Oh, what a terrible burden modern technology and the social media places on the backs of modern politicians!
A Channel 9 TV video caught President Laura Chinchilla summarily breaking off a conversation with a constituent and leaving him talking to empty air. For shame! In record time, the brief incident was uploaded and splattered on YouTube because, in Costa Rica, that just isn’t done, you know?
It appears that Marcelo Ramirez, an Alajuelita resident, stopped Chinchilla to complain that “things just aren’t getting done” in his town while the President was on her way to hand out presents to poor children at the National Children’s Museum.
After a brief exchange, Chinchilla marched onward, leaving Ramirez sputtering. It was not long before the incident was all over Facebook and Twitter.
Usually, the President is gracious, even when pressed — at least in public — and in Costa Rica leaving someone abruptly in the middle of a conversation brands one as a “grosero,” i.e., rude, crude and unrefined.
As usual, the national paper La Nacion checked with Francisco Chacon, Minister of Information or what would be in the White House, the press secretary. He allowed that he hadn’t been there, but assumed that it went down that way because Ramirez showed “disrespect.”
(This shows how things are in this friendly, informal republic. Bodyguards would have not allowed an irate citizen within artillery range of a president of the United States or of a European country, let alone close enough to be disrespectful.)
Chacon (who has had to answer some pretty uncomfortable questions in this Administration) said he was told that Ramirez “used some bad terms with a degree of disrepect. And because it was not an opportune time nor the right form, she decided to stick to her agenda.”
He added that he had heard that the Alajuela resident had not only shown disrespect for doña Laura the person but for the office of the presidency. “It’s time people learned that there are manners and forms to address Madam President,” he said.
Commentary: It reminds this reporter of the shock expressed by a BBC cameraman after he had seen President Oscar Arias at lunch with a TV reporter during his first term — sitting, without bodyguards in a snack bar near the Casa Presidencial with his back to a window!
Yet, this country has never had a sitting chief executive assassinated. However, it is the only country on earth that has had a chief executive hit by a boy on a delivery bike!
It happened during the presidency of Otilio Ulate in the late 1940s. El Sr. Presidente as crossing the street in front of the old presidential offices near the Legislative Assembly. At that time, it was quite common for stores to employ bicycles with a small front wheel and an over-sized iron basket for deliveries.
These bikes were often ignored by the owner and brakes were not considered worth maintaining. President Ulate was crossing the street, engrossed in the cares of state, and failed to see the oncoming vehicle.
He was taken to nearby Calderon Guardia Hospital but was found to be only bruised. (When this reporter came to Costa Rica in 1970, these bikes were still in use — he remembers because he, too, was hit by one, the only thing he has ever had in common with a high personage here.)
In fact, it could have been the same bike, brakes still defective!