Ministry seeks to raise culture to the level of a right

The  Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud is seeking to make culture a right and establish income to support it. The ministry said Monday that after three years of effort preliminary texts of a national law and a policy on culture have been created.

The ministry said that workers plan to conduct 20 workshops in various regions of the country, hold a forum with experts, another with mayors and another with presidential candidates. The workshops will run thorough the end of August, the ministry said.

Both the 73-page text of a national policy on culture and a 55-page one of a summary of a law establishing the right to culture are online. There also are survey forms for citizens to comment on these preliminary documents. The project was initiated by President Laura Chinchilla and seems to be based in the reduction of funds to the culture ministry due to financial retrenchment.

A summary by the ministry said that the proposal sought at least 1 percent of the national budget each year for culture and the creation of a cultural fund. There also would be a system set up to promote the right to culture.

The ministry summary said that the rights include that of free participation in cultural life, access to culture, protection of culture, liberty of cultural expression, the right to cultural diversity and the right to information and communication,

The summary of the law addresses the difficult question of exactly what is culture and says that the culture ministry is at the mercy of each successive presidential administration. The ministry, set up in its present form in 1970, has varied duties. It runs the museums, preserves cultural heritage, supports the national symphony and a host of other musical groups, supports the library system and theatres, supports film making and the Archivo Nacional and even became involved in sports, although there is an effort to spin off a separate sports ministry.  The ministry also controls the  Sistema Nacional de Radio y Televisión Cultural and the Editorial de Costa Rica, a book publisher.

The proposed law draws on United Nations documents and treaties and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to assert cultural human rights.

The driving force seems to be that the ministry does not have the resources to promote culture all over the country and lacks a strong presence outside the metro area. The law summary also says that it has a weakness in protecting cultural heritage and lacks recognition of cultural diversity.

The proposed law says that anyone who thinks that their cultural rights have been infringed can appeal administratively or to the courts. The law also empowers public officials, like the local mayor, to issue orders to stop anyone believed to be damaging culture. The law also would empower the same officials to force someone to surrender any cultural heritage objects, such as archaeological pieces, and explain their origin.

The powers of courts under the law would be greater. They include being able to jail someone who will not yield a cultural object.

The law also says that youngsters should be assisted in putting up graffiti and courses should be given in same.

Exportation of cultural goods also is encouraged by the proposed law. The measure also would restrict the demolition of and unauthorized remodeling of a cultural property even if it is in private hands.
The ministry said that in addition to the various forums an effort would be made to reach the 24 native territories.

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