San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Airport Dispute Dragged On and On

AFTER a year of promises and glimmers of hope, it appears renovation of Juan Santamaría International Airport may take off again at the start of 2006 after being stuck in a standstill for nearly three years.


The government and Alterra Partners – which holds the contract to operate and expand the airport – spent the early part of the year trying to negotiate an end to their contract dispute, which has halted the more than $100-million airport renovation since March 2003.


By June they announced they had reached an agreement, known as the contract addendum, to settle their multimillion-dollar dispute and bring financial equilibrium to the contract. Minister of Public Works and Transport Randall Quirós optimistically said that the renovation could resume by the end of October.


After various court decisions on the side, tangential to the dispute, the addendum has yet to be approved by the appropriate authorities. In November it was approved by the Technical Council of the Civil Aviation Authority (CETAC).


However, it still awaits necessary approval by the Comptroller General.


The Comptroller’s Office complicated matters in December when it issued an order for Alterra to restart renovation works immediately, citing one of the earlier court decisions that found the company did not have just cause or follow correct procedure to suspend construction.


In a show of “good faith,” Alterra officials responded that, despite the legal insecurity of not having the addendum completely approved, they will restart construction in January. Officials hope the addendum will be approved that month as well.


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