Press and television taking hard look at candidates

Press and television reporters in Costa Rica are digging deeper this year into the backgrounds and promises of candidates.

Channel 7 Monday night subjected one promise by each of the five leading candidates to independent evaluation. Two promise dealing with financial matters were classified as risky. Three were considered impossible.

Meanwhile, two legislative candidates for Movimiento Libertario quit after La Nación, the Spanish-language daily, pointed out they had faced criminal prosecution. One was facing a child sex charge.

In all, nine legislative candidates had faced serious criminal charges and 15 are under investigation by prosecutors on various allegations, the newspaper said. One legislative candidate from a minor party has been taped offering a bribe to a judge in a drug case, the newspaper reported. However, the prison sentence stemming from his1999 arrest was thrown out on appeal for technical reasons, the newspaper said.

Some 91 of the candidates from all 19 political parties faced some kind of civil court action from creditors seeking money.

La Nación reporters compared the names of the candidates against court records, the debtor list at the Caja Costarricense de Seguros Social and the criminal courts, among others. The series is being called #Novotoaciegas, which means don’t vote blind. It can be found HERE!

A separate news story outlining the project said that the average voter does not have the time to check out the past of candidates. The story said reporters took four months to run down all the data.

Reporters took candidates from the five leading parties and the top two legislative deputy candidates from the other minor parties and ran them against 32 public sources of information, they said.

Legislative candidates are elected by province proportional to the percentage of votes their party received. They are not elected directly.

The Channel 7 program Siete Dias asked experts to consider a promise by Otto Guevara Guth, the presidential candidate of Movimiento Libertario, that he would create 500,000 jobs. That was considered unlikely by independent experts.

Johnny Araya Monge, the candidate of the Partido Liberación Nacional, said he wants to apply 3 percent of the sales tax to pensions to ease the burden on the public pension plan. Other experts said this was financially risky.

Also discounted were promises to eliminate extreme poverty in two years, to remove the eight-year limit on payments to public and private retirees and to reduce the bureaucracy procedures.

It was Rodolfo Piza de Rocafort of Partido Unidad Social Cristiana who is promoting the reduction of the complexity in governmental procedures, called tramites. He said this was a way to reduce corruption.

Jose María Villalta Florez-Estrada of Frente Amplio said he wanted to eliminate the eight-year limit on severance and retirement pay. Now such payments by employers to a fired, retiring or dead employee are capped at eight years. Villalta would provide about a month’s pay for every year worked, regardless of the number.

Luis Guillermo Solís of Partido Acción Ciudadana was the candidate who promises to eliminate extreme poverty in two years. Analysts said this was unlikely because every other government has tried to eliminate extreme poverty without success. The proposals and criticisms are HERE!

The La Nación investigative reporting using public documents is going to be more difficult because the Poder Judicial has issued privacy guidelines that restrict access to the names of individuals involved in court decisions. Some private investigators already have complained about this, but the action is too new to have affected more of the information sources consulted by the newspaper reporters.

Political parties usually try to look into the backgrounds of their candidates to avoid embarrassment later. In many cases, however, they just take the word of the candidate instead of doing independent research.

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