Strikers today have a variety of causes to promote

A general strike called for today by teachers has five stated reasons, but some groups are much more focused.

At least 10 unions have said they will participate starting at 9 a.m. But the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados says it will not because leaders did not learn of the strike in time.

One reason for the march is to combat corruption, said organizers, the Asociación de Profesores de Segunda Enseñanza. Perhaps closer to the pocketbook of participants is opposition to the central government’s new plan for increased sales taxes on food and opposition to a proposed law that organizers claim would freeze their salaries.

The marchers, which will include Limón dock workers, also opposes the central government plan to grant a concession to APM Terminals to construct a modern container handling facility at the Caribbean port of Moín. The marchers also have said they are defending the financially troubled Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

Teachers are particularly unhappy about what they see as a government plan to raid the fund that provides scholarships for low-income students in the primary and secondary grades. The Partido Liberación Nacional and the Movimiento Libertario are trying to squeeze 2 billion colons from that fund, said the teachers group.

Although the march is supposed to target corruption, there are varying opinions of what that is. For the ever-militant Costa Rica en Acción, corruption has it tentacles in many aspects of life and is responsible for the free trade treaty with the United States that was approved with fraud, the group said.

The increasing cost of living and the financial squeeze in which the government finds itself contribute to the unhappiness. There also is a visible touch of xenophobia against foreigners, especially the Dutch firm that has been picked to build the container port and the perennial target, the United States.

The Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados said that it was not participating for more reasons than the lack of notification. It was not invited, it said. But some of its member unions, such as the dock workers, will be there.
Even though it will not participate, the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados said it thought the general strike was just and for valid reasons.

Strikers plan to gather at Parque Central and then march down Avenida Secunda to the legislative complex. Naturally there will be traffic problems. And with the teachers on strike, children will have a day off from school or in a class with supervisors.

The country barely has recovered from a taxi and bus strike that snarled traffic all over the country Monday. The complaints were the same: Poor enforcement against unlicensed taxis. That strike was lifted after a meeting with government officials. But there had been blockades and even some confrontations outside the Central Valley.

The teachers also are demonstrating to obtain higher wages for school security personnel. A release noted that one security guard died when he was shot in the head at the Liceo Deportivo de Limón. The current 220,000-colon monthly salary is too low for such dangerous jobs, the teachers said in a statement.

That’s about $500 a month.

There also is a simmering discontent among public employees because the president decreed a 5,000-colon pay raise earlier in the year after negotiations broke down.

There were marches at that time, too.

The corruption focus is a result of disclosures of possible bribes in the construction of a northern highway along the Río San Juan. Almost daily there are new disclosures of possible crimes connected with this emergency project. Monday Repretel, the television network, disclosed that contractors put metal shipping containers under the road instead of drainage pipes and that the containers are beginning to collapse. Various investigations have been launched about this project.

The marchers also are unhappy with disclosures that top government officials did not pay the property taxes they were supposed to and that there was apparent sweetheart deals between the Ministerio de Educación Pública and a company run by an advisor to the president, who happened to be the wife of the then-minister of Hacienda. The teachers are calling for jail for those who scam the state.

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