San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Gold Panners Evicted During Holy Week

AFTER more than six months ofcamping out in protest in front of the CasaPresidencial in Zapote, west of San José,a group of former gold panners were sentpacking March 24, Jueves Santo, a legalholiday.According to President Abel Pacheco,the patience of Casa Presidencial’s neighborsfinally ran out. Their complaintsabout the tent city of plastic sheets andhand-lettered signs prompted a HealthMinistry order that the oreros return totheir homes.Although the number of protestorsonce totaled 200, “very few” remainedwhen a ministry official approached themat 6 a.m. – on the day before Good Friday,when no newspapers are published – toorder them to leave. Pacheco said no forcewas used to ensure their departure.“For reasons of health and to preventviolence against the gold panners themselves…a very humane removal processwas completed,” he said, adding neighborshad complained about the protestorsand the truck that passed by the campweekly to remove human waste. Thesecomplaints caused the concern for thecampers’ safety, the President said thisweek.The former gold panners said theyrepresented 914 people evicted in 1986from Corcovado and Piedras Blancasnational parks, both in the Southern Zone,for working on protected lands.Although Pacheco sent a bill to theLegislative Assembly Feb. 7 calling forpayments of ¢2 million ($4,450) to 141miners registered in two government surveysin 1986 and 1992, the protestorswere holding out for more, and larger,payments – to 800 additional families, inthe amount of ¢3.5 million ($7,560) (TT,March 4).

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