Saturday 28 January 2023

“Narco” one step away from financing political campaigns

Lack of control could allow criminal groups to launder billions of colones in the electoral process

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28 January 2023 - At The Banks - BCCR

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QCOSTARICA – The spending of money is regulated, but not its origin, resulting in a lack of control that could, during the six months that the political campaign lasts – when contemplating a second round – allow criminal groups linked to drug trafficking to launder billions of colones, warns the State of the Nation in its most recent report released Tuesday night.

Criminal gangs could legally use the electoral process to launder their dirty money, warns the State of the Nation report

The fact is that the political debt system that the parties use to finance their campaign operations is highly vulnerable to the entry of illicit capital, this is due to the fact that the current system focuses on the accountability of the expenses made by the parties, while practically leaving the origin of the resources free, according to Rónald Alfaro, in charge of the political area of ​​the State of the Nation report.

“The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones  (TSE, Supreme Elections Tribunal) has made a great effort to make transparent the information on how the (political) parties spend their money, but the same controls do not exist to know where these resources come from, so there is a great risk that the parties are receiving money from sources of doubtful origin,” added Alfaro.

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For the presidential elections, the political parties are fed by donations (13%), own resources (34%), and debt (53%).

In this sense, it could be the case that a person appears interested in buying political debt bonds and since there are no greater controls, the political parties accept and end up laundering dirty money indirectly.

Later, criminal organizations can collect that money plus interest, when the political debt is canceled, which is the contribution that the State makes to the political parties that obtain more than 4% of the valid votes for president or those who elect at least one legislator, to finance their operations.

In an extreme case, criminals could launder the equivalent of ¢19 billion colones, assuming that they manage to finance all the parties that subsequently collect the political debt from the State.

On the other hand, it could also be the case that a criminal makes donations to a party, with the aim of later being benefited in some way.

In this sense, judicial authorities have already warned of the danger of drug trafficking in politics.

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“It is very common for drug traffickers to buy consciences in all the powers of the Republic, to obtain favors,” said Wálter Espinoza, director of the OIJ in a legislative commission in early October to refer to this issue.

On the other hand, last week, Eduardo Cruickshank, a candidate for the presidency for the Partido Restauración Nacional, (PRN), asked Manuel Acón, who aspires to be a PRN legislator for Guanacaste, to resign his aspirations, since the OIJ warned that he had had various telephone contacts with a man considered the leader of a drug gang that was dismantled in previous days and who used AyA’s public tenders to launder his money.

Likewise, Congress has led a political investigation to determine drug trafficking participation in politics and in municipalities this year.

On the other hand, the possibility of illegitimate money entering the campaign is feasible, considering that the parties would have difficulties accessing loans and given the country’s economic situation, in particular caused by the pandemic, where donations would be further reduced.

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Previously, the TSE had referred to the issue.

“The State contribution does not reach the political parties in a timely or equitable way, which, nevertheless, have increasing costs each electoral campaign to face their challenge in the competition for political power,” said the TSE in a statement.

This could lead criminal gangs to use the electoral process to launder their dirty money and political parties willing to accept the dirty money, legally, without questioning its origin.

 

“When the rules allow party financing controls to be on the side of how it is spent, but not where the resources come from, doors are opened. There is a great risk, a great vulnerability, that the parties are receiving money from sources of doubtful origin, since it is not being audited, or rather, it is more difficult to monitor,” explained Rónald Alfaro.

“Criminal organizations may be penetrating political structures and the state itself for their benefit,” added Walter Espinoza.

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