San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Congressional opposition unite against oil exploration

Five opposition parties created Thursday a coalition against possible oil and gas explorations that could take place in the north of Costa Rica.

The U.S.-based Mallon Oil Company is demanding government officials sign a contract to allow drilling and exploring for natural gas and petroleum. The firm claims that a prior concession granted by the Miguel Ángel Rodríguez government (1998-2002) and challenged in several courts of laws by environmentalist groups remains applicable.

Lawmakers belonging to the Social Christian Unity Party, Citizens Action Party, Access without Exclusion Party and Broad Front Party agreed to fight the plans of the company by modifying the current National Hydrocarbons Act.

In case the permit is not granted, Mallon Oil could sue the country before international arbitration bodies, as established by the Central American Free Trade Agreement (TT, June 10).

“Any kind of oil-related activity should be banned from our territory,” said lawmaker Claudio Monge. “We should establish in writing that this country does not want to go through the path of pollution.”

The coalition was formed during an open roundtable. Several community leaders expressed their dissatisfaction with the oil company’s plans as they urged President Laura Chinchilla to refuse what many called a “blackmail.”

Former President Abel Pacheco made an appearance at the event. He supported the coalition while delivering a strongly applauded message.

“I left my political retirement in order to walk along with you in this battle,” Pacheco said. “[Company officials] want us to give them an oil exploitation license in exchange for a few dollars, and then leave our country completely destroyed. What tourist would want to come here to see [that]?”

Some of the environmental groups who attended the event were the Green Block, Oil Watch Mesoamerica and the Earth and Liberty collective.

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