San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Campesinos Again Plan to Return to Disputed Land

After more than three months, the“indefinite” stay of 120 campesinos in theMetropolitan Cathedral in downtown SanJosé may soon end.The campesinos plan to return tomorrowto their home in Río Frío de Sarapiquí deHeredia, near the border of Limónprovince. They say they have not decided ifthey will attempt to enter the disputed ElBambuzal farm, which they have claimedsquatter’s rights to since 2001.The campesinos arrived in the cathedralApril 25, seeking support from the churchand government in their claim to the property,owned by banana exporter StandardFruit Company, a subsidiary of Dole (TT,April 30).This is the second time they haveplanned to return to the land. They abortedan effort to return home one month agowhen a last-minute court decision andwarnings from the Public Security Ministrythreatened a safe return to the farm (TT,July 9).Past efforts to occupy the land when prohibitedby court order – as they currentlyare – resulted in the killing of onecampesino by police officers, who said theyacted in self-defense (TT, July 18, 2003).“We are probably going to have somekind of problems or confrontation with thepolice,” said the campesinos’ legal representativeHéctor Monestel.Monestel encouraged the public to jointhe campesinos and several labor unionsand community members in their journey toRío Frío to serve as “witnesses,” shouldanything happen when they arrive,Monestel said.However, campesino representativeVirginia Mora said the campesinos wouldbe acting peacefully and unarmed.“If they mistreat my children, I willdefend my children,” she added.The decision to return was made ascampesinos’ spirits are suffering after notreceiving the support they sought from theOmbudsman and government agencies.Several campesinos have also recentlybecome sick.“The cathedral is not our home, wecannot stay there forever. We are farmers,we are used to freedom,” Mora said. “Butwe are not tired of the fight and we will continue.”

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