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Dozens arrested as march in San José turns violent

October 12, 2020

Twenty-eight people were arrested in Costa Rica on Monday afternoon when a march to Casa Presidencial turned violent, the Public Security Ministry (MSP) said.

Eleven police officers were injured — two seriously — as protesters attempted to break through a police cordon in Zapote, San José, Security Minister Michael Soto said. Seven police vehicles were damaged in the clashes.

The events overshadowed what had otherwise been a peaceful demonstration that began Monday morning in downtown San José. Hundreds of people marched on Avenida Segunda and by the Legislative Assembly to demand that the government abstain from introducing new taxes.

Today, what started as a peaceful march resulted, as we have all seen, with a direct aggression against police,” Soto said at a Monday evening press conference. 

Soto explained that officers were “holding the line” around Casa Presidencial when they were met with aggression. Videos showed protesters attacking police with bats and projectiles.

MSP dispersed the crowd with tear gas.

At least one person will be charged with attempted homicide after he struck an officer in the head, Soto said.

We don’t want this to repeat itself,” Soto said. “We are one country, and we should resolve our disagreements through dialogue.”

US Embassy maintains alert

The U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica has issued the following alert regarding the ongoing protests:

Costa Rican media and other open source and social media sites continue to publish information indicating numerous and sporadic protests will continue throughout Costa Rica for the foreseeable future.  Sources indicate the demonstrations are meant to protest government measures to address economic problems related to COVID-19 (tax increases, suspension of social benefits, reduction of labor hours etc.). 

Many of these demonstrations are blocking roadways, thereby increasing travel time.  Additionally, there has been a marked uptick in violence associated with these protests, particularly against security services personnel.  The U.S. Embassy recommends all travelers review their travel plans to avoid protest areas and use real-time GPS mapping applications such as Waze or Google Maps prior to departure to help provide additional information on travel times.   

While the majority of protests in Costa Rica are non-violent in nature, you should exercise caution in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations.  Avoid such large gatherings whenever possible; do not attempt to enter or pass through them.  The Embassy will continue to review the situation and will provide additional information as needed.

Reports suggest protests will continue Tuesday, though it’s unclear whether Monday’s arrests will impact those plans.

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