High court leak injects life into open pit mine opposition

Sign at a rally Friday is critical of both the Canadian mining firm and corrupt magistrates. A.M. Costa Rica/Zack McDonald

Allegations that a magistrate slipped the draft of an appeals decision to the developers of an open pit gold mine have galvanized the opposition. Opponents of the project gathered Friday at the Corte Suprema de Justicia. They plan to gather again today at the San Pedro traffic circle at 4 p.m. And they are planning a march from the Plaza de la Cultura to the supreme court building Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.

A the legislature, lawmakers voted to discuss the case, and members of opposing political parties agree that the implications of the leak damage the perceived independence of the supreme court.

José María Villalta Florez-Estrada of Frente Amplio called for more research on future candidates for replacement magistrates. Luis Gerardo Villanueva Monge, the legislative leader of the Partido Liberacón Nacional, said he was concerned that one side in a legal case should have an advantage.

Opponents have different reasons to oppose the proposed mine at Cutris de San Carlos. Environmentalists worry that the use of cyanide to leach the gold from rocks might pollute the Río San Juan just three kilometers away.

Former president Óscar Arias Sánchez supported the mine project, so his opponents are siding against the mine. In addition there is a touch of xenophobia because some Costa Ricans object that the estimated million ounces of gold will be mined by the subsidiary of a Canadian firm.

The subsidiary is Industrias Infinito S.A.

The Poder Judicial said that the nation’s chief prosecutor had summoned a former Sala Primera magistrate to appear to give statement.

The former magistrate is Moisés Fachler, a politically connected lawyer. He denies that he is the person who leaked the document. A former employee of Industrias Infinito S.A. was the whistleblower in the case, but he did not name the magistrate in public. The former employee said he was at a meeting when a magistrate turned over three copies of the decision draft.

The Poder Judicial characterized Fachler as a suspect in an investigation of divulging secrets and of failing to do his duties. Both are criminal allegations. Fachler quit as a replacement magistrate Monday.

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