Police moved in and thwarted Wednesday what appeared to be a plot to rain down firebombs on a crowd at the legislature.
Police detained 12 persons, including a minor and two foreigners, and also confiscated material for homemade firebombs, ski masks, briefcases, rocks and sticks as well as marijuana and crack.
The police acted after mostly young people tried to break through a metal barricade that had been set up along Avenida Primera in front of the legislature.
The event was the Día del Trabajador, Costa Rica’s labor day. Some participants arrived at the legislature to provoke the police.
One person tried to throw a firebomb, a Molotov cocktail, at a police officer. He was detained as was another person who was caught with a briefcase full of bottles containing flammable liquid.
The early afternoon confrontation only lasted about eight minutes, police officials estimated. The trigger appeared to be the burning of a U.S. flag and a cardboard character of Barack Obama, the U. S. president. The situation escalated from there.
Many in the crowd were surprised because the march started in the morning with the bulk of the participants in a holiday mood even though they were making political protests. There even were bands.
Celso Gamboa Sánchez, a vice minister of Seguridad Pública.said that one person detained is from Belgium. A second, he said, is Colombian.
The disturbance escalated into burning signs and pushing over the metal barriers. Fuerza Pública officers were reinforced by members of the Unidad de Intervención Policial.
Motorcycle policemen had a confrontation with an unlikely group at the Centro de Amigos para la Paz, the organization said. The center said in a release Wednesday night that eight to 10 policemen on motorcycles behaved in an aggressive manner,
Also involved were members of the Asociación Costarricense de Derechos Humanos and the Servicio Paz y Justicia. About 70 persons were involved, the center said.
The peace center, which is located several blocks from the legislature said representatives would carry a complaint to the Defensoría de los Habitantes.
The center also demanded that those persons detained at the disturbances at the legislature be released. It said that the visit of Obama to Costa Rica was being used as an excuse to repress social movements and their leaders.
Many of those who marched were union members who were simply celebrating the day. Some carried signs condemning corruption, and one called President Laura Chinchilla the reina de chorizo, or the “queen of corruption,” using a slang word.
Others were protesting the contract by a U.S. firm to install automatic lottery ticket machines. They claimed this was tantamount to selling the Junta de Protección Social, the public agency that runs the lottery.