San José, Nov 16 (EFE) .- The involvement in alleged acts of corruption of at least six mayors, three of them from the main cities of Costa Rica, has shaken the municipal system of this Central American country and provoked the immediate reaction of the Government that it has proposed a legal reform to eliminate indefinite reelection in those positions.
The “Diamond Case”, thus named by the judicial authorities, refers to the alleged payment of gifts and bribes by the construction companies MECO and Explotec, in exchange for favors in the award of contracts, advance payment of invoices and early initiation of Public works in the municipalities of San José (center), Alajuela (center), Cartago (center), Escazú (center), Osa (south), Golfito (south), San Carlos (north) and Siquirres (Caribbean).
According to the Deputy Prosecutor for Probity, Transparency and Anti-Corruption, the gifts and bribes would include cash, construction work in the homes of the people involved and delivery of vehicles.
Among the crimes under investigation are bribery, influence peddling and the penalty of the corruptor.
The director of the Judicial Investigation Agency (OIJ), Walter Espinoza, denied that the name “Diamond Case” has anything to do with the animated series The Simpsons and his character “Diamond Mayor”, which in the television plot is characterized by his acts of corruption.
“The probity of the public official, his honesty and his way of behaving must be like a diamond: transparent, luminous, clear, hard and absolutely free from the possibility of blows like those that the country receives from corruption,” explained Espinoza on the case name.
Since Monday, the Judicial Investigation Agency (OIJ) and the Prosecutor’s Office have employed some 600 agents and some thirty prosecutors to carry out 40 raids in various areas of the country, which involved city halls, mayors’ houses, companies and other facilities, which continue this Tuesday in some places.
To the surprise of many, in a country where the detention of high public officials is not frequent, six mayors were arrested on Monday: Johnny Araya (San José), Mario Redondo Poveda (Cartago), Humberto Soto Herrera (Alajuela), who lead three of the most important municipalities in the country, as well as Alfredo Córdoba Soro (San Carlos), Alberto Cole De León (Osa), and Arnoldo Barahona Cortés (Escazú), the latter one of the municipalities with the most commercial boom and real estate development in the last decades.
This Tuesday began the hearing of precautionary measures that is expected to last about three days due to the number of suspects detained.
In addition to the 6 mayors, other municipal officials with surnames Boraschi González (Escazú), Chacón Ugalde (Alajuela), Castro Camacho (San José) and Suárez Vázquez (Golfito) were detained, as well as the owner of the company Explotec, with surnames Cruz Porras, and the manager of the asphalt plant of the construction company MECO, surnames Gutiérrez Vargas
LIMITS ON RE-ELECTION
Immediately the case was known, the president of the country, Carlos Alvarado, sent to Congress a bill that limits mayors to a single re-election for consecutive periods of four years, thus reforming article 14 of the Municipal Code that in Currently, there are no limits to reelection.
The bill is the work of two deputies and President Alvarado summoned it for discussion, since Congress is currently in a period of extraordinary sessions in which the Executive has control of the agenda of the projects to be discussed.
Of the detained mayors Araya and Córdoba have won 5 elections.
The promoters of the initiative have affirmed that it is a necessary reform to guarantee the alternation of power in municipally elected positions and that this will strengthen democracy.
Albino Vargas, general secretary of the National Association of Public Employees (ANEP), the country’s main union, demanded that the mayors investigated in the “Diamond Case” be removed from their positions.
“Given the facts that are being investigated, as a minimum, the mayors must be separated from their positions until the end of the corresponding processes. Leaving them in their positions is immoral and counterproductive,” he said.