San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Police officers file assault charges against lawmakers following riot last week

Gabriela Gómez, Giselle Zúñiga and Octavio Quesada, police officers injured on Thursday during riots that broke out during a protest organized by unions of the Social Security System, filed a criminal complaint against Citizen Action Party (PAC) lawmakers Claudio Monge and José María Villalta, alleging aggression and instigation of violence.

Gómez accused Monge of “grabbing me [Gómez] by the neck and throwing me to the pavement. So my helmet came off, and in that moment, lawmaker Villalta kicked me in the head.”

That version was repeated by officer Zúñiga, who suffered a neck injury during the melee.

Villalta denounced the allegations, saying, “That’s a blatant lie, I haven’t assaulted anyone. Instead, I was assaulted by a policeman who hit me with a baton. It’s a montage orchestrated by their bosses to tarnish my name,” Villalta said on Friday, promising to take legal action of his own.

President Laura Chinchilla on Friday said her government would not allow “people shielded by immunity to physically attack our officers.” She also urged the officers to file a complaint to the courts and the National Women’s Institute.

Officer Octavio Quesada also was injured and suffered a broken nose during the confrontation.

The prosecutor’s office confirmed the officers’ complaints were received on Friday. PAC lawmakers likely will file their own charges this week.

The riots last Thursday started during a march to protest budget cuts allegedly approved at several public hospitals.

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