Press release: Shooting of Bribri indigenous community member latest in string of attacks

Press Release
Press Release

Press release: Shooting of Bribri indigenous community member latest in string of attacks

Following a violent attack against one of their community members, and less than a year after the murder of their leader Sergio Rojas, the Bribri people of the Indigenous Territory of Salitre, Costa Rica, call on the government to end the impunity for the violence against them, and to protect them as human rights defenders.

At approximately 2pm on 9 February 2020, Mainor Ortíz Delgado, a Bribri member of the Tubolwak clan, was shot in the right leg by a non-indigenous trespasser while working on his farm with his wife, brother and three young children. His attacker was set free in less than 24 hours and lives metres away. This comes less than 12 months after the fatal shooting of the Bribri indigenous leader Sergio Rojas on 18th March 2019.

This is not the first time Mainor has been attacked. In 2013 he was gravely wounded after being attacked by 10 non-indigenous men. The attackers had taken a machete to his left ear, tortured him with a hot iron (for branding cattle), and shot him, leaving a wound in his upper left thigh. Today he has a bullet in each leg, a constant reminder of the cost of his fight for the rights of his people. 

This attack comes as the Bribri strive to defend their territories. Over 50 per cent of their ancestral land is now illegally occupied by non-indigenous people, who are regularly hostile to the Bribri. There have been dozens of documented cases of violence and threats against the Bribri and their indigenous neighbours ,the Brörán people of Térraba, all of which continue with impunity.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights decided to issue Precautionary Measures here in 2015, and called on the Costa Rican government to protect the lives and physical integrity of the Bribri and Brörán. However, the government has failed to implement sufficient measures to do so. The case of Mr. Delgado demonstrates this. This is the third time in the last 14 months that he has been shot at by members of the same non-indigenous family. In the first case the shooter was not even arrested. In the second case the shooter was released within 24 hours, no consequences. In the face of government inaction, there is no deterrence, only empowerment of those who want to do harm to the Bribri and Brörán.

“They want to kill my son and the government has known of his precarious situation, but they do nothing effective and meaningful to protect him. I fear he will end up like Sergio,” says Mainor’s mother, Mariana Delgado Morales. 

Since Sergio’s assassination last year, the Bribri have been negotiating with the government, but it has still not taken any meaningful measures to make them feel safe in their own territory. There are new incidents of violence, but still no sanction of responsible parties, and no removals of illegal occupants as required by national law. Together with the Brörán, the Bribri call on the government to place Mainor’s shooter back in jail, and to act quickly before another indigenous human rights defender is killed. 

“The government has to do at least four things: (i) punish those that attack us and end the impunity, (ii) protect our human rights defenders in an effective way, (iii) not abandon us to the courts but rather implement their duties and obligations without delay, and (iv) evict with priority the illegal occupants –now and not years from now,” says Lesner Figuero Lázaro, Bribri of the Tuadiwak clan and Coordinator of the Concejo Ditsö Iriria Ajkönuk Wakpa of the Bribri territory. 

For more information, please contact: 

  • Mariana Delgado Morales, Mainor’s mother: +506 8482 5708 (WhatsApp)
  • Lesner Figueroa Lázaro, Coordinator of Bribri traditional governing council: +506 8505 2287 (WhatsApp)
  • Vanessa Jiménez, Senior Lawyer, Forest Peoples Programme, and legal advisor to the Bribri and Brörán: +1 202 215 8418 (WhatsApp) /