Indigenous leader Sergio Rojas assassinated in Costa Rica

Sergio Rojas was fighting for the recovery of indigenous ancestral lands across Costa Rica

March 20, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Sergio Rojas, indigenous land activist from Costa Rica.

Renowned leader of Bribrí indigenous community of Costa Rica, Sergio Rojas Ortíz, was assassinated on the night of March 18 in his house in the indigenous territory of Salitre, in the Buenos Aires canton of the Puntarenas province.

According to the reports, around 9:15 pm, the neighbors heard a series of gunshots and called the police. When the police arrived to the location, Rojas was found dead in the second floor of his house. It has also been reported that the police reached with a delay of 1 hour and 30 minutes.

55-year-old Rojas was the president of the Local Government of the Bribri of Salitre territory and the co-coordinator of the National Front of Indigenous People (FRENAPI). For years, he was struggling for the right of indigenous people to access their ancestral territories in different parts of the country.

Rojas’ organization FRENAPI released a statement denouncing the assassination: “The Frenapi puts all responsibility on the Government of Carlos Alvarado Quesada for what happened to Sergio Rojas Ortiz; demanding an immediate explanation of this latest incident of blood and violence against the Indigenous people of Costa Rica; remembering that Salitre along with Térraba are two territories that have security measures by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission due to the growing levels of violence and aggression that the people in these territories have been suffering from. No more impunity!”

The ancestral lands Sergio and his organization were struggling to recover, have high economic value. 40% of these lands are owned by non-indigenous people and landowners for megaprojects of monocultures and livestock.

In 2015, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered the government to provide Bribri and Teribe people with protection, arguing they were at risk because of actions taken to recover their lands.

On November 6, 2014, Rojas was imprisoned for 6 months, after the judicial authorities entered the Salitre territory to search the homes of the members of the Local Government and declare them as dangerous criminals. Earlier, in 2012 also, an attempt was made to assassinate Rojas, which he survived.

The indigenous people of Costa Rica are demanding justice for Sergio Rojas, punishment for his murderers and respect for the legitimate ownership of their ancestral lands.