For the president, situation keeps getting worse

The presidency is not going well for Laura Chinchilla Miranda. She is getting the blame for a string of deficiencies and scandals that have wracked her administration.

The latest, of course, is what is being called the crater on the General Cañas highway. The road fell away leaving a hole where two lanes of the highway had been. That problem got a temporary fix with twin bailey bridges, but everyone, including the president, agrees that the problem was lack of maintenance.

Then there is the Ruta 1856 along the Río San Juan in north Costa Rica. That scandal keeps growing. Prosecutors are investigating the project that was financed under an emergency decree. Meanwhile, bridges are falling there, too, leaving gaping holes in the unfinished roadway.

Public confidence is eroding. Some organizations are calling for Ms. Chinchilla to resign.

The real problem began when La Nación disclosed that ministers of Ms. Chinchilla’s government had not kept current on their property valuations.

In January when Ms. Chinchilla spoke to finance ministry workers, she called tax cheats criminals. When many of her ministers were revealed to have ducked updating the values of their properties in late March, they were guilty only of a lamentable descuido or regrettable neglect.

This double standard extends to a current scandal in which the Procuraduría de la Ética issued a blistering criticism of letters that a vice president and education minister sent to the national refinery
company. Vice President Luis Liberman and Leonardo Garnier, minister of Eucación Pública sent letters to the Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo
S.A. on behalf of Florisabel Rodríguez and her company, Procesos. Ms. Rodríguez is the wife of the man who was the finance minister at the time and also a close aide to Ms. Chinchilla. Procesos then got a fat public relations contract from the refinery.

The Procuraduría said that the two men failed to live up to the standards of a public official. The Presidencia issued Friday what it called an exhaustive analysis of the 80-page ethics report. A summary stressed technical defenses, such as some of the directives cited by the Procuraduría had expired.

And the Presidencia said that the president would take no action and would simply file the ethics report.

Ms. Rodríguez and her minister husband, Francisco Herrera, had to resign when La Nación published a report saying that they had grossly undervalued for tax purposes a property that they were renting to a government agency.

The scandals have served to unite once again opposition parties in the legislature, and lawmakers are conducting their own investigations. Although no formal action is expected, the cross examination of minsters is an embarrassment for the administration.

Ms. Chinchilla has a long tradition of protecting her ministers. When Alan Flores, the married minister of Turismo, became involved in a scandal over a relationship with a female employee, Casa Presidencial prevented a notary from filing papers on the minster when he was at the presidential offices. That was in February, and the case was in the Juzgado Contencioso Administrativo.

The minister of the Presidencia, Carlos Ricardo Benavides, was the direct supervisor of Flores when Benavides was tourism minister. There does not seem to be any action despite a judicial determination that a woman was fired for the wrong reasons.

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