A two-month investigation by the daily La Nación has revealed that 156 mayoral candidates either owe money to the state, have received administrative sanctions, or were convicted of criminal charges.
The study was published on Wednesday, 11 days before voters are scheduled to vote in Dec. 5 elections.
Most of 156 candidates owe money to the Costa Rica Social Security System (the Caja), at least four have criminal convictions and another 27 face sanctions because of mistakes in their work as public officials. More than 1,000 candidates are campaigning for mayor in the country’s 81 cantons.
The president of the Supreme Elections Tribunal, Luis Antonio Sobrado, told La Nación that political parties have a responsibility to ensure that candidates are fit to hold office.
But political party leaders say there are too many candidates to keep tabs on everyone.
“No one can know anything until the candidates are in office,” said Marielos Alfaro, a legislator and leader of the Libertarian Movement. “Right now, all our candidates are well-respected in their communities.”
Bernal Jiménez, president of the National Liberation Party, said that the best way to prevent potentially corrupt candidates from gaining office is to pick a trustworthy party.
“Do you have a [significant other]? How do you know he or she is moral,” Jiménez said. “You need a long relationship to judge character.”
He said voters are the best filters. “Ultimately, we don’t choose the candidates. The people choose the candidates.”