Union and government meet today on Limón strike

Casa Presidencial is taking credit for the elimination of strike-related violence in Limón. That was one of the conditions laid down for union officials in advance of negotiations today.

Violence dropped to zero Saturday night after two nights of unrest in and around the port town. Trucks were intercepted and burned, other material was torched, and the disorder on the streets rose to what one organization calls chaos.

Police made a number of arrests. The most significant action was sending hundreds more Fuerza Pública officers into the areas. Casa Presidencial said that calm had been reestablished and street disturbances had practically disappeared.

Central government officials also said that port activities were operating normally. Strikers walked out Tuesday morning leaving six cargo ships at the dock and two more waiting offshore.

The port activities continued with efficiency after police took control of the docks early Thursday, said Casa Presidencial. That is when disorders broke out, and Thursday night and Friday night were filled with acts of vandalism.

Casa Presidencial claims that the loading and unloading of cargo ships has improved 200 percent with respect to the usual activities. Some 10 vessels have been handled, it said. Getting priority are
shipments of perishable pineapples and bananas bound for the United States and Europe, said Casa Presidencial.

The meeting this morning at 10 o’clock is between the leadership of the dock workers union and Carlos Ricardo Benavides, the minister of the Presidencia. Casa Presidencial said that the topic would only be the port operation. That was reference to the union demand that the government shelve the plan to build a competing $1 billion container handling facility nearby.

The union wants the government to make an equal investment in upgrading the existing cargo ports in Limón and Moín so that port operations remain in the hands of a government agency.

The union is the Sindicato de Trabajadores de Administración Portuaria y Desarrollo Económica de la Vertiente Atlántica,

There is no conclusive evidence that all the violence was done by strikers. The area has a large number of disaffected youth who welcome the chance to be vandals.

About 80 percent of the nation’s shipping go through the two Caribbean ports. President Laura Chinchilla has distanced herself from the strike. Her televised message to the country Sunday night was on education and made no mention of the violence in Limón. And she is not expected to meet with the union leadership today.

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