2 large demonstrations converge on the Legislative Assembly

April 29, 2013

Dozens of workers of the state-run Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) gathered Monday morning in front of their office building in La Sabana, in western San José, to march towards the Legislative Assembly to protest a government contract with Spanish company El Corte Inglés that would allow phone customers to transfer their numbers without charge. ICE union members say the contract would “favor multinational corporations” over the state-run company.

The strike means that there will be no customer service on Monday at ICE branches across the country.

ICE union leader Fabio Chaves said the union is demanding the contract with El Corte Ingles be suspended until 2020, “when the telecommunications market will be stable.”

Chaves said ICE reps would attempt to negotiate with Legislative Assembly President Víctor Emilio Granados and Broad Front Party lawmaker José María Villalta.

ICE workers will join another protest set for Monday by 200 residents of the southern Caribbean, who also gathered at the Assembly to push for a coastal residency bill that would prevent the eviction of coastal residents and demolition of dozens of houses and businesses on the coast. Costa Rica’s Maritime Zone Law, adopted in 1977, prohibits the construction of any structure within 200 meters of the high-tide line.

That protest is organized by the Chamber of Tourism and Commerce of the Southern Caribbean (CATCAS) and other local development associations, which provide legal support for coastal residents.

CATCAS President Jorge Molina said the bill currently before lawmakers would grant business owners permission to continue operating in coastal areas for up to 20 years. Owners would have to pay a local municipality tax equivalent to 4 percent of the property value, as estimated by the Finance Ministry.

The law exempts public institutions and indigenous people whose land-use is residential, Molina added.

South Caribbean residents said social and economic damage would be irreparable if coastal businesses were demolished, as they would not receive compensation for expropriations.

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