MV: So hope can be found in the forest?
LSR: Yes, but when the forests are cut down, where are we going to get medicine? We have said it over and over again but… So far decision makers haven’t paid much attention to us. Imagine, countries have actually increased their number of mega-projects and monocultures, which accelerate deforestation, to fix their budget [by making profit]. They’re going backwards.
MV: Do pharmaceutical companies come to see you for medicine?
LSR: That’s another angle. We have always said that our knowledge is available for anyone wishing to help cure diseases created because of climate change, but we have never said: “Come exploit us, come and steal everything we have.” I find it hard to understand that economic powers can be so blind to certain things. Whenever they see an opportunity to plunder and make money, well, they’ll do it. That is what we have always denounced, we must be careful [with these companies].
MV: Why isn’t Costa Rica listening, according to you?
LSR: I believe that Costa Rica is a reflection of what is happening regionally: The governments have not been able to understand that the communities — that is, the people, the indigenous people, those of us who live with the forest — are a key factor in the protection of those resources and a key factor of human survival. Politicians just do not understand.
MV: Why has deforestation accelerated in Central America in the past ten years?
LSR: First, the economic situations in our countries are dire and big companies use that argument to say, “We are going to plant a monoculture and we are going to give you a job.” People think that that is [economic development], but it isn’t. They are taking advantage of the poor economic situation of rural people. Second, the legislation and enforcement of laws [to protect forests and our rights] are really weak in the region. Third, drug-trafficking is growing in the region, they are using our forests. Fourth, and that is my personal opinion, Central American countries are more focused on solving their budget deficit than on protecting the forests. They are more concerned about their revenues, about their taxes, about foreign investment.