San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Foreign Ministry jobs awarded to friends, party supporters

Foreign Minister René Castro came under scrutiny Monday after a La Nación investigation revealed that 40 foreign service and ministry employees were hired based on their affiliation with the National Liberation Party (PLN) or other personal relationships, not qualifications.

Of the 40, Castro appointed 27 unqualified employees to overseas posts including Argentina, France and India, the paper reported. Castro defended the appointments, saying ministry hiring is based on the merit and the availability of candidates.

Many of the employees under scrutiny by the paper served as close PLN collaborators during the 2009-2010 political campaign, as well as relatives and friends of current ministers and party leaders.

Among those awarded diplomatic jobs, La Nación cited the case of Mariana Román, daughter of current PLN lawmaker María Ocampo. The daily also mentions the cases of Iriabel Lopéz and Maricruz Nuñez, two young journalists who worked with President Laura Chinchilla at several campaign rallies. They currently serve as diplomatic advisers in Qatar and India.

Castro said that many diplomats decline job offers, so he is forced to look for people outside the Foreign Ministry.

“I am forced to meet the demand for professional [job candidates] with whoever accepts to go to the assigned destinations,”Castro told La Nación.

Castro became Costa Rica’s foreign minister after serving as Chinchilla’s presidential campaign coordinator in 2009 and early 2010.

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