On November 20, the 2012 Latin American Democratic Development Index found that Costa Rica had the strongest level of democratic development in the region.
In this study, led by Pilotat and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Costa Rica replaced Chile as the top track record-holder in the region. Indicators such as increased economic prosperity and political efficiency were used to arrive at such conclusions.
The report was released in the midst of a scandal in Costa Rica that saw lawmakers vote for the removal of Judge Fernando Cruz from the Sala Constitucional (Constitutional Court) or Sala IV as it is often referred to.
On November 15 2012 was the first time that a Sala IV justice was prevented from serving a second 8-year term. The renewal was automatic in the absence of a vote by legislators by October 15, 2012.
Costa Rica’s legisladores (legislators) who voted – one month after the due date – against Cruz’s second term in office included members of the Partido de Liberación Nacional (PNL), the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana (PUSC), the Movimiento Libertario (ML) and two other parties.
As a result, this created tensions among the legislative, judicial and executive branches of government. The latter resulting from allegations of impropriety by the Ministro de la Presidencia, Ricardo Benavides.
On November 19, the President of Costa Rica’s Corte Supremo (Supreme Court), Luis Paulino Mora, gave a speech in defense of Fernando Cruz. It was delivered before a room filled with Court employees dressed in black as a sign of protest against the legislature’s vote.
Mora argued the vote impinged upon the judiciary’s independence and democracy itself.
Among Cruz’s defenders, some argued this vote was aimed at removing a left-leaning judge from Sala IV, as he had angered libertarians with his decisions. This included presidenta Laura Chinchilla.
Among those that voted against him used the results of a recent poll that said seven in ten Costa Ricans were dissatisfied with its performance.
As a sign of protest, on November 20, legislator Luis Fishman and PUSC presidential candidate in the 2010 elections, resigned as leader of his party, saying he disagreed with the position taken by other PUSC members.
On November 21, the president of the Legislative Assembly, Victor Emilio Granados, called for an anulment of the vote, arguig that Cruz had been re-elected by default in October .
However, 26 legislators that had voted against a second term for Cruz subsequently signed an appeal that left Granados’ resolution without effect, fueling talk about an ‘institutional crisis’ within the Assembly.
On November 23, Cruz’ supporters marched the few blocks from the Judicial Court to the Legislative Assembly. in downtown San José, as a sign of protest.
On Monday, November 26, Cruz showed up for work as usual to complete his duties for the coming eight years. Unless there is a vote by the assembly to negate his mandate.