By Claudia Calvo, January 28 2011.
Political scandals pile up in Costa Rica -and press outlet that informs on it has award removed
All opposition parties in Costa Rica are currently accusations concerning political scandals that have been little covered by the mainstream media or altogether ignored as well as by several high-placed people in the country’s institutions.
The next candidate for president is under fire for mishandling of Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica’s money. District attorneys recommended the case go to a criminal court. But a swift “switch” of Attorney General changed all that – with one phone call.
It isn’t the first time that some of our highest authorities are officially questioned, either – to no avail, and to the dutiful silence of the press. The proposed ” fiscal package” the official party proposes is also strongly opposed, as is the inexorable sale of our country’s assets. But no results are to be seen in -most of- the courts or relevant institutions… and much less in the media.
The exception to this is Carlos Salazar, editor from the daily elpais.cr who has consistently given a thorough and comprehensive following to all of these issues -and many more. Now a different type of scandal appears: this week, Salazar won a national award -which was politically removed, minutes before its official signature! Still, this issue suggests that the media in Costa Rica are slowly changing -and that the pressure on corrupt politicians is growing -as is the public awareness…
…. One scandal on top of another: the wannabe future President Rodrigo Arias Sánchez (brother of the ex President), not at his first charge of corruption -caught on a couple of million dollars by 4 economic-crime District Attorneys… only to have a “sudden change of Attorney General”, and the new one having the motion removed after a phone call from the Security Minister (his cousin!) Instead of explaining himself, now the new Attorney General wants the head of the official who leaked this “annoyance” to the press. Arias is also in question because he is attempting to be the official candidate -without bothering to do a convention, to which end he had a massive reunion with the mayors of the country… Business as usual for the “elite”.
Yet untiringly, the newswire elpais.cr has been covering daily and extensively on all of this, as they had over the trial against the gold mine in Crucitas (we won, by the way, and the Tribunal Contencioso actually recommended to charge the then president, Nobel Prize Oscar Arias Sánchez (the brother) for knowingly using false data to implement a decree of National Interest, among other crimes -and several state institutions. The beauty is that the company is appealing -with the help of the government and its institutions! Meaning, now WE are supposed to pay their attorneys… to defend THEm against US!) But the Tribunal Contencioso’s recommendation, as well as other criminal charges on the Arias brothers over time -have not been followed upon by the Courts.
The daily elpais.cr also gives a great coverage of everything the press normally “covers up”, such as all the scandals going on –which they half-heartedly cover one day and then dutifully forget- and international news, which are completely overlooked by the local controlled media. As a -rather encouraging, in the circumstances- result, its editor-director, Carlos Salazar, was nominated for a free-press national award. This was voted for -the jury chose him- but the official act was yet to be signed, when…
Translation of the email conversation:
(Email from the National Award group:
Attention journalists <firstname.lastname@example.org> “Journalism Association, on orders from Raul Silesky, manhandles Pío Víquez award 2010. January 26, 2011, 08:14 pm
A summary of the story; journalists: draw your own conclusions
The jury of the National Award of Journalism Pio Víquez agreed to give the award to the journalist Carlos Salazar, director of the daily elpais.cr; the vote act was written and left to sign in the last session; but in the last session, the representative of Colegio de Periodistas (the Journalism Association) informed he was under orders of not signing the act, because some in the Colegio did not agree that Carlos Salazar got the award (justification, he is not an associate); discussions come and go; the Colegio proposes another journalist from a written media; the other jurors oppose and they finally decide, as a mediation point, to give it to Gerardo Chavarría of Canal 15; all of this in the last session, when supposedly, they were just to sign the act of the vote already passed, writtten and justified -in favor of Carlos Salazar. It seems that many people of the political subworld felt quite uncomfortable by this award to an “opposing” media, and Silesky, quite the politician, gave the order to veto the people of http://www.elpais.cr.
Thus being, the manhandled prize was given to Gerardo Chavarría of Canal 15 of the Universidad de Costa Rica. Though Gerardo is an excellent worker…)”
(Response from Carlos Salazar:
“Greetings. For your information, I received this email from a colleague. I believe that the best recognition is the one you don’t get, and for us, the growth of elpais.cr is all that matters. I believe I would be more worried if it had been given, which would make us suspect we were doing something wrong -like Don Pepe said, one time that La Nación spoke well of one of the measures of his government.
In elpais.cr, “We fundamentally have a committment to the truth and to the right to free information; to the access to information for all the citizenship. Today, many journalists and media have lost that North, by defending and protecting the interests of the dominant economic sectors”.
“That is the reason of our existence, and we believe that the spirit of our origins will stand the test of time, as long as we keep counting with the support of our readers, of academic and professional sectors, of honest and patriotic businessmen, of social organizations, and of the least favoured sectors of the population, and of those who help with our funding”.
Best regards, Carlos Salazar)
(Email from Javier Solís, journalist, former deputy and diplomat.
“Congratulations. Some awards are a dishonor. Those who collect them are little more than a list of master-serving mediocres. El país will grow.”)
Just so you see: the political control of EVERYTHING is the agenda these days –and that’s everywhere.
Of course, it doesn’t help that several people of our government are in Davos these days… they sure would not relish the award being given to elpais.cr ! In an alternative radio show yesterday, it was actually said that a certain phone call was made to Oscar Arias about the award. I have no proof of this, yet it certainly fits the norm of how this “democracy” is handled. Sadly, I believe this will ring a bell in other countries as well.
Anyway, I hope that by sending what is going on with this issue, the TRUE recognition will still go to the rightful winner, even if it is not officially recognized. Because (of course), the controlled media have not piped one word about it…
Thank you very much for your attention.
Claudia Calvo Louward (Tour guide, translator and citizen journalist- Cédula 1-758-609)