Thursday, February 22, 2007

Costa Rica blames plant's closure on Venezuela spat

By Adam Thomson in Mexico City and Andy Webb-Vidal in Caracas
Finacial Times

Costa Rica's government has accused Venezuela of closing down an aluminium plant and relocating it elsewhere because of a political spat between the two country's leaders.

Rodrigo Arias, the chief of staff and brother of Oscar Arias, Costa Rica's president, said of the decision: "It seems to us that there is a political motivation." The comments late on Wednesday night followed Venezuela's decision to close the plant and move it elsewhere in the region.

The Alunasa aluminium plant has been operating for more than 25 years and was bought by Venezuela's state-owned heavy industries conglomerate, the CorporaciĆ³n Venezolana de Guyana, or CVG, in 1990. Bienvenido Venegas, a Costa Rican lawmaker, claimed on Thursday that the decision by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela to close the plant, which produces about 10,000 tonnes a year and employs 400 people, could not be economically motivated.

"It's a completely crazy idea to remove the company from Costa Rica. Last year it had record production," Mr Venegas said.

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