QCOSTARICA – “The blockades along the highway are being infiltrated by drug traffickers,” was admitted by José Miguel Corrales, one of the leaders of the so-called National Rescue Movement and the Minister of Security, Micheal Soto.
The protests, now in their eight day, that has been blocking national highways on a daily basis in protest against the announced government’s negotiation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have turned violent, in particular at night.
In several videos posted on social networks, in areas of Limon and Sarapiqui, vehicles have been burned, attacks against police forces resulted in up to 27 people arrested.
During the day, while there is no violence, there is resistance to police actions to clear the roads and reports that protesters are charging drivers tolls from ¢1,000 to ¢10,000 colones to pass.
In a video posted on social networks, in the southern zone, a police vehicle was searched by the protesters as a condition of passage. The officials had no choice to allow the protesters to search the contents of the vehicle while they stood by.
Manifestantes requisando a la policía. El mundo al revés El mundo pac https://t.co/ifNn5q77in
— BATALLA (@mbatalla14) October 7, 2020
In yet another video, in Grecia, a woman had to provide proof, in her case the confirmation letter of a doctor’s appointment for her son.
Corrales, at a press conference at 2:30 pm Tuesday, in San José, did not clarify what type of drug traffickers infiltrated the demonstrations and limited himself to saying that in a movement of “workers”, vandals were involved.
At 7 pm, the Minister of Public Security, Michael Soto, confirmed what was said by Corrales and specified the type of criminals detected.
“We have seen the direct participation of local criminal groups, organized crime groups, and local drug distribution, involved in these demonstrations, with the presence of knives, and firearms, attacking and shooting at our delegations (police).
“I do not have information that allows me to assert that the national leaders of the movement have issued orders or instructions regarding these events, nor do I believe it.
“The truth of the matter is that it seems to me that these people (leaders), at this moment, are not in control of the situation,” said the minister.
Asked by Telenoticias journalist Yessenia Alvarado, “don’t you feel that the control of the movement has already gotten out of hand?” Corrales responded, “Hopefully not, because that would be extremely serious.”
Previously, Corrales stated that the conflict must “be resolved as soon as possible. Why? Because if the movement gets out of hand, it’s horrible chaos waiting to happen”.
The 82-year-old lawyer, former legislator and former presidential candidate, said he cannot be held responsible in the event that the protests result in a fatality.
“The President of the Republic does not want to talk, he is the cause of the entire crisis that the country is currently experiencing. We told him with great pain: Mr. President and Mr. Minister of Security, if there are deaths, you are responsible for totally refusing to do something harmless (such as dialogue),” stated Corrales.
Corrales apologized to citizens who have been trapped for hours in road closures.
“The only measure we had left was the interruption of free movement, which we do not like and we apologize to people who have had problems, but diay, unfortunately, we have to take risks,” said the leader of the movement.
At his side, another leader of the National Rescue, also a fomer legislator, Célimo Guido Cruz, 68, declared that, according to him, the force with which the police act against the road blockers shows external interference.
“Here we must investigate what is happening, the violent way in which the Fuerza Publica (national police) is acting is not something of the ethical idiosyncrasy. It seems to us that there may be soldiers from other countries here,” Guido said.
Guido was alluding to debunked claims of riot police from Panama and Colombia was on Costa Rican soil.
However, Guido omitted to mention that those who block roads are singled out for burning cargo trucks, and trucks of the construction company CHEC that is carrying the work highway to Limón and also for charging tolls from trapped drivers.
Nor did he mention that the protesters clashed with the police with sticks and stones and even fired during the riot police interventions. One of the protesters also tried to run over a group of policemen with a backhoe, in Guácimo de Limón.
During the press conference, Corrales acknowledged that the “leaders” of the blockades ignore his instructions.
“We have exhausted all means to tell the leaders of the protests not to stop people who have nothing to do with this … and no violence, but diay… We cannot do more,” said Corrales.
During the press conference, Corrales added another requirement, in addition to the 15 conditions sent to the President, that an eventual final agreement must also be signed by the president of the Congress and heads of factions of the parties represented in the Legislative Assembly.
“If God first, there is dailogue, the final document, which is the agreement, we ask that it please be signed by all the parties.,” said Corrales.
Meanwhile, they refuse to put an end to the movement and to accept the government’s call to dialogue through institutional channels.
“If it does, he said, “it would be very difficult to reconvene the protesters again”.
“But it also has to be clear that, as long as he (the President) does not show clarity, the clashes in the street will continue, the blockades n the streets will continue. And I exclusively blame him if the movement is going to get out our of hands, and if it gets out of hand, this is a tragedy, we fully understand it,” said Corrales.