San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rican lawmakers appeal assembly president’s order to reinstate embattled Supreme Court justice

With 26 votes in favor and 19 against, Costa Rican lawmakers late Tuesday afternoon appealed a decision by Legislative Assembly President Víctor Emilio Granados to reinstate Supreme Court justice Fernando Cruz to another eight-year term. The internal battle among lawmakers over a court justice has embroiled the country in one of its worst political crises in recent years.

Last Thursday, lawmakers voted to reject Cruz’s re-election to the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV. That move sparked a political firestorm, with critics saying legislators were attempting to disrupt the country’s balance of power between the legislative and judicial branches.

Shortly before Tuesday’s vote, Granados annulled last week’s vote by 38 lawmakers to block Cruz’s re-election. Granados said the constitutional term limit for lawmakers to block the re-election had expired in October, so Cruz should automatically be reinstated for another eight-year term. Granados ordered Cruz to be sworn in next Thursday.

But 26 legislators countered the annulment by the legislative president with an appeal, meaning their original vote last Thursday is ratified.

The appeal was filed by lawmaker Luis Gerardo Villanueva and seconded by Fabio Molina and Siany Villalobos, all from the ruling National Liberation Party (PLN).

Lawmakers from of the PLN, Libertarian Movement Party and Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC) were part of the group of 26 who voted in favor of the appeal.

Ironically, Cruz’s re-election now will be decided by his colleagues in the Sala IV, which has already received more than 10 constitutional appeals – one of them filed by lawmaker Luis Fishman, who renounced his membership in the PUSC legislative bloc (although he will remain in the party).

In a Tuesday press conference, the PLN’s top lawmaker, Fabio Molina, said “the vote to appeal  was a democratic act … that may or may not be accepted by citizens. But lawmakers have the responsibility to guide those acts, and therefore, this case [Cruz’s re-election] is now a closed chapter for the Legislative Assembly.”

Regarding a final decision on the matter by the Sala IV, Molina said, “lawmakers and all citizens must accept the ruling, whatever it is.”

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