Environmentalist killed in Limon for defending turtles

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By Fernando Francia

The killing of Jairo Mora, which occurred on May 31st, fills Costa Rican environmental organizations with anger, grief and concern.

Jairo Mora was a young activist who defended turtles on the coast of Limon. He was kidnapped and killed in Moin, Caribbean province.

A vigil and march from MINAET to the courts was immediately announced as a way to show solidarity, mourning and remembrance. The event will be held on Wednesday, June 5 at 5 p.m. in front of the Ministry of Environment.

Jorge Mora Portuguez, speaker of ARCA, expressed his solidarity with the family of Jairo Mora and his concern for the constant intrusion of drug trafficking elements into the criminal action against the environment on the coasts of Costa Rica.

“Both things are mixed. Drug trafficking gangs are also engaged in illegal poaching of eggs and with turtles hunting”, as Jairo Mora had just recently denounced.

For the environmental lawyer Alvaro Sagot, “Jairo Mora’s murder adds another name to the ominous list. We are deeply sorry” he said.

Sagot also noted that “the Executive Power is the main generator of environmental conflicts, and it turns into the promoter of these attacks because of its bad biodiversity audit”. In turn, Mauricio Álvarez, Ecologist Federation chairman, expressed his outrage about this “vile murder” which “saddens the ecologist movement and shakes the whole society.”

“Unfortunately there is a history for many years now of intolerance, intimidation, threats and violence against environmentalists and social activists,” Álvarez said. The environmentalist recalled the words previously spoken by the President of the Republic, Laura Chinchilla, who early on in her time in office urged for “collaboration” to face the “radical groups” who “do not want development”.

“We have to face these groups together”, Chinchilla said on October 30, 2010 after the Chamber of Livestock. For Alvarez that was a call for intolerance that showed immediate and lasting effects.

Murders, attacks and threats

Intolerance, criminalization, prosecution and judicial illation of Environmental Defense in Costa Rica is not new. The Ecologist Federation issued a statement with numerous cases in which environmentalists are persecuted.

In some cases, that persecution is coming from organized crime, but the persecution is also coming from multinational companies which have a special interest in natural resources; even the State itself is chasing those who opposed to the development programs which impact the environment.

In the list of cases of persecution, were included Gilbert Rojas, Ostional community leader, who was threatened with gun shots and his house was burned down in December 2009 when he and four others were within the property.