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Costa Rica: University Students Protest Budget Agreements

Some University of Costa Rica students took hold of the social sciences building in protest of the budgetary agreement that was reached between the government and university officials where a 7% budget increase was agreed upon after negotiating the original 4% the government proposed.

UCR Tomada by Stella Chinchilla

Cristian Cambronero from Fusil de Chispas explains in his post FEES: The FEUCR Lost its head :

El acuerdo firmado a altas hora de la noche del miércoles entre los rectores de las universidades estatales y el gobierno, sobre el Fondo Estatal para la Educación Superior (FEES) desató una fiesta de locos este jueves. Un grupo de estudiantes encabezados por el liderazgo de la FEUCR y el Sindicato de Empleados de la UCR (SINDEU) invadieron la sala de sesiones del Consejo Universitario para gritar su oposición al acuerdo firmado por la rectora Yamileth González, exigir que el Consejo lo rechazara, y reclamar que la rectora haya suscrito el acuerdo “sin consultarles”.

The agreement signed late at night on Wednesday between the rectors of the state universities and the government regarding the State Fund for Higher Education (FEES) unleashed a crazy party on Thursday. A group of students headed by the FEUCR (University of Costa Rica Student Federation) and the UCR Employee Syndicate (SINDEU) invaded the University Council session room to yell out their opposition to the agreement signed by rector Yamileth Gonzalez, demanding that the Council should reject it and complaining that the rector had joined the agreement without “consulting them”.

Here is a video showing FEUCR president Silvia Herrero insisting that anything less than a 13% budget increase was unacceptable and that taxes should be asked of “people with money, not us”:

After this, some of the students took possession of the social sciences building, and Olalla Vargas, a social sciences student was there when it happened, as she tells us on her blog:

Pero lo que sí me parece indignante es el secuestro del edificio de Sociales, y me refiero a secuestro porque, discúlpenme eso no fue una toma, como sí lo fue la toma de rectoría.
El jueves 26 de agosto -por cierto día de feria vocacional- a todos los que nos encontrábamos en el edificio nos obligaron a salir, gente encapuchada nos sacó por las puertas de emergencia. Sin dar explicaciones de quienes eran y quién les dio legitimidad y/o autoridad para hacer algo así, y enajenando de cualquier proceso o lucha a los demás estudiantes de sociales, nos secuestraron el edificio.

But what is outrageous is the hijacking of the social sciences building, and I call it hijacking because it wasn't “taking”, as was when they entered the rectory.
On Thursday, August 26th – day of the vocational fair- all of us who were in the building were forced out by masked people who led us out of the emergency exits. Without explaining who they were or who authorized or legitimized their activities and alienating others social sciences students from any process or struggle, our building was hijacked.

It seems that many students are unhappy with the occupation of the building which resulted in the locking down of all the university.

On the comment thread, Priscila writes:

Claramente representan a nadie o a dem pocos. Fue una verguenza estar hoy en el edificio de Ciencias Sociales y que nos sacaran encapuchados de ahí.
Teníamos una grabación, invitados y trabajo por hacer, pero no… eso no le importa a ninguno de los que “luchan por la U”, pero que lo único que logran es ensuciar más el nombre de la UCR
Yo solo pido que las personas no generalicen por culpa de 5 gatos que además deben esconder sus caras y “prohibirnos” sacar fotografías, seguro por la verguenza que les da estar haciendo semejante tontera.

Clearly they represent none or few. It was embarrassing to be in the Social Sciences building today and have masked people herding us out.
We had filming to do, guests and work to do, but no… that was of no importance to those that “fight for the U”, but the only thing they do is dirty the UCR's name more.
I just ask for people to not generalize just because there are 5 marks who besides have to hide their faces and forbid us to take picture, certainly due to the embarrassment of being involved in such foolishness.

The students who took the building opened a blog to tell their side of the tale and defend their point of view. Even though it started as an independent innitiative, after a student assembly on Saturday it was voted that the FEUCR would support both the occupation of the Rectory and the taking of the Social Sciences Building, as Daniela Muñoz commented.

The following is a video interview of the masked people who took hold of the building, the clips of them justifying their actions and explaining that they covered their faces to avoid backlash from the university authorities are mixed with comments from people outside the building who expressed their displeasure with the way the situation unfolded on Thursday:

Earlier today the occupation of both buildings ended as the University authorities reached an agreement with the groups of students stating that they would not cut scholarships, quotas or decrease in the efforts to strengthen the other university sites. The University of Costa Rica will resume normal activities tomorrow.

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