Monday 4 December 2023

Albino Vargas: ‘There are people calling for a coup d’état and an armed struggle’

Albino Vargas told a legislative commission that the national strike against the tax reform lasted "as many days as the government wanted it to last" and equated the strike as a consequence of a refusal to dialogue and with calls to arms by private citizens on the social networks.

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During an appearance before the Comisión sobre Huelgas del Congreso (Legislative Commission on Strikes), the secretary-general of the of the strongest public workers unions the ANEP, Albino Vargas, affirmed that the reason the recent national strike last 89 days is the same that motivates some people in the social networks who are calling for coups d’état or an armed struggle.

Albino Vargas (right) argued that the national strike against the tax reform lasted “as many days as the government wanted it to last” and equated the strike as a consequence of a refusal to dialogue and with calls to arms by private citizens on the social networks. Photo Marcela Bertozzi / Agencia Ojo por Ojo

Vargas was called before the Commission that is investigation changes to the strike rules by public sector employees proposed by the legislator for the Partido Liberacion Nacional (PLN) party, Ricardo Benavides.

In an heated exchange, Benavides accused Vargas of not being truthful in his answer that he had nothing with the ‘bloqueos‘ (roadblocks) common during the strike that began on September 10 and fizzled out with the passing of the Plan Fiscal (tax reform), the basis of the strike, three months later.

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“I can see your fellow union leaders smirking while you say you had nothing to with the strikes,” Benavides told Vargas.

“There is a culture of bloqueos in this country” Albino Vargas, secretary-general of the ANEP

Meanwhile, Vargas insisted that “There is a culture of blockades in this country, which is done without a union leader saying: let it be done. A community closes a highway and the local authorities immediately appear to meet the demands of that community”.

The union leader, perhaps the most influential of all unionists, added that the blockades “are social facts, real, the product of a society in which the majority feel that they are being excluded”.

At that point, Albino Vargas, as a spokesperson for the National Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados (ANEP) – Association of Public and Private Employees – that encompasses thousands of public school teachers, the backbone of the 2018 national strike – and the Patria Justa trade union collective, told the legislators that there are different forms of social struggle today.

“There is a growing distance between the governors and the governed,” said Vargas.

The union leader added that, though he is not in favor of “those things”, the are citizens in the social networks today calling for an armed struggle and to topple the government of Carlos Alvarado.

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“Why are there Costa Ricans talking about a coup d’état? Why do they talk about the need for armed struggle and are they considering studying the concept of civil disobedience?” Albino told the commission legislators.

“The national strike lasteD as many days as the government wanted it to last” Albino Vargas, secretary-general of the ANEP

Immediately, he justified that these phenomena is taking place because “ordinary citizens feel that for a long time our rulers have not listened”. He argued that, on the other hand, “high-flying corporate interests” are being heard (by the same rulers).

“The strike lasted as many days as the government wanted it to last, there was closure to dialogue. There was never the minimum intention of removing even a period from the fiscal reform,” said the ANEP leader.

The reform to strikes by the public sector

Bill 21,049 to reform the Reforma Procesal Laboral en el Código de Trabajo (Labor Procedure Reform in the Labor Code) aims to, among other things, reduce the time for the courts to resolve an action of illeglality.

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Benavides said that his hope is to reduce the process from months, as it is currently the case, to weeks and even days.

Of the more than 30 actions brought before the courts with respect to the last national strike, in a number of the cases a final resolution is still forthcoming.

As expected, Vargas challenged the reform, saying the drafting of the bill began before the end of the strikle and criticized the motives and the timing in a time in which society is very “polarized”, calling the reforms as ‘revengeful’ for the movement against the tax reform.

Other union leaders are expected next week to make their appearance before the commission.

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