Some good news, for a change.
According to Periodicocr.com, The president of the Institute of Press and Freedom of Expression (IPLEX), Alejandro Delgado Faith, filed a constitutional challenge to the recently signed Computer Crime Act for “threatening freedom of expression and free access to public Information.”
Similar in its scope to the SOPA, in the United States, or the recently defeated version in Europe, the new law is an abomination. According to Delgado, items in the new law represent self-censorship on the part of journalists, who, fearing retaliation or conviction by the courts, would prefer silence. It introduces the concept of “secret information policy” that, according to Delgado, violates the provisions of Article 30 of the Constitution and Article 13 of the American Convention of Human Rights, which guarantee the right of every citizen to seek, receive, and pass on information. IPLEX is bringing the challenge to the Sala IV, Costa Rica’s Constitutional Court, to defend the rights of every citizen.
As an example of the broadness of the new law, Delgado used the recent report of the Office of Ethics against Leonardo Garnier and Vice President Liberman. According to new law, he says, that report could well be seen as political secret information.
¡¡¡ Hats off to IPLEX and hats off to Alejandro Delgado F.!!!!
Things are escalating for Presidenta Laura Chinchilla.
Vice President Luis Liberman and Education Minister Leonardo Garnier are now being investigated by the Costa Rica’s attorney general for the crime of influence peddling. That was the court’s conclusion after analyzing letters of recommendation written on behalf of a business in regard to a possible ¢ 17 million contract with RECOPE. (Read this opinion piece from the Tico Times)
The case is being investigated from a criminal angle to find out if Garnier and Lieberman violated Article 52 of the Law of Illicit Enrichment (Now there’s a term for you).
If the attorney general determines they did indeed violate the law, Liberman and Garnier could be subject to dismissal and a could face between two and five years in prison. Sounds tough, but the operative word in that last sentence is “could.” They could face dismissal and could face between two and five years in prison.
Two ex-presidents have already been convicted on corruption charges and have never served any time for their crimes.
Why would these guys be any different?
The Ministry of Public Works and Transportation (MOPT) has paid almost ¢ 2.400 million for Bailey bridges to a single company over the past three years, according to TV Telenoticias 7.
Bailey bridges are the duct tape of the Costa Rican road system. Rather than rebuild costly infrastructure, MOPT often opts to replace failing bridges and gaping pot holes with the WW II stop-gap spans.
Since 2010, MOPT has openly worked with a single English supplier, Mabey Bridge, who, under the name of Mabey & Johnson, was the first major British company to be convicted of foreign bribery after admitting in 2009 to systematically paying bribes in Iraq and many other countries to win contracts. [In 2009 the company was called Mabey & Johnson, but a few months later, after the bribery conviction in England, they renamed themselves Mabey Brigde. A different name. Same player.]
According to English court documents, company executives conspired to raise the price of a contract to build 13 bridges in Iraq by 10% over their value, and paid bribes amounting to £ 365,000, or about 273 million colones.
Transport Ministry officials downplayed this to Telenoticias, assuring reporters that they did not accept bribes.
Although MOPT authorities denied knowledge of the bribery cases, MOPT has a three-year history with this company. In 2009 an investigation by the newspaper La Nacion reported that the Ministry of Transport paid more for the Mabey bridges than they were worth, a benefit to the British company. In fact, the state paid $255,000.00 more for those bridges.
The current contract with MOPT–open since 2010– appears on behalf of Mabey Bridge.
In 2010 MOPT began buying bridges: ¢ 481 million to buy three bridges in 2011, then ¢ 1.000 million for five more bridges, and in 2012, ¢ 916 million for more bridges. Nearly 2,400 million colones in Bailey bridges.
And where are those 13 bridges?
Costa Rica is waiting for MOPT to say. Two of them are spanning the sinkhole on the General Cañas Highway–what a disaster that is!–but what about the others?
Apparently some have replaced suspension bridges in rural areas but MOPT is vague on specifics.
The Comptroller General is asking questions.
Presidenta Laura Chinchilla is in problems. Again.
Chinchilla’s party, Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN), has no majority in the legislature. Therefore, she must rely on the opposition to pass legislation, and the opposition has just announced they will not pass her much needed financial Plan B if she does not dismiss both her vice-president and her minister of education.
I posted on Sunday that the Council of Ethics found two of her ministers guilty of violating Costa Rica’s code of ethics. Both men wrote letters of recommendation to the state-run oil refinery, RECOPE, recommending the services of a former colleague and his wife. Almost immediately after the council offered up its opinion, Chinchilla announced that her ministers did nothing intentionally wrong nor acted with malice.
But she has a problem.
According to Inside Costa Rica, the opposition plans to withdraw support of “… the government’s financial Plan B and the planned sale of US $4 billion in Eurobonds which the government hopes will help realize savings on its interest payments. Costa Rica planned to sell an initial US $500 million before the end of 2012. ”
So far, Presidenta Chinchilla is holding her ground and continues to maintain her ministers did nothing wrong, but how long can she hold out, and what will happen to the country’s financial situation just to maintain her pride?
Over the past two years of her administration 11 out of her 23 ministers have been fired, forced to resign, or resigned voluntarily.
Several Costa Rican newspapers reported last week that the sitting vice-president and the minister of education violated the Costa Rican code of ethics.
Last week the Procuradoría General de la Ética (Attorney General of Ethics) announced that Vice-president Luis Liberman and Minister of Education Leonardo Garnier wrote letters of recommendation to Costa Rica’s state-owned oil refinery, RECOPE. The letters in question recommended that RECOPE hire a certain company to provide their marketing services.
And who owned this “certain company” being touted as a must hire?
Why, none other that the former minister of finance, recently sacked (April 2012) because he undervalued his house to avoid paying taxes. Our ex-minister of finance and his wife were seen by the sitting vice president and the minister of education as the perfect pair to provide RECOPE with marketing services.
In a statement on Radio Reloj, Attorney for public ethics, Gilbert Calderon, said, “The letters are not letters of experience but letters of recommendation which are prohibited by Costa Rican law,” Not long after he issued his statement, President Laura Chinchilla announced that there was no bad faith or malice involved. It has come to light that one of the people involved in the recommendation process was her own brother, Adrian Chinchilla.
Here is a cartoon making the rounds.
It makes fun not only of Chinchilla’s disregard for the Procuradoría General de la Ética, but also the shoddy work done on the new–supposedly modern– highway from San José to the Pacific. The large sink hole you see is real; the government has spent the last week trying to shore up the edges and find alternate routes around it.
The road has been plagued with problems since its construction and there are investigations going on into possible corruption in its making.