Costa Rica’s President Carlos Alvarado Quesada announced Wednesday the cancellation of his trip to New York ahead of the annual session of the United Nations’ General Assembly, in a bid to solve domestic issues related to the ongoing strike demanding the withdrawal of a controversial tax reform bill sent to Congress earlier this year.
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Alvarado added that the country will be represented instead by Vice-President Epsy Campbell Barr in a Facebook post.
The UN meeting will take place from Sept. 25 to 1. Oct in the presence of all state members.
Alvarado’s announcement follows the first negotiation roundtable on Tuesday, with the Catholic Church as a mediator in the presidential palace. They are due to resume the negotiations on Thursday, according to the unions and the government.
The Law on Strengthening Public Finance proposed by the executive includes the creation of a 13 percent value-added tax to replace the current sales tax. This would allow the government to expand tax collection to the service sector, which has grown considerably. The other controversial issue is a 50 percent reduction in loyalty bonus payments and limits in salaries and time limits for severance payments in the public sector.
Unions and the general populace are also rejecting a 2 percent tax levied on staple goods.
Alvarado first criticized labor unions saying the strike was "illegal" and has called on union leaders to call it off before starting a dialogue. Public education and health sectors have halted all non-essential services.
The unions insist that there are alternatives for strengthening public finance and lamented government inaction on the 38 proposals sent by union representatives directly to President Alvarado in July. The unions’ Just and Solidary Tax Reform focuses on ways to combat tax evasion and fraud, as well as increased taxes and new taxes on companies and banks that generate extraordinary profits, eliminating "luxury" pensions for former presidents, and reducing state financial support for political parties.