What’s the strike all about? Beats me. As did most of the people I talked to yesterday (Tuesday) as I got in the thick of things in downtown San Jose.
The majority would respond with fiscal plan, taxes, pensions, combo fiscal, the government wants to tax us more. But none I spoke to, people I chose that would represent typical Costa Ricans, could not be specific.
Others said they were responding to a call by their union. Others believed it was the thing to do, however, without a clear position on the issue.
As I walked through the thick of it all, in front of the Legislative Assembly (Congress) building, a movil (mobile) sound unit with piped music and a barker on the microphone,like the guys in front of downtown San Jose shops, hyping the tone, I thought I would the answer.
But no. The barker was doing his job keeping the mood and the tone of the situation, while somber faced police guarded the entrance to the Congress building.
A comment that led me to decide to get the hell out of dodge and not engage was the blaming of the “gringo corporations for not paying their taxes in the last 20 years”.
They are the blame for this fiscal mess and government needing to cut salaries, pensions, said the barker. I am not a gringo, though I look like the part, and although I saw no immediate danger, no sign that the crowd could turn to a mob, I wasn’t taking my chances.
My questions to more than a dozen protesters was done several blocks away, a safe distance, as many of the protesters dispersed with the arrival of the early afternoon downpour.
I could see from the distance the ‘sound movil’ and faintly hear the barker, but few people were now listening, protesting. It was over. Tomorrow (Wednesday) would be better and bigger, as I had heard the barker say earlier.
On the personal side, it was a great opportunity to take care of some personal errands with government institutions, namely the Casa Amarilla (Foreign Ministry office) and the Corte Suprema de Justicia (Supreme Court) secretariat.
At Casa Amarilla, I was able to have my documented ‘apostillado’ (apostilled) from the morning to the afternoon, my last document right in front of me, a process that usually takes up to five days.
How? Was the comment by my friend who had gone through the same process two weeks earlier. His took the full five working days.
At the court secretariat, I was able to obtain a written verification of my court document (the last to be apostilled) within hours instead of the next day, the usual turn around time.
Adriana was very sweet. She was also bored. She was one of the two employees at the office, with no ‘usuarios’ (users). The Supreme Court building was practically empty. The security officer to the Constitutional Court offices (same floor of the Secretariat) was bored out of his mind. When I asked him, he put on a brave face. At the main lobby security and check-in the official had plenty of time to engage in conversation.
I asked Adriana why she didn’t join the march. Her reply was interesting. At first, it was about the need to keep essential services operating, but when pressed, her concern was keeping her job. That is, not risk being fired for protesting.
In comparing her and her office companion to most of the others on the street protesting, I summarized the difference is that she appeared to have a good job and probably a good salary, one she felt she needed to protect.
Though she was a secretary behind a desk, she did have the power to grant me my needed document in a few hours instead of the next day. In fact, she called me by phone 45 minutes before my programmed return time, ending my mingling with the protesters outside.
Traffic in the downtown core was also very light, just as light as the protest, from my point of view. I had been witness to protests in the past, but not with so few people like on this day, at least when I was there.
Traffic in the downtown core was light I was able to travel through downtown San Jose, on Avenida 1 with no problems. Even got most the lights green, not needing to change gears in my old Landcruiser.
In fact, I made it from the INS building to my home in Santa Ana, at 3:30 in the afternoon, in less than 25 minutes.
So, what is the strike all about? Beats me.
Maybe today, day number 3, I may get some answers.