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Landfill Company Sues San José Municipality

June 11, 2004

A week after a violent riot erupted in LaCarpio, the landfill company that residentshad protested announced it is suing theMunicipality of San José, and will ceaseoperations unless the government can assureincreased security in the area.The company EBI BERTHIER hasadministered the landfill, called the San JoséEnvironmental Technology Park, since2001. The landfill processes some 700 tonsof garbage a day and is the only landfill forthe San José area.The lawsuit against the municipality saidEBI’s General Manager Juan CarlosObando, is not related to the riots or the violencein the area.He claims the municipality owes EBI $1million in back payments because of an errorregarding the tariff that San José would payper ton of garbage processed when the landfillfirst opened.WHEN the landfill opened, the municipalityset a provisional tariff of ¢2,233($5.15) per ton. However, the PublicServices Regulatory Authority (ARESEP)later determined the tariff should be morethan twice that — $12 per ton. The contractEBI signed with San José said that any tarifferrors would be decided in favor of the company,according to Obando.He said the municipality has agreed tomake the $1 million payment, but they are“kicking the can” about it. He said EBI hasnegotiated the payment since December2003 and the lawsuit is a last-ditch effort.Still, he is optimistic the city will pay.“At this point, we feel there is enoughspace for conversation,” Obando said. “We’lljust stand by and see what their behavior is.”AFTER the riot last week, which left 30wounded, seven by gunshot wounds (TT,June 4), the Canadian company has madesecurity one of its main priorities.EBI executive president Pierre Sylvesterflew in from Quebec this week in responseto last week’s riot. According to EBI representatives,Sylvester was to meet with SanJosé Mayor Johnny Araya, PresidencyMinister Ricardo Toledo, Ombudsman JoséManuel Echandi and the La Carpio communitycouncil.Obando said the government wouldhave to guarantee the safety of EBI’semployees and the residents of La Carpio ifthe company is to continue operating normally.The shantytown is known for violentcrime and gang activity.Dorian Valladores, who commands thepolice sub-station in La Carpio, said officersare involved in firefights with gang membersabout every 15 days, “especially onweekends.”BEFORE the riot, he said, four officerswere assigned to the sub-station. Now thereare 12 and two additional patrol vehicles, hesaid.La Carpio residents said shootings andother violent crimes are common. Onewoman said her son was shot in the leg forapparently no reason as he was walkinghome from work.“Here it’s very dangerous,” she said.“Dangerous, dangerous, it’s dangerous. Youcan’t live here.”On Wednesday, police arrested 10 suspectsin La Carpio as part of an investigationto identify those responsible for shooting sixofficers during the riot there last week.The arrests bring the number of suspectsdetained since the riot began to 23, accordingto the Public Security Ministry.Valladores said the arrests were theresult of 11 different raids, which left no oneinjured.Oscar Guzmán, onsite director of thetechnology park, said employees there areconcerned for their safety, and work in “aclimate of uncertainty.”Of the 106 people employed at the landfill,more than 80 are residents of La Carpio.RESIDENTS protesting EBI last weekalleged that the company had failed to fulfillpromises it made to the community whenwork on the landfill began in 2000. At thattime, EBI had promised to deposit moneyinto a special account to be used for communityimprovements. The funds were managedby a “civic committee.”However, Obando said that during ameeting held June 16, 2003, more than 600La Carpio residents said the funds werebeing blatantly misused and asked EBI toadminister the donations.Protestors last week were also demandingland titles and improvements to localroads, things Obando said are governmentproblems. But, he said, EBI would be happyto lend financial support.“THIS attitude of the government, tryingto pull out at the last minute from theirresponsibilities – that hurt us pretty bad,” hesaid. “People start to think, ‘Maybe the companyis responsible.’”Obando said EBI complied with thecommunity’s request and, rather thancontinuing the deposits, opened a publicbidding process for several projects,including a dental clinic and a threehectaresports park.The clinic, a joint operation with theCalifornia-based Foundation for theChildren, is now open, he said, and isstaffed by graduate students from theUnited States.Obando said it would take a concertedeffort to increase the Costa Rican government’spresence in La Carpio to makea change in the community, and that alack of control has only served to fomentviolence there.“YOU have groups of gangs conflicting.They are empowered in La Carpio,”Obando said.Valladores, the police officer, hasworked in La Carpio for four years. He saidthe community suffers from complex socialproblems and he does not believe that anincreased government presence should necessarilybe an increased police presence.“The conditions these people live in –it’s inhumane in some places,” he said.

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