Rioting Breaks Out Against Tolls In Santa Ana

Burning tires and tree branches in the middle of the road and the throwing of rocks against vehicles forced the complete closure of the autopista Próspero Fernández between Guachilepin and Santa Ana last night in a riot that lasted several hours.

The disturbance that began minutes after 7pm last night was by a group of local residents upset about the charging of tolls on the road to Caldera, as it is commonly kwown, and for the immediate dismissal of Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes (MOPT) minister, Karla González.

One resident and alleged leader of the manifestation that got out of hand, Cinthya Crespo, said that the community is tired of the problems of the highway, mainly the poor quality of the work by the highway's concession, Autopistas del Sol.

The residents say they have been lied to and are being continually duped by MOPT officials.

The major complaints are the location of the pedestrian overpasses, which according to the residents, are too far away from the normal crossings and bus stops on the road. In particular attention is the overpass at Santa Ana which is more than 500 metres from the Santa Ana intersection, people being forced to walk on the highway as there is no sidewalk.

However, the MOPT assures that the complaints of the residents are being considered and that the municipality of Santa Ana has been granted permits to build more bus bays and the construction of an additional pedestrian bridge at Pozos and that the Consejo de Transporte Público (Public Transporation Board) will be approving more buses on the Santa Ana - San José route.

The protestors forced the complete closure of the highway and a confrontation ensued when the Unidad de Intervención Policial (UIP) - riot squad - arrived on the scene, who were met by rocks being thrown at them, several impacting the UIP bus windshield.

Burning tires and branches kept the riot atmosphere going, providing fuel for the protestors to engage police, which kept their calm, removing the UIP bus from the scene, but kept with its engine running nearby.

The rioters calmed down by 9pm with a total of 24 protestors arrested.

The organizers of the protest vowed to take their manifestations to the front of the Legislative Assembly in San José, to see which of the legislators are behind what is being called the big lie.

"This highway was paid for 25 years ago", shouted one protestor for the news cameras, referring to the time it has taken from the first plans to build the highway to the Pacific coast to today where parts of the highway - like the 40 kilometres between Santa Ana and Orotina - are still incomplete.





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