This past Monday, a group of unknown assailants attempted to take the life of renowned Bribri leader, Sergio Rojas, President of the Association for the Development of the Indigenous Territory of Salitre and a Coordinator at the National Front of Indigenous Peoples, FRENAPI.
Sergio Rojas, who works for the defense and recovery of land and autonomy of all Indigenous Peoples in Costa Rica, was in the Bribri community of Cerbor when some strangers suddenly confronted him. The would-be assassins then proceeded to open fire on Sergio, shooting as many as 8 bullets. Somehow, the respected leader managed to evade every bullet.
It was not a random attack. Prior to the Monday shooting, Sergio was already under fire as the subject of a massive campaign of defamation led by the National Commission for Indigenous Affairs (CONAI), the Buenos Aires Municipal Council (local government), the State government, the tv station “TV Nativa” and a local radio station.
What’s all the fuss? In short, the Association for the Development of the Indigenous Territory of Salitre led the recent recovery of BriBri lands that were illegally occupied by non-indigenous outsiders.
During the process of recovery, the public became aware that government officials were personally involved in the illegal occupation.
On August 11, soon after this became public knowledge, the Buenos Aires Municipal Council declared Sergio Rojas “persona non grata” (an unwelcomed person). He’s been under pressure ever since.
The situation in Salitre has also become extremely tense in recent weeks. According to FRENAPI, the illegal non-indigenous occupants have been lashing out because they now have to leave the territory. Several clashes have already taken place, FRENAPI warns. A number of threats have been made against FRENAPI leaders including Magdalena Figueroa (Bribri Bridge Salitre), Pablo and Enrique Rivera Sibar (teribes Térraba), Carmen Villanueva (Cabécar Ujarrás) and others.
This growing spectre of violence has led FRENAPI to initiate a monitor of the Human Rights situation and Autonomy Process on indigenous lands.
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