Friday 3 February 2023

Not today. Maybe tomorrow. Rodrigo Chaves faces the first presidential storm.

The decrees to eliminate the compulsory use of the mask and compulsory vaccination, among others, have yet to be published in La Gaceta, despite promise

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QCOSTARICA –  On day three of his presidency, due to the lack of clarity, his decrees that eliminate the mandatory vaccination against covid-19 and the use of the mask, continue unpublished despite that this was one of the first actions taken moments after being sworn in as president.

President Rodrigo Chaves did not speak to the media on his first day at Casa Presidencial on Monday

And despite the promise made by the Minister of the Presidency, Natalia Díaz on Monday, that the decrees signed on Sunday at the first Government Council (Cabinet) after the transfer of powers, are still not published in the official newspaper La Gaceta.

Nor has the government communication team provided the documents, and much less, the new health authorities have given reason on the scientific basis for lifting these measures.

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In addition to the obscurity surrounding the health decision – which also surrounds the rest of the executive decrees signed on Sunday, the contrary criteria of doctors, academics, labor, lawyers, and trade unionists, who question the legality of that measure, shape the first storm facing the Chaves administration.

‘It seems to me that there is an error of the president’

Labor lawyer, Paola Gutiérrez, was one of the first voices to point out that, in order to eliminate the mandatory vaccines against the coronavirus, it is essential that the Comisión Nacional de Vacunación y Epidemiología del Ministerio de Salud (CNVE) – National Commission for Vaccination and Epidemiology of the Ministry of Health – be the one that first issues an agreement in that sense.

“It seems to me that there is an error on the part of the president if he intends to remove the obligation through a decree, because it would be going against the Ley Nacional de Vacunación (National Vaccination Law), which says that everything that has to do with vaccines corresponds to the CNVE Gutierrez pointed out.

It was the same CNVE that determined, on September 28, that vaccination be mandatory for public officials, and the same for minors, on November 5. In February, it also declared the third dose mandatory for both populations.

The elimination of the obligation, in the case of children and adolescents, would be even more complicated, since this measure is protected not by executive decrees, but by three pieces of legislation: the Ley General de Salud, Ley de Vacunación y el Código de Niñez y Adolescencia – (General Health Law, the Vaccination Law, and the Code for Children and Adolescence.)

Constitutional lawyer Rubén Hernández is also of the opinion that the government cannot, on its own, eliminate the compulsory nature of the vaccine.

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“It’s illegal,” the lawyer did not hesitate to say when he was asked by La Nación.

“What cannot be done is what the government did, what the government is trying to do, which is to skip the entire procedure, the approval, the resolution of the commission and the technical studies that support that resolution and directly publish the decree,” he stated.

However, Minister Díaz, a former legislator (2014-2018) and 2022 presidential candidate, argued on Monday to the contrary, that the Executive Branch does not require a consult on the decree.

“Save Yourself” was the front page headline in Monday’s La Teja

Silence and more doubts

Since Sunday President Chaves had been silent. Although the press office summoned the media on Monday, for the arrival of the new president at Casa Presidencial, in Zapote, the President did not provide statements.

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At the insistence of the press, due to serious doubts regarding the decrees announced on Sunday, it was Minister Díaz, who gave a short statement, acknowledging that there are problems with the publication of the first decrees of the President, but argued that these are due to difficulties in internal procedures.

“There is no secrecy,” she exclaimed.

According to Díaz, it will be the Health Minister herself, Joselyn Chacón, who this Tuesday will explain the legal procedure to execute the presidential decree. By that time, more than 48 hours of silence and doubts will have elapsed in relation to the lifting of sanitary measures.

A vast majority of the staff at Casa Presidencial on Monday did not to wear the mask, in consequence of the Rodrigo Chaves decree that eliminates the mandatory use of the mask. Its content remains unknown. (Albert Marin)

The issue became politicized

Demographer Luis Rosero Bixby, who has closely followed the development of the pandemic in Costa Rica, lamented that health emergency care has become politicized when this work should be strictly in the hands of technical and scientific teams as it had been during the previous administration.

“The issue has already been politicized, something that Costa Rica had avoided and that has caused enormous problems in other countries (…). This is terrible because there are people who, if it weren’t for this, would behave differently. But with this, because they are supporters of the president, because they voted for him, etc., they are going to behave in a way that is detrimental to public health in controlling the pandemic,” he warned.

The lifting of the use of the mask, the compulsory nature of the vaccine and the dismissal of officials opposed to the doses were promises that Chaves made during his electoral campaign.

Since he was elected, the president appears at press conferences without a mask, despite the fact that the measure remained mandatory for all.

“The pandemic is not over!” That is the cry of the unions that represent public health workers.

The Unión Nacional de Empleados de la Caja y la Seguridad Social (Undeca) – National Union of Employees of the Fund and Social Security – rejected “the lack of protection measures” imposed by Chaves.

Meanwhile, the Unión Médica Nacional (UMN) – National Medical Union – demanded that the president show the scientific support used to repeal the mandatory use of the mask and vaccination against covid-19.




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