Violence erupts in protest that included lawmakers

A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
Protesters mingle in front of a line of police with shields.

A march against budget cuts in the nation’s social programs erupted twice Thursday into confrontations with police.

By day’s end about three dozen protesters were detained, one policeman was hospitalized and several lawmakers complained of being roughed up.

The protest blocked Avenida 2 and adjacent streets for much of the day.

The demonstration was sponsored by the Frente Nacional de Defensa de la Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. Participants came from many parts of the country but there also were young leftists from the Universidad de Costa Rica.

A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
At one point protesters threw garbage.

The violence erupted when police tried to clear the roadways for traffic. Juan José Andrade, director general of the Fuerza Pública, said officers gave three warnings before moving on the crowd at midday. Some 11 persons were detained at that time.

The confrontation that erupted about 5:30 p.m., the peak traffic hour, was more violent. Sticks and rocks were thrown at police. Lawmakers from the Partido Acción Ciudadana and the sole legislator of the Frente Amplio, José María Villalta, became embroiled in the violence when they said they were trying to negotiate the release of protesters who already had been arrested for disobeying police commands. Claudio Monge of Acción Ciudadana fell to the ground at one point. All this took place on the north side of the main headquarters of the financially troubled Caja.

Demonstrators continued to threaten police, and some threw garbage until they eventually moved off Avenida 2 to a nearby park.

The confrontation was a replay of the violence that took place Oct. 9 when university students tried to break into the legislative chambers during a protest seeking the right to photocopy copyrighted materials.

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