House torched in continuing real estate dispute

A long-running land war erupted into flames Saturday when a mob torched the home of a native resident of the Bribri de Salitre territory northeast of Buenos Aires de Puntarenas.

This is the continuation of confrontations that have taken place for at least five years and involve duplicate claims for the same real estate.

The Frente Nacional de Pueblos Indígenas first reported the action by what it was an estimated 70 non-native individuals. The organization said that the home of Otilia Figueroa Figueroa was torched by the mob. The native organization said that the mob threw burning articles on the house and even used flaming arrows before breaking in and setting afire the interior.

The Fuerza Pública said Sunday that there was a confrontation and that officers were on the scene. The location is in the southwestern part of the country west of the Parque la Amistad that straddles the border with Panamá.

There have been similar confrontations on the Caribbean side as non-natives build homes or develop agricultural projects in what the native populations consider reserves allocated to them.

The situation in Bribri de Salitre has been in the news for years, and there have been court decisions. Members of the Cabécar, Bribri, Brunca and Térraba native populations have

been involved one way or another. There have been previous attacks by mobs.

The Fuerza Pública said that officers have been on watch in the zone for at last 15 days. About 2 p.m. Sunday Ana Gabriel Zúñiga Aponte, a vice minister of the Presidencia, arrived to discuss the situation with both sides, police said.

The area also is a tourism attraction.

The Frente Nacional de Pueblos Indígenas said that the mob blocked an entry road with heavy machinery to keep the police away while the blaze was set about 7 p.m. Saturday. The Frente also blamed the government for not acting with more force.

The dispute appears to stem from those who seek the lands in the native reserve and the natives who are trying to reclaim land that is in the boundaries of the reserve but are occupied by non-natives.

Police officers keep an eye on the crowd.

Police officers keep an eye on the crowd.

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