After President Alvarado said in a speech to the nation that Costa Rica “would act to clear the roads” of protester-made blockades, authorities took to the streets early Tuesday to do just that.
The Public Security Ministry (MSP) launched an overnight operativo to clear Route 32, which connects San José and Limón, in addition to other blocked throughways across the county.
“The will of the Government is dialogue, but the blockades must stop,” Alvarado said Tuesday morning. “The right of Costa Ricans to free transit must be respected by everyone.”
According to Michael Soto, the Minister of Public Security, officials first warned demonstrators impeding roads to leave, and they did so without further incident in a majority of cases.
However, in Liverpool, Limón, authorities faced resistance from protesters armed with weapons and Molotov cocktails. One official was injured, though not seriously, Soto said.
In Perez Zeledón, nine protesters participating in a blockade of Route 2 were arrested.
“This is a high-risk operative,” Soto said. “These activities followed a repeated call to dialogue.”
While the government continues to prioritize dialogue, Soto said, food and gas shortages, in addition to financial impacts, led to more forceful action.
“What we want is peace, tranquility for everyone, and that the situation flows in the best way possible,” Soto said. “Thankfully, in this instance, we had minimal difficulties.”
The blockades, which began last week and increased in number over the weekend, caused millions of dollars worth of losses due to delays at the Moín shipping terminal in Limón, according to Costa Rica’s Chamber of Exporters (CADEXCO).
Additionally, many people throughout the country — including business owners and the 83,000 international tourists currently in Costa Rica — faced unexpected and significant travel interruptions.
“Several of our employees left Puerto Viejo de Talamanca at 8 a.m. Friday and arrived [in San José] at 12 p.m. Saturday,” said Paul David Johnson, owner of Caribeans Chocolate in Puerto Viejo. “They were forced to walk about 10 km to transfer buses.”
Alan Kinsella, a tourist visiting Costa Rica from the United States, said the blockades had negatively impacted a vacation.
“We wish to leave this country with a positive memory, and as of now that hope is in deep jeopardy,” he wrote to The Tico Times.
The blockades were largely in opposition to a new value-added tax, which went into effect July 1, though there were also demonstrations against Education Ministry policies.
Update; 11 a.m.: Teletica is reporting at least three new blockades in San Carlos. Continue exercising caution when driving, and use navigation apps such as Waze for up-to-date, crowdsourced road information.
Update; 2:50 p.m.: The Public Security Ministry said debris blocking a bridge in Monterrey de San Carlos caused a 30-minute delay for an ambulance transporting a 10-month-old in critical condition.
National Police cleared the bridge, but “valuable time was lost,” according to a MSP spokesperson.