Chinchilla defamation case back to court

Of all the bad things said, true or false, about politicians, Alberto Rodríguez Baldí clearly is not unusual.

But he is a man who must stand trial again because former president Laura Chinchilla said he has defamed her with a Facebook posting.

The case also shows up the convoluted nature of Costa Rican law.  Rodríguez was acquitted last year by a trial court in a decision that seemed to give citizens plenty of slack in talking about elected officials.

Rodríguez claimed that Ms. Chinchilla has land holdings in Guanacaste and has an interest in a power generating operation. Both appear to be false statements.

An appeals court just threw out the acquittal and ordered a new trial. Ms. Chinchilla is seeking 100 million colons, some $190,000. And the loser probably will face ample lawyer fees.

Ms. Chinchilla had a rough four years as president, and perhaps this is why she is among the few heads of state that would seek to carry a defamation case forward. That she chooses to do so certainly chills public comments.

Unlike newspapers, voters are not required to be letter perfect in their presentation of the facts. Neither are politicians, who certainly have a better platform than Facebook to respond to criticism.

The new defamation trial’s verdict could have a significant impact on free speech here.

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