Proposal would dedicate legislative seats for natives

Lawmakers will be asked to expand their number to include two seats reserved for members of the country’s native communities.

That proposal came from Patricia Mora of Frente Amplio, who noted that other countries have similar reserved legislative seats.

The proposal comes at time when Costa Rica is marking the approval of a declaration of the rights of native peoples in the Americas. Foreign Minister Manuel A. González Sanz was at the Organization of American States session this week in Santo Domingo when the General Assembly approved by acclamation the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Héctor Huertas of the Guna people in Panamá stressed at the meeting that the declaration introduces a new framework for relations between states and native peoples, including greater respect for their human rights and their consideration on topics such as sustainable development. The lawyer has been promoting the pact for nearly 20 years.

The declaration includes a statement of prior consent, which compels states to inform native peoples about infrastructure and development projects before they start.

That has been an issue in Costa Rica where the government already is required to consult with native groups on such developments as hydro projects. But this requirement is not always met.

Since the 1970s, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has maintained that for historical reasons and moral and humanitarian principles, states have a sacred commitment to provide indigenous peoples with special protection.

In 1990, the commission created the Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to assist those peoples who are particularly exposed to human rights violations on account of their vulnerable situations and to strengthen the commission’s work in that area, said the hemispheric organization.

The declaration asserts that native people have the right of self-determination and that women have collective rights that are indispensable for their existence, well being, and comprehensive development as peoples.

The native groups have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal affairs, says the declaration, adding that they have the right to the lands, territories and resources that they have traditionally owned, occupied, used or acquired.

This is also an issue in Costa Rica where non-native individuals have acquired properties within established reserves.

The declaration said that native groups have the right to isolation, if that is their wish.

The declaration is based on a similar United Nations document.

Lawmaker Mora is seeking a constitutional change to provide two seats for members of the eight native groups in the Asamblea Legislativa.

That would bring the membership up to 59. She said election would come from votes cast in the 24 native reserves.

In a release she called the native peoples the población originaria, but who was first in the Americas still is an open question.

Colored spots show where the nation’s native reserves are located.

Colored spots show where the nation’s native reserves are located.

This entry was posted in Costa Rica News. Bookmark the permalink.