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Former Minister Files 2nd Defamation Suit

July 4, 2008

Mario Boza, widely regarded as the “father” of Costa Rica’s national parks, has filed a defamation lawsuit against the University of Costa Rica and its TV station Canal 15 for a program that criticized a 2006 initiative of Boza’s to transform the national parks’ administration.

This suit is similar to the one he recently filed against María Elena Fournier and her environmental organization, Yiski. In both cases, Boza is asking for 100 million colones, or about $200,000.

Like Yiski, Canal 15’s Monday night environmental program Era Verde criticized Boza’s initiative to turn the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC), an office of the Environment and Energy Ministry (MINAE), into a sociedad anónima, a corporation that, although owned by the government, would be managed like a business. (See related story on Page 2.)

Boza insisted the move would allow SINAC to better manage its resources and improve funding to the nation’s chronically underfunded protected areas.

Like many who rallied against the proposal, which Boza eventually abandoned, Era Verde argued the change would “privatize” the national park system, a characterization Boza vehemently denies.

Boza’s suit names the dean of the University of Costa Rica and the director of Canal 15 as defendants. Boza alleges that Era Verde damaged his honor and reputation when it singled him out last Aug. 12 for its “Premio Ecoloco,” a mock prize it uses to criticize a different figure or institution each week.

The program’s presenter called Boza a “pillín,” a slang term that could be translated as anything from scoundrel to thief.

Boza claims that the term amounts to defamation, despite the fact that, after he and his lawyer met with representatives of the channel and program, Era Verde aired a public apology for using that word and offending him.

However, the program’s representatives refused to retract their criticisms of Boza’s proposal, which for Boza cemented the case for defamation.

“We believe it is a way to distract us from the work that we do,” said Laura Chinchilla, one of the two producers of Era Verde. “It is a pressure tactic.”

Chinchilla said that, despite Costa Rica’s weak press protection laws, she doubted the case would be found in Boza’s favor.

“We did not accuse him of committing any crimes. Promoting privatization is not a crime,” said Laura Chinchilla, one of the program’s two producers.

Were the suit to be found in his favor, “It would set a precedent unseen in this country,” she said. “It would rain lawsuits, and no newspaper would be able to say anything critical.”

 

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