President had a rough time at the Juan Santamaría celebration

A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson Fuerza Pública officers try to keep the crowd from invading the central park

Juan Santamaría day celebrations of the 157 anniversary of the Battle of Rivas were interrupted soon after the start by protesters unhappy with the San José to San Ramón road concession.

Police set up steel barricades early Thursday at Alajuela’s central park and only granted access to the event to uniformed parade participants and guests who were on a list.

As a result, many family members were denied entry leaving them angry with the police.

Despite this, children in costumes and band uniforms gathered with smiles in the area in front of the Juan Santamaría statue and waited in the blazing morning heat for the arrival of President Laura Chinchilla Miranda.

A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
Protesters turned out in force Thursday, in part to oppose the toll on the new San Ramón highway. But there were deeper issues.

After Ms. Chinchilla’s arrival and formalities that included shaking hands with the young citizens, the program began with the national anthem.

Then the shouting started.  Angry protesters commandeered the park and climbed in trees and on top of the playground equipment with banners and Costa Rican flags.  Others screamed derogatory comments about the presidents and chants about corruption and the filibuster from the barricades

Once Ms. Chinchilla took the stage, the protesters turned violent, pulled on the gates and demanded to enter the event.

“Doña Laura Chinchilla is afraid to talk to us,” said one protester.  “We are the people.”

Police readied themselves forming a double line of support if the protesters were to get through.  The protesters were contained until Ms. Chinchilla left the ceremony.

Afterward, the parade continued as scheduled allowing 37 bands of elementary and high school students from communities such as Guanacaste, San Carlos, Limón, Heredia, San Ramón, Cartago, Heredia and Alajuela to drum and dance through the streets.

Individuals unhappy with the proposed 2,000-colon toll on the San Ramón highway promised a protest, so police were forewarned. The opponents came for the communities along the path of the highway. Of course, the unhappiness was amplified when parents realized they could not see their children participating in the Juan Santamaría day event. Police had closed off several blocks around the park

A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson Youngster on a parade float impersonates Juan Santamaría and carries a mock torch the national hero used to ignite a filibuster stronghold.

Some reporters scuffled with police as Ms. Chinchilla was leaving because they wanted to ask her questions. They never got the chance. Some official cars were jostled as their occupants left the scene. Elsewhere spectators scuffled with police. One man was believed to have been detained but details are unavailable.

Casa Presidencial quickly issued a bulletin criticizing what it said was extremism. “Extremism never has been the basis of a solution to any problem,” said the bulletin. It also said that Ms. Chinchilla had told her highway officials to put off until Monday a meeting with officials in communities along the route. many feel that the toll is excessive. The session had been planned for today.

A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson President Chinchilla creates a photo opportunity

A filibuster is someone who engages in war in other countries usually for personal gain. That is the term given to William Walker, the U.S. citizen who became president of Nicaragua in 1856. It was Walker’s force that Santamaría faced at the Battle of Rivas. Thursday the word was thrown out as a convenient criticism of government officials and the private firm that is building the road and holds the concession.

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