On Wednesday, with San José still reeling from the previous day’s massive taxi strike (see separate story), 40 Red Cross ambulances lined Avenida 2 near the Legislative Assembly to show the organization’s support for a bill under consideration by the lawmakers inside.
William Guzmán, a member of the Red Cross committee in Desamparados, south of San José, told The Tico Times only vehicles and drivers scheduled to be off-duty that day participated in the protest, so emergency services were not interrupted.
Participants were supporting bill 16032, which would assign ¢80 ($0.15) from every monthly telephone bill in the country to the Red Cross.
Of these funds, the bill, if approved, would allow the organization to address its serious needs for fuel, equipment and new vehicles. Many Red Cross ambulances are more than 20 years old, Guzmán said.
President Abel Pacheco submitted the bill to the assembly Monday, following approximately six months of work by Red Cross leaders and Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC) legislator Federico Vargas, according to Guzmán.
As the Red Cross volunteers made their voices – and sirens – heard, the assembly’s Social Affairs Commission approved the creation of a subcommittee to study the bill, according to a statement released by the assembly late Wednesday. This group now has 15 days to prepare a report on the bill for the commission, which also approved a motion to ask the Comptroller General and Government Attorney to evaluate the project.
The work of the Red Cross includes responding to accidents and natural disasters, search-and-rescue operations and accident-prevention campaigns. The organization receives funds from the annual Tico Bingo fundraiser, local governments, private donations, and funds from cigarette and alcohol taxes and traffic fines.
However, some of the nation’s Red Cross chapters have had serious financial problems; for example, the chapter in the Caribbean port town of Limón came close to shutting down in late 2004 (TT, Dec. 10, 2004).