San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

New moratorium for oil drilling on Castro’s first day in MINAET

René Castro announced Monday that his first move as the new environment, energy and telecommunications minister (MINAET) is to implement a three-year moratorium on oil exploitation in Costa Rica.

The legal delay will be valid once the announcement is published in La Gaceta, the country’s official newspaper. The moratorium will suspend all formalities being implemented by oil companies in order to obtain an oil exploitation concession.

Between 1994 and 1998 during Castro’s first term as environment and energy minister, he signed a decree in which Mallon Oil Company, a subsidiary of U.S.-based Black Hills Corporation, was granted the possibility to cash in on a natural gas and oil concession.

Castro announced the moratorium as protests heated up over President Laura Chinchilla’s decision to send Castro back to MINAET. The post was left empty two weeks ago when former Environment Minister Teófilo de la Torre stepped down and was shifted to head the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (TT, July 29).

Meanwhile, protesters spent most of Monday in front of MINAET waving signs that denounced Castro’s appointment. “We’ve been here since 6 a.m. to demand that René Castro be removed from MINAET,” said Ana Hernández, coordinator of the anti-mining group Ni Una Sola Mina (Not One Mine). “It seems to us that René Castro is someone who lacks the ethical capabilities required to manage a ministry with such delicate responsibilities.”

“During his first term as [Environment] Minister, René Castro created a decree that reduced the bureaucracy for oil exploration,” said Luis Gómez, who also attended Monday’s rally outside the ministry’s headquarters in downtown San José.

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