Indigenous land-rights activist slain in Costa Rica

Sergio Rojas, a leader of the indigenous Bribrí people in Costa Rica, was slain March 18 in an attack by unknown gunmen at his home in the indigenous territory of Salitre, in Buenos Aires canton of Puntarenas province. Rojas was president of the Association for the Development of the Indigenous Territory of Salitre and coordinator of Costa Rica's National Front of Indigenous Peoples (FRENAP), and had long been leading a campaign for the recovery of Bribri traditional lands. He was reportedly shot 15 times in the attack. An investigation into the murder has been opened by the Judicial Investigation Police.

The local conflict stems from a 1977 law that gave the Bribrí and Teribe peoples rights to 11,700 hectares of usurped lands but did not allocate funds to compensate non-indigenous farmers who already occupied those lands.  In 2012, Rojas was shot at six times in an apparent assassination attempt near the Salitre reserve.

Costa Rica has 24 indigenous territories inhabited by eight ethnic groups, with occupation and encroachment on their lands by ranchers causing ongoing conflicts since the 1960s. In 2015, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered the government to provide Bribri and Teribe peoples with protection, stating that they were at risk because of their campaigns to recover lost lands. (TeleSur, Tico Times, VOA)