LA NACION (COSTA RICA)
La Nacion is a leading Costa Rican daily published in the capital, San José. Founded in 1946, it holds a conservative editorial view. The newspaper is owned by Grupo Nacion, which also owns several other newspapers in Central America.
Pope Francis in Vatican City on Feb. 6
Geopolitics
Benjamin Witte

Vatican, Costa Rica, France: #MeToo And The Sound Of Broken Silence

-Analysis-

The #MeToo movement was, above all, a collective "breaking of the silence" that shifted the longstanding balance of power on the question of sexual misconduct, particularly in the professional world.

Many have noted that what became a collective raising of (mostly female) voices may have required the accusations of a few Hollywood movie stars to launch the movement that, even just this week, continues to reverberate everywhere from the Vatican to France to Costa Rica.

On Tuesday, Pope Francis added his to the chorus of voices speaking out against sexual misconduct by acknowledging, for the first time, the sexual abuse (by members of the clergy) of women who are in many ways the epitome of silent servitude: Catholic nuns.

"It is true ... there have been priests and even bishops who have done this," Francis told an on-board reporter while flying from Abu Dhabi to Rome.

The remarks follow publication of a recent article in Women Church World, a Vatican magazine, alleging that Catholic clerics have sexually abused and even impregnated nuns, who in some cases were forced to have abortions. The abuse was hidden, again, by a wall of silence: Nuns kept quiet, reportedly, out of fear that they or their orders would face retaliation from the ruling male clergy.

That fear of exposure also took center stage Tuesday in Paris, where six women connected with France's Green political party EELV gathered in a courtroom to detail years of accusations against former EELV party leader Denis Baupin.

Back then there was less #MeToo.

Among those providing testimony was a former spokeswoman for the party, Sandrine Rousseau, who testified that in 2011, Baupin pinned her against a wall and touched her breasts. As French daily Le Monde reported, the other accusers shared similar stories of feeling too isolated and intimidated, in the past, to go public.

"Back then there was less #MeToo," said Rousseau, remembering the backlash faced by French writer Tristane Banon when she accused prominent politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn of attempting to rape her.

In Central America, in the meantime, a woman is speaking out against a particularly esteemed political figure: Nobel laureate and former Costa Rican leader Oscar Arias, who twice held the presidency (1986-1990, 2006-2010).

Activist and doctor Alexandra Arce von Herold told prosecutors on Monday that in December of 2014, Arias sexually assaulted her in his home, where she had gone to deliver some documents: "He grabbed me from behind and touched my breasts," the Costa Rican daily La Nación quoted the accuser as saying. "I told him no, and reminded him that he was married. That was my no. It was the only thing I could think to say." Arias, through a statement submitted by his lawyer, denies any wrongdoing, the New York Times reported yesterday.

Sexual violence did not begin or end with the accusations first launched 16 months ago against movie producer Harvey Weinstein. Centuries of forced silence are not over yet either. Still, the #MeToo movement has already changed the world in ways that no Hollywood movie ever has.

Migrants trying to make their way to Costa Rica
blog

Haitian Migrants Flock To Costa Rica To Flee Brazil Crisis

LA CRUZ — Yet another migrant crisis for the world: the tiny Central American nation of Costa Rica is now faced with the arrival of thousands of Haitians, many by way of crisis-hit Brazil.

Over the past four months, some 8,500 Haitians have entered the tiny Central American nation, reports La Nación, based in the capital of San José. Approximately 4,500 of the new arrivals are staying in government camps. The others crowd the streets of the northern border crossing with Nicaragua, looking to go further northward.

This is the third refugee emergency to shake Costa Rica this year. In January, some 8,000 Cuban refugees arrived, overwhelming local authorities. And in June, the country experienced an influx of African migrants.

Thousands of Haitians fled their home country in 2010 after the devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake that killed more than 150,000 people. Many moved to Brazil and other South American countries. But the ongoing economic and political crisis in Brazil, where more than 40,000 Haitian refugees received asylum, has caused an exodus of Haitian migrants seeking new lives further north — in Central America and, ultimately, the United States.

To improve their chances of gaining asylum, many Haitians use their basic command of French, similar to their native tongue, Haitian Creole, and the dark color of their skin to trick immigration officials into believing they are African. In early August, Costa Rican Foreign Affairs Minister Manuel González claimed that 95% of migrants claiming to be African were actually from Haiti.

La Nación was on hand as one Haitian man, Lima, tried to convince a Costa Rican immigration official that he's from Congo — to no avail: "My family — my wife, my son, and my dad — all are in Brazil," he said, switching to fluent Spanish. "I'm a construction worker. I left the country because there's no work."

Like many of his compatriots, Lima worked on construction sites for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, with Haitians providing cheap labor for massive infrastructure projects. Now that both events have passed and the Brazilian economy continues to nosedive, many Haitians find themselves out of work and in need of a way out.

Thousands of Haitian migrants remain stranded at the northern border, waiting to continue their journey. And Costa Rica, just as it did with the African and Cuban asylum seekers that preceded them, is struggling to find a solution.

In San Jose, Costa Rica
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African Migrants' Transatlantic Route Floods Tiny Costa Rica

SAN JOSÉ — A troubling new sea-bound migration route has opened up, as some 20,000 migrants from African countries are believed to have flocked to Costa Rica, according to a recently released International Organization for Migration (IOM) report.

La Nación, a daily in the Costa Rican capital of San José, reports that the figure of 20,000 greatly exceeds the estimate of 9,000 made last month by the Organization of American States (OAS), and is set to expand further as people fleeing economic hardship and state repression in Africa seek an alternative to the dangerous Mediterranean crossing to Europe.

The transatlantic trafficking routes tend to bring African migrants primarily to Brazil, before transiting through South and Central America to reach their final destination: the United States.

The migrants board ships from West African countries like Senegal, Guinea, and the Ivory Coast, or further north from Spain and Portugal, to reach the shores of Colombia and Brazil.

Trafficking routes then take them through Peru and the Andean coast to Panama and ultimately Costa Rica, where they follow the same paths trodden before by refugees from Cuba and violent Central American countries who also traveled north to the U.S.-Mexican border.

"Countries in the region aren't ready for such an influx," Gladys Jiménez, interim director of Costa Rica's Migration Department told La Nación. "Legislation exists to handle regular transit, but not something like this." Regional efforts at tackling an earlier Cuban migration crisis took a hit last November when Nicaragua shut its borders to migrants entering from Costa Rica, but the numbers of African asylum seekers far exceed the Cuban arrivals.

Unlike in its response to the influx of Cubans, when it opened shelters and requested towns and churches to take in some 8,000 refugees, the Costa Rican government now says it will only provide medical attention to African migrants in the country, who arrive by the dozens every day from the Panamanian border. With the small country of 4.8 million people struggling to handle the coming arrivals and with Nicaraguan soldiers shutting the land border to the north, African migrants will be forced to find other ways to make it northward, where the ultimate goal is typically refugee status in the United States.