Friday, February 23, 2007

Factory closure strains Costa Rica-Venezuela relations

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Reuters) - Adding to weeks of diplomatic bickering, Costa Rica criticized Venezuela Wednesday, saying it had closed an aluminum plant in the Central American nation for "political reasons."

Relations between the two countries were strained earlier this month when Costa Rican President Oscar Arias criticized his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez for assuming extraordinary powers.

Last week, the Venezuelan government announced plans to close the 10,000 ton annual output CVG Alunasa plant, which employs 400 workers. (Read how Venezuela's congress granted Chavez new powers)

Arias' chief of staff, his brother Rodrigo Arias, linked the closure to the recent war of words and rejected the official Venezuelan explanation that the CVG Alunasa plant was not economically viable.

"It seems to us that there is a political motivation," Rodrigo Arias told reporters at a news conference.

He pointed out that Alunasa had increased its exports from Costa Rica to $47 million this year from $26 million in 2000. The Venezuelan plant has operated in Costa Rica for 25 years.

Venezuelan newspapers quoted Chavez on Wednesday as saying Arias sought to curry favor in Washington by criticizing the Venezuelan president, a harsh critic of U.S. President Bush. (Read about tensions between Venezuela and the United States)

Venezuela's Universal daily cited Chavez as saying Arias and other critics of his rule seek to please Bush, "so they get invited to the ranch in Texas."

At the news conference on Wednesday, Costa Rican Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno rejected the criticism.

"When Costa Rica defends these noble principles and purposes by all countries who love liberty and democracy, it has always done so in a sovereign manner," he said.

Arias has also criticized Cuba's communist government in recent months, likening Cuban leader Fidel Castro to Chile's late right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet. Arias said each was "savage, brutal and bloody" in his own way.

No comments:

Related posts