San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Assembly Begins Work On Indigenous Autonomy Law

The proposed Law for Autonomous Development of Indigenous Communities began its path toward approval Saturday when members of the Legislative Assembly’s Social Affairs Commission began a series of visits to such communities to present the proposal.

The commission will visit the country’s 24 indigenous territories, holding sessions of four to six hours where legislators will present the bill to community members, according to a statement from the assembly.

The legislative directorate approved a special budget of ¢9 million ($17,544) for the trips. The National Indigenous Committee will facilitate the visits, and representatives from the Supreme Election Tribunal (TSE) and Ombudsman’s Office will attend the meetings as well.

The law would return territories to indigenous control, preserve rights to natural medicine and multicultural education, and increase access to health care in those areas, among other provisions. Costa Rica has eight indigenous cultures, whose population makes up approximately 1.7% of the population, according to the 2000 census (TT, June 2).

Legislators are expected to revise the law to incorporate suggestions they receive during the meetings. Also at the sessions, each community will designate representatives to attend a national forum to be held Sept. 7-8 at the assembly buildings in San José, the statement said.

The entire Legislative Assembly is expected to convene in the southern Caribbean province of Talamanca on Oct. 12, National Day of Cultures, to vote on the bill. Indigenous leader Pablo Sibar called this meeting “historic” and applauded the assembly’s plans.


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