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High Court Rejects Finance Minister’s Motion

February 25, 2005

ONCE again, the ConstitutionalChamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV)received an appeal for support in ongoingdisputes between Finance MinisterFederico Carrillo and those demandinggovernment funds for social spending –and once again, the court sided against theminister.Carrillo filed a motion before thecourt Feb. 3, arguing LegislativeAssembly members’ attempt to change thedestination of funds in the 2005 nationalbudget is unconstitutional. According tothe daily La Nación, the Sala IV this weekrejected his motion ad portas, meaningjudges did not even read it.Legislators claim the Finance Ministryoverestimated the amount that must bespent on interest payments on the nationaldebt. Arguing there is actually a “cushion”of at least ¢73 billion ($158.7 million)that can be spent on social programsinstead, legislators redirected ¢86 billion($191 million) away from interest paymentson the debt.This decision engendered such controversybetween the assembly and Carrillothat President Abel Pacheco held a meetingFeb. 3 between the warring factions todiscuss the problem. At the meeting,Carrillo and the legislators agreed toallow Central Bank President Franciscode Paula Gutiérrez evaluate the case anddecide who is in the right.However, Carrillo filed the Sala IVfollowing the meeting, sparking still morebacklash from assembly members.At his weekly Cabinet meetingTuesday, Pacheco said he has not heardback from Gutiérrez, whom the President“believes in as I believe in God,” abouthis decision.He also reiterated his support forCarrillo, despite increasing pressure fromlegislators for the minister’s resignation orreplacement.“I don’t get rid of legislators, and thelegislators don’t get rid of my ministers,”Pacheco said.The Sala IV also ruled against Carrilloin November 2004, ruling in favor ofmunicipal leaders who sued for roadrepair funds they said the FinanceMinistry had failed to turn over.Carrillo filed an appeal, but the SalaIV rejected it (TT, Nov. 19, 2004).

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