San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Ex-President Accused of Meddling in Judge Selection

FORMER President Miguel ÁngelRodríguez (1998-2002) – accused of corruption– recently was accused of pressuringlegislators in their selection of a newjudge for the Penal Branch of theSupreme Court (Sala III), by whom hemay ultimately be judged.The accusation was made last week bylegislator Gloria Valerín, of the SocialChristian Unity Party (PUSC), accordingto the daily La Nación.Valerín said Unity legislator and partyhead Federico Vargas told legislators at aparty meeting that Rodríguez asked for ano vote on the selection of judge RosarioFernández for the highly discussed openposition in the Sala III.Valerín’s accusations were confirmedthis week by Unity legislator GerardoGonzález, Legislative Assembly president,and another Unity legislator, who wishedto not be identified, the daily reported.Vargas denies he spoke about thejudge’s position with ex-PresidentRodríguez, who is now under house arrestafter being held in preventive prison foraccusations of corruption (TT, March 18).The Sala III post was vacated by theretirement of judge Daniel González. Avote for his replacement has been pendingfor 28 days.Five candidates aspire for the position:judges Fernández, Ronald Salazar,Carmen Blanco, María Elena Gómez andMagda Pereira. Fernández and Salazarhave so far received the most votes, butneither the necessary amount.On Tuesday, Citizen Action Party(PAC) legislators asked Salazar to withdrawfrom the contest because of theaccusations.“In political moments such as the oneswe are living it is imperative that anynaming be above questioning, especiallywhen it involves the Judicial Branch,”PAC legislators wrote in a letter toSalazar.The Sala III is the highest penal courtin the country and may eventually make adecision on the corruption charges againstRodríguez and former President RafaelÁngel Calderón, Jr. (1990-1994).Both men have been accused ofaccepting funds from private firms in connectionwith government contracts.On Wednesday, PAC legislatorsannounced in a statement that the ChiefProsecutor’s Office has agreed to theirrequest to investigate the alleged attemptsof both ex-Presidents to influence thenaming of the Sala III judge.When asked about the accusations ofpolitical pressure, President Abel Pachecocommented this week during his weeklyCabinet meeting, “there is no proof thathas happened.”

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