El Diquís foes said government put spin on U.N. visit

The association opposing the Proyecto Hidroeléctrico Diquís has accused the central government of lying and trying to characterize incorrectly the visit of a United Nations expert at the end of the month.

The organization is the Asociación de Desarrollo de Térraba which says the government is going ahead with the plans for the largest hydro project in Central America illegally and without the consent of the native people on whose land part of the project lies.

A.M. Costa Rica reported Tuesday that S. James Anaya, a professor of law at the University of Arizona in Tucson, would visit. He carries the title of U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples. The newspaper also quoted the foreign ministry when it said it had invited the visit.

Not so, said the association in a release Thursday. It said it sought relief from the United Nations as early as 2010 in the face of repeated violations of the rights of the native peoples.

The Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto said Anaya would be an adviser. In fact, he is an independent observer with a long history of studying the conflicts of native peoples with governments.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad is building the $2 billion project.
The foreign ministry said that the goal of the visit is to develop a process of consultations with the native peoples, who will feel the impact of the project. The Instituto
Costarricense de Electricidad estimates that the project will take 915.59 hectares (some 2,262 acres) of native land. The entire project, involving some 7,363.5 hectares (18,195.6 acres) will displace more than 1,500 persons, but the company says that no one is living permanently on the native lands.

The project has been strongly opposed by some in the native communities. The Térraba, the Boruca, Bribri, Cabécar and Guaymí live in the area, many on official reserves. Anaya will visit April 25, 26 and 27.

Meanwhile the central government has set up a high-level seminar for Saturday in Buenos Aires de Puntarenas near the dam site. The session is headed by Vice President Alfio Piva. The title is “Considering development in the southern zone of Costa Rica and the role of the Proyecto Hidroeléctrico El Diquís.”

The event is in Rancho El Remolino, in the installations of the electrical institute. This is an effort to reach out to the communities there. Those government officials attending belong to the recently formed Comisión de Coordinación Interinstitucional del Proyecto Hidroeléctrico El Diquís, President Laura Chinchilla created the commission in the face of local opposition.

The all-day session will include presentations by at least three minsters of government and a host of vice ministers.

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