SAN JOSE – The headlines on all major news outlets in Costa Rica last night were dominated by the unanimous ruling of Sala Cuarta (Constitutional Hall), the country’s highest court, on the highly-debated Fiscal Reform Plan. The response by the government was limited to a brief communique issued by the Executive:
“The Government respects the ruling by Constitutional Hall with regard to the complaint filed by the legislators in opposition to the Law of Solidarity in Contributions (the Fiscal Reform Plan).
The Minister of Institutional Communications, Francisco Chacon, said this evening that the Executive “will wait on the full text of the ruling in order to evaluate the exact terms and detail of the court’s decision so that a course of action can be determined.”
National newspaper La Nacion mentioned that Constitutional Hall found two substantial errors that were mostly procedural but point towards a legislative proposal that may have been rushed through the National Assembly.
The first deficiency pointed out by the seven Constitutional Magistrates was centered on Edgardo Araya, a legislator from the ruling National Liberation Party (PLN in Spanish), who presided over the special committee assigned to review the proposal. He infringed upon a rule that allows the expedited process of legislative projects when he extended debate sessions by two days arbitrarily and without consulting the National Assembly.
Legislator Araya was interviewed by La Nacion on the matter last night; his reply was that he was only trying to ensure that all 2,000 pending motions on the matter were heard.
The other deficiency pointed out by the high court has to do with disclosure, since the legislators refused to publish the modifications made to the Fiscal Reform proposal. There were 53 modifications made to the proposal, which were duly implemented on the plan, but were not made officially known to the public. This last deficiency is the most serious, as it deals with transparency and the right of the people of Costa Rica to learn about legislative matters.
This is a major setback for the Executive and the National Assembly, as it leaves the opposition open to demand that the legislative project be set back to square one -where it was four months ago.
News of the court’s ruling were also reported by international press agencies like Reuters.