May Day parade is open to anyone who has a gripe

Anyone with a gripe has the chance to express that view May 1 for the annual May Day workers’ parade.

Already unions are prepared to protest a 5 percent increase in the pay of lawmakers. The increase is 163,113 colons, about $330 a month. The increase is based on a 1995 law.

At the same time workers will be protesting the revelation that more than 1,000 high government officials receive more than 5 million colons a month salary. That is at least $10,000. The Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados
said that this was learned about the same time government officials were discussing even more tax proposals.

Not just union members will be protesting the cost of living. Certainly residents who live on the proposed highway route to San Ramón will be out in force. This is the same group that conducted a protest at the April 11 Juan Santamaría day celebration in Alajuela.

They are calling for the government to annul a concession agreement with a Brazilian firm because the company wants to charge a 2,000-colon toll when the job is done. That is about $4 each way. The central government appears to be waffling on the contract.

Disabled residents will participate May 1, too, They have announced that they are seeking more consideration.

Then there is the government’s gag law. This is the law that established state secrets and provides prison terms for those who disclose them. Many news organizations protested when they finally realized what was passed, and the government quickly moved to have some amendments approved. But not everyone is happy. And the law does not just cover news people even though the government seems to have made a deal with the Colegio de Periodismo, the journalistic professional organization.

Corruption is a big issue, and there will be a large contingent including students, who will be carrying signs protesting that. The roadway along the Río San Juan has resulted in a number of investigations. But there also are those who believe that the San Ramón highway concession was motivated by something other than public spirit.

Then there is the Las Crucita mine and the threat by the Canadian Infinito Gold Ltd. to take Costa Rica to international arbitration to the tune of $1 billion. There are strong opponents to open pit gold mining who will march against Infinito.

Local gold miners will be protesting, too. The Parque Nacional Corcovado on the Osa peninsula has placer deposits that have been worked by residents for years. But now that the land is incorporated into a national park, placer mining or panning is illegal.

The Fuerza Pública and park rangers swept the area last week looking for illegal miners.

But those who used to earn their living panning for gold are seeking compensation for the ban.

No firm action is likely to come from the May Day march, but the protests provide solidarity for union members and give the country a platform to outline grievances.

Meanwhile, the day is also when the legislature elects or reelects its leadership.  And President Laura Chinchilla will deliver her state of the country address that night.

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