San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Environmental Guarantees Not a Priority for Congress

LEGISLATIVE Assembly membersprobably won’t approve the proposedEnvironmental Guarantees, submitted byPresident Abel Pacheco to the assembly in2002, before their current term in officeends next year, according to Patriotic Bloclegislator Quírico Jiménez.The bill, which would amend thecountry’s Constitution, establishes theconcept of “reasonable doubt in favor ofthe environment.” This would mean that,in a court of law, protection of the environmentwould prevail over any otherinterest, the daily La Nación reported.“Article 50 of the Constitution (whichguarantees Costa Ricans’ right to a healthyand ecologically balanced environment) isnot enough to prevent the misuse of ournatural resources,” Jiménez said. “Thisreform was meant to put an end to environmentaldisasters and give the governmentgreater control of our resources.”However, not all legislators agree withJiménez, a member of the assembly’senvironmental commission.According to Mario Avilés, advisor toLibertarian Movement Party legislatorFederico Malavassi, the plan is a “wasteof a bill.”“The project is very dangerous – itshoves the Constitution into a straitjacket,”he said.According to Avilés, the Constitutionmust limit itself to general and abstractguidelines to allow for changes over time.Because the environmental bill is verydetailed, it is also limiting, he said.Both Jiménez and Avilés agree the billis not likely to be approved before the 2006national elections because the assemblywill focus on other projects during the comingmonths, including electing a new comptrollerand ombudsman, discussing thePermanent Fiscal Reform Package – a planto overhaul the country’s tax system – andstudying the Central-American Free TradeAgreement with the United States (CAFTA).Jiménez added that Pacheco and theExecutive Branch have not pressured theassembly to prioritize the environmentalbill on their agenda.“With support from the (ExecutiveBranch) things might have been different,but they did not try hard enough,” he said.

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