Wednesday 22 September 2021

Communications Minister Resigns

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Costa Rica’s Communications Minister Francisco Chacón resigned on Wednesday amid the scandal engulfing President Laura Chinchilla, saying he failed to properly screen a man who arranged for her to use a private jet and is under suspicion of using a false identity.

The Attorney General’s office is now investigating flights Chinchilla made to Peru to attend the wedding of a son of Costa Rica’s vice president Luis Liberman, and threw in a meeting with Peru’s president, Ollanta Homala.

Costa Rica has no presidential plane so the president usually flies on commercial airlines or uses aircraft provided by other governments when making state visits.

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“Under the circumstances, I feel the right thing to do is resign as communications minister,” Francisco Chacon, who acts as Chinchilla’s spokesman, told a press conference.

Chacón said Gabriel O’Falan, who had claimed to represent a Colombia-based oil company called THX Energy, had duped him when they met before Chinchilla’s trip to Peru.

Mauricio Boraschi, Costa Rica’s anti-drug commissioner, told the news conference that O’Falan was believed to be Gabriel Morales, a Costa Rican citizen born in Colombia.

It was unclear what, if any, link there was between THX Energy and Morales.

“I’ve been the one facing (the press), defending the validity of the trip, saying that the company was legitimate and maintaining that they were free of questionable activities,” Chacón said.

Chinchilla’s office issued a statement late on Wednesday, saying she felt “indignant at the deception Chacón was subjected to.”

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“The President … will order actions in the coming hours to ensure such situations are never repeated,” it added.

Costa Rica has an Illicit Enrichment Law, which includes penalties of up to eight years in prison for public officials who accept gifts worth more than a small amount.

“This is a first-class scandal that has shaken the country’s public opinion,” said Congresswoman Carmen Muóoz of the opposition Partido Acción Cuidadana (PAC).

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