PHOTOS: ¡Vive Jairo! Protesters demand justice (again) for slain Costa Rica conservationist

January 29, 2015

Hundreds of protesters gathered Thursday in front of a court complex in the Costa Rican capital to express outrage over a verdict earlier this week that acquitted seven defendants of the 2013 murder of sea turtle conservationist Jairo Mora, who has quickly become an environmental martyr in this small Central American country known for its eco-tourism.

“We’re here to express our indignation, our pain and our rage for what happened with the Jairo Mora case. This assassination is not just any crime, and it’s not just another crime – it’s a political crime,” said former presidential candidate José María Villalta of the Broad Front Party.

A court in the Caribbean port city of Limón, 170 kilometers east of San José, on Monday blamed a shoddy investigation and prosecution that was “imprecise” and full of “ambiguities” in its decision to absolve the seven men of the homicide. Four of the defendants were convicted and sentenced in a previous kidnapping, rape and robbery case on the same beach where Mora was murdered.

¡Jairo Mora vive!

Jairo Mora vive” and “Corrupt prosecutors” were some of the slogans demonstrators used on signs that urged the judicial branch of the government to seek justice in the case, and lawmakers to strengthen sentencing laws for crimes committed against environmental advocates.

“Our legislators are going to present several bills to create special protective jurisdictions for environmentalists, which includes placing them in protective programs with as little as a complaint of threats,” Villalta said.

The United Nations in Costa Rica joined a growing chorus of voices demanding justice in the case. Environmentalists and everyday citizens have called the not-guilty verdict a “national shame,” particularly in a country that makes millions of dollars selling itself as an environmentally friendly tourist destination.

See related: United Nations, environmental groups condemn verdict in Jairo Mora murder case

Mora worked to protect sea turtles on the northeastern Caribbean shore where he was killed on May 31, 2013. Four foreign volunteers also were kidnapped and released that night.

Mora’s killing sparked national and international outrage, and the criminal trial was watched closely around the world. Environmentalists cite it as a glaring example that their work is often dangerous, and the government has done little to protect them.

The case likely will go through a lengthy appeals process.

Costa Rica’s chief prosecutor, Jorge Chavarría, and the director of the Judicial Investigation Police, Francisco Segura, both came under fire this week for the dismal performance of their agencies during the investigation and trial. Two legislative commissions called Chavarría to testify, but on Thursday morning, Costa Rica’s Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court agreed to review an appeal filed by Chavarría to block his testimony at the Legislative Assembly, the daily La Nación reported.

You may be interested

This week in the Peace Corps: Sports for Costa Rican youth
Changemakers
77 views
Changemakers
77 views

This week in the Peace Corps: Sports for Costa Rican youth

Elizabeth Lang - June 18, 2018

Last month, U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer Brian and his community partnered with student athletes from Marquette University through Courts for Kids to…

Once a symbol of Somoza-era torture, Nicaragua prison holds protesters
Nicaragua
108 views
Nicaragua
108 views

Once a symbol of Somoza-era torture, Nicaragua prison holds protesters

Maggy Donaldson / AFP - June 18, 2018

For days, María Magdalena Saldana has hooked a gold chain encircling her waist to the gate bulwarking one of Nicaragua's…

US lawmakers, First Lady criticize family separation at border
Immigration
113 views
Immigration
113 views

US lawmakers, First Lady criticize family separation at border

Olivia Hampton / AFP - June 18, 2018

Democratic lawmakers vowed Sunday to end the "evil" separation of migrant children from their parents at the U.S. border, as…