The ruling National Liberation Party (PLN) is facing allegations of vote-buying leading up to the Feb. 2 first-round election, Radio Monumental reported on Wednesday.
Monumental reported that the Supreme Elections Tribunal’s (TSE) Election Investigation Unit was carrying out a preliminary probe of PLN lawmaker-elect Karla Prendas and city councilor Ana Ruth Esquivel of Puntarenas for alleged vote-buying.
Juan Luis Rivera, a lawyer for the TSE, Costa Rica’s election authority, confirmed to The Tico Times that the investigation opened in January but would not confirm the names of those under investigation, citing the case’s confidentiality.
According to Monumental, Esquivel and Prendas allegedly offered day labor jobs through the “Get to Work” program run by the Mixed Institute of Social Assistance (IMAS) in exchange for votes for Prendas.
The Get to Work program run by IMAS, a public Costa Rican welfare organization, offers temporary community service job placements for unemployed Costa Ricans, including cleaning beaches and public spaces, or assisting with small public works projects.
Esquivel denied the allegation when questioned by Monumental, calling it “absurd.”
Rivera said that under Article 279 of the Electoral Code the crime of vote-buying carries a punishment of between two and 12 months in prison. The charges can be harsher if a public employee is involved.
The lawyer stressed that TSE does not have the authority to levy sentences and that if the department found evidence of wrongdoing they would pass the case on to the Prosecutor’s Office.