Today is May 1, a public holiday in Costa Rica, celebrating the Día Internacional de los Trabajadores – International Workers’ Day, also known as Labor Day in some countries.

The day is also an important day for government activities.

Traditionally on this day, the President of the Republic gives a speech to the citizens and the legislature on the government’s achievements during the past year. This year, President Carlos Alvarado said he would give is report (speech) on May 2.

The focus of his speech is most likely to continue with his slogan, “trabajar, trabajar y trabajar” (work, work and work).

On May 1, the president of the legislature and the board of the Legislative Power (Poder Legislativo) is also chosen by the members of the legislature. The president and board preside over the legislative process for the following 12 months. The president is also in line behind the second vice-president to assume the presidency if the President of the Republic, first and second vice presidents cannot execute the duties of that office.

For May 1, 2019, Carlos Benavides of the Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN) and Erwin Masís, of the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana (PUSC) are the contenders to replace Carolina Hidalgo.

Carlos Ricardo Benavides (left) of thel PLN and Erwin Masís (irght) of the PUSC vie to be the next president of the Legisaltive Assembly for the 2019-2020 period

Benavides is the ‘shoe in’ with 33 votes of the 57 legislators, almost double the expected 17 votes of Masis.

Today, the politician’s party – pomp and ceremony – takes in the Legislative Assembly building in Cuesta Moras, in the heart of San Jose. Meanwhile, worker’s party – a protest march – is will start gathering support at the La Merced park and move its way along Avenida 2 to the legislature.

Why the 1st of May?

There is an official explanation that serves as a window to the past.

The board of the legisaltive assmebly (2018-2019) led by Carolina Hidalgo (third from the left) of the PAC party

The first Legislature that was installed in Costa Rica dates back to 1825. For decades, there was no clear date of when each new legislature period began, until in 1890 it was stipulated that it was May 1. Since then, all the legislature periods have begun that day except for three exceptions:

  • During the dictatorship of the Tinoco, when the legislature was installed on June 6, 1917.
  • During the administration of Otilio Ulate Blanco, when it was installed on November 7, 1949.
  • During the first administration of José Figueres Ferrer, when it was installed on November 1, 1953.

The reason for choosing precisely the 1st of May for this act has local and foreign nuances, according to the official history of the legislative assembly.

Local: Because in Costa Rica, May 1, 1857, was a key day to claim independence: the armed forces of the filibuster William Walker surrendered to the armies of Central America, ending the so-called National Campaign led by the President of Costa Rica Juan Rafael Mora Porras

Foreign: Because the 1st of May is celebrated as the International Day of the Worker across Latin America and Europe.

What is the role of the Legislative Presidency?

Carolina Hidalgo of the PAC party presided over the 2018-2019 legislative assembly

In accordance with the regulations of the Legislative Assembly, these are your main tasks:

  • Preside over, open, suspend and close sessions.
  • Appoints ordinary permanent commissions, special permanent commissions and special commissions, and seeks to give participation in them to all political fractions represented in the Assembly.

The role of commissions, in brief, is government oversight and discuss in depth proposed legislation, among others.  One of the bills that is expected to generate controversy during the 2019-2010 legislative period is limiting the length of time of public sector strikes.

Pago obligatorio

In Costa Rica there two types of public holidays – pagos obligatorios: January 1 (New Year’s Day), April 11 (Juan Santamaria Day), Good Thursday and Good Friday, May 1 (Labor Day), July 25 (Annexation of Guanacaste), August 15 (mother of all holidays, Mother’s Day), September 15 (Independence Day), December 25 (Christmas Day) and pagos no-obligatorios: August 2 (Virgen de Los Angeles) and October 12 (Dias de las Culturas).


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