San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Elections

Sexual harassment allegation remains over Santa Ana mayor as Costa Rica's municipal elections near

A five-year-old sexual harassment allegation is still hovering over Santa Ana Mayor Gerardo Oviedo, who will run for re-election in February’s municipal voting.

The mayor of the suburban city west of the capital, San José, says the 2011 complaint from a former entry-level worker in the municipality is “totally false” and is being dragged on by authorities with political agendas.

“I’ve gone about this process with complete transparency from day one, and I’m innocent of these accusations,” Oviedo said.

The 53-year-old mayor has presided over Santa Ana since 2007 with the National Liberation Party (PLN). He told The Tico Times that the complaint, which is still under investigation in the town’s municipal council, has lived on for so long to serve conflicting political interests in the area. Oviedo said that because three of the five council members have political ties to rival parties including the Citizen Action Party (PAC), there is an unfair element to a process that could have him kicked out of office if he is re-elected in February.

“How are you going to judge me with people who have predisposed interests?” he said during a telephone interview on Tuesday. “They’re not judging me impartially.”

Andrey Cambronero, a spokesman for the Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE), confirmed that no decision has been made by Santa Ana’s council. He said if the municipal council votes to revoke Oviedo’s credentials as an elected official, the TSE will perform an independent investigation to ultimately decide whether or not to remove Oviedo from office.

“Basically within Costa Rica’s legislation there is no responsibility on our part at the TSE to interfere with a candidate running who has an ongoing complaint against them,” Cambronero said. “Anyone who has an outstanding complaint against them can still run in the popular elections without problem.”

Oviedo said his complainant’s character should be in question because, according to him, she lied about her credentials on her résumé when hired, saying she had completed high school when she had not. The accuser, identified only by her last name, was fired from her position — because she lied about her credentials, Oviedo said — shortly after filing the complaint.

In response to the complaint, the mayor appealed to the Costa Rican Supreme Court, saying the municipal council shouldn’t have legal authority to decide his fate because of its political interests. He also challenged the constitutionality of the country’s Anti-Harassment Law. In 2014, the court ruled against Oviedo and resent the case to Santa Ana’s municipal council.

“There’s absolutely nothing to see here,” he said. “It’s a total injustice. No one can show any evidence to support this complaint.”

Oviedo is running against nine other candidates in the mayoral elections, including Peter Guevara of the Libertarian Movement Party. Guevara, the younger brother of the party’s founder Otto, is under investigation by Costa Rica’s congress for allegedly receiving a paycheck from a private business while having a full-time contract as a legislative aide.

“Hagamos más,” or “Let’s do more,” is the campaign slogan for Oviedo in the 2016 municipal elections, and he said Tuesday he wants to continue uniting the public of Santa Ana by strengthening important public services such as education.

Contact Michael Krumholtz at mkrumholtz@ticotimes.net

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