Citizen Action Gets Bogged Down in. . . Rice

July 7, 2006

Citizen Action Party (PAC) President Ottón Solís, known for his exacting standards for ethical behavior among those in public office, recently asked the ethics tribunal of the party he founded to investigate PAC legislator Nidia González. The legislator and rice producer has admitted she stands to benefit from a bill she has supported in the assembly; the bill would create a Rice Stabilization Fund to support rice-growers, according to the daily La Nación.

The bill, which would return certain profits of the National Rice Corporation (CONARROZ) to producers with the goal of supporting small producers, was first presented during the 2002-2006 legislative term.

González and the other PAC legislators resubmitted the bill to the Legislative Secretariat, the first step to getting it back into the legislative current, the daily reported.

Costa Rica imports approximately 48% of the rice consumed here.When the price of rice on the local market is higher than in foreign markets, as it is now – $200 per ton internationally, compared to $267 in Costa Rica – CONARROZ is permitted by law to charge consumers for at least part of the difference, according to La Nación. The bill González supports would use that income to create a fund for rice producers.

A similar plan was put into place by an executive decree in 2003, but it was later repealed because the Comptroller General’s Office questioned the way the funds were divided, alleging large producers benefited more than small businesses. According to the Comptroller’s Office, González and her husband, Osvaldo Araya, received $16,369 from the Stabilization Fund that year, the daily reported. Her brother Manuel also received $2,005.

Solís, who told the daily the bill should be modified to ensure small businesses will benefit, said González is “super-honest” but that the Ethics Tribunal is the proper body to determine whether her actions meet the party’s code of ethics. González said she welcomes the investigation since “one who owes nothing, fears nothing.”

Legislators from the Libertarian Movement Party, meanwhile, have submitted a bill that would eliminate CONARROZ’s import monopoly, allowing other companies to also import the grain tariff-free.

“The idea is that savings on the import of rice go to consumers,” legislator Mario Quirós told La Nación.

 

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