Costa Rican environmentalists tell government: ‘Protect us’

July 11, 2013

Amid allegations of a new attack on an environmental worker in southern Costa Rica, the Costa Rican Conservation Federation (FECON) will ask the Ombudsman’s Office to intervene to help provide government protection for members of enviromental groups.

Last Sunday, conservationist Alcides Parajeles, who works in the Southern Zone, says he was attacked and shot at by illegal hunters on his farm.

Mauricio Álvarez Mora, president of FECON and professor at the University of Costa Rica, said FECON will ask Ombudswoman Ofelia Taitelbaum to intercede with government officials to improve security for environmentalists, and to create an official commission that investigates cases of attacks on Costa Rican conservationists.

Parajeles, 68, receives payments for environmental services provided by his farm, located on the Osa Peninsula, where he has lived for more than 50 years. He’s also a well-know activist that has filed several criminal complaints against hunters, poachers and gold miners.

On July 7, he heard gunshots on his property, and he went to investigate. Soon after he left his house, he discovered a group of hunters who he said threatened him and fired their weapons at him at least five times, although he was not injured.

“I threw myself to the ground and I could hear bullets whistling over my head,” he told the local Prosecutor’s Office, which rejected his complaint because Parajeles had no witnesses to corroborate his story.

Citizen Action Party lawmaker Claudio Monge, who collaborates with Parajeles in promoting environmental bills in the Legislative Assembly, said on Monday that conservationists have received numerous threats over the years, not only by hunters, but also by suspected drug traffickers in the area.

Parajeles’ case comes just weeks after the murder of Jairo Mora, a young environmentalist who was slain by unknown assailants while monitoring sea turtle nests on the Caribbean coast. On Wednesday, Chief Prosecutor Jorge Chavarría said investigators have two suspects who may be arrested next week

In late 2011, Kimberly Blackwell, a Canadian environmentalist, was murdered on her property in the Osa Peninsula after filing several complaints to local authorities against poachers who were hunting in protected areas.

On Wednesday, The Tico Times reported that park rangers and conservationists in Costa Rica are facing increasing threats to their physical security, making the job of protecting nature a dangerous trade in some areas of the country.

FECON stated on its website that if the government ignores their request, “they become an accomplice of these groups and their desire to destroy life.”

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