San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

ICE Unions March On Legislative Assembly

HUNDREDS of workers from the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE), along with their supporters, marched on the Legislative Assembly Monday to protest the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA) and the opening of the telecommunications industry – currently monopolized by the state-run ICE – that is required under the agreement.The protest also criticized the dissolution of the mixed commission that was studying a bill to strengthen ICE in order to face the increased competition that CAFTA would bring if ratified.Beginning at 10 a.m. in Sabana Park in western San José, ICE workers from the various unions that compose the Internal Workers Front (FIT) marched through the city sporting the yellow T-shirts and umbrellas that are ubiquitous in their marches. Upon reaching the assembly buildings, union leaders mounted a tall platform on the back of a flatbed truck loaded with speakers and rallied the workers against CAFTA.Ricardo Seguro, head of FIT, told the newswire ACAN-EFE, “We have mobilized an important number of workers who are conscious of what CAFTA means for ICE.”Legislator Edwin Patterson, of the Citizen Action Party (PAC), walked among the protesters.“I came to support the people and to listen to the various sectors,” he told The Tico Times, adding that if a society doesn’t give its people an opportunity to be heard, it is fair that they protest.The law to strengthen ICE is required in the text of CAFTA for the free-trade agreement to take effect.The protesters delivered a letter to Legislative Assembly President Gerardo González, of the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC), in which they asked for the return of the mixed commission and the ICE law it was studying, because some legislators are drafting a new law that would not adequately fortify ICE, union members told ACAN-EFE.The march followed on the heels of a demonstration Sept. 20, which coincided with a press conference at which President Abel Pacheco said the time is approaching for him to submit CAFTA to the assembly (TT, Sept. 23).

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