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Saturday, May 27, 2023

Bus drivers protest to demand support through crisis in Costa Rica

Hundreds of buses crowded the streets of the Costa Rican capital on Tuesday in a protest to demand support from the government in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some 300 public transport units clogged the central Avenida 2, San José’s main artery, and other routes to demand help from the Legislative Assembly.

The demonstration was held a day after representatives of the transporters met with government authorities to discuss their demands — but the two sides did not reach an agreement.

“The companies have had a rather large decrease [in revenue] and we have to comply with [payments for] renewal of concessions, royalties, social security,” said Leonardo Guillén, an entrepreneur in the sector.

Since March, when the first cases of COVID-19 appeared in Costa Rica, restrictive measures such as school and business closings have reduced the circulation of buses, affecting the sector’s income.

Leaders of the bus companies indicated that 1,500 workers have had suspended contracts and the companies’ incomes have fallen by 70%, while their fixed expenses remain largely unchanged.

Given this, they demanded a grace period both for the payment of the right of movement of the bus units and for companies’ operation fees, as well as financing from state banks to stay afloat.

“Many of the small- and medium-sized concessionaire companies could disappear if the government does not act as soon as possible, leaving hundreds of families without their means of subsistence, causing an increase in unemployment and leaving many users in rural areas without bus service,” read a statement from the National Bus Chamber Association.

“The high operating costs and the decrease in passenger demand has the sector involved in a latent crisis.”

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