Topics in Culture

Costa Rica

Part 11: Social Protest of Costa Rica

            Just like most countries, Costa Rica has experienced several types of social protests. Social protests are organized by groups of people to refute other people’s or government’s actions. Some of the types of social protests that have been experienced in Costa Rica include environmental, peasant, minority and labor protests. In general, social protests are an expression of opinions on human actions. One of the major examples of social protests that Costa Rica experienced in the early, 1980’s is peasant protests (Cheryl Martin and Mark Wasserman, 2008, p.375). During this period, most people in the country dependent on peasant farming as a way of earning a living. However, as the years progressed, the economy declined forcing the government to cut back on the special programs, which enhanced the peasants’ livelihoods. The peasant farmers responded to the cutbacks by numerous protests.

Costa Rica has also experienced labor protests where the citizens engaged in demonstrations against government’s decisions. For example, in 2007, many Costa Ricans were involved in countrywide demonstrations to dispute the ratification of a free trade agreement referred to as CAFTA. The Costa Ricans are afraid that other countries may impose on their economy leading to loss of employment. Environmental protests have also been experienced in Costa Rica with activists protesting the induction of open-pit gold mining in the country. With the government having signed agreements with different countries like Canada, on the commencement of these projects, activists and ordinary citizens raised concerns on what is said to be an environmental hazard. The demonstrations began in June 2010 and continue despite the government’s efforts to convince the people that the projects were safe for the environment. Such protests were also experienced in 2000, when agricultural union members protested the use of certain pesticides, which were said to be harmful to the environment. The pesticides were sold to the farmers by certain American companies and was said to cause cancer. Another labor protest was seen in 2009, when domestic workers demonstrated on what they called unfair working hours (Daniel Zueras, 2009, p.1). It was said that the law stipulates that domestics work for 12-16 hours a day. They said that this was discrimination of the highest order.

As seen above, the reasons for protests differ depending on who is protesting and what kind of circumstances they are in. For example, the reasons range from loss of employment through cutbacks to dangerous pesticides being released into the environment. People are passionate about different things and this can be seen from what motivates protests. Some are driven by the needs of specific sectors like agriculture while some are driven by the overall needs of the whole country’s population (Cheryl Martin and Mark Wasserman, 2008, p.373)

. For example, the demonstrations against CAFTA are countrywide and not related to the individual needs of the people. This shows the diverse nature of the reasons why people protest. It is also important to note that economic conditions are a common reason for protests. For example, in the 1980s peasants were protesting against cutbacks as they reduced their economic opportunities. Additionally, the people are protesting against the CAFTA as it will degrade their economic status. Labor protests are also related to economic conditions as people protest against harsh working conditions and unfair wages. On the other hand, some protests like those linked to the environment are not related to the economic situations.

Religious groups play an important role in helping the people and governments address different issues affecting the people. The highest of Costa Rican population are Roman Catholics and this has an effect on the decisions that people make. In my country, the government is involved in decision-making and represents the views of the people in social and economic issues. Additionally, the government usually calls the church to intervene in protests to cool the people and act as a mediator between the people and the political leaders.

 

References:

Martin, C. E., & Mark, W. (2008). Latin America and Its People. New York, NY: Pearson Longman.

Zueras, D. (2009). Domestics fight for Eight-hour day. IPS News. Retrieved from http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=46685

 

 

 

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