QCOSTARICA – Unanimously, the Constitutional Court, also known as the Sala IV, condemned the Presidency and Ministry of Public Security for not lifting the blockades organized by the group calling itself the Movimiento Rescate Nacional. (National Rescue Movement).
For the magistrates of the Constitutional Court, the Executive Branch did not take both proportionate and effective measures to restore circulation, for which the State is condemned to pay the damages caused.
A writ of habeas corpus was filed in favor of a citizen who on October 1 tried to return home from La Fortuna (San Carlos), but ran into blockades in Nuevo Arenal, Bagaces, Cañas y Peñas Blancas de San Ramón.
After several hours of waiting, the victim said he was forced to return to La Fortuna to obtain food, water and gasoline, and to find alternative routes that would allow him to return to San José.
To aggravate the situation, the protesters also blocked the streets in Jabillos in Florencia de San Carlos and the bridge over the San Lorenzo river in Bajo Los Rodríguez. The affected party had no choice but to stay in San Carlos.
In the ruling, the Constitutional Court declared its concern about the lack of knowledge and disrespect for the institutionality, and underlines that the repeated recourse to blocking roads as a means to exert political pressure is today a deformation of the true nature of the demonstrations, originally conceived as an exercise of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
“The intention of those who called these demonstrations was specifically directed to paralyze or hinder vital infrastructure of the country, such as ports, land entry and exit routes and highways,” said magistrate Paul Rueda Leal, who highlighted enough international jurisprudence on this point, for example, the judgment of October 7, 2009, of the European Court of Human Rights in the case Éva Molnár vs. Hungary.
According to that judgment, such intention cannot be considered to constitute a legitimate aspect of freedom of expression since its ultimate purpose is neither to express an opinion or transmit a message, “but to generate significant damage to public order in order to obtain the intended result”.
The Costa Rican Court concludes that the use of blockades or means not provided for by the legal system – or even prohibited by it – as a way of influencing the country’s decisions signifies an impairment of the institutionality, the rights of citizens, and the Democratic State of Law.
With respect to the government’s actions, the Sala IV observes a situation similar to that which occurred in judgment No. 2019-15221 (roadblocks on route 32), since the Fuerza Publica (National Police) limited itself to seeking dialogue, but left the protesters with the decisions regarding the traffic flow, thus renouncing its authority and safeguarding the rights of the people affected by the blockades.
In summary, the Court determined that the Executive Branch failed to comply with the obligations imposed by Article 140, paragraph 6, of the Political Constitution (maintain order and tranquility of the Nation, and take the necessary measures to safeguard the freedoms public), as well as the provisions of the cited judgment.
Executive defends actions
The Government fully respects and, of course, will accept the resolution of the Constitutional Court, but it is completely necessary to say that the Ministry of Public Security and the Presidency have acted fully diligently in this emergency,” reacted the Minister of the Presidency (Chief of Staff), Marcelo Prieto.
According to Prieto, the Administration has sought dialogue but warned that, since the beginning of the demonstrations, on September 30, there have been 115 interventions in blockades.
“There are 100 police officers injured in these efforts, the action of the Ministry of Public Security has been fully diligent and prudent and the government fully supports Minister Michael Soto, the police forces and the Fuerza Publica in general,” the Minister added.
Prieto, however, said that the government agrees with the magistrates’ criteria that the blockades are a violation of free movement and a form of abuse of the right to demonstrate. He even considers them coercion against the government and its citizens.
“We call on the very few protesters who still have blockade points in the national territory to lift them to restore to Costa Ricans the fullness of their rights, which is the effort in which the Government of the Republic has been committed,” Prieto concluded.
The Constitutional Court is made up of Fernando Castillo Víquez (president), Paul Rueda Leal (examining magistrate), Nancy Hernández López, Luis Fernando Salazar Alvarado, Jorge Araya García, Anamari Garro Vargas, and the alternate Ronald Salazar.