A war of words played out Tuesday between a Colombian businessman and Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla.
The Colombian newspaper El Espectador published an interview with THX Energy President Carlos Arturo Espinosa Monday in which the businessman called Chinchilla’s behavior regarding a borrowed corporate jet “vain and untrue.”
“President Laura Chinchilla behaved in a vain and untrue manner. Vain because she asked that we provide an airplane for private flights at her office’s request, at no time did we seek her out or anything in that way. And untrue because she says that they tricked her, when in reality between the request and the availability of the airplane, she sent a letter to our officials and another to one of her officials thanking us,” Espinosa told El Espectador.
The Colombian said that lending airplanes to presidents was an uncommon practice and that action constituted “bribery or abuse of power.”
On May 11, Chinchilla and others flew to Peru on a THX jet to attend the wedding of Vice President Luis Liberman’s son. While there, the president also met briefly with Peruvian President Ollanta Humala. The Colombian energy company also loaned the airplane to Chinchilla to fly to Caracas, Venezuela, for the late President Hugo Chávez’s funeral on March 8, as previously reported by this newspaper.
Espinosa told the Colombian daily that it was “difficult” to turn down the president, considering that the company uses San José’s airport as a hub, according to his response to the newspaper.
The Colombian turned Chinchilla’s words against her, saying that THX, not her, was the “victim” in the affair. “We are the ones who feel tricked and mistreated,” he said, according to Espectador.
In July, an investigation by the Public Ethics Attorney’s Office found no wrongdoing by the president in the THX affair, reported the daily La Nación.
The same could not be said for her communications minister, Francisco Chacón, who resigned on May 15 following revelations that the man whom Chacón spoke with to organize the flight, THX founder and Colombian businessman Gabriel Ricardo Morales Fallón, had alleged ties to drug trafficking.
The investigation found that Chacón and his wife, Anabel González, Costa Rica’s minister of foreign trade, committed ethics violations regarding the acceptance of contributions from private enterprises.
Chinchilla shot back that the Casa Presidencial had already settled the matter.
“I don’t know this man nor am I familiar with his accusations,” she told reporters today at a press conference, referring to Espinosa.
“[The plane] was never a personal contribution, it was a contribution to the administration. In this sense, there was nothing different in this situation than in previous administrations. If anything, this administration relied less on this mechanism than past ones,” said the president.
“This case is closed,” she added.