San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Lázcares Bids Adieu To Del Vecchio and Co.

Public Security Vice Minister Gerardo Lázcares has tendered his resignation, effective Nov. 1, citing tensions in the few months working under Minister Janina del Vecchio.

Former Public Security Minister Fernando Berrocal lured Lázcares, a longtime friend, out of retirement to serve as his vice minister in May 2006.

Lázcares, 58, who has a criminal law degree and had more than 30 years with the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) before joining the ministry, stuck around in the post longer than the one year he’d originally planned but was already publicly mulling retirement earlier this year.

“My time has already passed,” he told The Tico Times in February. “It’s a matter of months before I step away.”

But a political firestorm this spring forestalled those plans.

In March, Berrocal caused an uproar when he made claims that the notorious drug-trafficking rebel army, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), had links to “political sectors” in the country. President Oscar Arias fired him on the eve of his testimony to the Legislative Assembly’s special FARC committee to explain those remarks and appointed del Vecchio to the minister’s post.

Although the appointment of del Vecchio, a former math professor who had no law enforcement experience prior to her appointment, received intense criticism, she stood her ground. (TT, June 6) But relations between the minister and Lázcares never smoothed out.

Lázcares, in his letter of resignation, affirmed that while del Vecchio had a stellar academic record, her knowledge of citizen security, criminal investigation, penal code and Judicial Branch relations were weak.

However, the last straw, he said, was when she publicly questioned statements he had made in an interview to the daily La Nación in July. “I find it incomprehensible that the minister could bother to question, to the press, if my image as a law enforcement official, formed over many years fighting against delinquency and always transparent, had credibility and respect.”

Lázcares in his letter also called on Arias to build a greater consensus on issues of public security, as well as to staff the ministry with “specialists, hopefully of the highest level.”

Del Vecchio, for her part, made no attempts at conciliation, telling La Nación that Lázcares “never fit in.”

Neither Lázcares nor del Vecchio could be reached for further comment, but José Pastor, one of the minister’s advisers, said the wake of Lázcares announcing his resignation had caused no big waves within the ministry.

– Holly K. Sonneland


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