Defensoría fielded more than 20,000 complaints in 2010

Costa Ricans, who have a reputation for suffering silently, really do complain. The Defensoría de los Habitantes said that it received more than 20,000 complaints over the quality of public services in 2010.

The most complaints were about public transportation, the condition of buses, the location of bus stops and rates.

There also were complaints about problems women faced in the health system, including long waits for mammograms and delays in treatment. There also were complaints about the lack of specialists in public hospitals. This problem is more acute in areas outside the Central Valley.

The Defensoría actively seeks out citizen complaints with outreaches and six regional offices. The agency expects to see 21,000 complaints by the end of the year. That’s about 1,200 more than in 2009.

The Defensoría, which is considered the nation’s
ombudsman, has only the power of persuasion to effect changes.

Among other current problems is that of sexual harassment in the workplace of public institutions, it said Wednesday. There have been 130 complaints this year, 19 more than in 2009, the agency said.

The agency handles a wide variety of complaints and raises some issues on its own initiative. For example, Wednesday Ofelia Taitelbaum, the defensora de los habitantes, urged horse owners to keep ill animals out of the various horse parades that take place around the beginning of the year.

There is such an event, called the Tope Nacional, in San José Dec. 26. The Festival de Palmares hosts another several weeks later.

The concern is equine infectious anemia, which is spread by mosquitoes and other biting insects. The disease is incurable and can lead to weakness and death in horses and similar animals.

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