Tens of thousands of protesters once again took to the streets and blocked roads across Costa Rica, marching from the León Cortés’ Monument in La Sabana to the Legislative Assembly in San José on September 26, 2018. The protesters expressed stiff opposition to the new tax reforms and fiscal adjustment proposed by the government through the Bill for Strengthening Public Finances. The march was carried out in the context of the “Marcha de los Gatos” [March of the Cats] called for by several trade unions, which is also know as the second Grand National March. The first Grand National March was held on September 12 and witnessed a large scale mobilization.
Various sections of workers across Costa Rica began a general indefinite strike on September 10 in response to the new fiscal reforms. The proposed reforms will impose a value added tax (VAT), which will increase the price of basic commodities, medicines, medication and private education by 2%. In addition, a 13% tax will be levied on electricity and water consumption exceeding the set minimal consumption limit, overburdening the majority of the population.
Esteban Cerdas Aguilar, a Costa Rican journalist in an interview with Nodal said: “Fiscal reform touches only the pockets of the working class and most vulnerable.”
Some 14 representatives of the major trade unions of the country decided to meet and demand that the government eliminate the new policy, which has been rejected by an overwhelming majority of the population, as they believe that it will make things worse for the citizens and will only favor the government.
A meeting between the Costa Rican trade unions and the government was held on September 22, in which both parties promised to analyze the details of the proposals presented. Since no agreement was reached with the government, the strike entered its third week and the people remained on streets even as the trade unions continued to conduct regional protest activities with renewed vigor.
Among the major trade unions who called their members and people to join the march are: the National Association of Public Employees (ANEP); the National Association of Educators (ANDE); the Teachers Association of Secondary Education (APSE); the Frente Gremial del Poder Judicial [Workers’ Front of Judicial Power] and the Costa Rican Education Workers Union (SECCR).
Around 32 public institutions have denounced and classified the new tax reform as illegal. The government insists that it is the only way to prevent an economic crisis.