San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Tollbooth protest ties up Monday morning traffic

Monday morning traffic was backed up for more than a kilometer along Route 27 between Ciudad Colón and Santa Ana, southwest of San José, due to a modestly sized but well-placed protest by community members against a tollbooth.

The march was comprised of walking protesters from the two dozen or so communities that are directed affected by the toll, as well as trailing vehicles supporting the marchers. Juan Carlos Antillón, a community organizer from Ciudad Colón, said 1,000 people participated in the event that lasted three hours at the near peak of rush hour traffic. National Police estimates pegged the number at around 100, while Spanish news agencies estimated between 200 and 300.

Raul Rivera, general director of the National Police in San José, said 70 officers escorted the protesters along their route. He said no arrests were made and no violent incidents were reported. The police wore riot gear, helmets and body armor, and some touted automatic weapons. Antillón criticized the officers’ display of force and said they more resembled army soldiers than officers at a peaceful protest.

Antillón said Monday marked the start of a long, determined and peaceful resistance against the tollbooth, which since its installation in late February has disrupted the everyday lives of citizens who live in the area. The protesters have also taken issue with the toll’s management by a foreign entity, Spanish company Autopistas del Sol, which financed the road’s construction.An administrative court of appeals recently rejected a lawsuit launched by the opposition challenging the toll stop in Ciudad Colón.

 Antillón said the toll diverts drivers who don’t want to pay the fee onto inadequate, alternative roads through neighborhoods, and although a one-time payment is nominal –about ₡150 ($0.29) for a car or motorcycle –daily trips add up in the long run. He said if need be, more marches would be conducted as a manner of peaceful resistance.He characterized Monday’s march as a success in communicating to the rest of the country the community members’ stance on the issue.

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