Court Rejects Alterra Appeal Regarding Airport

October 14, 2005

THE report that initiated the more than two-year contract dispute regarding the renovation of the country’s main international airport was processed correctly, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) ruled last week. Alterra Partners, which holds the contract to operate and renovate Juan Santamaría International Airport – in Alajuela, northwest of San José – had filed a request for an injunction before the Sala IV alleging a processing error in a scathing report emitted in March 2003 by the Comptroller General against Alterra. The report triggered the conflict and halted the airport’s $100 million renovation by calling into question the financing of the renovation.After 31 months, that conflict has yet to be resolved, although negotiations have produced an agreement awaiting approval by the appropriate institutions.In the request for an injunction, Alterra officials alleged they were not allowed to give their opinion before the comptroller’s report was written. The court ruled Alterra’s request was without merit.The report under scrutiny raised questions about many of the fees Alterra could charge airport users, particularly those for developing and financing expenses (TT, March 28, 2003). Alterra officials said the contract’s financial equilibrium was in jeopardy if the company was not allowed to charge the fees they said were previously agreed on with the government.Construction was halted after international banks suspended the final $30 million of Alterra’s $120 million loan pending the resolution of the dispute. Earlier this year, government and Alterra officials said they had reached an agreement to bring financial equilibrium to the controversial contract. That contract still awaits necessary approval by the Technical Council of the Civil Aviation Authority (CETAC) and the Comptroller General. Four members of CETAC resigned in August, officiallysaying it had nothing to do with the Alterra negotiations, although press reports said otherwise (TT, Aug. 26).Those CETAC positions were replaced last month and Transport Minister Randall Quirós said the agreement will move forward as planned.

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