Piggy-Bank Dispute Rattles Unity Party

July 8, 2005

AS if the Social Christian Unity Party(PUSC) weren’t facing enough challengesin the February 2006 elections – the partyhas reached historic lows in recent polls –political infighting has now put into questionthe party’s future presidential candidate.The party has yet to hold a conventionto determine its candidate, and last week,officials thought none would be necessary.Party headquarters told The Tico Timescontender Everardo Rodríguez had withdrawnhis bid for the PUSC candidacyamid allegations of anomalies in his donationdeclarations, leaving legislatorRicardo Toledo as the only one standing.But days after Rodríguez’s supposedwithdrawal from the race, he filed a complaintwith the Supreme Elections Tribunal(TSE), responsible for governing electionsin Costa Rica, alleging Unity officials arerunning an unjust and partial system in theparty.“It is unequal treatment. They areapplying different rules to each candidate,”Rodríguez said.Rodríguez says either he and Toledoshould both be allowed to be compete forthe PUSC candidacy, or neither should.THE battle stems from the ¢17.9 million($37,900) registration fee the UnityParty requires from anyone seeking theparty’s nomination. When the candidatesturned in their fees, they were required toaccount for each donation with the name ofthe donor.Rodríguez said he was unaware of thisrule until he arrived to turn in his registrationfee. He and his party supportersscrambled to make the list. Later, partyofficials found anomalies in Rodríguez’slist, including the name of someone whohad not donated at all.Rodríguez attributes these anomalies tothe pressure of the moment and to a¢200,000 ($419) donation that cannot beattributed to one specific person.“In the end we were short about¢200,000 (for the registration fee), so wepassed a piggy bank around town and peopleput in what they could,” he said.Rodríguez, who is former executivepresident of the National Water and SewerInstitute (AyA), admits every donationmust be backed, but, he adds, “it’s not likeit’s narcotrafficking money.”THE candidate’s allegations of unfairnessare based on a fundraising dinner hisopponent Toledo held at which attendeespaid ¢10,000 ($21) to enter, but were neverincluded on a formal list of donors.Rodríguez maintains that if he is to beheld responsible for submitting the namesof every single donor, no matter how small,his opponent should, too.Toledo, however, says the dinner washeld before he was officially raisingmoney for the party, and the funds werenot part of his registration fee, meaningthat they did not need to be recorded. Headded that he could produce names if necessary.Toledo claims Rodríguez never hadany intentions of running for President andonly entered the race to derail his campaign– “but it will all turn out fine,” hesaid.The elections tribunal is in the processof studying Rodríguez’s complaint, and onTuesday asked PUSC officials for moreinformation.

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