Echoes of a Slain Canadian Activist in Jairo Mora’s Case


This article by Jaime López appeared in The Costa Rica Star.

The senseless murder of environmental activist Jairo Mora Sandoval in the Caribbean region of Costa Rica has shaken up the country no only due to its gruesomeness but also because justice has failed to bring closure. As recently reported by The Costa Rica Star, the seven men believed to be responsible for the killing of Jairo Mora Sandoval in late May 2013 were cleared of murder charges because of a botched investigation and clumsy prosecutorial actions.

In Costa Rica, indignation over this case has been high. Arecent march in protest of the flawed judicial proceedings was recently held in San Jose, and there is hope that public pressure will succeed in bringing justice to this case. Jairo Mora’s family has significant support from the environmental conservation community, legislators, cabinet members, and even celebrities such as Paul Watson, the controversial founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

All in all, there is a strong chance that prosecutors will be able to mend their erroneous ways and bring Jairo Mora’s case to a successful appeal. Still, the fact remains that being a “direct action” environmental activist in Costa Rica, such as Jairo Mora was, is a dangerous endeavor.

A recent report by Fabio Mena of online news daily includes a list of environmentalists in Costa Rica who died under mysterious circumstances, and yet their murders were never solved. Among those mentioned by, there are the four young Ticos who took on the notorious Ston Forestal lumber firm; three of the activists died in a house fire in 1994 and their companion would be found dead in a suburban park in San Jose seven months later.

Then there’s the case of Canadian conservationist Kimberley Ann Blackwell, whose death was well-documented by esteemed magazine McLean’s in 2011:

Known for ecotourism, Costa Rica may actually be a paradise for poachers—and murderers of expats. The body of 53-year-old Canadian Kimberley Ann Blackwell was discovered on the morning of Feb. 2, high in the lush, hot, tropical rainforests of Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, where she had lived for almost 20 years. She had been shot the night before, execution-style, and lay sprawled on blood-soaked dirt near the gate to her home and cocoa farm.

The mystery of her death only deepens Blackwell’s mystique as a maverick among mavericks in the Osa Peninsula. Louis Reyes, a neighbour of Blackwell’s who liked to brag about killing jaguars, and whom she had threatened to report to park wardens, shot and killed her two dogs. She was devastated. Later, while driving her quad along Puerto Jiménez’s main drag, she ran Reyes over, breaking his leg. Even close friends doubt it was an accident.

Like Jairo Mora, Blackwell watched out for poachers and actively protected wildlife. In the end, like Jairo, her conviction may have resulted in her murder. An arrest was eventually made in the Blackwell case, but the motive was steered towards a robbery gone bad, which is something that police initially considered in Jairo’s case, at least until it became clear that the suspects in his case are known poachers who were upset at having to deal with volunteers who wish protect Costa Rica’s most precious resources.

For the original report go to

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