Costa Rican lawmaker resigns following accusations of sexual harassment

February 6, 2015
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Broad Front Party lawmaker Ronal Vargas Araya on Thursday afternoon brought his colleagues in the Legislative Assembly to tears when he announced that he had submitted a letter of resignation to the Supreme Elections Tribunal in order to undergo medical treatment for a severe health problem.

“My [health] situation is delicate, and I don’t want to affect my party or the Assembly with my absences,” he said. Lawmakers cheered and embraced him for several minutes, accompanying him as he left the building.

His story, however, doesn’t appear to be truthful.

As the legislative session resumed, rumors began to circulate that there was another cause for his resignation. At about 9 p.m., Broad Front Party legislator Edgardo Araya summoned members of the media to a press conference, where he revealed that his party had asked Vargas Araya to step down after discovering the legislator likely will face criminal charges for allegedly sexually harassing an office assistant.

Edgardo Araya told reporters that no other Broad Front Party legislator was aware of the true reasons for Vargas Araya’s resignation at the time of his speech. He denied that his colleagues intentionally concealed the information.

Edgardo Araya also said his party would respect the alleged victim’s request to remain anonymous. “We accepted her request in order to avoid causing her further emotional distress,” Araya said.

The Broad Front Party’s top lawmaker, Gerardo Vargas Varela, told the daily La Nación that earlier in the day, he met with the party’s former presidential candidate, José María Villalta, and the party’s secretary general, Rodolfo Ulloa, to discuss the accusations against the Guanacaste legislator and to ask him to resign. According to Vargas Varela, the party sought Vargas Araya’s resignation so that he could face trial without the immunity from prosecution granted to lawmakers.

Gerardo Vargas also told La Nación that he was surprised by Vargas Araya’s sob story before the full Assembly.

“He agreed to resign and he never mentioned anything about health problems. That excuse was completely unknown to us,” he said.

President Luis Guillermo Solís reacted to the news on his Twitter account, saying he felt “cheated.”

Ronal Vargas Araya’s seat will be filled by Suray Carrillo Guevara, also from Guanacaste. Carrillo currently serves as a legislative adviser to the Broad Front Party.

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