October 5, 2015
Free Costa Rican activists Orlando Barrantes and Iván Angulo

Señora Zarela Villanueva Monge
Presidenta Corte Suprema de Justicia
presidencia@poder-judicial.go.cr
zvillanueva@poder-judicial.go.cr

Estimada señora:

On Wednesday, September 16th, the social activist, Orlando Barrantes was sentenced to 12 years in prison, unjustly accused of kidnapping.

Our organization, Radical Women-U.S. Section, wants to express our opposition to this sentence that represents the decision of yet another trial, the second this year, which carries a prison sentence.

The jailing of Orlando Barrantes and Iván Angulo under an order of 6 months preventative detention is unreasonable and overreaching. Throughout the 15 years of legal prosecution, there has never been any indication that the accused attempted in any way to evade justice.

Orlando Barrantes was one of the main leaders of a struggle initiated by banana workers affected by a highly toxic pesticide, known in Costa Rica by its commercial name as Nemagón. This pesticide carries terrible consequences for human health such as sterility, birth defects and cancer. Internationally it has been labeled as a highly toxic substance whose use in many countries, including the United States has been banned.

In December of 2000, a protest was organized to demand compensation for the banana workers whose health was affected by Nemagón. This protest began peacefully but ended in a confrontation when a large group of police blocked the march protesters’ path. As a consequence, Orlando Barrantes is unjustly accused of kidnapping. The evidence against him is false. He was never at the site where the protesters apprehended some of the police.

The legal prosecution of Barrantes have gone on for over 15 years and has been used to wear down and intimidate social activism and protest, especially the struggles that Orlando leads on the Atlantic coast of Costa Rica.

Orlando’s case is not isolated. There is a growing tendency to criminalize social protest as a state policy during the last several governments in Costa Rica. This is intensifying under your administration. Examples are those protesters currently under prosecution for defending social security benefits (CSS) on November 8, 2012. Also, there is the case of Paulina Briones, sentenced to five years in prison for organizing against the installation of ports in the coastal city of Moin by APM, the Dutch transnational. This is not the only case. There are others aimed at criminalizing social activism.

The sentence against Orlando Barrantes is yet another case of political persecution whose purpose is to intimidate the popular protest movement.

In light of the above, we demand freedom for all political prisoners and an end to state repression in Costa Rica.

We demand the immediate release of Orlando Barrantes and Iván Angulo from preventative detention and a stay of all legal proceedings against them.

Respectfully,
Anne Slater
Radical Women
National Organizer-U.S. Section
Seattle, Washington USA


Copies to:

Luis Guillermo Solís
Presidencia de la República
despachopresidente@presidencia.go.cr

Rafael Ánget Ortiz Fábrega
Presidencia de la Asamblea Legislativa
rafael.ortiz@asamblea.go.cr