A dockworkers strike that began Tuesday has paralyzed Costa Rica's Caribbean port of Limón and prevented a 1,896-passenger cruise ship from docking.
Cargoes of fruit are standing by in containers, shippers are concerned about making it to northern markets before their supplies spoil and vendors and tour operators are vocally protesting the missed opportunity.
“People are very upset,” said Abraham Goldgewicht, who owns a coffee shop and art gallery in Limón. “There are a lot of independent contractors who can't work because of what's going on here.”
The strike comes at the same time that Costa Rica is trying to attract nearly $900 million in private investment – along with $80 million it's putting in on its own – to make the port city a modern, tourist-friendly destination.
“It's regrettable, deplorable and shameful,” said Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias in response to the strike. “This is the alternative that offers nothing. It's not the Costa Rica that we want, nor the one we dream of, nor the Limón that we are working toward, and will continue to work toward.”
The conflict between the Arias administration and dockworkers in Limón has been an ongoing battle, and no matter how many press conferences or dialogues, Arias has been unable to sweep it under the rug.
On Tuesday, workers began a protest for higher pay and proceeded to block three outgoing ships in Moín and two in Limón.
The union's administration is trying to distance itself from the strike, calling it irresponsible and unjustified.
“It's really just a small number of workers,” said Israel Oconitrillo, press officer with the Atlantic Port Authority union, explaining that a mere 53 of the union's 1,400 members are on strike.
Despite being turned away at the port, Holland America Line – which operates the cruise line – expects to return.
“We certainly realize that all parties want to resolve the issues and are hopeful this will be done for future visits,” said Erik Elvejord, spokesman for the Seattle-based company.