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From meisenscher@igc.org Wed May 24 18:43:03 2000
Date: Wed, 5 Apr 2000 22:13:17 -0500 (CDT)
From: Michael Eisenscher <meisenscher@igc.org>
Subject: Costa Rica's trade unions paralyze ports, fuel distribution -
Article: 92969
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Costa Rica's trade unions paralyze ports and fuel distribution

Agence France Presse, Tuesday 4 April 2000

SAN JOSE, April 3 - Costa Rica's two biggest ports were paralyzed Monday, and fuel distribution blocked, as trade unions and civic organizations called a general strike.

Workers shut down the Caribbean port of Limon, 90 kilometers (118 miles) east of the capital, from midnight (0600 GMT Monday) in support of nationwide opposition to the government's controversial plan to privatize Costa Rica's telecoms and energy industries.

The Pacific cargo port Puntarenas, 120 kilometers (75 miles) west of San Jose, was also shut down.

Limon handles 90 percent of the country's imports and exports, and is the fuel distribution hub of the state-owned Costa Rican Oil Refinery (Recope).

The unions are demanding that President Miguel Angel Rodriguez cancel his plan to privatize the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) which would split energy and telecoms into two separate companies and open the respective industry markets.

The measure, sponsored by lawmakers from the ruling Social Christian Unity Party, was approved on March 20 thanks to support from the majority of its deputies as well as from the opposition National Liberation Party (NLP).

San Jose was relatively calm Monday, after Rodriguez announced a day earlier he would be prepared to suspend debate on the privatization plan, known as the "power duo," for 60 days, to "open a space for dialogue."

Opponents of the plan went ahead with their strike, however, stating that the move was "positive, but not enough."

A commission set up under a plan by the country's Ombudsman was also due to hold its first round of talks Monday, to bring together representative of the government, unions, private enterprise and the universities.

The Costa Rican capital will also host a presidential summit Wednesday to include Central American countries, Brazil and the Dominican Republic.