San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Arias Gets Most Funds, Guevara Cries Foul Play

Seventy-three percent of the political donations given between April 2002 and November 2005 to the top five parties leading in the polls were given to the National Liberation Party (PLN), represented by candidate Oscar Arias, the daily Al Día reported. During this period, a total of ¢1.05 billion ($2.1 million) was given to the Citizen Action Party (PAC), Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC), National Liberation, Libertarian Movement, and Union for Change (UPC), of which ¢773 million ($1.5 million) went to Liberation.

Most donors to Liberation are individual people – accounting for ¢606 million ($1.2 million) – while companies amount to ¢166.7 million ($333,400). Big donors on the Liberation list include Terramix S.A. (¢19 million/$38,000), Café Britt S.A. (¢14 million /$28,000), and Ricardo Jiménez Montealegre (¢14 million/$28,000).

Unity received the second highest amount of donations, ¢95.8 million ($191,600) – with ¢2 million ($4,000) coming from Repretel TV Channel 6, Al Día reported. The Libertarian Movement received ¢90.2 million ($180,400) – with ¢5.5 million ($11,000) coming from Guevara. PAC received ¢89 million ($178,000), most from legislators. The greatest donation was made by former legislator Margarita Penón, Arias’ ex-wife. UPC received ¢4.7 million ($9,400).

Libertarian Movement candidate Otto Guevara announced Wednesday that his party has filed a complaint with the Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) against Arias for an alleged additional contribution from Arias to National Liberation in the amount of ¢91.3 million ($182,600), which exceeds the campaign donation limit of ¢19 million ($38,000) over four years. Arias’ campaign released a statement claiming that Guevara is misinterpreting the finances. Arias deposited ¢90 million into PLN’s account when he signed on as a candidate, since this amount was required to cover 50% of election costs in the case that there were only two candidates, the statement said, and the money was later returned to Arias.

The Libertarians also filed a complaint against Arias for allegedly violating Article 19 of the Electoral Code, which states that foreigners may not influence political campaigns, when he had a visit from Spanish ex-President Felipe González Jan. 25. The Spanish ex-President is known to be Arias’ friend and came at the perfect time to help his campaign, Guevara said. Liberation officials said last week the visit was a personal one and coincided with a speech González made at a conference (TT, Jan. 27).

So confident is Arias of victory that he told residents of Cartago he is already planning a  visit to the Basilica de Los Angeles after the elections to thank God and ask Costa Rica’s patron saint, Our Lady of the Angels, to accompany him during the next four years, Al Día reported. Arias made the announcement after meeting with Cartago bishop Jose Francisco Ulloa in an effort to smooth the relationship between Liberation and the Catholic Church. Church leaders have recently criticized neoliberalism in general and Arias in particular for not appearing at a church-sponsored debate (TT, Jan. 27).

Not even 5% of legislative candidates have agreed to sign a public declaration of their businesses interests at the request of the nonprofit organization Transparency International. Officials from the organization are visiting the country’s seven provinces looking for support for their initiative, which they hope will promote transparency and prevent conflicts of interest in politics. However, as of last Saturday, fewer than 50 legislative candidates had agreed to sign, the daily La República reported.

Former President José María Figueres (1994-1998), who lives in Switzerland, told the Spanish press last week that he will not return to Costa Rica to vote Feb. 5, but heralded a victory for Arias. Figueres said his vote for the National Liberation Party was not needed, La Nación reported. The former President, from the Liberation Party, is being investigated for receiving $906,000 in “consulting fees” from Alcatel, a telecommunications firm allegedly involved in a corruption scandal with former President Miguel Angel Rodríguez (1998-2002) and the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE). Figueres, who works with organizations that promote democratic values, denies having anything to do with the case and said he has no plans to return soon to Costa Rica to testify before a legislative commission. Arias originally called for Figueres’ ejection from Liberation, but two weeks ago said the former President should not be expulsed nor return to Costa Rica immediately.

Legislator and presidential candidate Humberto Arce, of the Patriotic Union party, has filed a complaint with the General Tax Authority against alleged anomalies in a construction company tied to Arias, La Nación reported. According to Arce, the housing construction firm Desarrollos Urbanísticos La Lillyana, based in Heredia, allows buyers to register their houses at prices much less than what they paid, meaning they avoid paying the correct taxes. Liberation officials said a response to the allegations would come from the company. A La Lillyana statement explained that the buyers and their lawyers are responsible for defining and registering the price of a house, La Nación reported.Arce also accuses La Lillyana of not paying municipal construction taxes on time and building homes larger than what was authorized by the municipality. The company responded to the latter accusation saying during construction clients often decide to add things to the building that were not included in the original permits.

Rodríguez is the most common Costa Rican last name, according to the electoral register, with 58,107 registered, while the shortest last names (and some of the most uncommon) in the registry are Re, Ro, Sa, Ly,Wa, To,Ma and Ja, Al Día reported.


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