With the Nicaraguan invasion of an island in northeastern Costa Rica, official attention is being paid to the general area.
The Defensoría de los Habitantes said a team from that independent agency visited Barra del Colorado and found misery, unemployment, lack of security and a litany of other problems.
The agency said that employees met with persons in the zone and heard complaints straight from the mouths of individuals. There are two communities, Colorado Norte with about 700 residents and Colorado Sur with about 300. The communities are separated by the Río Colorado.
Among the problems the visitors found is that residents do not own their land even if they have lived there 50 years. The land is technically owned by the Junta Administrativa Portuaria de Desarrollo de la Vertiente Atlántica, which is better known for its management of the docks in Limón.
Most of the living in the area is subsistence, said the Defensoría. There are few sources of employment, and tourism has not been developed, it said.
Security is minimal and local fishermen have been detained in Costa Rican waters by Nicaragua patrols and made to pay fines and others costs, said the report. The Río Colorado provides easy access to the Caribbean.
In addition a supposed police station in Colorado Sur was characterized as a slum. Materials for a new station have been delivered in part but no construction has taken place on a new station, it said.
Also police have no boat in an area where boats are necessary to travel, and police officers cannot respond to calls from Colorado Norte because there is no way of crossing the river, the report said.
The Defensoría said that its employees were told that teachers frequently skip class because there is no supervision.
The report also said that potable water is only available from wells that frequently are contaminated when the river floods.
The public agencies that are supposed to handle these problems are absent from the zone, said the report. It said that with such conditions it is easy to understand that child prostitution, traffic and consumption of drugs, alcohol, domestic violence and other vices flourish.
The agency said it would seek short- medium and long-range planning by the central government to help the area.
The area has seen an increase in security because at least 100 Fuerza Pública officers are stationed in the community now as part of the country’s response to the Nicaraguan invasion nearby.