July 17th, 2013 (InsideCostaRica.com) The Non Governmental Organization, Coecoceiba, which defends the rights of indigenous communities, denounced the incursion of “paramilitaries” into the indigenous area of Bribri in Talamanca.
From late June to early July, a group of supposed “missionaries” arrived in an unmarked black helicopter and delivered Bibles to the homes of indigenous residents. However, the group raised suspicions which were brought to the attention of Coecoceiba last week, when indigenous residents described the group arriving via helicopter, dressed in military fatigues, with weapons, firearms, and a variety of instruments to perform topographic measurements.
“They described the arrival of a suspicious helicopter, the group brought GPS equipment, height gauges, moisture meters, weapons and firearms, metal detectors and radar, plus they had training to survive in adverse mountainous conditions, and this raised peoples’ suspicions that these people were not evangelists,” said Henry Picado, press officer for Coecoceiba.
The indigenous communities notified the Prosecutor’s Office in Bribri, who sent members of the Fuerza Publica to investigate.
Two officers located the group’s camp, though the men were not present. The officers, under order from the Attorney General, proceeded to confiscate passports and some weapons found at the camp.
From the passports, the group was identified as Alejandro Cetrulo, Rodolfo Ortíz, Roque Revilla Candiotti, Isaias Romero Acuña, Travis Reid, Brian Bucek, Nual Richardson and Josh Hyatt. The group consists of a Peruvian, two Costa Ricans and five Canadians.
After the visit by Fuerza Publica officers, indigenous residents said they were violently threatened by the men, who came to their community demanding the return of the items taken by police. One of the men allegedly drew a large caliber firearm and yelled, “If the police return we will shoot them.”
Residents fear that the group are paramilitaries, possibly drug-related or mineral prospectors paid by Canadian mining companies.