San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rican security minister steps down

Less than a year since being appointed the country’s Security Minister, José Maria Tijerino announced Monday afternoon that he will step down from his post at the conclusion of the week after a series of controversial incidents. Tijerino will be replaced by Mario Zamora, the vice minister of security and former national immigration director.

The announcement of the departure comes days after Tijerino admitted that he incorrectly attributed the deaths of a young couple from Puntarenas to the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel, one of the most violent international drug-trafficking organizations. The couple was killed in February in Puntarenas, though according to the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ), no evidence had been found that linked the killings to the Sinaloa cartel.

Tijerino’s erroneous comment last week was the latest event to cloud the minister’s credibility. In recent months, Tijerino has been embroiled in an ongoing investigation concerning the potential misuse of funds by former Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias. According to an investigation conducted by La Nación, when Arias learned last October of the district attorney’s intent to probe his use of funds provided by the Central American Bank of Economic Integration (BCIE), he phoned Tijerino for advice. Though Tijerino denies assisting Arias in any form, his connection to the ongoing investigation has blemished the minister’s reputation.

On Monday, President Laura Chinchilla announced that members of the government and Tijerino had come to “mutual agreement” concerning the minister’s decision to step down. Chinchilla said Tijerino would continue to work with the national police and assist the country in foreign security affairs.

“We have made the decision that Mr. Tijerino will move on to assist us in other areas of national security,” Chinchilla said. “He will continue to serve an important role in maintaining national security. Though we cannot yet announce the role that he will assume, he will remain to be a fundamental part of national security.”

Chinchilla went on to thank Tijerino for his accomplishments during the previous 12 months, including the establishment of national border police and his management of the international conflict with Nicaragua.

Tijerino, who wore a grin and held his head high on Monday afternoon, was brief in his address to the press. The security minister said he was satisfied with his work during the year and that he looked forward to continuing to assist national security.

“I am satisfied with the accomplishments the ministry has achieved during the last 12 months, which was a difficult year,” Tijerino said. “I am also satisfied to be passing the role on to Mario Zamora, who is someone very close to me and someone I am confident will continue to lead the ministry to achieve success.”

For a full story on Tijerino’s resignation, read the April 29 print edition of The Tico Times

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