SAN JOSE – Thousands of Costa Rican public employees took to the streets of this capital on Wednesday to protest a proposed tax overhaul that they say will increase the burden on workers and the middle class.
Slogans such as “Down with the tax plan that impoverishes the people” and “The tax plan takes from the people what the rich steal” appeared on placards carried by demonstrators as they made their way through the city to the Legislative Assembly.
The strike caused schools to be closed, as well as delays in several municipal services, including the commuter rail, while health institutions were restricted to dealing with emergencies.
Union leaders said that they are demanding a discussion involving all economic sectors, insisting that while workers are prepared to do their part, they should bear the entire burden of the fiscal adjustment.
“If the country’s needs truly call for a raise in taxes, we can meet it,” the president of the ANDE teachers union, Gilberto Cascante, told EFE. “But those who evade and elude taxes also (have to pay).”
The centerpiece of the bill now being considered by lawmakers is replacement of the current national sales tax of 13 percent with a value-added tax at the same percentage, but applicable to a broader range of products and services.
“We want this to be more fair,” Cascante said. “That is what we are asking the president. The poorest people are taxed on their savings, but not the rich, whose savings are abroad.”