Caribbean hotels saved by high court halt on demolition

October 30, 2009

Costa Rica´s Supreme Court Chamber of Civil and Administrative Law (Sala I) suspended the evacuation and demolition of Las Palmas Hotel and Hotel Suerre in Punta Uva on the Caribbean coast near Puerto Viejo on Monday afternoon, the day before environment authorities planned to topple the buildings.

The Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications (MINAET), which seeks the hotels´ demolition for allegedly harming the environment, was notified of the resolution on Tuesday morning.

The court issued a “provisional preventative measure” and demanded more time to analyze the situation before making a decision. Court officials scheduled a public hearing for all involved parties for Nov. 27.

Both structures are located within the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge. MINAET claims that the construction and operation of the hotels has caused ecological damage.

In 1993, MINAET, then called the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mines, revoked the occupancy permits for the buildings. The Sala Primera ordered the eviction and demolition of the properties in 2004.

Since the order, the case has been suspended by 11 injunctions, two lawsuits, one habeas corpus writ and Monday afternoon´s ruling.

More than 120 officials – police, firemen and coast guard – arrived at the site of the hotels on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m, prepared to combat possible conflicts. The Public Works and Transport Ministry sent bulldozers and excavation machinery to demolish the edifices. All was for naught.

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