San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Public utility workers march against bill to open electricity market

An estimated 10,000 employees of the state-run Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) and local electricity cooperatives marched on Monday to persuade lawmakers to withdraw a bill they say would “privatize electricity services in Costa Rica.” Union leaders said the proposed legislation would open Costa Rica’s electricity market to private competition, which unions claim is a contradiction of the current partnership model that allows cooperatives to provide electricity to ICE.

Thousands of protesters dressed in yellow – the traditional color worn by ICE workers – marched from La Sabana Park, in western San José, to Casa Presidencial in the southeastern district of Zapote, stopping off at the Legislative Assembly in the capital’s center.

Late last year, Costa Rica’s telecommunications market was opened to private competition, and ICE workers said privatization in the electricity market could bankrupt the government institution that helped bring electricity coverage to nearly 100 percent of the country. According to a Finance Ministry report last year, ICE closed with a net loss of ₡22 billion ($43.7 million) and a rate of return of -2.1 percent.

President Laura Chinchilla said she could not predict if lawmakers would call the bill up for discussion.

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