The Public Security Ministry (MSP) says drug traffickers have instigated violence between protesters and police at various roadblocks throughout Costa Rica.
Michael Soto Rojas, the Public Security Minister, said the conclusion is based on observations from officers across the country.
“Our officials in different points of the country, at the moment of intervention or movement of the protests, have observed local delinquents involved in the movements, people involved in narco-trafficking,” Soto said in a video.
In perhaps the most striking example of aggression, Soto shared a video of what appears to be a Molotov cocktail thrown at a line of police in Quepos, Puntarenas.
“I don’t want blood to be spilled in my country — not from police or civilians,” Soto said. “We are all human, and we are all Costa Rican.”
¡Pido un alto a la violencia! No quiero que se derrame sangre en mi país. Ni policía, ni civil. Todos somos humanos y costarricenses.
Esto es un acto de cobardía y no lo toleraré. Si un compañero/a es lastimado señalaré como responsables a quienes dirigen este movimiento. pic.twitter.com/KFHtASdHhM
— Michael Soto Rojas (@MichaelSoto_CR) October 7, 2020
Soto also said MSP is working with the Prosecutor’s Office to file charges against individuals accused of soliciting tolls from drivers stuck at blockades.
Demonstrations began last week in protest of Costa Rica’s planned negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a $1.75 billion loan. To secure that financing, the Presidency had proposed a since-withdrawn series of tax increases.
The Movimiento Rescate Nacional, a group coordinating many of the protests, has arranged for marches in San José and roadblocks meant to impact large companies that don’t pay taxes.
But the blockades have ultimately impacted tourism and medical care, and clashes with police have become more common.
“We are going to be more flexible so that people who have nothing to do with this are not being harmed,” deputy José Miguel Corrales, part of the movement, told La Nación.
Corrales has also acknowledged the presence of drug traffickers at some of the blockades.
Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado has denounced “violence and vandalism” and on Tuesday began meeting with various sectors to plan the country’s financial future.
The Movimiento Rescate Nacional has said it will continue protesting until the government promises no new taxes.