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Proposed legislation on workers’ strikes could limit Freedom of Peaceful Assembly in Costa Rica

Peaceful Assembly

On 3rd September 2019, several Costa Rican unions marched in San José to protest a draft bill (No. 21.049) proposing new regulations for strikes. Proponents of the regulation argue that current practices generate an insecure economic environment. But, as previously reported on the Monitor, opponents believe this new law to be overly authoritarian, limiting the right to peaceful assembly. The bill project was led by deputy Carlos Ricardo Benavides from opposition party Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN), drafted in October 2018 after nationwide demonstrations against fiscal reform.

The bill has been labelled “proyecto anti-huelga” (anti-strike project) by social movements, and it prohibits strikes against public policies or other causes not directly related to employers defaulting on commitments. According to reports, the bill also bans certain “essential” sectors from striking – including health, education and police workers. Finally, the draft regulation also proposes a retroactive deduction from employees’ salaries if a strike is declared illegal. While several social movements and workers’ unions have denounced the bill, groups linked to industry defend the project.

On 10th October 2019, United Nations Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression, on Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly and on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders published a letter expressing concern about the proposed legislation, stating that it could be incompatible with Costa Rica’s obligations under multiple international treaties. The Supreme Court's Constitutional Chamber is set to analyse whether the bill is in line with Costa Rica's Constitution.

Expression

On 21st September 2019, Norman del Valle was forcibly removed from the San Ramón Regional Museum after expressing critical views about Cuba’s regime during an event at the museum. Del Valle, a senior citizen who is originally from Cuba, was attending an exhibition and meeting about Cuba organised by regime sympathisers Grupo Semilla Ramonense and Movimiento de Solidaridad con Cuba (Solidarity with Cuba Movement). He was removed from the event by two men, who grabbed him by the arms and allegedly insulted him. The University of Costa Rica, owner of the museum, apologised to Del Valle and said these were “censorship acts” by the event’s organisers.