San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Minister: Avoid a FARC Witch Hunt

As lawmakers prepare to dissect hundreds of pages of documents about Costa Rica’s ties to a Colombian rebel group, Public Security Minister Laura Chinchilla warned against a repeat of U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s fingerpointing during the Cold War.
In an ongoing scandal that has shaken the public and the Arias administration, Chinchilla pleaded with lawmakers to be prudent as they investigate inroads here by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
“We are anxious that the nation does not begin a witch hunt, or reawaken ghosts that could split Costa Rica,” said Chinchilla, who will serve as minister until April 25, when lawmaker Janina Del Vecchio takes over.
In a nearly five-hour discussion with lawmakers this week, Chinchilla downplayed the problem, even as she pursued extraordinary measures to identify and sever FARC ties here.
Chinchilla is drafting a bill that would allow Colombia to extradite Costa Rican citizens – a move that some legal experts say would violate the Constitution. She has also sought documents from Colombian authorities that could prove visa fraud at the Costa Rican Consulate in Colombia.
At Chinchilla’s request, Colombia is also sending evidence that could incriminate a prominent Tico academic and his wife, who had held $480,000 allegedly belonging to FARC in their Barva de Heredia home, north of San José.
After a police raid on the couple’s home March 14, then Public Security Minister Fernando Berrocal told the press that Costa Rican political sectors had ties to the FARC (TT, March 28). President Oscar Arias, worried that Berrocal was spreading rumors and politicizing a sensitive issue, pressured him to resign March 30.
On Tuesday, the Legislative Assembly appointed nine members to a committee that will spend three months analyzing the issue. The Casa Presidencial sent the committee hundreds of pages of documents from the Colombian government and from Costa Rican bodies that handle drug control and national security.
In a separate fact-finding mission, Chinchilla, Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno and Chief Prosecutor Francisco Dall’Anese met with top Colombian officials in Bogota last Friday.
Colombia’s chief prosecutor, Mario Iguarán, said he would send Dall’Anese information about the Tico couple, Francisco Gutiérrez and Cruz Prado.
“It’s possible that Colombia gives us enough evidence to prosecute them here,” said Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias.

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