Following Arias scandal will require a scorecard

The Rodrigo Arias controversy is getting so complex observers are going to need a scorecard.

Arias, the brother of the former president, made himself a target, in part, because he seeks to run for president in 2014. He also is serving as a surrogate for his brother who is not available and is too revered for criticism now.

Rodrigo Arias was the chief of staff or minister of the Presidencia for his brother. In order to get the Free Trade Treaty with the United States passed, they obtained about $2 million from the Centroamericano de Integración Económica and spread it around in small contracts to political freinds and even political foes.

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For example, Epsy Campbell, the president of the Partido Acción Ciudadana, a former lawmaker, got a job as a legislative consultant. She quit as soon as the contract became known. That party was one of the leading forces against the free trade treaty.

Óscar Arías Sánchez and his brother maintained that the money was a private grant and did not have to be handled in the way officials have to handle public money. The Contraloría de la República wanted to look into the matter, but Rodrigo Arias appealed to the Sala IV constitutional court.

The Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica gets its money as grants from the Central American nations and First World countries.

Casa Presidencial spent about $342,000 of the funds. In addition to paying people who had technical expertise, some contracts went to vehicle drivers and similar. The contracts were terminated when the deal became public, thanks to La Nación.

Prosecutors began to investigate the case, and Rodrigo Arias was called before investigators. He made a call to the incoming chief prosecutor in early October, about a week before the man, Jorge Chavarría, actually took on the job. The investigation was halted, and the acting chief prosecutor said that this was at the request of Chaverría.

La Nación Wednesday called on the man to resign, citing what it said on a lack of truth in the accounts of the contact with Rodrigo Arias.

Opposition lawmakers smelled blood and wanted to set up a legislative investigatory committee, something that frequently happens when a scandal brews. However, the first effort to do so failed because the Partido Liberación Nacional, the Arias party, has enough votes in the 57-member legislature to prevent any action it opposes. So lawmakers have been squabbling for days.

The seven opposition parties came up with a compromise Wednesday. They proposed a mixed commission with a three-month term. Liberación would have two members. There would be five members from opposition parties.

Lawmakers are likely to come to some kind of accord to save face today. But it is equally likely that Rodrigo Arias, faced with a possible criminal charge from prosecutors, will not say anything new to a legislative committee.

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