May 1 to Bring Protests To Streets, U.S. Chains

As is the tradition every May 1, thousands of workers are expected to take to the streets Monday – Labor Day in Costa Rica – to celebrate their rights. This year’s event is expected to have a particular anti-United States twist.

The focus of the May 1 march will be against the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA). CAFTA equals poverty is the theme and 7,000 to 8,000 teachers, union workers and students are expected to attend.

The march will start at 10 a.m. at La Merced Park in downtown San José and continue up Paseo Colón ending at the southern side of the Plaza de la Democracia.

A series of speeches will be given to conclude the event, according to Javier Quintero, coordinator.

While protests are not planned for outside the Legislative Assembly – where the same day the recently elected legislators will be taking office and President Abel Pacheco will address legislators for the last time –Quintero said some unions will likely take their protest there.

Later that day, the local chapter of the Global Call Iraq Campaign will be holding a Peace in Iraq demonstration Monday outside the U.S. Embassy at 2:30 p.m. Similar demonstrations will be held before U.S. facilities around the globe by the organization, which was started by Cindy Sheehan and others who demonstrated outside the gates of U.S. President George W. Bush’s Texas ranch last year.

However, the Costa Rica protest may fall on particularly deaf ears, as the embassy will be closed for the Labor Day holiday.

Furthermore, in a show of support for Latin American immigrants in the United States, Latinos throughout the Americas are being called upon Monday to boycott U.S. products and businesses. The boycott will coincide with Latin American immigrants in the United States not working Monday.

Dubbed “The Great American Boycott” in Latin America and “A Day without Latin Americans” (like the movie “A Day without Mexicans”) in the United States, the point of the protest is to show the United States cannot survive without immigrant labor, but Latin America can survive without the United States’ products.

The goal is to pressure the U.S. Congress to legalize the status of millions of undocumented workers during a time when the U.S. Senate is debating several proposals to reform immigration laws.

The boycott in Latin America has so far been a grassroots initiative spread mainly through e-mail, in which readers are encouraged to not eat at fast-food restaurants such as McDonald’s and Burger King, not use U.S.-based services such as Cinemark, DHL and United Airlines, and not shop at U.S.-owned stores such as Walmart, which now owns 51% of Costa Rican grocery stores Hipermas, Más x Menos,Maxibodega, and Palí supermarkets (TT,March 17).

In Mexico, the boycott has reached communities of all sizes throughout the country and many Mexicans from all walks of life plan to participate, according to the London-based newspaper the Financial Times.

Labor Day is a national holiday in Costa Rica and most businesses, including The Tico Times, and all Costa Rican government offices, will be closed.