By Scott Wallace
The murder of an environmental activist in Costa Rica has shaken the country's ecology-minded public and has cast a light on what appears to be the growing overlap between animal poaching and drug trafficking on the country's Caribbean coast.
Early on the morning of May 31, masked gunmen abducted 26-year-old Jairo Mora Sandoval from a vehicle he was using to patrol a desolate beach to protect nesting leatherback turtles from poachers.
Four international volunteers who were accompanying Mora were bound and taken to a nearby shack, from which they eventually escaped. Mora's body was found later the same day, facedown in the sand and exhibiting signs of torture, according to police and witnesses.
More than two weeks later, police continued to search for Mora's killers.
The murder has triggered shock and revulsion throughout Costa Rica. At recent candlelight vigils for Mora across the country, protesters called on government officials to bring those responsible to justice and to make good on promises to strengthen protections for Costa Rica's natural treasures and the people who defend them.
"The government has failed in its responsibilities," said social psychologist Carolina Rizo, as she stood in the rain amid hundreds of other demonstrators at a vigil last week in San José, Costa Rica's capital.
"It's been left to young volunteers to do what the state should do," she said. "To be as ecological as our image suggests would require a commitment to laws and standards. People don't do the jobs they're supposed to do." More....