Sparks Fly Over Housing Project in Cartago

February 29, 2008
The battle over a public housing project in Cartago province east of San José is heating up.
On Sunday morning, arsonists torched a car belonging to Oreamuno Mayor Marco Redondo, a fierce opponent of the Vista Hermosa low-income housing project.
He said he believes supporters of the $6.2 million project, which has languished unfilled for almost 18 months largely because of a shortage of potable water, are likely responsible.
The project was initiated under the administration of former President Abel Pacheco and called for housing 480 lowincome families.
Redondo, a member of the Citizen Action Party (PAC) swept into power in 2006 after the previous mayor was ousted in a corruption probe.
If supporters did burn his car, it would not be the first time Redondo was targeted, he said.
“What is clear is there is a history here. In September I was assaulted by potential (residents of the project) of this project after a city hall meeting. They arrive, fill the council chambers and generate pressure. And here, unfortunately, I have to say that each time municipal officials see a group like this, their knees shake and they wet their pants.”
Redondo emphasized he is not a pantswetter, no matter the pressure against him.
That pressure includes an order from the country’s Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court to advance the project, an order he appears to be flouting, and an investigation by the Comptroller General’s office.
“This project represents everything a government shouldn’t do,” said the mayor, who before being elected led a vocal local movement against the project. “The important thing is it has induced citizens to turn to violence.”
Redondo said he opposes the project because it will disproportionately benefit outsiders, that is, anyone not from his town, and put a strain on local resources, especially the drinking water system. One of his first acts as mayor was to suspend the engineer responsible for work on the project.
“Our water infrastructure is already at the point of collapse,” he said. “They (supporters) haven’t wanted to see the reality.”
Other local politicians confirmed the water problems.
Canton Commissioner Elena Córdova, also of PAC, said the mayor was acting responsibly.
“The new aqueduct needs to be realized before the project can go forward,” she said. “I consider the (federal) government responsible for water collection.”
Canton President Gladys Coto, of the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC), said she blames Redondo for obstructing the project. But she also said the water issue is a major impediment.
“The mayor needs to comply with what he needs to comply with,” she said, referring to the court order against him. “Now, we are trying to invest in water in order to solve these problems.”
Coto said the Finance Ministry is examining the possibility of funding, partially with a $20 million gift from China, a new aqueduct project in San Rafael that would alleviate the region’s water problems.
The Vista Hermosa project has been plagued by problems since its inception.
According to the daily La Nación, an ongoing prosecutor’s investigation discovered the names of some potential residents included dead people and demonstrated that the land asold for the project was overvalued.
 

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