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Costa Rica’s Solís vows to stand firm as public services unions threaten ‘indefinite’ strike

If you’re driving in Costa Rica’s capital Monday morning, there’s a good chance you’ll need a little patience.

Several public services unions united in a group called Patria Justa – a “Just Homeland” – are mounting a general strike starting at 6 a.m. that could snare traffic at several points in the capital and beyond.

Some of the potential trouble spots mentioned in local Spanish-language media include: the Finance Ministry in downtown San José, Paseo Colón, west of downtown, the General Cañas Highway near Juan Santamaría International Airport, Route 27 to the Pacific coast, and Route 32 to the Caribbean coast.

Unions threatening an “indefinite” Costa Rica strike over proposed government cuts to salary bonuses and collective benefits include workers from the Costa Rican Electricity Institute, the National Oil Refinery, the Atlantic Port Authority and the National Association of Public and Private Employees (ANEP), among others. But according to online news site, ANEP Secretary-General Albino Vargas has called on “all workers” across the country to strike.

Although the administration of President Luis Guillermo Solís has spent the past two weeks in negotiations to avoid Monday’s nationwide strike, union leaders have stepped up pressure by threatening to cut or draw back services, including fuel distribution, port service in the Caribbean city of Limón, and electricity and telecommunications services, the daily La Nación reported.

Responding to Patria Justa’s threats, President Solís took to national television Sunday night promising to stand firm.

“I had prepared a message about the indispensable role that public employees have in the country,” Solís said. “But in the last few hours we’ve heard an intransigent rhetoric from some union leaders about the protest planned for tomorrow [Monday]. That obliges me to guarantee to you that the government will do everything that is necessary to prevent the disruption of public services, as union leaders are threatening.”

The president reiterated his administration’s willingness to negotiate, but he added that “there’s a limit that I’m not going to cross, which is the right of the majority to receive public services from the state.”

“To all Costa Ricans,” he continued, “I guarantee that the government will use all means provided by the law to prevent your rights as citizens from being violated.”

Stay tuned, this could get ugly. And don’t forget to fill up on gas.

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