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Costa Rica’s Labor Ministry suspends talks with unions over port project after president’s picture burned

Costa Rica’s Labor Minister Victor Morales announced that negotiations with the dockworkers union SINTRAJAP would be suspended until its leaders issued a public statement denouncing the burning of President Luis Guillermo Solís’ image outside union headquarters in the Caribbean port of Limón on Monday. Negotiations were originally scheduled to continue at the Labor Ministry on Wednesday in San José.

On Monday afternoon, unions representing teachers, and employees of the National Insurance Institute, the National Oil Refinery, and the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) announced solidarity with SINTRAJAP but stopped short of calling for additional strikes or demonstrations. SINTRAJAP has been on strike since Oct. 22, occasionally clashing with police.

“As long as the government continues to leave Limón and SINTRAJAP in this situation we will be here standing beside them,” said Fabio Chávez, representing the ICE union.

After the announcement, union members flooded the streets and formed a Circle where they lit fire to a poster of President Solís. Once the photo had burned they dropped it to the ground, stomping on it and cheering. Earlier on Monday morning, protesters marched peacefully through the streets of Limón.

“We are calling on the people to rise up peacefully with us,” said SINTRAJAP Secretary Ronaldo Blear at the press conference.

SINTRAJAP claimed the government’s contract with APM Terminals granting the Dutch company a 33-year deal on handling containers at the docks is a “monopoly” that would eliminate public-sector jobs at the Atlantic Port Authority, JAPDEVA. Solís’ administration has argued that any attempt to re-negotiate the contract, signed in 2011, would threaten Costa Rica’s reputation with foreign investors.

Incensed by Solís’ refusal to put contract re-negotiations on the table, union leaders passed out pamphlets containing article 12.1 of the government contract with APM Terminals. The article states that the government can choose to re-negotiate the contract if it sees fit.

“No contract is written in stone. This contract is impeding the free market and the right to free competition. The government is lying to the whole country when they say they can’t re-negotiate it,” SINTRAJAP’s Blear told The Tico Times.

More at the Tico Times

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