San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Court strikes down bill aimed at stopping Caribbean Maritime Zone evictions

Bill 18,207 would have prevented the government-sanctioned eviction of several families living within the Maritime Zone on Costa Rica’s Southern Caribbean coast by reducing the size of the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge. But on Friday, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, struck it down as unconstitutional.

Lawmakers had approved the bill, which “acknowledged the rights of Southern Caribbean residents,” after the Comptroller General’s Office ordered the Municipality of Talamanca to determine how many people lived within the area’s protected shoreline. The office issued a deadline of Nov. 30 for the municipality to carry out evictions.

The Sala IV ruled the bill violates Article 50 of the Constitution, which outlines the right to a healthy environment, because a technical or scientific study was not performed to determine the consequences of changing the boundaries of the wildlife refuge.

The bill now will be sent back to a Legislative Assembly commission, which will decide whether it should be modified or archived.

A second bill that placed a two-year moratorium on evictions (through Nov. 30, 2014) was approved in the assembly on Sept. 6.

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