Lawmakers vote to investigate Arias link with Poder Judicial

The legislature voted Thursday evening to impanel a commission to investigate the Rodrigo Arias affair.

The main thrust will be to quiz workers at the Poder Judicial on contact with Arias and the outcome of telephone calls. Presumably lawmakers will call Jorge Chavarría, the fiscal general or chief prosecutor. He said he was contacted by Arias while he was still awaiting his judicial appointment.

As a result, a questioning session for Arias was postponed. Prosecutors are investigating how some $2 million was used during the early days of the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration. Rodrigo Arias was the chief of staff of minster of the Presidencia for his brother.

Rodrigo Arias has said he would like to run for president in three years, so there are political motives for the investigation. The Partido Liberación Nacional, the party of the Arias brothers, resisted the call for an investigation for two weeks but finally gave in to a concerted push by opposition parties.

The money came from the Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica and contracts were awarded without the usual governmental oversight. The purpose was to advance the free trade treaty with the United States that was in the legislature at that time.

In another development, Ana Lorena Brenes Esquivel, the new procuradora general de la República, told lawmakers Thursday in a committee hearing that both Arias brothers contacted her over the Las Crucitas open pit gold mine case. Both Arias brothers wanted to know if she was going to appeal a lower court ruling that said there were illegalities in awarding the concession to the local subsidiary of a Canadian mining firm.

She said she was not pressured and that her office has the obligation to defend state actions, such as the concession award. She did file an appeal in her capacity as the central government’s lawyer.

Óscar Arias strongly supported the mining company in its prolonged effort for approval, so his interest is hardly surprising.

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