Backed into a corner, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla announced she is canceling a widely unpopular highway concession granted to Brazilian company OAS.
“I’ve decided to end the concession,” Chinchilla said during a televised address Monday night, adding that the decision was agreed to by company officials.
The announcement brings to an end weeks of tension and protests by several groups of residents of San Ramón and outlying areas who would have been affected by the new $524 million project.
The Brazilian company would have charged $8 in round-trip tolls for 30 years for motorists on the 58-kilometer stretch of highway. The two-lane highway already exists – toll-free – and improvements would include only repaving, modernization and limited four-lane expansion.
Chinchilla said her decision “is based on my responsibility to guarantee social peace in our country.” She promised “to continue looking for options for this route.”
“I recognize that in the current environment it is not convenient to move a project forward that has already been rejected by different groups. … The vast majority of Costa Ricans are against it,” she said.
The announcement was met with cheers of “Sí, se pudo,” (“Yes, we could”) and the blasting of car horns by San Ramón residents.
On April 11, a national holiday, Chinchilla’s annual speech in commemoration of national hero Juan Santamaría was cut short in Alajuela by protesters who called for the concession to be terminated. That campaign snowballed over the following days, covered heavily in local media and promoted on social media sites.
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