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

July 29, 2015

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.

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