I: (en) All of Costa Rica in 5th Day of Strikes Against Privatization of Utilities

-----Messaggio Originale-----
Da: "Kim Alphandary" <shekim at racsa.co.cr>
Newsgroup: misc.activism.progressive
Data invio: venerdì 24 marzo 2000 6.39
Oggetto: (en) All of Costa Rica in 5th Day of Strikes Against Privatization
of Utilities

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

Costa Rica.  March 23, 2000, 12:30 am.

This report was prepared by Kim Alphandary a =
volunteer reporter for Radio for Peace International.  It includes two =
person interviews, and a translation from a various articles appearing =
in the major local news paper la Nacion.
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).=20

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. =20

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.  =20

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". =20

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.=20

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 =

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 =

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.=20
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.=20

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.=20

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.=20

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. =20

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