Friday 22 September 2023

Another political scandal brewing?

Representative of Canal Seco affirms that Carlos Alvarado asked for gifts to approve the project; legislator files complaint, alleging influence peddling of current vice-president

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22 September 2023 - At The Banks - Source: BCCR

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QCOSTARICA – The faction of the Frente Amplio (FA) filed a complaint with the Fiscalía General (Attorney General) against five people from the current government and the previous one, for alleged corruption in the processing of the Canal Seco Interoceánico (Interoceanic Dry Channel) project.

The president of the Canal Seco Interoceánico (Interoceanic Dry Channel) project, Lucía D’Ambrosio, alleged before a legislative commission that former president Carlls Alvarado solicited a bribe in exchange for supporting the project

Named in the complaint are former president, Carlos Alvarado, current vice-president Stephan Brunner, the former and current Minister of the MOPT, Rodolfo Méndez Mata and Luis Amador, respectively, and former legislator and recently appointed ambassador of Costa Rica in Mexico, Pablo Heriberto Abarca.

On Monday, Lucía D’Ambrosio, president of the Canal Seco de Costa Rica (CANSEC) group, the proponent of the project, which aims to connect the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Costa Rica through a 10-lane mega highway, assured the Comisión Especial Desarrollo de la Infraestructura (legislative Special Commission for Infrastructure Development that former President Carlos Alvarado and former Minister Rodolfo Méndez Mata solicited from her an alleged gift of 1% of the value of the project, in exchange for giving an endorsement to the project.

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The 1% is equivalent to US$160 million dollars.

“How can they ask us for 1% of the project, 160 million dollars? We do not work like that, in fact we are proud to have reached this point without spending a single dollar under the table,” said D’Ambrosio.

PLN legislator Francisco Nicolás then asked her to give the names of the people who asked for 1% of said gift, to which the businesswoman replied, “Carlos Alvarado and a senior executive, who was the one who sent me to ask for 1% and who told us we met in a farm in Turrubares”.

The executive then offer: “former president Carlos Alvarado and minister Rodolfo Méndez Mata, through a legislator, told me: show me money.”

Antonio Ortega Gutiérrez, Frente Amplio legislator, hopes that the Ministerio Publico (Prosecutor’s Office) will carry out an investigation and determine whether the reported facts are indeed correct.

The former president responded immediately on his social networks, rejecting “categorically the lies told before a Legislative Commission by representatives of the Interoceanic Green Canal project of Costa Rica.”

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“I always exercised my position with probity and absolute honesty. What these people said today is an absolute falsehood. I have tolerated criticism, even the unfair, because I consider it part of my democratic duty. But I will not tolerate an ‘infamia’ against my honor,” Alvarado wrote.

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Former president Alvarado added that he has already instructed his lawyers to initiate “immediate legal action to criminally denounce the people who said that falsehood, and so that the company they represent faces its responsibility.”

While Méndez Mata reported that he asked his lawyer to file a lawsuit for defamation and slander against D’Ambrosio and Cansec.

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Former legislator Abarca, who is allegedly the mediator between the Alvarado and Mata and the Cansec company, initially said that he would proceed with the respective complaint, but hours later he reported that his lawyer had a conversation with D’Ambrosio and she promised to publish a video in which she will retract what she said regarding the former legislator.

Viviam Quesada, Abarca’s lawyer, confirmed that filing the legal action is suspended awaiting a retraction by D’Ambrosio as early as Wednesday (today).

For their part, the legislative commission has said it will open an investigation to gather the information to determine the truth and rule out or confirm irregular acts that involve high officials of the previous administration.

The Canal Seco

In 2020, the National Concessions Council (CNC) stopped and rejected the Interoceanic Green Canal (Canal Seco) proposal, that unites the oceans through the northern zone that connects Guanacaste with San Carlos and Limón, after analyzing the project’s technical, legal and economic-financial report.

In 2021, Cansec filed a contentious-administrative proceeding against the State, as well as a criminal complaint against CNC officials for allegedly altering an administrative file.

This Monday at the commission, the company’s representative, David Segura, confirmed that the preliminary hearing of the contentious-administrative process will be on Thursday, August 25, but that they would seek a conciliation to dismiss the case.

In his 100-day speech, President Rodrigo Chaves, announced again that he would promote the Canal Seco initiative.

Since this administration began, we have been in a series of negotiations and updates with the current government authorities under the leadership and command of Vice President Stephan Brunner and Minister Luis Amador,” Segura said.

CANSEC S.A. defends that the construction is totally viable, affirming that the pre-feasibility studies have shown it to be so and that “it would allow us to re-launch Costa Rica as a connection and logistics services center for the region and the world … It is a project that should not take thirty-two years (to build) like Route 27, nor fifty years like the new highway to San Carlos. Nor should it be ruled out, knowing the need to reactivate the economy in vulnerable areas, with problems of competitiveness and access to opportunities, in the midst of a global recession as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

This project was presented in 2016.





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