Environmentalists Denounce That Not Enough Advance Has Been Made In the Legal Protection of Our Natural Resources

Lawyer Alvaro Sagot of the Ecological Federation tells TCRN the current state of affairs with regards to this matter

Starting this year 2020, it was known that the Costa Rican Ombudsman’s Office would give its opinion to the Constitutional Chamber on the contamination with mercury that does not stop in the vicinity of the Vivoyet farm in Crucitas, where the company Infinito Gold has tried for years to extract gold and in turn, is a place that has been invaded by improvised illegal miners.

This situation has generated an environmental emergency that could be getting worse. In this regard, there have been environmental fighters who have not stopped protecting the environment. The Ecological Federation and its leader Henry Picado with their excellent work including that of the lawyer Alvaro Sagot, who has filed various complaints, many of them as of today have gone without answers.

The Costa Rica News (TCRN) had a conversation with Álvaro Sagot, who detailed us about the struggle and each activity in favor of limiting illegal activities within Costa Rica:

Álvaro Sagot Rodríguez is a lawyer, who has worked in jobs related to environmental matters for the past 25 years in Costa Rica. He has a master’s degree in environmental law from Spain and a master’s degree in sustainable development from the University of Costa Rica, also, he has been a professor for many years on environmental law and gives the course, policy, and legislation for sustainable development at UCR.

The law and its tireless struggle have led him to various scenarios, such as writing environmental articles for magazines in Argentina, Costa Rica, Mexico and Spain, counting that he has had presentations at important conferences. He has 8 written books on landscape damage. Álvaro tells in detail the absence of responses, the lack of actions by national authorities of the situation in Crucitas.

It has been a fight since everything started, a fight that has been in the Constitutional Court, where the constitutional magistrates declared, not proceeding, and approximately 14 accumulated protective measures, which passed to the contentious administrative route.

Álvaro joined a group of professors who decided to leave the classrooms and move on to face the environmental reality of the country; He headed a group of lawyers that processed a lawsuit against the company Infinito Gold and the State, “for eventual environmental damage”, “we managed to stop the mining concession, we eliminated the environmental license, it turns out that there was also a national convenience decree that allowed harmful activities in almost 300 hectares in the northern zone, we have not acted alone, there are other groups that participate with their respective lawyer such as the Non-Governmental Organization, Apreflofas ”, said Sagot.

According to Alvaro Sagot, the judges have given reasons for the environmental fight, because (they) previously annulled all environmental protection sentences. “Everything was annulled in favor of a foreign mining company, and it was agreed upon by the judges themselves of this being a huge irregularity because it was violating both national and International Law, it was an acknowledgment, a great recognition for the environmental sector”. 

Years go by and the work of environmentalists accompanied by lawyers like Álvaro, never lose validity, much less force. “We filed a lawsuit that is still being heard in court, for environmental damage, they (Infinito Gold) managed to cut down about 65 hectares before we stopped everything and the preliminary environmental assessment repairs give between 6 and 12 million dollars, much more than the environmental guarantee that the company had deposited for 600 thousand dollars and even though we have not yet managed to obtain a sentence that defined how much environmental damage is generated.”

The “coligalleros” or informal miners made their large tunnels, cut down trees, used mercury and that is why environmentalists filed a new complaint in late 2018, this time against the Ministry of Health. “There is a regulation that requires contaminated soils that instances such as the Ministry of Health be the one who acts, they did absolutely nothing, they did not even establish the necessary coordination and this forced us to have to file an appeal for protection before the Constitutional Chamber to stop this and to date, it has still not being done in the Crucitas area”. This legal vacuum has been regrettable and shows that part of the effectiveness of environmental laws has been only on paper,” said Sagot.

Costa Rica in the face of possible border contamination.

The San Juan River in the border with Nicaragua and the Crucitas tributaries flow into it, so this type of situation is exposed as a lawsuit stated for border contamination with mercury. It is worth mentioning that some shipments have been stopped from Nicaragua, which has not been enough to stop the environmental deterioration. “Within this appeal for protection that is filed due to inaction on the part of the State, we are also discussing the Rights of Nature, in the sense that the northern Costa Rican area is abandoned (by the State).”

Rights of Nature.

The lawyer and specialist in the subject of illegal activities towards the environment of Costa Rica consider that the subject of the “Rights of Nature” is the most innovative idea that there can be, in his opinion, “the rights of nature should be separated from environmental rights, there is a whole theoretical discussion about it; the rights of nature or ecosystems have been recognized in different states.

In Colombia extremely interesting sentences have been passed, like where the Atrato river has been considered as a Subject with legal personality, breaking with the anthropocentric paradigm with which we have been involved for centuries and tries to observe the biodiversity of different ecosystems as “subjects, not as objects or things”.

Ecuador recognizes in its Constitution that the Pachamama has rights.

Sagot made it clear that not only is the fight for environmental rights with Crucitas, for illegal extraction and the damage this has generated, but also for the legal personality of the  “Terraba” river in Costa Rica to be recognized, which has been done in coordination with Native Indigenous movements.

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