COSTA RICA NEWS — A ruling by the Sala Constitucional (Constitutional Court) on Wednesday gives the green light for Melvin Jiménez to keep his job as Ministro de la Presidencia (Chief of Staff). The Court said it found no “constitutional defects” in the appointment of Jiménez, who is bishop of the Lutheran church.
The controversy over Jiménez as a cabinet minister arose six months ago, almost immediately after his taking office, when a citizen, Alvaro Orozco, related to the Catholic Church filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court.
The magistrates consider Jiménez, theologian and sociologist by profession, is exempt from the limitation provided in section 149 of the Constitution, which states that the heads of ministries must belong to the secular state; that is cannot be clerics.
[/su_pullquote]The majority of judges supported the thesis that the restriction applies only to the clergy of the Catholic Church, based on “historical-constitutional” reasons that were detailed in the “por tanto” (therefore), the Court press office said on Wednesday.
The Court decision validates the decision of President Luis Guilermo Solís appointing Jiménez to the top cabinet post. The President refused to take any action on calls by the opposition and critics who wanted to see Jiménez removed from his post, until a decision by the Court.
Yesterday, Jimenez said he was always sure of the legality of his appointment. He also left the door open to return to episcopal functions when leaving the government. “I am a servant of God. I’ll be where he‘ll put me,” he told reporters.
The Court decision was not unanimous, two magistrates , Luis Fernando Salazar and Nancy Hernández, sided with the complainant, saying“it is proven beyond doubt that the Minister Jimenez does not belong to the secular state.”
“He’s part of a religious organization with management and is authorized to offer sacraments, defining characteristics, in contrast, to the secular state,” argued Hernandez.
The Court decision closes the file. There can be no more appeals, Jiménez is able to continue with his duties in Zapote (Casa Presidencial).
Over at the Catholic Church, Bishop Francisco Ulloa, described the ruling as “discriminatory” ad “restrictive”.
The Secretary of the Episcopal Conference of Costa Rica, monseñor Ángel San Casimiro, said he preferred not to comment on the ruling, only saying that the decision has been made and its is now a rule of law.
The monseñor did say that he now expects the minister to get back to doing his job.
“That’s what Costa Ricans expect to see, not whether or not he is a bishop, whether or not he belongs to the clerical state, what matters is that he meets the obligation that he was given and be effective,” said San Casimiro.
The sentiment was shared by many by way of the social networks, who feel that Jiménez has been publicly absent during this period of uncertainty. Critical of his role, some were quick to point out the public gaffe, over the mid-October announcement of the layoffs at Citibank.