QCOSTARICA – As the country wakes to day 4 of the protests being held across the country, the government of Carlos Alvarado is threatening to down plates and/or confiscate vehicles that obstruct passage in blockades.
On Friday, Casa Presidencial warned protesters that police are being instructed to take strong action against those who prevent the flow of transit on the country’s roads.
Eddy Brenes, Deputy Chief of Police Operations, warned on Friday the police presence will be maintained at all points where blockages occur since it is illegal to block national routes.
“What is sought is to help the population and enable secondary routes to give all citizens an option to transit,” added the deputy chief.
For his part, the Minister of Public Security, Michael Soto, explained that the objective of the operations is to keep clear the most important routes for the transit of goods, tourism and other economic activities in the country and stressed that citizens have the freedom to demonstrate, as long as they respect the right of transit for other people.
On Friday, blockades were set up in more than 30 points throughout the country by about some 1,200 protesters.
Among the points were affected: Tarbaca (Mora), San Ramón (Entronque), Grecia (Prendas river bridge), Jacó (towards Herradura), Térraba Bridge (Palmar Norte), Osa (Barú river), bridge Arenal river (La Fortuna), crossing Los Chiles (Aguas Zarcas), entrance to Corredores.
In some cases, total blockages were for short periods of time, while in others transit was allowed for several minutes per hour. At some points, total blockage.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) estimates losses of more than US$37 million dollars in the agricultural sector due to the blockages.
Various agricultural production companies and chambers expressed their concern about the impediment of mobilizing their products and fear a negative impact on jobs from continuing these blockades throughout the country as it affects small and medium producers of pineapple, bananas, tubers and milk, among others.
Likewise, the tourism sector is concerned, in particular with the efforts of the Tourism Board opening air borders to more tourists to reactive the hard hit sector due to the pandemic.
The Minister of the Presidency (Chief of Staff), Marcelo Prieto, reaffirmed the government’s commitment to dialogue with the leaders of the different movements as long as the demonstrations are scaled down.
“It is a true injustice in these difficult times that roads are closed and prevent the free movement of Costa Ricans, violating their fundamental rights to free movement,” said Prieto.
So far, the leaders of the protests have refused to negotiate.
For the most part, at least in the first two days (Wednesday and Thursday), the protests were peaceful. However, starting Thursday night and carrying into Friday, violence broke out at some blockades, including a confrontation with police. There were no reports of injuries.
Why are they protesting?
The protest movement that began on Wednesday, is against the intention of the Carlos Alvarado government to negotiate a new loan with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for US$1.75 billion to partially alleviate the drop in revenue that the Central Government has suffered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government’s proposal includes a number of new taxes on banking transactions, income and property taxes, as part of the load negotiations with the IMF.
Legislators, the business sector and most Costa Ricans are against the proposal.