Riots in San Jose As a Group of Costa Ricans Protest the Presence of Nicaraguans in La Merced Park

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The Costa Rica Public Police Force (Fuerza Pública) had to intervene in riots this Saturday afternoon in the center of San Jose, more specifically in the La Merced Park and surrounding areas, after what began as a pacific protest ended up in acts of violence.

A group of Costa Ricans organized the event to protest against the presence of Nicaraguans in La Merced Park and other areas of San Jose.

La Merced park is commonly referred to by Costa Ricans as ¨El parque de los Nicas¨ which means ¨The Nicaraguans´Park¨because it is a common place of gathering for many natives of the neighboring country; however, in the last few weeks the presence of Nicaraguans in the park and in general in San Jose, has increased considerably, and reports have been made that some of them were even interfering with free transit of Costa Ricans and even tourists, and preventing them from taking photos or videos claiming they don’t want these to be sent to the Nicaraguan Government and endanger their lives.

The Costa Rican authorities conducted a police operation yesterday (Friday evening) and detained 78 foreigners with irregular migratory status.

The group of protesters chanted offenses against Nicaraguans, and some moved towards the Central Park, and even the Plaza de la Cultura.

In the last information offered by the Public Police Force, 20 people had been arrested due to aggression and disturbance of public order.

According to national daily La Nacion, the police also seized eight ¨molotov cocktail¨ bombs (homemade bombs) , four daggers, a baseball bat and knifes.

¨The protesters arrived (at the park), sang the anthem, and placed a flag, but all of a sudden a group of them started walking around the park singing xenophobic songs against Nicaraguans
¨, explained Randall Picado to La Nacion, ¨Any Nicaraguan that stared at them was immediatly attacked¨.

Some groups in social media called the population to gather at La Merced Park and ¨claim¨ it back, some even went as far as saying ¨bring a flag and something to defend yourself with¨.

Costa Rican authorities closed access to the park as a temporary measure.

The Government will offer a press conference at 6:30 p.m.

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