The business weekly El Financiero has chosen José Lino Chaves, lead judge of the Environmental Tribunal, as its Public Figure of the Year.
Chaves, who joined the court in January, has led a series of surprise inspections of construction projects in different regions of the country, earning both accolades and death threats.
As a result, 40 hotel and housing construction projects have been suspended or put under investigation for allegedly or potentially violating Costa Rica’s environmental laws or regulations.
“We are not against development in this country, but what we cannot permit is that it is done at the margin of environmental laws,” Chaves told the weekly.
Chaves has come under fire as recently as last week for his aggressive crackdown on illegal and questionable development, particularly along the Pacific coast. Protestors from the southern Pacific canton of Osa protested earlier this month, blocking the coastal highway and saying the closures were leaving hundreds out of work in the region.
Others, however, see the work of Chaves and the tribunal, an administrative court of the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry (MINAET), as a much needed check and balance to the largely unchecked boom in tourism and real estate development.
“José Lino Chaves … is recognized for his efforts, since he assumed the post in January, to attack and control the developments that negatively affect the natural environment in tourism areas,” said Yanancy Noguera, director of El Financiero.