Rights Groups Question Arias’ Commitment

May 19, 2006

Social groups this week questioned President Oscar Arias’ commitment to the rights and concerns of women and children in Costa Rica because of his delay in naming the heads of the Child Welfare Office (PANI) and the National Institute for Women (INAMU) and their demotion from his Cabinet.

While Arias’ Cabinet has been defined for weeks (TT, May 5), his administration didn’t announce until Wednesday that Mario Alberto Víquez would be the executive president of PANI and Janet Carrillo would head up INAMU. It had been made clear before these assignations, however, that the two positions, which Carrillo said enjoyed the status of minister during the two previous administrations, would not have such privilege this time around.

“It seems to me that this is a way of telling the women of Costa Rica that this government has no interest in working to improve their condition,” feminist lawyer Rosy Mary Madden told The Tico Times.

Juan Carlos Zamora, vice-president of the Costa Rican chapter of the children’s rights organization Defense for Children International (DNI), agreed.

“We would not like for this delay to be a symptom of disinterest in these sectors,” Zamora said. His organization released a statement earlier this week criticizing the delay in choosing a director for PANI and the loss of the position’s ministerial ranking.

The new director of INAMU, however, defended both the delay and her non-minister status to The Tico Times Wednesday.

According to Carrillo, Arias was late in naming heads to the two institutions because he was looking for just the right people, particularly since both institutes have “recently been through difficult situations” and “deteriorated in recent years.”

Regarding the exclusion of herself and the director of PANI from the President’s Cabinet, Carrillo explained that it was part of a reorganization of the government by sector, and autonomous government institutes, such as PANI and INAMU, fall under particular ministers.

The Child Welfare Office and the Women’s Institute both fall under the Ministry of Housing and the Fight against Poverty, headed by Fernando Zumbado.

Carrillo insisted that the restructuring does not represent a lesser priority for the institutes, and asked the public to give the government time before judging.

“I am sure we will have the opportunity to be heard in the Cabinet meeting as many times as we need to be,” she said. “That these two institutions have not been given the rank of minister has to be evaluated over time.”

Not all are convinced, however.

“Politically, this represents a loss to our

democracy,”Madden said.

 

Tico Times reporter María Gabriela Díaz contributed to this report.

 

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