Editor’s note:  Professor  M.Sc. Rosemary Castro Solano has written  this impassioned letter about the attacks on teachers, their profession, public education, and democracy in Costa Rica. Costa Rican teachers and their unions have been a formidable opponent of reforms being carried out by wealthy elites.  Many of the specifics in this letter, in particular the vicious personal attacks on teachers as a group, pervasive cronyism and corruption, and the sense of abandonment, are likely experienced at times by teachers elsewhere. Yet, we should also note that the intensity of the assault is evidence that teachers and students are one of the most stable and powerful opponents of anti-democratic regimes and policies. Our successes and our potential to win even more support against powerful enemies are what make us so dangerous.

Oh, the irony:  in Costa Rica, the country which 70 years ago decided that no army was necessary because it would rather have an army of teachers and students, the neoliberal “progressive” government of Carlos Alvarado (PAC) – and the most fascist and manipulative that most of us remember – has decided to launch a crusade against any workers’ movement and, in order to do so, it has gone as far as to modify the law so that “political” strikes – which strike is not political, anyway? – can be sanctioned and penalized.  Their “favorite” aim? Educators, nonetheless.

It was the 26th of April last year when Costa Rica’s President-elect – Carlos Alvarado, a man with no résumé other than fifteen years of stroking the egos of big chiefs in his political party – announced that the Minister of Education would be the mayor of Curridabat – one of San José’s twenty counties and where I happen to live – who not only has zero experience, qualifications and /or public interest in the educational field but who had also been heavily questioned in his 12-year-run as mayor, including a public lawsuit for stating that he was a university graduate in Journalism when he was not at all a graduate at the time of the questioning.
I stood in disbelief regarding that appointment, and then asked myself why on earth could he be giving our most important Ministry – and the largest one, with close to 80000 workers – to someone who - besides being his close friend - had absolutely nothing to offer to the field and, as a matter of fact, had answered with a shameless “I don’t know a thing about education, but I am a fast learner” when questioned by the press on which his credentials were regarding his appointment.

Then, I remembered having seen a picture of those two along the President at the moment, Luis Guillermo Solís (PAC, also), dancing and jumping at a concert held in Curridabat and just a few kilometers away from where a hot spot of drug-related crime had left – that same afternoon – three more young victims. That picture turned on a light for me and right there I knew that appointing that man Minister of Education was not a “best-friends” decision only but also a way to give him a constant press / media platform and to introduce him to the new generations (future voters) so that he could run for President in 2022. Yes, as machiavellian and indecent as it sounds. 
Well, fast forward four months when the Executive – as its first (and, so far, only) action of government – sent its predatory tax package to Congress under threats that, were it not to be approved, Costa Rica would undergo bankrupt and absolute chaos. Of course, what the government didn’t openly say was that such a state of crisis had been reached after years of corruption including:

* the loss of $50million due to a corruption-plagued loan from a State-owned bank to a private company to import Chinese cement and whose entailing scandal even saw the president of the Supreme Court stepping down because of allegations of serious misconduct.

* the deliberate hiding from the first’s PAC administration (Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera, 2014-2018) of a gap in budget which equals a shortfall of $1.5billion and which was hidden as part of PAC’s strategy – along with the manipulation of human rights and intense polarization of Costa Rica’s society – to win for a second and consecutive time despite having terrible results in all fields and never-seen-before corruption scandals during its first administration.

Then, the media – privately owned and, therefore, greedy and predatory -  replicated such threats and started a campaign to ostracize and stigmatize all expressions of workers’ resistance to that tax proposal with special emphasis on teachers, who were demonized for being the last ones to surrender and who were even pointed at as responsible for serving the food in school lunches’ programs – which is not at all true as there are cafeteria workers hired for such a task in every school – with the sole purpose of selling the news story that “Every child who does not get his meal is the consequence of a teacher in strike."

Furthermore, the Minister starred on his own drama-episode when on September 14th - a day before our Independence Day and when the torch of freedom is carried along the country by students – he decided that due to the teachers’ movement it was unsafe for the torch to be carried as tradition says and, therefore, “kidnapped” it to fly it – SOLO, how about that? – on a helicopter. Yes, nauseating, indeed.
Then, a couple of months later - on November 24th and the day before Roger Waters’ concert where, ironically enough, the President went to celebrate having beaten workers’ opposition and political resistance - the tax package was finally approved as a result of such misinformation campaign (including a presidential farce of being “attacked” by one of the workers in resistance while exiting the National Theater) and also due to Congress not having enough representatives of the people and for the people, since our Legislative branch is unfortunately plagued by a plethora of wealthy ones who are good for nothing except travelling and posing for their daily “selfie."
Now in June 2019 - three weeks before those taxes begin their application with a historical peak of unemployment at 12-13%, hundreds of thousands of empty commercial spots across the country and at 1.5 MEI of being officially in recession – teachers restarted their movement this Thursday 06th and Friday 07th and, once again, the government has come out to threaten them with layoffs and to use media to stigmatize this (and any other) effort of resistance.

No doubt we are facing our darkest hour down here: not just because we chose to be governed by pretentious, inexperienced, immoral and manipulative ones but also because the rest of us is either too busy seeing how to survive this debacle or too busy surfing social media to continue to hate on the ones that speak up and fight, especially if those are their children’s teachers.
How sad that they are too blind(ed) to see the great lesson there is in standing up for one’s rights.