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From shekim@racsa.co.cr Sat Mar 25 06:09:24 2000
Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2000 22:39:35 -0600 (CST)
From: "Kim Alphandary" <shekim@racsa.co.cr>
Subject: (en) All of Costa Rica in 5th Day of Strikes Against Privatization of Utilities
Organization: ?
Article: 92004
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

All of Costa Rica in 5th Day of Strikes Against Privatization of Utilities

A-Infos News Service, 23 March 2000, 12:30 am

Thousands of demonstrators in Costa Rica have taken to the streets for a fourth day of protests against the privatization of the state-run telecommunications and electricity company, The Costa Rican Institute of Electicity (ICE).

The parliament approved a controversial bill late Monday evening, 20 March, that will allow private capital to buy the state monopoly late Monday evening. Forty-five congressmen voted in favor of the project, with only ten voting against the legislation. The congressional debate took place in the midst of a volatile atmosphere, as the Legislative Assembly Building was roped off and aggressively protected by the police, and surrounded by protestors.

Many Costa Ricans were outraged to learn that their congresspersons so unanimously made the decision to "modernize" the countries ICE.

According to Rodrigo Corrazo, former president of Costa Rica, 80 percent of the Costa Ricans are against the privatization of their utility company. He went on to state that he believes that the government has an obligation to listen to the people, its citizens.

A multitude of marches and vigils has been held all over the country. The strikers were carrying signs saying "don't sell ICE, defend ICE".

The Costa Rican Petroleum Refinery, the National Association of Public Employees, the National Institute of Security, the Federation of Workers of Limon, FETRAL and the Union of Workers for Costa Rican Social Security, all announced today (Wednesday) that they were going to join the movement.

The Union of Workers of Costa Rican Education, after the participating during the protests in various parts of the country, called upon the students and their families for help in maintaining the strike all day on Wednesday.

Unbelievably, many of the High Schools from all over the country chose to help in the struggle to save the nations utilities. Costa Rican school children were given information informing them of the governments near final decision to privatize their state owned ICE. The students were instructed not to bring their books to school, but to wear their uniforms, and be prepared to actively participate in democracy by joining the peaceful strikes. A lesson that most likely would never be taught anywhere else in the world.

Many students became human chains to interrupting traffic and creating major blockades in the early hours.

When asked what Corrazo thought about the fact that more than half of the country's students was striking today, he stated that he was very proud of Costa Rica's students.

Thousands of students and workers struck on Monday and Tuesday. Protests were held outside the congress building, streets were blocked in the capitol and all around the country, creating chaos of transportation. The protests included a hunger strike by four university students.

>From 07 o'clock am, this Wednesday, again thousands of strikers were in the streets making new blockades all over the country, while in the capital other groups formed a line outside the ICE building. The main objective of the police was to clear the highways. Costa Ricans are guaranteed the right to strike, and also guaranteed the right to travel.

Considered by some a dilemma, and a justification for what many have seen as unwarranted use of force.

Anti-riot police dispersed tear gas in the afternoon against a few hundred university students blocking a street in the east zone of the capitol. Hundreds of people were striking, blocking the highways with trash and boxes and anything they could find, and then lighting the trash on fire, so that the police couldn't remove it easily. They were chanting "selling the country, we sell our country". The police with big sticks and guns were still afraid of the people.

The students were hampering vehicles from passing the Fountain of Hispanidad, a round about near the university of San Jose. They were dispersed by anit-riot police as well. The police advanced onto the campus of the University of Costa Rica (UCR), protected by shields and other riot gear. Riot police and tear gas were also used in the near by city of Puntarenas, 130 miles west of San Jose.

At least 30 students were arrested by the police, including the president of the Federation of Students at the University of Costa Rica ( FEUCR), Eva Carazo, and a daughter of the disputed central left Jose Merino.

The law was initiated by the neo-liberal government of President Rodriguez along with the help of the Social Democratic Liberation Party (PLN). The bill proposes a plan to "modernize" the ICE. According to La Nacion, Costa Rica's largest daily newspaper the bill is clearly very unpopular with the majority of Costa Ricans.

According to procedure a bill passed by congress, must then be approved by the Supreme Court, who has 30 days to review the bill before returning it to congress for a second and third review, before the bill can be put into law.

The passing of this Bill created such a fury that congress has been paralyzed by what they term, a "technical closing of the congress", where the government resigns the session of congress, an extraordinary turn of events.

Opponents of the ICE privatization Bill state that the privatization will lead to much higher rates and job losses. That, private companies will be allowed to indiscriminately exploit the Countries National Parks and Forest Reserves with hydraulic and geothermal projects, without the smallest ecological impact study.

Against the monopoly are the businesses, they complain that they have to wait for a few months for a telephone line. That the quality of the lines, especially cellular lines has reached saturation. With 70 percent of the people occasionally losing dial-tone and complaining of interruptions. Over 50 percent say that the fares are too high. Most believe that the quality is poor.

Rodrigo Corraso also spoke of the importance that Costa Ricans have placed on their national institutions, on their historical commitment to civic responsibilities, that peace cannot exist without basic rights for all of its citizens. Stating that 97 percent of the country has electricity and telephone. All cared for very well.

According to the La Nacion, the Unions, Public Workers and Students of Costa Rica are planning to continue the nationwide strikes by completely paralyzing the country over the next two days, with strikes and obstructions in energy and telecommunication services.

The A-Infos News Service
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