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Costa Rica: Quality public healthcare system in danger

15 March 2017
Demonstration by BUSSCO in Costa Rica
Since the 1990s, neoliberal policies have claimed victims in the public services sector run by the Costa Rican state. The rise of the neoliberal globalization which is expanding with free trade, has involved big businesses aggressive pursuit of new sources of profit. This is the reason behind the waves of privatization of public services like water, education, health and others.

The systematic attack on health care in Costa Rica, focuses on: attempts to undermine health workers’ power; lower the quality of public health services as a cost-cutting measure, legitimize the questionable view that private is better and promote the outsourcing of services to private providers.

The trade unions have been able to counter some of these measures, by organising and mobilising. Three years ago, we founded the BUSSCO, which is the Costa Rican Union and Social Unity Block, from which we have developed a series of campaigns to counteract the policies directed against public services and workers delivering these.

Our campaigns have been massive on radio, television, and the internet. We have organized several days of protests. The largest of these were in April 2016 with two days of waves of public employees marching in their tens of thousands across Costa Rica. We have also put up a series of billboards that identify those who are attacking working class people, and the public utility institutions.

The billboards have been designed to impact on politicians who attack workers, but also to publicize the privatization of the public institutions of the Costa Rican State. The impact is enormous, and it directly confronts the political classes in power.

Internal policies are maintained in the Costa Rican Social Security Institutions, where much-needed health workers are not employed and care programs are reduced, causing chaos in some of the major processes of service delivery. Health is no exception, and has suffered a gradual decline for more than two decades. But for the strong opposition of the unions, the health system would have ended up being wholly privatized.

We travel to the regions, organizing meetings to establish BUSSCO on a regional basis, and also maintain a constant lobbying in the congress, stating that we disagree with new laws against public employment, whose purpose is "to reduce labor, preparing the way for eventual privatization.”

The process has been very hard, we have partially paralyzed the for-profit initiatives that cause a loss in the value of the wages of public workers, and our campaign for the defense of public services is continuous. Establishing the motto that HEALTH IS A HUMAN RIGHT FOR ALL is part of this continuum.
Our campaign sums up efforts towards winning social information. "Health as a Human Right" is essential for building a better, more just and fully inclusive social system.

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