Lawmakers postpone vote on China loan until October

July 22, 2014
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Costa Rica’s lawmakers agreed to postpone until Oct. 12 discussion of a $395 million loan from the government of China to finance the expansion and renovation of Route 32, the main access highway to the province of Limón.

Of 57 lawmakers, 51 agreed the vote should be pushed back by months to allow the Solís administration to renegotiate loan terms with Chinese officials, which Public Works and Transport Minister Carlos Segnini and President Luis Guillermo Solís requested earlier this month.

Segnini met last week with officials from the Chinese Embassy and the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), the firm that would carry out the project. The Chinese company has not yet commented on whether they will accept a nearly four-month delay on the loan’s approval. The contract was signed by the previous administration of President Laura Chinchilla.

Lawmakers who took office on May 1 questioned a number of the contract’s clauses as approved by Chinchilla, especially costs and fines if Costa Rica violates the contract’s terms.

Ruling Citizen Action Party lawmaker Ottón Solís on Thursday evening said China should not impose the hiring of CHEC to carrying out the project, because the company already has stated it only would employ Chinese workers.

Following Thursday’s vote to delay discussion, National Liberation Party legislator Juan Luis Jiménez said his party will back the government’s request because “in order to save the project, top lawmakers from all nine parties have agreed to grant the government sufficient time to renegotiate the terms of the loan.”

President Solís now will have at least two opportunities to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping to adjust the terms of the contract. The first encounter will take place in mid-July in Brazil during a Latin American tour by the Chinese president. The second could occur during Solís’ trip to China in October to attend a summit between Chinese officials and ministers of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC, which Costa Rica currently chairs.

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