Lawmakers moving to reduce penalties for protesters who block roads

A legislative committee has moved to reduce the penalties for demonstrators who block public streets.

The bill is No. 17.341, and it would reduce the penalty to a fine instead of from 10 to 30 days in jail.

The measure requires changes in the penal code. The original bill was presented in 2009 by the late legislator José Merino del Río of Frente Amplio. Many of the left leaning politicians in the country support what they call democracy of the street in which protesters tie up traffic and create other blockades.

The most recent example was in Paquera where protesters blocked a main highway. The Fuerza Pública said it detained 12 persons.

Protesting became criminalized in 2002 when the jail penalty was instituted. Despite the penalty, there does not seem to have been many protesters going to jail.

If the full legislature accepts the decision of the  Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Jurídicos, the penalty will be a fine equal to three to 30 days salary of a judicial clerk. Of course, protesters can face other charges, like destroying public property or assault.

But the sense of the measure is to respect those who protest peacefully.

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