From the Casa de Presidencia, through the church, winding around the maze of legal “yadda yadda yadda” in the Sala IV and down to the traffic cop writing you an insanely ridiculous $660 fine for having no seatbelt – Costa Rica is one nation that really needs an overhaul on governing values and the ideology of “practicing what they preach”.
A couple of weeks ago, the much debated fiscal plan proposed by the President of the Republic, Laura Chinchilla, hit a brick wall when it was discovered, that finance minister Fernando Herrero had possibly evaded paying the correct taxes over the past 12 years by undervaluing a couple of
Costa Rica real estate properties.
Fernando Herrero was quick to hand in his resignation however this begs to question – if the people writing and ultimately shoving these laws down the throats of Congress and Ticos alike, are “less than honest” themselves, what are we to believe?
Is this another do as we say not as we do scenario?
The president of the Legislative Assembly, Luis Carlos Mendoza, by way of the social media said “Herrero’s resignation was necessary but late in coming. Public officials and government leaders must lead by example. Herrero was a bad example”.
But let’s look at some other examples(bad) of high ranking government officials who’ve found themselves in the hot seat – even in jail.
Miguel Angel Rodríguez – this former president was convicted and sentenced to 5 years in prison in the much publicized Alcatel bribery case.
Oscar Arias Sanchez – the former Nobel Peace Prize winner is currently under investigation in a indictable offense of misappropriation of public funds with respect to the case of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE) whereas many jobs were tendered to organizations directly recommended by Arias (Rodrigo) – the former president’s brother and at the time, presidency minister. (this case also involves the former finance minister Fernando Herrero)
Rafael Angel Calderon – the former president of Costa Rica was found guilty of corruption and accepting bribes to purchase useless medical equipment from Finland on behalf of national hospitals who said they did not want it. The best part of this one was the fact that, while on trial, Calderon actually had the gaul to suggest running for the office of president. Ain’t that a slap in the face to Costa Ricans? In the end Calderon was convicted and sentenced to 5 years in prison.
Maria Jose Figures – the son of Costa Rica’s most patriotic hero shortly after ending his term in office he decided to jump ship and “relocate” and live the good life in Switzerland. Why? You guessed it…bribery accusations in the Alcatel scandal. Figures would resign from the World Economic Forum (WEF). In 2011, conveniently after the statute of limitations would run out, Figures would return for (as he put it), “he missed the tamales (a Costa Rican favorite dish at Xmas)” – that and the idea of running for office again considering the slate is now clean thanks to the failed legal system that breeds corruption and permits petty criminals to become “seasoned” ones given the severe lack of enforcement.
Andres Oviedo Sanchez – (former) criminal court judge of San Jose sets free, 5 suspected cocaine traffickers on $200 bail after being caught red-handed by the US Coast Guard with over 300 kilos of cocaine in their fishing vessel off the coast of Puntarenas.
Traffic Police – With such incredibly high fines for traffic violations in this country, it opens the doors wide for the chance of someone attempting a bribe over actual payment of the fine. A good example is the Staub case (although in this case it was the police at fault) in Jaco who while staying at the prestigious Los Suenos resort for their anniversary, were pulled over and administered a breathalyzer. After showing negative, corrupt police officers would allegedly ask for $1000 cash payment for supposedly evading the roadblock. They would manage to get them down to $100 and then immediately filed with OIJ against the officers. They were arrested and charged.
Archbishop Hugo Barrantes – he is the highest Roman Catholic churchman in the country. Barrantes was 75 when he tendered his resignation to the Vatican. His problem was a fund that was managed by the Conferencia Episcopal de Costa Rica, the conference of bishops, from 2004 through 2006. The fund, Servicios Pastorales, allegedly made loans and was accused by government financial officials of illegal banking.
So as you can see, corruption runs long and deep within the Costa Rican governmental system. Can one expect much more from the lamen Costa Rican when they have these “model representatives” as an example on how to behave? Especially when these same corrupt officials are the ones making the laws of this country.
Calling corruption here a “problem” is an understatement to say the least – the reality is, it’s more of an accepted part of life in Costa Rica.
Chief prosecutor for the country, Jorge Chavarría recently went on recording stating that 75% or so of the country’s prosecutors were failing at their jobs and that the conviction rate of serious crime in the country was a measly 60%. Furthermore he stated on national television how it is possible that prosecutors were losing 40% of their cases. Well…the truth is actually a lot worse.
Also stated on a report on the national TV station, Telenoticias, the actual conviction rate is 1 in 7. (see article here)
The country promotes itself as an eco-loving natural tourism destination for the world to explore however behind the scenes, the country is falling apart at the seams with what appears to be a complete failure of governmental process due largely to many years of ratifying this method through all levels and sectors of “the system”.