Costa Rica: Thousands of Young People Mobilized Against Police Repression and the Criminalization of Protest
By Brayan Brenes
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
On Thursday, November 15, we, more than 20,000 young people, marched through the streets of San José to condemn the police repression of November 8, as well as demanding the resignation of Security Minister Mario Zamora and Chief of Police Raúl Rivera, for being the main culprits on a day in defense of social security … that ended with more than 30 comrades arrested and dozens of people beaten up.
The action condemning the repression was composed of two central contingents: the first, located in the Parque de la Merced and backed by massive assemblies of hundreds of students, and the second contingent that had, as a point of departure, the UCR [University] protective wall, from which the university workers’ union called on the employees to march. In less than a week, the student movement stood up to respond to the government: we achieved the active strike in the University of Costa Rica [UCR], so that it was possible to march massively, and we put the group in the street, accompanied by artistic picketers from musical and dramatic arts groups of the University, that performed scenes about the repression, at every traffic intersection. Prominent people joined the march, as well as dozens of human rights’ observers, environmental collectives, representatives of the movement for sexual diversity, union delegations from UNDECA, the SISS, and others, in one of the most dynamic and largest movements for the defense of democratic rights in years.
The November 15 mobilization constituted a real proclamation by thousands of young people that we are not willing to continue putting up with the repression that the police are leading, not only in front of the Social Security Administration, but daily in the neighborhoods, the streets and public places, where the forces of order exercise their “special” power to control the lives of young people and the poor.
The President and the communications media are promoting silence about the mobilization, and they are confirming the increase in the police presence. Over and above the fact that November 15 turned out to be a success, one must emphasize that the President answered the mobilization by giving the order practically to besiege the city with thousands of anti-riot police that surrounded the city blocks near Second Avenue, at the same time that she put policewomen as a façade of a “truce” on both sides of the march, in an attempt to confuse a section of public opinion that perceives these policewomen as “protectors,” and not as part of an institution prepared to put down and crush social struggle. President Chinchilla and the communications media tried, on the one hand, to hide the action against repression, and, on the other hand, they tried to legitimize the fact that there is an increasingly oppressive police presence in the streets, that was obvious on the day of the march. But precisely this operation of media silence deployed by the government and the bosses’ press, reflects the fears of the President and her team, that do not want there to be more talk either about the repression that has been exerted from Zapote [the seat of government], to guarantee “governability,” much less, that there should be more discussion of the acute dissatisfaction that has been growing, against corruption and the accelerated dismantling of public institutions that are essential for the country, like “Social Sciences,” that are threatened with disappearance with the neoliberal policy of Chinchilla and the [ruling] National Liberation Party.
It is precisely because of the above that we, the thousands of young people that mobilized on November 15, must continue to fight and organize, not only to defend social security and condemn repression, but to provide an opening for a big democratic campaign against the militarization of Costa Rica, to demand that the authorization for US warships to enter Costa Rica’s coastal waters be cancelled, that the Bush Anti-Terrorism Law, approved in Congress in 2009, be repealed, as well as demanding the dismantling of the police apparatus that Chinchilla is strengthening, that is precisely not to guarantee “public safety,” but to stifle the social struggles that could take place in Costa Rica.
It is urgent to consolidate the organizing spaces that have emerged in recent weeks, to give expression to the will to struggle that the university young people have been showing, and to set their minds on the challenge of building a political vanguard, next to the workers of the city and countryside, to respond to the big national problems independently of the bosses and their parties.
Two opposed policies, in the face of repression and in defense of social security: The active strike, as well as the mobilization of November 15, were a result of the arduous work of dozens of activists and leaders that prepared and called assemblies, rallies in front of the Rector’s Office, as well as days of consciousness raising that included numerous performances, video screenings about repression during entire afternoons, as well as an incessant call in the University. This was how assemblies were guaranteed, like that of Friday, November 9, with 600 students, or that of Monday, November 12, with around 400, organized independently of the UCR Students’ Federation, previously run by the PT/MAS, and now by the group Progre.
Over and above the dimensions of a day of protest that was characterized by two very good columns [contingents], guaranteed by the Active Strike and the work done during the course of a week, one must accept that big obstacles also appeared, for example, when the “leaders” of the PT–FA-Progre went from being spectators in the first assemblies, to openly sabotaging them, when they were unable to impose themselves on the majority. Despite having formed the two main committees that emerged from the assemblies (security and communications), the leaders of the PT-FA-Progre devoted themselves more to looking after the interests of their small electoral groups than pushing the entire movement forward. On Monday, November 12, standing in a group, they went so far as to demand, with shouts, that the march should declare itself as “peaceful,” frightened at the idea that was beginning to circulate, about the right to exercise “self defense,” in view of the possibility of a police attack. But that’s not all: the PT-FA-Progre front broke the agreement to march all together from the Parque de la Merced; they fractured the movement, and they have endangered, from the active strike, the very possibility of mobilization, up to the safety of comrades of the Security Committee, whom they slandered, class by class, as “infiltrators,” reflecting their political desperation at not having been able to control big assemblies, composed of hundreds of independent young people, who seek the road of struggle, against repression and the government
In contrast with the organizations mentioned above, and despite our modest forces, we militants of the LRS made great efforts to stay on the front line from the first moment, fighting so that the active strike could be imposed, working to guarantee the meetings in front of the Rector’s Office, calling on the students of one class after another to protest against police repression; we participated in the assemblies by intervening, making suggestions, helping the movement to develop in general, beyond any type of petty interest of a “sect” or an apparatus, the way the leaders of some organizations did. We were also a part of the committees formed in assemblies of hundreds of students, and, in them, we continued the political debate against those who were leaving preparations against repression to luck, coincidentally the same people that finally broke with the assemblies’ decisions.
We Trotskyists of the LRS call for basing ourselves on the political and organizational accomplishments made in these weeks, provided that the assemblies and committees that were set up from November 8 serve as a point of support to build a militant and revolutionary center within the student movement, that will plan to be part of a political vanguard that will defend the historic interests of the workers of the city and countryside, of the young people and all the poor, especially under the threat of a reset of the world capitalist crisis, that will have severe repercussions on the Costa Rican class struggle.
[From the Fracción Trotskista, ft-ci.org, – Unofficial translation]