law-abiding countries in Central America. In recent years, however, the Bli Bli and Blolan peoples have been subjected to a series of violent attacks, racist harassment, and hoaxed reprisal lawsuits related to disputes over their ancestral lands.
Costa Rica has eight indigenous groups that make up approximately 2.4% of the total population. In 1977, legislation granted land ownership to indigenous communities with historical ties to 24 legally recognized regions.
However, the law was never enforced.
As a result, the Bli Bli and Brolan peoples of Puntarenas have taken matters into their own hands in recent years, taking back ownership of their land through unlicensed occupations.
Despite some success, most of the territory remains occupied by non-indigenous families and farmersin some cases also claiming ownership of land that the family has cultivated for generations.
The judge in Rivera’s case ruled that Valera, who claims to have Indigenous blood, did not act in self-defense, as his attorney argued. can.
The ruling is the first sign of justice for indigenous communities after more than 40 years of occupation by indigenous peoples outside Costa Rica, leading to “systemic violence” by some farmers, according to the United Nations. , says the United Nations.
Rivera died less than a year after being murdered just two weeks after Mayor Ortiz Delgado, 29, a leader of the Bribri indigenous people of neighboring Salitre, was wounded in a gunshot wound. Sergio Rojas Ortiz, 59, was shot dead. Both cases remain unsolved.