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Congress Fires New Comptroller

December 17, 2004

THE Legislative Assembly made history Mondaynight when legislators voted to remove ComptrollerGeneral Alex Solís from his post amid accusations heforged signatures of family members while working asa lawyer.The 39-12 decision is historic because it is the firsttime the assembly has removed a comptroller, and thefirst time Congress has used the violation of morals andethics as a reason for the removal of a high-level functionaryit is responsible for naming, according to politicalanalyst Edgar Cascante of Analista Internacional.During their debate of the matter, legislators claimedSolís is not morally suitable to hold a high-level governmentposition.“This was a decision the country needed, (to protect) the institution of the Comptroller Generalof the Republic,” said legislator FedericoVargas, of the Social Christian Unity Party.However, Solís told the press Mondaynight he has always worked with honorand success. He said the decision is basedon the economic interests of groups whowill be affected by decisions he made duringhis time in office.As comptroller, Solís was responsiblefor reviewing the government’s finances,contracts and public bids, particularly forirregularities and corruption.SINCE the assembly named Solís tothe post in June, the comptroller’s officehas raised some hairs, particularly regardingthe government’scontroversial contractswith AlterraPartners, whose 20-year contract to operateand renovate JuanS a n t a m a r í aInternational Airportoutside San José hasbeen in dispute formore than a year, andRiteve SyC, whosemonopoly on mandatoryvehicle inspectionsin Costa Ricacaused widespreadprotests in lateAugust (TT, Aug. 27).Solís claimed hehas always workedfor the people ofCosta Rica.“I made a mistakeas a notary, but whohas not made a mistake in this country? Theimportant thing is that nobody, includingyou, can say that I have taken a single pennythat didn’t belong to me, that I intentionallyprovoked damage to anyone,” he told thedaily Al Día.IN the weeks after Solís took office,allegations emerged that he falsified thesignature of his brother Ottón Solís – a formerpresidential candidate and founder ofthe Citizen Action Party (PAC) – on legaldocuments.Further investigation of these documentsrevealed information that led toaccusations that from 1998-2001 Solíshelped fund Southern Zone residents’ illegalentrance into the United States by lendingmoney to pay for costly “coyotes.”Legislators immediately asked the comptrollerto step down, but he refused, insistinghe had done nothing wrong (TT, July 2).For the six months that followed, a legislativecommission studied the issue.In October, agents of the JudicialInvestigation Police (OIJ) concluded Solísforged 27 signatures of family memberswhile working as an attorney (TT, Oct. 29).The congressional debate over whetherSolís should be fired cost the country ¢11.3million ($25,000) in legislator salaries,according to Al Día.President Abel Pacheco said Tuesday heis not worried about Solís’ removal becauseAssistant Comptroller Marta Acosta will fillin until a replacement is found.THE assembly must now begin the taskof searching for a new comptroller, who willserve an eight-year term. The task could taketime, according to Cascante.“Legislators will be more rigid. Theywill study (candidates’) professional qualities,and public and private lives,” he said.“The assembly committedan error withSolís, and now theyhave to be very carefulto bring equilibriumback to the comptroller’soffice. Butthey also want tobring continuity tothe office, so cannottake too long.”According toCascante, legislatorswill also take the2006 election intoaccount in their selection,particularly howthe future comptrollermight decide on someof the government’smore sensitive contracts,such as that ofRiteve, which unionsand professional drivers’associations say violates the Constitutionbecause it is a private monopoly.Solís has declared the contract amonopoly and referred the matter to theConstitutional Chamber of the SupremeCourt (TT, Sept. 10).“I’m sure the members of the NationalCivic Movement (a group of unions andassociations that wants the Riteve contractannulled) will put a lot of pressure on theassembly regarding this matter,” Cascantesaid.THE assembly’s decision could alsoaffect the political future of the departingcomptroller’s brother, Ottón Solís, considereda likely PAC candidate for the 2006presidential election.“Don Ottón has always had an imageof doing things correctly. Placing him inthis web could be dangerous. But he canrecover. People are not necessarily goingto go out and vote based on what is happeningright now,” Cascante said.Ottón Solís is in Chile, according to AlDía, and did not return Tico Times phonecalls this week.

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