San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Golfito Mayor Surrounded by Controversy

THE latest in a string of legal actionsagainst Golfito Mayor Mauricio Alvaradohas resulted in the sentence of a month injail.The court has reduced the sentence to athree-year probation period during whichtime he will be free, but any other crime hemay commit will land him in jail,explained Judicial Branch spokeswomanSandra Castro.The Court of Golfito handed the penaltyto the southern Pacific zone town’smayor late last month for obstruction ofjustice. Mayor Alvarado, however, insistshe was just protecting children’s rights.The sentence was handed down in connectionwith a trial in January 2003 whenAlvarado acted as lawyer for a case inwhich the court ruled he was not officiallyappointed.At that time, he represented the underagedaughters of a woman known to the pressonly by her last name, Barrantes, at a privatehearing in the Juvenile Penal Court. There,the girls were plaintiffs in a case against theirstepfather. Details about the case were notreleased because it involved minors.“ALVARADO helped the victims as alawyer without being legally appointed tothe process,” Golfito’s prosecutor ErickMartínez told the daily La Nación.During the hearing, the judge askedAlvarado to leave the courtroom, whichapparently angered Alvarado, and so heasked the plaintiffs to leave the room,which they did.At Alvarado’s trial last month,Barrantes defended her decision to leave,saying, “Alvarado influenced the process,but I was the one who made the decision towalk out with my daughters.”At the time of the incident Alvarado hadalready been elected Mayor, but he did notassume power until early February 2003.Alvarado told The Tico Times headvised Barrantes to take her children outof the court to protect them from having tosee their stepfather while he testified.“I did what I did for the minors and Iwant children’s rights to be respected,”he said. “I don’t have anything to regretnor anything about which to be embarrassed,and I’m going to show that what Idid was right.”He said he will appeal the decisionbefore the Supreme Court, and added he hasthe support of several rights groups, includingchildren’s advocacy group Casa Alianza.Silvia Chaves, spokeswoman for CasaAlianza, told The Tico Times, “To us itseems like a travesty that he has to havelegal problems for defending children.”EARLIER last month, Alvarado wasarrested briefly on suspicion of tearing downthe tape seals the Ministry of Health hadplaced around a trash dump, and allowingpeople to continue dumping there, JudicialBranch spokeswoman Castro said.He had ignored multiple requests topresent himself before a court for theinfraction before the arrest, and after hewas detained he officially abstained fromcomment before being released shortlyafter, according to Judicial Branchspokesman Sergio Bonilla.“What has happened in Limón andCurridabat is not going to happen in Golfito.Trash will not stay on the street,” Alvaradotold The Tico Times, referring to trash collectionand disposal problems in those communities.He said he filed a Supreme Courtinjunction against the dump closure.ANOTHER complaint against himand the Municipal Council is pending inthe Supreme Elections Tribunal, whichstems from the tenacious former Mayor ofGolfito, Jimmy Cubillo, and a group offishermen.The hoopla those fishermen drummedup over a land concession they say wasawarded behind their backs caughtCubillo’s attention. He submitted a formalrequest for the removal of the mayor andthe entire council in September of last year,citing irregularities in the concessiongrantingprocess (TT, March 5).The adjunct government attorney inSan José, Mauricio Castro, agreed theprocess was skewed.Castro reviewed the case that Cubillopresented to the Tribunal, and, in a letterdated May 17 to lawyer AlejandroBermúdez, secretary of the Tribunal, said“there is sufficient reason to carry out theadministrative punishment of the cancellationof the credentials of Mayor MauricioAlvarado,” and the council. He added thattheir actions could constitute crimes punishableby imprisonment, and submitted acopy of his recommendations to the tribunal’schief of the penal department.THE Municipality of Golfito awardedthe land concession in question to a businessowned by Patrick and Ann Weston –to the dismay of a group of fishermen whowanted to build a shore-side storage uniton one parcel of that land.Cubillo, who agreed to represent theircase, charged that the mayor and themunicipality disregarded a number of legalrequirements in the concession-grantingprocedure.“There was an irregular procedure,”adjunct government attorney Castro toldThe Tico Times. “I don’t have to say if he(Cubillo) is right or not – I’m saying continuewith the investigation.”Alvarado told The Tico Times therewas no wrongdoing in the granting of theconcession.Justice of the Tribunal Oscar Fonseca isnow studying the issue, but his spokesmantold The Tico Times he cannot comment onthe case until a decision is made.

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