San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Legislative Assembly

Crash victims' relatives ask lawmakers to table bill to eliminate prison sentences for blocking roads during protests

Relatives of two women who died in a car crash in Alajuela earlier this month on Tuesday publicly called for the dismissal of a bill to replace prison time with monetary fines for blocking roads during street protests.

A demonstration of private chauffeurs, or porteadores in Spanish, on July 8 prevented ambulances from reaching the scene of an accident in which two women – Milena Salazar Quirós, 39, and her mother, Idalie Quirós Jiménez, 64 – died. The vehicle in which the victims were traveling collided with a semi-trailer as they attempted to exit the road to avoid the blockades.

“We are not against porteadores or workers’ unions. We just want these groups to seek reasonable ways to protest without affecting or harming other people,” Salazar’s cousin Marcela Murillo said at a press conference at the Legislative Assembly. Hannia Salazar, the victims’ sister and daughter, also attended the press event.

Murillo acknowledged that her relatives performed an improper maneuver, but stressed that they should not be blamed for the accident.

“The roads were completely blocked by demonstrators. They were trying to find a way out,” she said.

Social Christian Unity Party legislator Gerardo Vargas Rojas organized the press conference and also opposes the approval of Bill 17,341, known as the “Law to decriminalize social protests.”

The Legislative Committee on Legal Affairs approved the bill’s drafting exactly one day before the porteadores’ demonstration. The bill now must be discussed and voted on by the full Assembly at two separate sessions.

“People should have the right to demonstrate, but only as long as their acts do not affect other people’s rights. I will personally ask President Luis Guillermo Solís to evaluate options to table that bill,” Vargas said.

Two children aged 8 and 14, also were in the vehicle. One of the them was transported by helicopter to the National Children’s Hospital because of the blockades. Both survived the accident.

Contact L. Arias at

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Ken Morris

You know, though, this weekend some 2 million pilgrims on their annual march to Cartago forced the closing of main highways while commanding the attention of the Red Cross, which stationed itself along the route and did in fact treat several hundred of the pilgrim faithful. Any uninvolved person along the route who happened to have a heart attack might well have died as a consequence of the pilgrimage.

Same with soccer games, the bullfight things, and probably the Christmas parade. These too close and clog streets while diverting the Red Cross to them.

It could even be argued that regular rush hour drivers who really don’t need to be driving but just want to drive kill people by clogging the roads. Ambulances can’t get through those traffic jams either.

Or, take the hypthetical of a motorist who is at fault in a traffic accident that backs up traffic, and suppose an ambulance was trying to get through but couldn’t. Is the motorist then guilty of manslaughter too simply because a stranger couldn’t receive medical attention in time?

For what it’s worth, I actually don’t support the porteadores, even as I think that Ticos of all types take to the streets in protest excessively. However, I don’t see how we can single them out for special condemnation when lots of other people do the same thing.

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It’s a strange sense of entitlement that allows people to block others right to ambulate. Blocking an ambulance should be a criminal offense and has nothing to do with the ability to demonstrate or form a union. I can’t tell you how many times i have seen people blocking the way of ambulances on the roads. It appears to be have improved slightly over the years but there is a minority of people here who exhibit a sense of entitlement which is shocking and contrary to the good Samaritan.
If there aren’t good samaritan laws there should be.
A civilized society must allow its citizens to demonstrate even if it is inconvenient but through the issuance of permits and scheduling of demonstration routes and schedules, we can achieve a better social balance. The intervention of police can be better managed and motorists better respected.
Where i am, people block the roads often and for periods like 5hrs and it seems as though it is a protected right. Maybe it is because it is the only way to be heard?
As i said, in the 21st century there are better ways and it is the court’s job to direct legislation in that direction.
I am very sad and offer my sincerest condolences to the family of the victims and feel so frustrated on their behalf but its not up to them to make the legal case here.

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Chuck in Illinois

The people blocking the road should be charged with Man Slaughter, spend time in jail and lose their license forever.

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