Bejuco and Nosara: Coastal Districts Seeking Autonomy

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The majority of the inhabitants of the districts of Bejuco and Nosara feel the same— they want to have their own autonomy in order to administrate and make decisions about the resources generated in their communities.

In addition, both territories are the sixth district of their respective cantons and their residents’ overall demands are the same: road improvements, a plan for managing solid waste and more and better public services.

Nonetheless, the main reason that these people feel that having their own autonomy is necessary is due to the long distance between their communities and the center of headship for the canton.

The Law of Autonomy of the Municipal District Councils (CMD- Consejos Municipales de Distrito), adopted in February of 2014, ordered that those who become organisms with their own autonomy be attached to their canton’s respective municipality. That’s why CMDs can now receive municipal contributions such as fees paid for permits, fines or taxes. In addition, it could eventually remove the chairperson or a council member who does not adequately fulfill his or her functions according to the law.

Bejuco Needs 1200 Votes

The district has had the idea of seeking autonomy for about five years, especially due to the boom in tourism that the area has had. However, on January 17th, about 150 residents of the district held an informational meeting in Bejuco’s activities plaza to explain what they wanted to do and find out what they thought about it.

Roger Ugalde, president of the Pueblo Nuevo Development Association, reported that they let neighbors know about the proposed project during the meeting.

“Our district is very far [from Carmona, the capital of Nandayure] and we want growth. We want to be autonomous. We need 250 signatures but we have the goal of getting about 1500 minimum,”  he commented.

Ugalde indicated that once the required number of signatures has been collected, they can approach the council members about approving setting up the regulations that would establish the referendum. In the referendum, or plebiscite, they need 15% of voters in the canton of Nandayure to vote in favor of autonomy.

According to the electoral register from the 2014 elections, the canton of Nandayure has 8,104 voters, of which Bejuco would need 1,216 voters to vote affirmatively to achieve the 15%. In this regard, Ugalde views achieving the required number of votes as doable because the district of Bejuco alone has approximately 2,000 voters, so if 80% of Bejuco’s voters vote positively, it would be sufficient for the formation of the municipal district council (CMD- Consejos Municipales de Distrito).

Municipal Council Member Miguel Cortez also agrees with forming a CMD. “Bejuco is the most productive district of all the districts of the canton. More than 90% of the maritime land zone is in Bejuco. It has been the most neglected because of the distance. For procedures, payments, people have to go to the center of the canton and people feel that this could be closer,” he said.

Meanwhile, Carlos Arias, the mayor of Nandayure, affirmed that he has not yet received an official communication about the proposal to create a CMD. He also indicated that Bejuco recently received an investment for the construction of the bridge over the Jabillo River on February 14 with an investment of ₵50,000,000 (about $94,340).

“Officially I have no communication [from residents]. An investment has been made in Bejuco— the about 30-meter bridge over the Jabillo River at a cost of about 50 million colones. This bridge connects the community of La Y Griega with all of the coast. In addition, a sewer,  sewer manholes and a swinging bridge have just been installed in Pilas of Bejuco,” he explained.

For 2015, the budget of the municipality of Nandayure is in excess of ₵1,441,824,233 (about $2,720,423), of which ₵37,470,036 (about $70,698) was assigned to the district of Bejuco, in other words 2.6%.

Nosara in Advanced Stage

In the case of Nosara, the process of forming the CMD is at an advanced stage. Nevertheless, unlike Bejuco, the number of votes required to create a district council is higher. According to the latest electoral register, Nicoya has 38,781 voters, so 15% would mean 5,818 affirmative votes.

Another important aspect is the cost of the polls. Rodolfo Orozco, Nicoyan council member who is part of the commission in charge of conducting the referendum for the creation of the Municipal District Council in Nosara, explained during the municipal session on February 3rd that the process is burdensome and would amount to about ₵30,000,000 ($56,600), which has to be paid for with municipal funds or donations received by the mayor’s office.

In addition, the council member estimated that the regulations for the referendum will be ready before next May. However, regarding holding the elections, Orozco believes it will have to be done in 2016, after the municipal elections.

Upon obtaining the necessary number of votes, Bejuco and Nosara would join the 8 CMDs that exist in the country: Cervantes (Alvarado); Tucurrique (Jimenez); San Isidro de Peñas Blanca (San Ramon); Colorado (Juntas de Abangares); Monteverde; Cobano; Lepanto and Paquera (Puntarenas).