Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado addressed the nation in context of the protests that have recently turned more violent.
“Demonstrating is legitimate,” he said in a video published Wednesday. “But blocking streets is restricting the freedom of others. I ask those who demonstrate in good faith to stop the blockades and dialogue.”
Protests began last week against Costa Rica’s planned negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, which would have resulted in new taxes. Though the government has withdrawn its original proposals, marches and road blockades have continued.
On Wednesday, both the Public Security Ministry (MSP) and leaders of the protests acknowledged that members of organized crime were instigating violence at the roadblocks.
Public Security Minister Michael Soto has shared videos of a Molotov cocktail igniting near an officer; on Wednesday night, protesters burned a police vehicle in Abangares.
Watch President Alvarado’s address below, and scroll down for an English translation:
Manifestarse es legítimo. Pero bloquear calles es restringir libertad de otros. Pido a quienes se manifiestan de buena fe deponer bloqueos y dialogar, para que Fuerza Pública lleve adelante su trabajo contra delincuencia organizada. Con prudencia e inteligencia saldremos adelante pic.twitter.com/bK48AvThUJ
— Carlos Alvarado Quesada (@CarlosAlvQ) October 8, 2020
An English translation of President Carlos Alvarado’s address (translated by The Tico Times):
As I mentioned days ago, I recognize the discontent of a large part of our citizens for the sum of situations we are facing this year: the pandemic, the confinement in homes, the restrictions, the unemployment sharpened by COVID-19.
Demonstrating is legitimate in a democracy. But blocking streets is restricting the freedom of others, and it is a crime. In this moment, it is impacting our production when we most need it to activate to recover the jobs that have been lost.
Understanding this, I communicated to the country that we will not proceed with the initial proposal we had presented, and that we would begin a national dialogue regarding the economic and jobs emergency to start our route [forward]. As you know, we have been advancing, and we will advance even more on that route.
Now, in this moment, a very delicate phenomenon has occurred, and it occupies us fully: the security of our country.
Many of the demonstration points have been infiltrated or taken over by structures of crime, and organized crime. This was confessed by the organizers of the protest movement — who as we know today, don’t have control of the demonstrations.
National Police have reestablished transit on Route 32 and 27, as well as Route 1, and the Costanera, with a few exceptions that we are addressing. They have detained people for criminal activities, including violent attacks against the police, attacking police delegations and even throwing onto them a Molotov cocktail with the evident attempt of causing serious harm, or worse.
I ask the protesters of good faith, and with a concrete agenda: Stop the blockades, and let’s take the discussion to the table. This, too, so that the National Police and the proper authorities can finish carrying out action against criminal structures.
Even in difficult times, with prudence, intelligence and also with much steadiness, we’ll come out ahead.