San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Health Ministry Stops Construction at Riu Hotel

The Health Ministry ordered the Spanish hotel chain Riu to stop construction on a partially completed, 701-room hotel due to the poor sanitary conditions that the 1,500 on-site employees lived and worked in.

Health Minister María Luisa Avila condemned the overcrowding of worker quarters on Playa Matapalo, the picturesque beach on the northwestern Pacific coast where the hotel is being erected.

Last week, a Nicaraguan worker died inside the employee barracks. The Health Ministry told The Tico Times then that the cause of death was a tick-born disease.

However, the results of the autopsy are still pending, and the ministry said the death may be linked to the unsanitary conditions.

More than 300 other workers have been treated at local clinics over the last two weeks. Most suffered from respiratory infections, but some complained of diarrhea and vomiting, the same symptoms that affected Manuel Sánchez, 26, before he died.

Riu also must provide information about the origin and migratory status of its employees and whether they are covered by Costa Rica’s socialized health care.

“Since last week, we have been working to implement all of the recommendations made by health authorities,” said Roberto Echeverría, Hotel Riu’s legal representative to the daily La Nación.

Originally, the Health Ministry shut down construction through Nov. 27. Now it is unclear when work on the $125 million hotel will resume.

–Devon Magee


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