With drums and banners, citizens come to apply pressure

Drums punctuate environmental protest at legislature. A.M. Costa Rica/Andrew Kasper

With drums banging and discourses through a megaphone, demonstrators gathered at Castillo Azul Monday. That’s the center of the Asamblea Legislativa on Boulevard del Museo Nacional and Avenida Central.

Banners and signs were pinned up along the black iron fence demanding the government to listen to the citizens, demanding cleaner air, and no more taxation of land. There was a group of people wearing white shirts and another group of people wearing blue shirts that read Plebiscito in white bold letters. There were two different organizations there for a demonstration.

The one’s in the white were the Guardianes del Pulmon. They have been at the Asamblea Legislativa for eight straight days trying to get the attention of politicians to show support in their campaign for clean air in Costa Rica. They have set up a camp along the boulevard where they have slept since last Tuesday with no signs of calling it quits.

“This is a constant struggle,” said Marco Aurelio Carpio Pereira, the director of the campaign. “We have slept here even in the rain, but we don’t care because we have to take action. Everything is politics and theory in there so we must come here!” He pointed to the Asamblea.

The organization’s flyer asks for a stop to all destruction of mountains and forests, contamination of aquifers and rivers and to protect the flora and fauna. “We demand to breathe pure air today, tomorrow and always” is the motto.

Carlos Alberto Calderon and Nory Aguiles Azofiela are two members of Guardianes del Pulmon who are living on the sidewalk near the legislature. A.M. Costa Rica/Shahrazad Encinias

The group of people in the blue shirts that read plebiscito or plebiscite in English are from Asociación Pro Cantón La Península e Islas del Golfo de Nicoya. This is a non-profit organization that is in a struggle for cultural development, economic development, administrative development and human development of the region. The region consists of the Cóbano, Paquera, Chira, Lepanto and Islas del Golfo de Nicoya territories.

“A plebiscite is what we want so we can eventually become a canton and have the opportunity to make decisions,” said Yadira González, an inhabitant of that area and supporter of the plebiscite. “The government takes advantage of the natural resources of that area and does very little for us. That’s why there are problems with roads and the schools. Our roads are horrible.”

A plebiscite is the vote of the people from a district or entire country about a political issue.

She added it was important for the group to be there Monday because the special assembly commission for the plebiscite met at 6 p.m. The commission is made up of the three representatives from Puntarenas, the three representatives from Guanacaste and Juan Carlos Mendoza, the president of the legislature.

The Puntarenas representatives are Agnes Gómez from Liberación Nacional, Jorge Gamboa from Partido Acción Ciudadana, and Rodolfo Sotomayor from Partido Unidad Social Cristiana.

From Guanacaste there is María Ocampo and Luis Antonio Aiza from Partido Liberacion Nacional, and Ernesto Chavarría from Movimiento Libertario.

The plebiscite has the support of five out of the seven representatives, said Edwin Badilla, the lawyer representing the organization.

“Our cause was presented to the Asamblea in 2001 and we are barely getting attention now. It is crucial for us to be here today and get the support of Agnes Gómez and Rodolfo Sotomayor,” said Ms. González.

This has been a dispute for 96 years, according to Badilla.

The plebiscite advocates ranged in age. Gonzalo Morales was one older man who said he had been in the fight for 45 years.

“We just want to be free,” said Morales.

The southern half of the Nicoya peninsula is part of Puntarenas province and canton. However the gulf of Nicoya separates the area from the rest of the province and the main administrative center is in Puntarenas Centro on the east side of the gulf. The proposal in the legislature would have the new canton called La Peninsula. It would be the province’s 12th.

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