Strike continues amid complaints,
protests, blockades, marches and police action
By A.M. Costa Rica staff
The strike of government employees continued through its ninth day, but Social Security has reported that, although protests continue, the strike has weakened.
According to the official statement, 10,336 employees participated in demonstrations on the first day of the strike, Sept, 10, but that a week later, Monday, that number was reduced to 6,463, a decrease of 37.5 percent. According to the report, other institutions are citing a decrease in the number of striking employees.
"The report of 45 institutions shows that absenteeism decreased from 13.2 percent on Monday, Sept. 10, to only 9.3 percent for this Monday, Sept. 17,” said the statement
According to the Social Security report, institutions that are important to the general public, such as electric service, telecommunications and mail, also report a decrease in the number of employees who decide to remain on strike.
The report said that striking employees at the National Electric Co. fell from 450 to 225, the Costa Rican Radiographer Co. that first reported 25 employees on strike reported that the number fell to four on Monday, and the Costa Rica Post Office reported 46 striking employees on the 10th but only 11 on strike Monday.
The Education minister, Edgar Mora, called on teachers to report their attendance at the schools and also report if the school director does not show up for work. The reports must be done through special line 1311, and the ministry team will make a record and verify the information.
"The safe place is the classroom. That's where the teachers should be. We have received messages from many teachers who want to return to their jobs, but the leaders of the strike tell them that if they go back to work they can be accused of abandoning work, but that is absolutely false," said Mora.
Tuesday 31 government institutions had already asked the Labor Court to declare the strike illegal.
Irene Cañas, executive president of the Costa Rican Electricity Institute said that officials there have detected serious damages to the company's assets and also attacks on teams of employees making repairs.
"We keep a record of the breakdowns reported during the days of the strike. A great majority were due to normal effects of this winter season. However, there are specific events that were caused by people,” said Cañas.
Cañas said that the following was believed to be caused by strikers: damage to the telecommunication towers in Limón, damage inside the state refinery plant in Moín which caused sever hours of service outage, and damage to the distribution network in Limón affecting 550 people. During this last outage, the repair crew was insulted by strikers who threw stones at them.
The Electricity Institute and judicial police are in the process of investigating the case to find the culprits.
The Costa Rican gasoline company, known as RECOPE, reported that, with the help of the police, the blockades on the roads near the fuel storage facilities have been eliminated and fuel delivery has been activated with extended schedules.
"This is a coordinated operation with the chamber of fuel entrepreneurs, the transport association and the police, an operation was achieved supply throughout the country," said Victor Barrantes, government vice minister.
"La Garita plant is operating 24 hours," said the company press release. "Attendance on this campus during 24 hours allowed us to serve 276 tankers that were loaded with different products, and with police support on the roads they can reach the different localities, especially those in remote areas," said the statement.
The Security Ministry reported the seizure of several devices designed specifically to cause flat tires, called miguelitos. The miguelitos are hand-made with pieces of metal and joined with industrial glue. They are thrown on the pavement to cause damage to the tires of the vehicles.
According to the police report, the first seizure was on Friday in front of the refinery plant at La Garita de Alajuela, where they captured a man who had the large number of those devices along with doses of marijuana.
APSE courtesy photo
Strikers in front of the legislature building on Tuesday
The second seizure was on Saturday at the entrance of APM Terminals in Limón, and the third seizure was on Monday at the Moín dock, where a patrol vehicles was damaged by one of the devices.
The police report 14 officers injured and three patrol vehicles damaged during the strike. Most of the injuries have been reported in Limón and Barranca.
The Security minister, Michael Soto, is calling for peace and dialogue to avoid the confrontations that have occurred as a result of the strikes.
Soto said that strikers throw stones at the police from the bushes or cover their faces to prevent identification. He said they act in a cowardly way and don’t understand that they might hit each other. "These acts of violence against the police do not help the country," added Soto.
Despite the crisis, the government insists on a direct dialogue with union leaders, but only if the strike ends, said Rodolfo Piza, minister of the Presidency.
“The government will only sit down to negotiate with the unions without a strike," said Piza.
The leaders of the Catholic Church, as mediators, will have a meeting with the union leaders to work on a possible meeting with the government.
Tuesday one of the main union organizations, the Association of Teachers of High Schools complained of getting an aggressive response from the police. According to the union, 400 police officers hurt about 80 union members who were protesting Monday at the main entrance of the refinery plant in Barranca.
"Several people were beaten and affected by gas, among them a minor, Ramón Rugama, who was brutally wounded and detained by the police," the union statement said.
According to the union, President Carlos Alvarado invites dialogue but then sends the police to hurt to unionists.
"While the government of Carlos Alvarado talks about dialogue, he orders the violent repression of social protest, contradicting his speech and throwing a terrible image to the country and the world as a repressive government that ignores his people, who have been demonstrating against their fiscal policies and regressive taxes, which harm the most deprived families, freeze wages and affect the economy of the people," said the union statement.
The marches, blockades and protests continued in places of greater national traffic: at the entrance to the facilities of APM Terminals, at the entrance to the refinery facilities in Limón, Guácimo, Siquirres, La Selva, Second Avenue in San José, in front of the legislature building, on the bridge of the San Carlos River, on the Interamericana Sur highway, on the Jilguero River bridge, in San Isidro de Pérez Zeledón, in Quepos on the Paquita River, in Buenos Aires de Puntarenas, on the Danta River bridge, in Ciudad Quesada, in Guanacaste on the Cañas River, in the town of Coyolar in Orotina, in the center of Santa Cruz de Guanacaste, in Carrillo de Guanacaste, at the bridge of the Parrita River, in Guatuso, at the bridge of the Chirripo River, in the Neily, and in Cutris de San Carlos.
Protesters said that they will continue with blockades and marches until the government withdraws the bill No. 20,850 known as new taxes for increases to strengthen public finances.
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