Credit: Arcadio Esquivel
On Monday night, weeks-long protests turned violent in Costa Rica’s capital as some demonstrators threw stones, concrete, and various other items at police officers, who responded with tear gas. By the end of the night, police had detained 28 demonstrators, according to the Public Security Ministry (MSP).
Costa Ricans, displeased with recent economic developments, originally began protesting in opposition to the Alvarado administration’s proposed $1.75 billion loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which would imply an increase in taxes. The proposal has since been withdrawn, but public discontent has continued as economic questions concerning the future of the country remain unanswered. While generally unified in their opposition to tax increases, there has been some mixed messaging from protestors regarding their stances on multinational companies and government spending.
Costa Rica has faced economic challenges throughout the pandemic with unemployment rates reaching above 20 percent. The Movimiento Rescate Nacional (MRN) has been at the forefront of the protests and has been joined by a variety of public unions, organizations, and political leaders, including former presidential candidate Jose Miguel Corrales.
Outside of the capital, rural communities have been carrying out their own demonstrations, often creating blockages on major roadways. The Costa Rican government has been negotiating with local leaders to reach agreements that would allow the country to move forward, but October 12 brought regional battles to the nation’s attention, as rural community members bussed to San Jose to join the protest. Security forces have also made allegations that organized criminal groups have infiltrated the movement to incite violence, and protest leaders have agreed to cooperate with authorities as they investigate the matter.
In response to the public unrest, President Carlos Alvarado has planned a negotiating process to include a variety of stakeholders, scheduled to begin on Saturday and continue for four weeks. Costa Rica has a comparatively strong economy in the region, and its current instability could signal upcoming challenges for its Latin American neighbors as they respond to the effects of the pandemic.