Foreign ministers reach agreement to end trucker protest at Costa Rica-Panama border

August 27, 2013

The foreign ministers of Costa Rica and Panama on Monday night agreed to expedite passage of commercial traffic along the two countries’ border in order to meet the demands of 17 Tico truckers who have blocked the border’s main access road since Saturday.

Costa Rican Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo on Tuesday said his country is committed to reforming a customs law that allows the seizure of vehicles and license plates from foreign vehicles, including cargo trucks, a move seen by the Panamanian government as excessive.

But protest leaders said they were not aware of the agreement, and will continue to block the border road until their demands are met. Commercial drivers said they wouldn’t budge until they see an official document outlining the agreements reached at Monday’s meeting.

Frank Abrego, director of Panama’s State Border Service (SENAFROT), said that Costa Rican officials have seized some 40 Panamanian vehicles for violating customs law, and that some owners “have paid up to $20,000 to recover them.”

Panamanian Foreign Minister Fernando Núñez also committed to similar measures as his Costa Rican counterpart and promised his government would amend border-inspection procedures. Panama is willing to expedite procedures to pay fines, he added.

Francisco Quirós, director of Costa Rica’s Chamber of Cargo Drivers, said SENAFROT inspectors “seem particularly focused on trucks with Costa Rican license plates,” and he also complained that officials from that agency “take up to four hours to perform inspections on Tico trucks.”

On Tuesday, a line of some 600 semi-trailers were still waiting to cross on both sides of the border. 

Non-commercial vehicles and buses are not being blocked from crossing.

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