New policies target xenophobia and protect cultures

Costa Rica established two national policies Tuesday. One seeks to eliminate racism and xenophobia. The other established a network to insure the right to culture.

The racism policy is consistent with the country’s obligations under international agreements. The announcement of the policy was by the Ministerio de Relaciones Exeteriores y Culto.

Gioconda Ubeda, a vice minister, said that the purpose was to guarantee the full human rights to native groups, the AfroCaribbean populations, migrants and refugees.

The policy also includes cultural diversity, equality of gender, accessibility and sustainable development, said the ministry.

Costa Rica will submit to periodic international examinations to evaluate its compliance. The ministry has been working on this policy for two years.

The national policy of cultural rights seeks the development of a democratic culture that does not discriminate, promotes equality and encourages participation.

It also creates a Sistema Nacional de Protección y Promoción de Derechos Culturales that sets up regional committees as what are called consultive forums in sections of the country. The policy also asks for adequate financing in the national budget.

Instead of replacing the existing Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud, this seems to be setting up a parallel system. It was the ministry that announced the policy.

The issue of xenophobia, particularly in relation to the many Nicaraguans living in Costa Rica, has become a topic for national discussion after Managua took over Costa Rican land in the northeast part of the country to dig canals to create a new mouth for the Río San Juan. Officials tried to tone down the rhetoric because they fear a backlash from the many Nicaraguans already in Costa Rica. Many are here illegally.

A.M. Costa Rica has said that “deep within the consciousness of many Costa Ricans is a fear of foreigners and those who are different. These fears engender prejudice and manifest themselves as suspicion and bad treatment of persons with darker complexions.”

Others have made similar observations.

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