New corruption scandal hits Costa Rican government; transport minister resigns

May 4, 2012

Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla asked for the resignation of Transport Minister Francisco Jiménez on Friday for allegations of corruption committed during the construction of a controversial 160-kilometer highway near the Nicaraguan border.

Chinchilla said that according to complaints, two senior officials “had received gifts” from businesses involved in construction work on the road parallel to the San Juan River. which forms the border between the two countries. The Costa Rican government invested $40 million in the first stage of construction on the road.

The president described the allegations at a news conference, but she did not directly allude to Jiménez. The minister said he will leave the position Friday.

“I met with him to discuss the complaints and I asked him to resign. There is strong evidence of corruption,” said Chinchilla, whose administration has been plagued by scandals recently, including one last month that brought down the finance minister, who was accused of altering declarations about his properties in order to pay less taxes.

The road near the border will facilitate movement for Costa Ricans who previously had to travel by river, which belongs to Nicaragua.

The Nicaraguan government accused Costa Rica before the Central American Court of Justice, alleging that work on the road caused environmental damage, particularly to the San Juan River.

The court ordered Costa Rica on Jan. 17 to suspend the works to protect the river’s ecosystem. Costa Rica dismissed the ruling from the tribunal – whose authority Costa Rica does not recognize – and reiterated that the government will continue the project.

“I feel outraged by what happened, and I’m saying to the inhabitants of the area that we are not going to permit this project to be paralyzed by scandals,” Chinchilla said.

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