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Unions and municipalities protest in Costa Rica against pandemic spending cuts

July 23, 2020

Hundreds of unionists and municipal leaders marched Thursday through the capital and other cities in Costa Rica in protest of the austerity policies promoted by the government to contain public spending amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unionists used vehicles to drive through part of the centrally located Avenida 2, the capital’s main artery, with flags and messages against policies seeking to curb public spending, before heading to Casa Presidencial in southeast San José.

Meanwhile, some 30 mayors mobilized with municipal workers to ask the Legislative Assembly to avoid drastic cuts in the state budget, which would affect transfers to the municipalities.

“We have come to say that the resources of the national road network should not be cut, as these resources are crucial for the economic recovery,” Nixon Ureña, mayor of San Ramón, 65 km west of San José, told reporters.

The capital’s mayor, Johnny Araya, warned that the municipalities are on the verge of bankruptcy, and that their situation would be aggravated by the proposed cuts.

The demonstrations were held at a time when the Legislative Assembly is discussing a proposal by President Carlos Alvarado to cut the government budget by the equivalent of 1% of GDP as a mechanism to overcome the crisis caused by COVID-19.

The country carries a heavy fiscal deficit that reached 6.96% of GDP in 2019, and could reach 9.7% this year as a result of the pandemic, according to the Finance Ministry. The pandemic has reduced the income of the treasury and generated new social expenses.

“We are against an economic and social policy that seriously injures the workers and all the people,” Olman Chinchilla, of the National Federation of Public Workers, said at the demonstration.

In turn, Luis Chavarría, leader of the Social Security workers, called on the Alvarado government to avoid austerity measures that he says would worsen unemployment — which has reached a record 20.1%, according to official figures.

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