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Rioters turn May Day demonstrations violent in Costa Rica’s capital ahead of Obama visit

May 1, 2016

Public demonstrations during the international Labor Day holiday in San José turn violent as a group of young, self-proclaimed anarchists, started rioting in front of the Legislative Assembly buildings at around 1 p.m.

Disturbances broke out when some of the protesters, with masked faces, began hurling rocks and bricks at police officers and members of the media, breaking several of the Assembly building’s windows.

Protesters then removed metalic barriers that police had installed to keep demonstrations under control and threw glass bottles – allegedly containing gasoline – against the walls of the building.

Police formed a human barrier to protect other demonstrators and media workers, who reported various cameras and other equipment damaged.

Police arrested some 20 rioters after officers were injured by rocks and bricks.

National Police Director Juan José Andrade reported the seizure of some 30 bottles containing “gasoline or diesel from some of the detainees who intended to use them as Molotov cocktails.”

He also said various windows at the Legislative Assembly “were shattered from huge rocks.”

Last year, a public protest of students demanding the right to photocopy books for academic purposes ended up costing Costa Rican taxpayers ₡7 million ($14,000) in repairs to walls, windows and doors of the Legislative Assembly, officials said at the time.

Before arriving at the Assembly, other protesters from dozens of causes marched in the Labor Day Parade, which included demonstrations from labor groups across the country. That part of the parade was peaceful.

“This is the country’s day to express everything that we have problems with,” said Ana Doris González, a teacher from San Carlos who traveled to San José with the High School Teachers Association.

A large group of demonstrators dressed as mimes drew attention to the lack of water in regions outside of San José.

“The whole country is living without water right now,” said Laura Padilla, one of the demonstrators. “Where I live, we go from seven in the morning until seven at night without a drop.”

Costa Ricans opposed to U.S. President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit on Friday were also out in force, with banners and caricatured posters of the president. One of the groups that marched, the National Association of Public and Private Employees, issued a letter addressed to U.S. Ambassador Anne S. Andrew Wednesday morning citing 11 reasons for their opposition to Obama’s visit, including the U.S. foreign policy on combatting illicit drug trafficking in the region, the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba and regional free trade agreements, which they say bring no benefits to the majority of Central Americans, among other issues.

“President Obama needs to know that the majority of Costa Ricans do not consider themselves part of the United States’ backyard,” the letter stated.

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