QCOSTARICA – I don’t like to write blogs that merely lodge a complaint, without trying to offer a possible solution. I believe that the recent bus accident tragedy on the Cambronero Highway needs to be addressed in a manner that produces a positive result for highway construction and maintenance, at least in the short term.
Blaming MOPT Minister, Luis Amador, and asking for his resignation, in a circumstance where his personal decision-making does not enter the currently established protocol for assessing the opening and closing of highways, during extreme weather conditions, does not, in my opinion, solve the problem at hand.
The real problem in the Cambronero tragedy is related to the lack of highway maintenance during the past two-year period, stemming from a lack of funding and the lack of the carrying-out of contractual highway maintenance obligations, largely caused by the corruption factors surrounding what has become to be known as the “Cochinilla” criminal case.
The main parties accused of these corrupt practices in this case happen to be the two largest highway construction and maintenance companies in Costa Rica, H. Solis and MECO.
Essentially, the case surrounds a number of highway construction and maintenance contracts granted by the government agency, CONAVI, which is a division of MOPT, and responsible for such matters. The end and most tragic result that ensued from the interruption of required highway maintenance was the bus accident tragedy on the Cambronero Highway.
Although I don’t like to see criminal court cases tried in the media, there appears to be an overwhelming amount of evidence in the “Cochinilla” matter, to suggest that an element of criminality related to corruption will be proven against the two accused Companies, H. Solis and MECO. Their respective personal owners are currently under court-ordered preventative measures pending trial. A conviction would most likely involve lengthy jail terms for both of the personal companies’ owners, along with a substantial, if not all of the companies’ assets, being declared the proceeds of crime and subject to seizure and sale by the State.
In the Civil Law System that exists in Costa Rica, it is possible for a criminally accused, in certain circumstances, to negotiate with a victim to “buy their way out” of the criminal charge(s), based on a monetary payment.
In the “Cochinilla” case, the Costa Rica State/Government is the victim. My suggestion in this circumstance would be for the Government to solicit a negotiation of the transfer of certain specified companies’ assets from the two accused companies to the State, in return for not proceeding with a prosecution of the corruption charges arising.
The assets could be sold and liquidated at auction to other highway construction and maintenance companies carrying on business in Costa Rica.
H. Solis and MECO, or their successors, could be prohibited from doing business in Costa Rica in the future. The proceeds of the liquidated companies’ assets could be utilized by the Costa Rica government to finance future legitimate highway construction and maintenance contracts with the asset acquiring companies.
I am in no way involved in any matter related to the “Cochinilla” case and I don’t know that the solution that I pose would in fact be possible in this circumstance. However, at this critical financial juncture in Costa Rica, I believe that all alternatives should be explored in an attempt to rectify these important infrastructure matters going forward.
About the author
Attorney Richard (Rick) Philps is a Canadian citizen, naturalized as a citizen of Costa Rica. Rick practiced law in Victoria, B.C., Canada as a member of the Law Society of British Columbia, for fourteen years, prior to moving to Costa Rica in 1998. Rick then earned his Bachelor of Laws and Licensing Degrees (Civil Law), with Honours, and a Post-Graduate Degree in Notary and Registry Law, from the Metropolitana Castro Carazo and Escuela Libre de Derecho Universities, in San Jose. Rick is a member of the Costa Rica College of Lawyers, and practices law in Costa Rica in the areas of real estate and development, corporate, commercial, contract, immigration, and banking.