San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Former president's trial coming to a close

Monday marks a possible end to a five-year ordeal for one of Costa Rica´s leading families – a time during which a former president served a five-month prison sentence, a major political party bordered on disintegration and a trial with 150-witnesses lasted 11 months at a San José courthouse.

On Monday, former President Rafael Angel Calderón will know whether he will be absolved of corruption charges or found guilty, facing a fine of up to $89 million and 24 years in prison.

“This is a fundamental moment in Costa Rica´s history,” said political analyst and former editor of the daily La Nación Eduardo Ulibarri. “While I don´t want to embellish its significance, it can´t be negated, either. It´s been a dramatic and polarizing case, and the judges will have to present a decision.” 

Yet, the ruling goes deeper than a judgment between right and wrong. Riding on the back of the ruling are a slew of political interests – all deeply invested in one side or the other of the outcome.

For Calderón supporters, the trial strayed long ago from one aimed at finding justice and has turned into a political battlefield.

“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,” said Luis Fishman, president of the Social Christian Unity Party ( La Unidad ), Calderón´s party (TT, July 24).

Following Calderón´s arrest, Unity ceased to play a dominant political role, losing 14 seats in the Legislative Assembly in the 2006 elections.

As a result, the rival National Liberation Party added to its ranks, and smaller parties found themselves becoming a much more significant part of the political scene.

“It will be interesting to see what happens in February if Calderón gets a not guilty verdict,” said Mariela Castro, a social science professor at the University of Costa Rica.

Click here to read the full story, which was published in the Oct. 2 edition of The Tico Times.

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