PAC reignites anti-corruption crusade

October 16, 2009

The left-leaning opposition Citizen Action Party (PAC) came out Wednesday with a scathing statement against the current administration and the ruling party, in a move that forcefully returned the PAC to its role as government watchdog.

The PAC cited a series of incidents in which President Oscar Arias´ National Liberation Party (PLN) used public resources for personal benefit, including those involving a former housing minister, environment minister and National Emergency Commission chief, each of whom stepped down amid harsh allegations.

“The abuse of public resources has become a trend for the PLN and (the PLN-run) government,” the statement read.

The week began with the news that Maureen Ballestero (PLN), vice president of the Legislative Assembly, used a government-owned plane to fly from San José to a PLN campaign event in Liberia, in the northwest Guanacaste province. The trip occurred four days after the Supreme Elections Tribunal reminded political parties not to use public resources for campaigns. Ballestero apologized and said the urgent trip was necessary to pick up a passport for travel to Mexico.

On Tuesday, public prosecutors formally accused Costa Rican Electricity Institute Executive President Pedro Pablo Quirós of embezzlement and misuse of funds by making two helicopter trips in January and March during which he attended a wedding and visited friends´ homes as well as a PLN event.

“It´s a fact that Pedro Pablo Quirós lied and took advantage of Costa Ricans´ resources,” legislator Alberto Salom, a PAC party leader, said in a statement.

“Quirós said he diverted for a moment to go to a wedding,” he said. “It is very common these days to hear this kind of excuse from those who are being investigated by public prosecutors.”

The PAC estimates that two trips taken by Quirós in January and March cost Costa Ricans $6,900.

In Ballestero´s case, presidential frontrunner Laura Chinchilla (PLN) asked for a thorough “investigation regarding the events involving Ballestero” and “whether it´s a violation of our laws.”

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