The guest opinion piece about government seizure of coastal land in Cahuita and Puerto Viejo is misinformed. The goal of the authorities in transacting this condemnation, demolition and seizure has nothing to do with saving wetlands. It is about fattening the coffers of the rich, both in and out of government, while trampling on the rights of the Afro-Caribbeanos and aboriginal natives and their business partners, foreign investors, renters, or clientele, and the progress they have already made to make their area more self-sustaining and a more of a destination tourist attraction.
The fattening of the coffers is about building a mega billion dollar marina with international investors, restaurants and hosteleries and has nothing to do with protecting the environment . . . except for preserving it for the rich and powerful, not the local citizens who have held title to the land with full rights!
Ms. Meeds would do better to look at how she would react if the government deemed her private property in the region as a government asset and divorced her from ownership — a piece of land she is currently trying to obtain title to in order to avoid this or a similar occurrence (both squatters or big government). Tell Carol Meeds however high-minded and virtuous her concerns for some of her principles are, that she can’t have it both ways!!!
In 2005 the government gave Cahuita and Puerto Viejo status as independent cities with self-determination regarding the usage of their coastal lands, something long-longed for in their quest for greater independence. The majority of commerce (like a downtown center) in these regions is along the coast because the original inhabitants were fisherman, and built their homes and properties at the water’s edge, where the population grew and spread out from.
Subsequent progress and growth enhanced the commercial value of these maritime zones, a benefit to locals and their families, whether they improved the structures and activities themselves, or leased or sold it out as progress occurred, piece by piece, to new buyers at an advantage for everyone.
Now the government has come along (based on the Sala IV’s having rescinded the rights of these citizens to independent city status in its 2009 decision — with no one in the legislature standing up for these disenfranchised peoples in one of the poorest and possibly politically irrelevant cantons in all of Costa Rica) — the first time such a law was ruled unconstitutional and also specifically targeted (the canton and people mentioned above), all to the benefit to big promoters and the government itself, and no one (among the locals) was given a warning or consulted or allowed to wage a defense, because no one was invited to participate or give a voice in the process.
It is pure racial discrimination and political disenfranchisement, primarily launched against people of color, whether native aborigines or black Caribbean Costa Ricans who are not the wealthy and powerful, nor politically connected in the sense of how business has historically been done with Big Government. This encroachment needs to be stopped. The locals are not the criminals. Big government is!!! So Carol, best to re-think your battle and decide whose side you should really be on and fighting for!!! These people are not turtles, they are people, and they are banding together for justice.
Jorge Smud, M.D.
Punta Uva, Talamanca