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Divorce trial in U.S. causes cooking gas shortage in Costa Rica

It hasn’t quite reached telenovela status but the drama between the once-married owners of a Costa Rican propane supply company is causing a serious crisis for customers in the couple’s home country.

The couple, Miguel Zaragoza and Evangelina López, own Gas Zeta, the largest of Costa Rica’s two private companies authorized to sell propane. But a large chunk of the company’s operations has ground to a halt in recent weeks after a Texas court granted the couple a divorce and ordered a division of assets.

The ensuing legal drama for ownership of Gas Zeta has left its propane customers in Costa Rica — nearly 70 percent of the country — scrambling to find cooking fuel for homes, restaurants, hotels, hospitals, schools and even prisons.

In a news release on Wednesday, López said that the Costa Rican people, just like her, “are suffering because of her husband’s love affairs.”

She also said she requested protective measures from a U.S. judge for her family’s home and assets as “they all are under threat of being seized due to her husband’s actions.”

In an effort to make up for the gas shortage, Costa Rican Environment Ministry (MINAE) officials granted another private company a one-year license to sell cooking gas. The new company, owned by local and foreign investors, began selling propane Wednesday evening.

Environment Minister Édgar Gutiérrez Espeleta said the couple’s problems caused a clash of court rulings in both countries. He explained that when the Texas judicial system sent the divorce papers to Costa Rica, a local family court judge issued preventive measures protecting the López family’s assets. Then Zaragoza’s lawyers filed a counter claim in an administrative court over the company’s rights, and that judge ruled in his favor.

“Both rulings are now being challenged,” Gutiérrez said, “raising uncertainty over an issue that (should be) entirely private.”

The Costa Rican police have even had to get involved. Last week officers carried out an eviction order against employees at some of the company’s plants, which sparked the supply problems.

Representatives of Gas Zeta said last week that they were waiting for the Costa Rican Oil Refinery (RECOPE) to authorize entry for the company’s tankers in order to restart gas distribution as soon as possible. But RECOPE said in a news release that it can’t currently sell propane to Gas Zeta because of the legal uncertainty over the company’s ownership.

Meanwhile, business groups, including the Costa Rican Food Industry Chamber, Costa Rican Chamber of Hotels and the Costa Rican Chamber of Restaurants, warned this week that if the problem persists, many businesses will be forced to halt operations as soon as next weekend.

Contact L. Arias at larias@ticotimes.net

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hammee

Back to 3rd world.

We are cooking on a wood stove.
Not one tank in our area.
We had our name on a lists locally but the stores are not getting delivery form Tomas not zeta.
We went to every place that sold LPG in 2 cantons.

No gas to fill up our car that runs strictly on LPG . Service station has a big empty tank.

Ridiculous!

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Ben

How come one family can own all the right to propane? The goverment needs to open the market in this area so this type of shit does not happen again. This is a monopoly 100%. The goverment gives a one year contract to some else is a joke open the dam markets now. Shame on Zeta i will go to Panama and buy propane and stock up. Open up the markets asap. Boycott Zeta.

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