Thousands of Costa Rican farmers march on capital for lower property taxes

August 1, 2012

By Vanessa I. Garnica | Special to The Tico Times

An estimated 8,000 producers representing different agricultural organizations and cooperatives from around Costa Rica traveled by bus – many as far as the northwestern province of Guanacaste and the Southern Zone – to meet in the country’s capital and demand from legislators a decrease in rates outlined by an “alarming” tax law.

Costa Rican farmers marched Tuesday morning from San José’s Central Park to the Legislative Assembly wearing traditional cowboy and fedora hats and holding homemade signs requesting lawmakers discuss and approve bill 18,070, which would decrease the current property tax by 80 percent on land used for agricultural purposes.

“We are here today because the current property taxes that are in place today represent a negative and unnecessary load on farmers, and it is impossible to maintain in the long term,” said Adrián Hernández, board member at Coopelibertad, a coffee cooperative representing more than 2,000 coffee producers in Heredia province, north of the capital. “We are not asking to be tax exempted. However, we want to pay what is fair within the agricultural sector.”

Rain did not deter those present at the march. Many huddled together, shared umbrellas and listened to some of their sector’s national leaders speak from a stage built in front of the assembly. Among them was Guido Vargas, president of UPA Nacional, an organization of small- and medium-sized producers.

Vargas, one of the main organizers of the march, said that he hoped not to come back to San José – previous marches against the 2007 tax reform, which set current property taxes, ended unsuccessfully.

“We are hoping to meet with the president of the assembly today to let him know we need his support to pass bill 18,070,” he said. “We want to defend our rights to keep producing on the land.”

Following the daylong demonstration, lawmakers agreed to give the bill priority for discussion on the assembly floor.

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