San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Calderón trial reaching closure

The court case that´s jeopardized the career and legacy of a former president of Costa Rica and caused one of the country´s leading political parties to slip from prominence is entering into its final phase this week.

After nearly nine months of deliberations and 150 witnesses, former President Rafael Angel Calderón – who is at the core of the case – is heading into the four-week process with optimism.

“None of the 150 witnesses who testified under oath (were able to prove) that I am involved in any crime,” he said in a statement released Monday. “All of the evidence and documentation confirms that I did not commit an illegal act.”

Calderón (1990-1994) was arrested in October 2004 and made to spend five months in Costa Rica´s toughest prison after allegedly accepting money for securing a $39.5 million contract between a Finnish medical equipment company and the national public healthcare system, known as La Caja.

The former president admitted to receiving $520,000 from the medical equipment company, but said the money was payment for legal consulting services.

Confident of his innocence, Calderón initiated a presidential campaign last spring in the hopes of gaining a second term in office. Based on his first term, he is known for pushing for economic development by reducing taxes and drafting trade agreements, as well as for a handful of initiatives in health and education.

Yet, after Calderon´s arrest, along with that of former president Miguel Angel Rodríguez (1998-2002), also on corruption charges, the Social Christian United Party started its retreat from the political scene. It lost 14 seats in the legislative assembly in 2006 and captured few votes in that year´s presidential election.

Luis Fishman, president of party, lashed out at those prolonging the trial, charging that they harbor underlying political motives.

“This trial has had a high level of political content and, more than looking for the real and objective truth in the Caja-Fischel case, they´ve looked to hurt Calderón as a political figure and his party, La Unidad,” he said.

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