Costa Rica's major newspaper, La Nacion, says the State bank, Banco Nacional, has unleashed an offensive to the press
Costa Rica’s major newspaper, La Nacion, says the State bank, Banco Nacional, has unleashed an offensive to silence the press and is using people’s money to keep the people in ignorant of its practices.

The Banco Nacional de Costa Rica (BNCR), the largest in Central America, has unleashed an offensive to silence the press and prevent disclosure of sensitive information of public interest considered a “reputational risk” if they are known by Costa Ricans, says La Nacion in today’s edition.

The newspaper says the offensive includes the cancellation of advertising, exploring ways to bring criminal charges (against it), the false attribution to the Federal Reserve of the United States demanding an investigation of leaked information, the attempt to hire law firms and private investigators abroad, pressure on directors and officers of the Bank to force them to give up their right to privacy and the possibility of filing a lawsuit against “unknowns” to get a court order to suppress information of public interest.

The La Nacion, in its print and online editions, published that the BNCR has been exerting pressure after it published the questionable actions taking by the BNCR, leaving the bank exposed.

The newspaper says the pressure began on February 24, when it began to disseminate information of serious anomalies at the Bank, including the self-appointment of members of General Board of Directors in the directorships of subsidiaries, which provide ‘juicy returns’, in flagrant violation of the existing rules; the timid performances of the directors concerning the LATCO company, investigated for alleged money laundering and linked to Jennifer Morsink Schaefer, for the collection of ¢48 billion of income tax during the administration of Fernando Naranjo Villalobos and the decision of the Board of Directors in the case; the distortion the bank’s financial position, that led to excessive bonus payments; and warnings of the U.S. Federal Reserve about the vulnerability of the Banco Internacional de Costa Rica (Bicsa) – property of the Banco Nacional (49%) and the Banco de Costa Rica (51%) – and the general financial system, in the face of money laundering.

La Nacion says that by June advertising revenue from the BNCR had dropped to zero. It would have been much earlier, if it had not been for paid responses (by the BNCR) to its publications.

For example, on May 13, says La Nacion, the Bank took the unusual step of publishing a paid response in two national newspapers to respond to the publications by La Nacion, when response is typically with the same medium, either through paid advertising or the right to reply.

The BNCR is a State bank. As such La Nacion believes that a reduction or cancellation of State advertising to a media for publishing “bothersome information” to governments has been heavily criticized and censured internationally.

The newspaper adds, “the use of public resources to silence the press violates freedom of expression of who issues the message and the public’s right to receive information. It is an odious practice that involves using the people’s money to keep the people in ignorance”.

Armando Gonzalez, director of La Nacion, warned that if the BNCR is successful in its attempt to obtain a court to order forcing the newspaper to delete documents uploaded to its website, they will resort to everything, including international resources within its reach.

Read the original article (in Spanish) at La Nacion.