Strike at Costa Rican port of Limon threatens foreign trade

AP, Tuesday 16 September 2003, 19:48 PDT

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP)—A strike by union workers in the Caribbean province of Limon resulted in 10 arrests Tuesday but failed to interrupt operations at a key port for oil and other goods.

The Limon Workers Federation, which organized the strike, refused to estimate how many workers participated on Tuesday. But enough people went to work in the city of Limon, 110 kilometers (70 miles) east of San Jose, to keep operations running at the docks and at the national oil company Refinadora de Petroleo.

Ten union members were arrested Tuesday after demonstrators attempted to block trucks from entering docks at Limon by throwing rocks, Security Secretary Rogelio Ramos said. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd.

The police have intervened because these are strategic products such as fuel and perishable goods, in order to avoid greater economic damage, Ramos said.

The Costa Rican Chamber of Exporters warned in a communique Tuesday that it feared the strike could paralyze Costa Rica's foreign trade. In San Jose, drivers lined up at gas stations to fill up tanks for fear the strike could affect petroleum supplies.

The union federation is demanding US$7.4 million in compensation for the rejection of a tariff increase by the federal regulators, among other demands.w

Costa Rican President Abel Pacheco said his government is open to negotiating, but noted that port tariffs are regulated by the autonomous Public Service Regulatory Authority.

We cannot nor do we want to obligate the authority to violate its own procedures, Pacheco said.