Despite scandals, president says she won’t dump taxes

President Laura Chinchilla addressed the nation Monday night and promised to forge ahead with her plan for new taxes.

“I arrive to your homes after days of consideration and reflection to give you an explanation that you deserve in relation to the information that days ago became known that questioned the fulfillment of certain obligations by members of my cabinet,” said the president.

She meant, of course, the fact that members of her cabinet had evaded property taxes by failing to report higher values for their properties. She also mentioned the minister of Hacienda without naming Fernando Herrero, who resigned after tax evasion allegations were raised by the newspaper La Nación. She said she accepted his resignation and that of the nation’s chief tax collector despite their valuable services to the country because their jobs required absolute adherence to their tax obligations. Francisco Villalobos Brenes, the director of Tributación, quit after it became public that he had not paid certain taxes in 2008.

Ms. Chinchilla said that despite all this the country was advancing and citizen security was improving. She said the country was beginning important work to improve the highways. She also mentioned child care centers, education and health.

“The events of the last few days do not stop me in pushing all these efforts,” she said. “We will not permit them to become a sly attack on the reforms that we promote.

“Despite the many difficulties that I have faced and the fierce opposition of some sectors that desire to maintain their privileged situations, I will continue with the same firmness and conviction fighting to give Costa Rica a more efficient public sector with less privilege and better financing,” she said.

Absent from the president’s message, which was aired on the various national television stations, was any mention of her own responsibility for the tax problems of his closest advisers.

Meanwhile, opponent of the president’s plan for new taxes have called on her to withdraw the proposal from the legislature. The Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados sent the president a letter Friday asking this.

Also Monday the Asociación de Profesores de Segunda Enseñanza called a one-day strike for April 19 in different places in the country.

The teachers organization said it rejected the tax plan, tax evasion and more price increases and impunity.

The day is a Thursday, so if there is broad participation, school children will not have teachers that day. The teachers plan to gather in front of the Ministerio de Hacienda on Avenida Secunda and march to the Corte Suprema de Justicia.

“While we workers in education pay all the taxes and even a little more, the defenders of the fiscal plan and certainly big businessmen and industrialists are able to give themselves the luxury of not paying their taxes,” said Beatriz Ferreto López, president of the teachers group in a statement published on the organization’s Web site.

The teacher statement also called on the Partido Acción Ciudadana and its president Ottón Solís Fallas to clarify if they support the tax plan or the Costa Rican people. Votes by Acción Ciudadana lawmakers are crucial for the tax plan to pass on second and final reading.

The measure calls for a 14 percent value-added tax and other new assessments. The proposal already has received an initial approval in the legislature, but lawmakers are awaiting approval from the Sala IV constitutional court, which is reviewing the plan.

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