Government officials in Costa Rica met with a representative from the United Nations and agreed to hold talks with the Terraba indigenous people regarding their rejection of the controversial Diquis hydroelectric plant construction.
James Anaya is a UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples who is an expert in the rights of native and indigenous people. He recommended that Costa Rica must listen to her indigenous people who are firmly opposed to the dam and hydroelectric project being built on their land.
The Office of the Chancellor of the Republic issued the following statement: “Since this is a matter that deals with human rights and international obligations, particularly the rights of the indigenous people, Costa Rica hereby ratifies that the guidance of the international community will be followed in this case.”
The government also requested observers from the UN to assist in the process and is thinking about inviting other members of the international community to become involved and weigh in with their opinion.
Indigenous Resistance in Central America
The Terraba are opposed to the project since it will necessitate the relocation of 1,100 indigenous people, and will also flood 6,800 hectares of their reservation. A previous agreement had been reached by ICE, but the tribal council that issued that approval has since changed.
The Diquis project, which is managed by ICE, has already burned through $80 million just in preliminary studies. Should the project be approved and start as scheduled, it will cost $2.1 billion and would become the largest hydroelectric plant in Central America.
News of Costa Rica’s willingness to hold talks with the Terraba with a high degree of transparency are certainly refreshing in the wake of the showdown last month between the Ngabe Bugle people and the government of Panama over a proposed hydroelectric project in Chiriqui. That showdown turned very violent, with security forces in Panama killing two Ngabes and severely injuring many others.
A report recently issued by the Catholic Church and citizen groups in Panama indicates that at least 15 serious human rights violations were committed against the Ngabe by the Panamanian government. The Ngabe people form part of Costa Rica’s eight indigenous ethnic groups. It is estimated that 64,000 people in Costa Rica belong to these groups.
Sources: Aguas Digital and Newsroom Panama