Government inaction threatens private property in the South Caribbean
• More than 1,000 properties in Cocles were identified as belonging to an
indigenous reserve and as a result could mean a total loss for both local
families and foreign investors.
• Many owners are of African descent with more than a century of
contributing to the development of the area.
• The government’s “invitation” to the Municipality of Talamanca to initiate
an internal investigation into the granting of construction permits raises
greater legal uncertainty for residents.
Community of Cocles, Canton of Talamanca, Limón – November 8, 2022 –
As a result of several judicial resolutions that claim territories in favor of the Kekoldi indigenous community, more than 1,000 properties in the community of Cocles – made up of families and business owners, both domestic and foreign – could be lost.
All the affected properties were legally registered and acquired in good faith from third parties. The centuries old ownership and possession of these lands was even ratified by the Agrarian Development Institute (IDA, now INDER) so that their owners would have legitimate titles as owners. Over the years there were transfers,
segregations, and sales to the current owners. However, these lands were listed as indigenous territory in the National Registry at the end of 2021 and recent court rulings suggest that they were acquired in bad faith and therefore the owners are not entitled to compensation or expropriation.
During last August, in which the extraordinary contributions of the African diaspora in the country were celebrated, the residents of Cocles hoped to meet with the President of the Republic to express the serious situation in which
they find themselves and to seek a peaceful solution. However, without giving an explanation, Chaves canceled his visit to the area at the last minute. This caused great disappointment and increased uncertainty among the residents.
Two months after canceling the meeting, the Government of Chaves Robles issued a request to the Municipality of Talamanca to initiate an administrative investigation into alleged irregularities related to the granting of operating,
construction, and other types of permits for private properties in Cocles. This statement, sent on October 21, 2022 by Sergio Sevilla, the Vice Minister of Peace in the Ministry of Justice and Peace, presumes that the current registered owners of more than a thousand properties in the Cocles area are purchasers in bad faith and therefore cannot make regular use of the properties like any other owner.
Many of the business and home owners in the Cocles area are of African descent and have worked to develop the area for more than 100 years. Furthermore, among those affected are hundreds of national and foreign families who invested in the area decades ago.
“We are afraid of losing an entire history, an entire legacy of the African-descended community, and we are very concerned about the situation because until today we have never had a conflict with the indigenous people, we have always lived in peace. However there is a tense peace because we are both in a situation of uncertainty due to something that someone in San José created several years ago and today they want to apply the law to evict the entire black population of the South Caribbean, specifically Cocles, to hand over the land ours to the indigenous people,” said Mr. Edwin Patterson, president of the Cocles Neighborhood Association for Peace.
“Costa Rica is recognized worldwide for its tourist attractions, services,and people, but also because it is a country that provides political, economic, and social stability, along with a secure environment for investment. But investing in land under the condition that it be free of annotations and encumbrances, and that this ownership is subsequently limited, is a violation of legal security and, furthermore, an outrage to the image of Costa Rica,” said Carlos Corrales, a lawyer and impacted landowner.
“I came to invest in Costa Rica because it is a peaceful country with warm people. As a foreigner, I made sure that the land I bought had a clean property title. However, today the Government ignores its own institutions. If this is not arranged favorably for those of us who have registered properties, they will ruin us and probably no one will want to come to invest in the country in the face of such uncertainty,” said Jorge Castellanos, a Mexican resident of Cocles who bought a property in the area.
This situation could also mean the loss of jobs for thousands of people and lead to greater poverty in Talamanca, since a large number of citizens in the canton work in hotels, restaurants and other tourist businesses in this area of Costa Rican territory.
The residents of Cocles ask the State not to violate their property rights, which are protected by the Constitution, international treaties, laws, and decrees.
For more information please contact:
Association of Neighbors United for Peace and Justice of Cocles