Minister of Women’s Affairs Resigns

June 25, 2004

PRESIDENT Abel Pacheco onTuesday announced that Women’s AffairsMinister Esmeralda Britton had resignedfrom her post that morning.Pacheco said Britton’s resignation wasvoluntary and sparked by the discovery offinancial anomalies in her official expendituresthat were revealed last week duringan internal audit of the NationalWomen’s Institute (INAMU).However, in her resignation letter,copies of which were handed out at theCabinet meeting press conference, Brittonwrote she was stepping down because she“had received a better opportunity inaccord with her interests.”Pacheco said that during the nextmonth, while a replacement for Britton issought, Cabinet Secretary Marta Lora willserve as temporary Women’s AffairsMinister and pro bono head of INAMU.THE alleged anomalies cited in theinternal audit are a series of small expensesthat may not have been properly authorized,including lunches, dinners andflowers signed for by Britton as officialexpenses.Between May 2002 and Feb. 11,Britton spent ¢1.9 million ($4,370 at thisweek’s exchange rate). On several occasions,she exceeded her monthly spendinglimit of ¢67,000 ($154). The audit alsorevealed some of the receipts had incompleteinformation.Pacheco said he met with Britton onMonday to discuss the results of the internalaudit. The President says Brittondenied any wrongdoing but sent her resignationletter Tuesday morning.“I would not like to believe DoñaEsmeralda has committed any wrong. Sheis a person I care for, the daughter offriends of mine. But if there’s a problem,friendship doesn’t count. We’ll get to thebottom of things,” Pacheco said.He said it is up to INAMU and theComptroller General’s Office to conductan investigation into the expenditures.Since INAMU is an autonomous institution,the presidency cannot intervene, hesaid.ON Wednesday, Britton told LaNación she had been hounded by the internalauditor of INAMU, Emma Alfaro.“The auditor dedicated herself toinvestigating and, after looking for a ton ofthings that she wanted to find on me, finallyfound something that could get me out,”Britton said.She discovered that Britton did nothave the minimum university degree forher post, a requirement that Britton saidshe was unaware of until this week.Britton denied any wrongdoing andsaid her resignation had nothing to do withAlfaro’s report to the cabinet that allegesthe misuse of government funds.THE Tico Times repeatedly attemptedto contact Britton on her cellular telephoneand beeper to discuss her resignation, butshe did not return the calls.The post of Women’s Affairs Ministeris a Cabinet-level position awarded to theexecutive president of INAMU, anautonomous government institution (not aministry of the Executive Branch).Britton, who had served under Pachecosince he was sworn into office in May2002, is the 10th minister to resign or befired since the administration took office.SHE will perhaps be best rememberedfor convincing government officialsto launch a diplomatic campaignand a petition drive to convince Nigerianofficials to pardon Amina Lawal, adivorced woman who had been sentencedto death by stoning for giving birth to achild out of wedlock. In what Costa Ricalabeled a victory for human rights, thesentence was overturned last year (TT,Dec. 24, 2003).Britton later came under heavy criticismafter issuing a presentation before theUnited Nations’ committee on women inwhich she attributed the country’s failureto incorporate sexual education into publicschool curriculums to opposition by theCatholic Church.

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