Costa Rica Coffee Guide

Assembly’s Regulation Criticized

August 20, 2004

FORMER Presidency Minister RodrigoArias and several prominent CostaRicans this week filed an action ofunconstitutionality before the ConstitutionalChamber of the Supreme Court(Sala IV) aimed at putting an end to theproblems they say have paralyzed theLegislative Assembly.The case they filed questions the constitutionalityof the Legislative Assembly’sregulation – a document that states therules and requirements of the Costa Ricanlegislative process.“We were motivated by the need toreform the regulation,” said Arias, brotherof former President and current presidentialhopeful Oscar Arias (1986-1990).“For a long time, there have beenattempts to reform the regulation, but it’sbeen impossible. The regulation as itstands constitutes an obstacle that preventsmajorities from manifesting theirwill in the assembly.”Government officials and legislatorsfrom several parties often cite the regulationas one of the reasons the assembly isunable to move forward with crucial projectsof interest to the country.Since he took office, President AbelPacheco has stressed the need to reform theregulation, calling it one of the country’s toppriorities. However, the Legislative Branch,not the Executive, must pass the reforms.Former Vice-President Jorge Rossi(1970-1974), former Central Bank presidentEduardo Lizano, constitutional scholarRubén Hernández and Allan Saborío,former head of the Direct Taxation Agency,joined Rodrigo Arias in the unconstitutionalityaction.“The country is tired. Interest groupsthat seek only to defend their privilegeskeep the Legislative Assembly from doingits functions,” Arias explained. “A fewpeople, in the name of interests that are notthose of the majority, have practically kidnappedthe power to legislate.”THE unconstitutionality action questionsArticles 137 and 138 of the assembly’sregulation.Through these articles, minority partieshave been able to obstruct bills by filinghundreds of motions that prevent bills frombeing voted on when they reach the floorof the assembly, Arias said.“Minority parties have the right to beheard in the Legislative Assembly, butshould not be allowed to obstruct decisionsapproved by the majority,” Arias said. “Billsneed to be voted on. Legislators can chooseto vote in favor or against them.”Though Arias didn’t mention them byname, deputies of the Libertarian MovementParty have issued thousandsmotions during the past year to stop thePermanent Fiscal Reform Package frombeing voted on (see separate story). TheArias brothers are proponents of the taxplan, which the government deems vitalto the country’s future economic stability.NOT surprisingly, congressmen fromminority parties blasted the action.“This would be the end of the parliamentaryrights,” claimed Federico Malavassi,legislator for the Libertarian MovementParty.Legislators will only be able to voteyes or no on bills transferred to the floor ofthe assembly after being studied andamended by a commission, he added.“It shows that Oscar Arias, in his eventualgovernment, does not want opposition,”he said. “He wants things the easyway, undemocratically.”Humberto Arce, legislator of thePatriotic Bloc, called the action a last ditcheffort to revive the dying fiscalreform.“The action filed by the Arias group isa manifestation of desperation,” said. “Ifthe Sala IV rules in favor of the plan, it willbe the end of the (power of the) assembly(to amend legislation).”

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