San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

2008 Budget Stalled, Ortega Called ‘Crazy’

The year-end institutional crisis among the executive, judicial and legislative branches gridlocked the National Assembly last week and blocked the approval of the 2008 budget, which many lawmakers had hoped to pass by Dec. 15 to avoid risking international budget support next year.
In the year’s final legislative session, opposition legislators prevented a quorum by failing to show at the Assembly in protest of a recent Supreme Court ruling to block the National Assembly’s decision to stop President Daniel Ortega’s project to create state-linked neighborhood groups known as the Councils of Citizen Power.
“We’re not obligated to play the game of President Daniel Ortega,” said opposition Liberal lawmaker and National Assembly secretary Wilfredo Navarro.
The Assembly’s refusal to approve Ortega’s budget proposal could potentially put at risk some $112 in foreign assistance.
A provisional budget will be put into place for next January, but if a 2008 budget is not approved by the end of March, all government spending would shut down.
Ortega, in his latest verbal attack on legislators, accused the opposition last week of trying to pass an amnesty law to benefit drug traffickers. He has also recently called the lawmakers “rabid dogs” and “senators of the empire.”
Opposition legislator Mónica Baldonado, of the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), responded to Ortega’s outbursts this week by announcing that opposition legislators are looking at the possibility of suspending Ortega’s executive powers altogether, under the argument that he is not mentally fit to fulfill his duties as president.
Baltodano said Ortega’s recent accusations against legislators lead “us to believe that he may be crazy, and that he is losing his mind,” adding, “If he continues to insist on lying, there won’t be any other choice but to declare the president, under article 149 of the Constitution, completely powerless.”
Such a vote would require two-third support in the Assembly, or 56 of 92 legislators. The opposition represents 54 lawmakers, making passage of the initiative nearly impossible.

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