On Friday, Citizen Action Party (PAC) legislator Manrique Oviedo criticized political donations allegedly made by two companies – Autopistas Del Sol and Industrias Infinito – to the presidential campaign of President Laura Chinchilla in 2010.
Both companies have been under intense public scrutiny in the past 18 months.
In the case of Autopistas Del Sol, a series of landslides and problems with the asphalt layers that occurred after the inauguration of the San José-Caldera Highway on Jan. 23, 2010 angered various opposition lawmakers, who claimed that the highway was opened in a rush for political reasons (TT, Jan. 22, 2010).
Experts from the University of Costa Rica also issued a report Jan. 24 indicating serious deficiencies in the quality of materials used in building the highway.
According to the PAC investigation, FCC Costa Rica SA, a company that holds most shares of Autopistas del Sol, bought $22,000 in bonds of political debt from the ruling National Liberation Party (PLN) from August 2009 to February 2010.
“While this type of support is legally allowed, we consider it to be inappropriate,” Oviedo said during a press conference. “This type of behavior weakens the concept of transparency and honesty while posing a serious risk to all citizens.”
According to Claudio Pacheco, assistant manager of Autopistas del Sol, PAC investigations seek only to damage the company’s public image. Pacheco said FCC Group companies operate separately.
“PAC allegations are totally false,” Pacheco said, adding that “each company is independent and I can guarantee that Autopistas Del Sol has not made a donation to the PLN.”
Industrias Infinito is the firm that hoped to develop the Crucitas open-pit gold mining project in the northern area of the country (TT, Nov. 24, 2010). Industrias Infinito licenses were revoked last November, when an appeals court determined that the operating permits were granted in irregular conditions during the second term of former President Oscar Arias (2006-2010).
Juan Carlos Obando, head of the company, donated $11,600 from his personal savings to Chinchilla’s campaign, according to Oviedo.
The Tico Times tried to reach Obando, but he did not answer his cellphone on three separate calls.
Luis Gerardo Villanueva, the PLN’s top legislator, said the political donations were legal, and that the company was “strengthening the democratic system.”
“It is absurd to show this data one and a half years after the elections,” said Villanueva. “It is public and transparent information and I challenge anyone to tell me where the irregularities are.”
Asked whether receiving monies from these companies is ethical or not, Villanueva said that unethical is to assume that there are no honest people [in government].
PAC sources told The Tico Times that the party is conducting further investigations.