Thursday 9 December 2021

Opinion: “Honor to whom honor is due”

Luis Antonio Sobrado will live the 2022 elections again as "a common citizen"

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RICO’s DIGEST – Opinion. It is a shame that within a flash of Luis Antonio Sobrado announcing his resignation as president of the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones, (TSE) – Supreme Electoral Tribunal, some on social networks, unable to admit the possibility of virtuous behavior, unleashed a barrage of falsehoods.

Luis Antonio Sobrado will live the 2022 elections again as “a common citizen”

One version says that Sobrado will receive a multimillionaire pension. A fact that is not even close to the truth, totally false, an act of a sector of Costa Rican determined to deny the slightest hint of honesty in public service.

It is natural to suspect, but today, with social media, suspicion is enough to justify the conviction. With enough “likes”, the falsehoods become the truth.

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Sobrado has been an exemplary civil servant. He has headed an institution that, besides the work of the Registro Civil (Civil Registry), has assured transparency in elections, giving the TSE a reputation of trust.

Sobrado does not need defense. The magistrate will be able to clarify, as he did in his letter of resignation, the falsehoods.

Sobrado resigned his post, to inhibit himself from exercising his role as magistrate, after the registration of the candidacy for vice president of his sister-in-law, journalist Ana Lupita Mora, Rolando Araya’s running mate.

The law imposes this obligation without prejudice to the position and salary when a relative by affinity or consanguinity up to the third degree, participates in an election.

In the case of Sobrado, given that the vice-presidential candidate does not fall within the rules of consanguinity, he could have recused himself, stepped back for the next few months without any impact on his income, and then return to public service and the prestige of his position.

Sobrado declined the opportunity.

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Rather he chose to resign to avoid any possible hint or accusation of conflict of interest with the candidacy of his wife’s sister in the 2022 general elections in February.

In doing so, he is giving up his income, a good income, without a golden parachute or “luxury pension”.

In fact, at 60 years of age, he is not old enough to retire, and, possibly, he will have to wait for another five if the reform approved by the Board of Directors of the institution is applied, to collect the Régimen de Invalidez, Vejez y Muerte (Disability, Old Age and Death) Regime of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS).

The same pension that every Costa Rican is entitled to. Not more. Not less.

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It is something that has seldom been seen in this country. A public servant of integrity and honesty. A public servant commendable in a country where there are also officials who spend years suspended with pay despite the clarity of the offenses committed.

His fellow magistrates recognize the dignity of the decision,  issuing the following statement: “… this Court, first of all, wishes to express that, although his decision fills us with regret, the strongest feeling in the institution at this time is of pride. Don Luis Antonio – although he considers that this abruptly interrupts his career as an electoral judge and is aware of the negative impacts that this decision entails for his family – considers, without being obliged by law, that republican ethics demand it.

“With his decision, Dr. Sobrado privileges, above his legitimate personal interests, including his rights, the prestige and credibility of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and the confidence of the citizens in the purity of the elections, a historic civic lesson, not only for Costa Ricans, but also a shining case of public exemplarity in the Americas.”

Why can we not all have the same sentiment?

I don’t the man personally. I have followed his career at the TSE that spanned two decades.

Since 1999, Sobrado has been the face where the TSE gives the results of each election and as of 2007, as president of the TSE, he became the main voice.

He is a rarity in Costa Rica’s civil service. A rarity to be admired. To be respected.

 

 

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