QCOSTARICA – Wednesday, September 30, was a day of national protest in Costa Rica. People took to the streets in many parts of the country, blocking major roads, protesting in front of the Ministry of Finance and Legislative Assembly in downtown San Jose.
This was not a strike, as many called it on social networks, of disgruntled public service employees, rather a protest against the new taxes proposed the government of Carlos Alvarado, as a condition of signing a US$1.75 billion loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
And unlike the strikes of the past, there weren’t the thousands of people in the streets, but hundreds here and there, yet effectively sending politicians their message.
According to reports by the Fuerza Publica (national police), there were a total of 24 permanent and 16 intermittent blockades in various areas, including the “tortuguismo” (slowing down of traffic) on the Autopista General Cañas, the highway from La Sabana park to the international airport.
Several national roads remain blocked into the evening by protesters and affected drivers, many claiming that police did nothing to clear the way.
Ruta 32, Interamericana Sur (near the Jilguero River in Pérez Zeledón), Muelle de San Carlos, the vicinity of the Juan Santamaría International Airport, sections of Ruta 27 and the entrance to Puntarenas are just some of the points that continued with the presence of protesters that prevented the passage of vehicles.
Germán Marín, director of the Policia de Transito (Traffic Police), commented all they could do is offer drivers “alternate routes”
For his part, Daniel Calderón, director of the Fuerza Publica indicated that “we continue to try to call people to dialogue so that they can put down the movements, specifically what has to do with the blockades”.
More than 10 hours of protests
The day of protests began shortly after 7:00 am first with closures of roads in San Carlos, but as the minutes passed, the blockades were extended to other roads, as well as to the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM) of San Jose.
The most important movement was the one that occurred on Ruta 27. The protesters applied tortuguismo in the vicinity of Pricesmart in Santa Ana, then turned and blocked the passage to Caldera, near the Ciudad Colón toll booths.
They stayed there into the afternoon when heavy rains and long hours dispersed the protesters.
Another group blocked the passage through the roundabout of the Fuente de la Hispanidad, in San Pedro. They then marched to Congress, joining other protesters.
Though Wednesday’s protest was not a call to strike, the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos (ANEP) – one of the largest public employees union – couldn’t pass up the chance, leading another movement against the Banco Central de Costa Rica (BCCR) – the Central Bank.
Others protested in front of the Ministerio de Hacienda (Ministry of Finance), diagonal to the Teatro Nacional (National Theater).
The Ministry of Public Security carried out an important police deployment to prevent outbreaks of violence.
The protests across the country were peaceful, no acts of violence or vandalism were reported. The closest as a possible threat to violence when the ANEP union members on Avenida Segunda, with caps identifying them as members of that union group, had to leave, faced with shouts that “they are the same as politicians”.
As was the case in Santa Ana, the afternoon rains dispersed the crowds.
The reason behind the protests
On September 17, the government of Carlos Alvarado proposed new taxes on banking transactions, income, and properties, among others, in total, the government asking taxpayers for ¢6.4 billion in taxes while saving ¢2.3 billion in cuts to public spending, between 2021 and 2024.
The proposal wase received with widespread criticism from political sectors, social groups, and business chambers that allege, among others, an imbalance because it creates new taxes but does not reduce public spending promptly.
Elian Villegas, Minister of Finance, expressed the possibility of making changes in search of a better balance.