Lawyer Róger Carvajal, husband of Vice-President Lineth Saborío, was handed a prestigious new job last week and with it, a storm of controversy surrounding his qualifications for the post. Opponents claim he rode his wife s proverbial coattails in becoming the new General Manager of Radiográfica Costarricense, S.A. (RACSA), the state telegram and Internet company.
President of the National Training Institute (INA) until his resignation this week to take the RACSA post, Carvajal was named manager of the company over the objections of 206 RACSA employees. According to the daily La Nación, these workers signed a letter in October expressing their concern about Carvajal s possible appointment, saying he does not have the necessary expertise in telecommunications.
The Union of Private-Sector Chambers and Associations (UCCAEP) also criticized the appointment, as well as recent managerial appointments at the National Oil Refinery (RECOPE). Spokeswoman Emma Lizano told The Tico Times the organization s concerns are not related to appointees qualifications, but rather the system through which people are named.
The statement isn t against the people themselves, she said. It s a question of ethics.
According to the statement, the recent hiring of Carvajal and new managers of International Trade and Finance Administration at RECOPE are, though legally proper, ethically questionable The political piñata keeps being used through last-minute appointments to public posts.
Jack Lieberman, president of the Chamber of Industries and a UCCAEP executive committee member, told The Tico Times that the real problems are the timing just a few months before the end of President Abel Pacheco s administration and the fact that at least some of the managers were granted six-year appointments.
If leaders in the next presidential administration, which will begin May 8, wish to fill these positions with candidates of their own choice, the government will have to provide the fired managers with millions of colones in severance pay. This is an unacceptable expenditure given the country s fiscal problems, Lieberman said.
They should have done what they ve done before at RACSA named an interim director, he said. Then, when the next administration comes, the positions can be filled for the appropriate time frame.
The RECOPE managers were granted six-year terms, while Carvajal s appointment was made for an indefinite period, La Nación reported.
Lieberman said this practice has also taken place at the end of previous administrations and must come to an end.
Facing a barrage of questions about Carvajal following President Abel Pacheco s press conference on Tuesday, Saborío said only the Board of Directors of RACSA can explain why they chose her husband but defended both herself and Carvajal against accusations that the naming was less than impartial.
Roger Carvajal is a person who has spent 25 years, maybe more, in a very clean career in public administration, she said. He has never needed to be the husband of the vicepresident to occupy those posts He s just another citizen.
She said all inquiries regarding Carvajal s qualifications for the job should be directed to the RACSA Board of Directors. Both Saborío and Pacheco emphasized that the Executive Branch did not play any role in the appointment other than endorsing it after the board made its decision.
Lieberman agreed, saying the boards of RACSA and RECOPE are responsible for changing the hiring system.
RACSA spokesman Mario Zaragoza told The Tico Times only Pablo Cob, president of the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) which oversees RACSA could comment on Carvajal s appointment. Cob did not respond to Tico Times phone calls by press time. He told La Nación, however, that he had not acted in response to instructions from Casa Presidencial.
Pacheco said the departing institute director has worked miracles in INA. He said one of Carvajal s outstanding achievements in the post he occupied since the beginning of Pacheco s administration in 2002 was increasing the institute s student body by leaps and bounds. Of the 2.33 million students to whom INA has offered job training, English courses and other educational services since it was founded in 1965, 27.5% studied at the institute since 2002 (TT, Jan. 6).
Carvajal s duties at RACSA began Wednesday.
Channel 7 TV News reported Wednesday that Saborío s father, German Saborío, had earlier been named director of the National Salary Commission.