Officials Review Proposed Riteve Changes

September 10, 2004

In an effort to calm cries that mandatoryvehicle inspections are too strict, governmentofficials this week reviewed a listof proposed changes to the inspections performedby the Spanish-Costa Rican companyRiteve SyC, under contract with thegovernment.Changes may include relaxing standardsfor speedometers, seatbelts, licenseplates, tires, windshields and windows,among others.These were hardly the changes anticipatedwhen dozens of labor unions and drivers’and mechanics’ associations wreakedhavoc on the country’s highways andstreets last month with roadblocks anddemonstrations against Riteve and severalother concerns (TT, Aug. 27, Sept. 3).Instead, the battle cry was, and still is,the opening of the monopoly Riteve SyChas on vehicle inspections.The social unrest ended after an Aug.31 agreement that called for the government’sserious consideration of ending themonopoly.LEADERS of the eight-day demonstration– associated as the so-calledNational Civic Movement – say they arestill awaiting a real effort on the part ofthe government to comply with the agreement.However, they announced Wednesdaythat considering the current political crisis(see separate article), they will waituntil it is prudent before returning to thestreets if the government does not fulfillits word.The crisis has included the resignationsof Presidency Minister Ricardo Toledo andMinister of Public Works and TransportJavier Chaves, who both helped negotiatethe Aug. 31 agreement.In the midst of last month’s protests,Chaves asked Comptroller General AlexSolís to rule on the legality of the Ritevecontract. Yesterday, Solís said the contractis a monopoly, and violates theConstitution as such. However, he differedthe matter to the Constitutional Chamberof the Supreme Court (Sala IV).The Comptroller General alsoexpressed serious doubts about the capabilitiesof the Public Transportation Council(CTP) to regulate Riteve.Earlier in the week, representatives ofthe Ministry of Public Works and Transport(MOPT) said they planned to meet late yesterdayafternoon with top Riteve officials,who flew in from the company’s home baseof Spain, to discuss the possibility of openingRiteve’s monopoly. At press time, it wasunclear if the meeting was still going to takeplace.WHILE National Civic Movementleaders demanded the opening of Riteve,many other citizens who supported thecause did so bemoaning the strict requirementsof vehicle inspections. Last monthin an Unimer poll for the daily La Nación,56% of respondents said they believe thetechnical inspections of vehicles are“excessive.”Albino Vargas, secretary general of theNational Association of Public and PrivateEmployees (ANEP), accused the governmentof trying to manipulate public opinionby announcing the relaxation of inspectionstandards.But CTP president Roberto Arguedassaid the update to the inspection requirementswas due, after two year’s of Riteveoperation. They are not the result of“threats,” he said.Arguedas said the changes would bereleased to the public when they are publishedin the official government daily LaGaceta. Interested parties will then haveten work days to suggest changes beforea final revised inspection manual ismade.LATE last week, MOPT officialsannounced the changes would involve therelaxation of requirements on 43 seriousdefects currently cause for failure in avehicle’s inspection.Director of Transit Police IgnacioSánchez – who also resigned Wednesday –told the daily Al Día earlier in the weekthat the changes could result in more accidents.He said he is particularly concernedabout slack rules on tire tread andspeedometers, and questioned how thepolice could fine drivers for speeding, ifthey don’t have to have functionalspeedometers.However, Arguedas clarified Wednesdaythat the speedometer change was discussedonly for machinery vehicles that donot go more than 15 kilometers per hour.He also said no official decisions would bemade until the final document was signed.RITEVE officials hope to implementthe new standards as soon as possible,according to spokeswoman Vilma Ibarra.She said she believes the changes willreduce the number of vehicles that need tobe reinspected – something already happeningbecause of the company’s “AvoidRejection” campaign, she said.On July 15, Riteve started charging forreinspections and began the AvoidRejection campaign.

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