José González Chacón, who manages a comical Facebook page titled “Humor a lo Tico,” filed a formal complaint on charges of attempted bribery against the ruling National Liberation Party (PLN) this week. The complaint was filed with Costa Rica’s Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) on Monday.
González, who uses the byline “JoSé,” recently posted a series of accusations, along with audio files, of an alleged conversation in which a PLN campaign worker offered him money in exchange for publishing Internet memes attacking rival presidential candidates. The contact also allegedly tells González to leave PLN presidential candidate Johnny Araya out of the fray.
“Since the TSE will not accept my online complaints, as they were made on a social network, I decided to file a formal complaint at the TSE, and I’m also presenting the relevant evidence,” González told reporters at the TSE’s facilities in downtown San José on Monday.
González referred to a series of screenshots and recorded telephone conversations with a man identified only as “Rayner,” who presented himself as a PLN campaign representative.
In his complaint, González detailed the alleged offer of a monthly fee of ₡100,000 ($200) in exchange for publishing attacks against other candidates.
But PLN campaign manager Rolando González last week denied any involvement in the case and called it a “smear campaign aimed at discrediting Araya and his party.”
Article 279 of the country’s Electoral Code defines a “crime against a voter’s self-determination” for those who “through the use of gifts, promises of gifts, violence, or threats try to induce or attempt to induce a person to adhere to a particular candidate, to vote in a certain manner or to refrain from voting.”
TSE officials on Monday evening forwarded the complaint to the TSE’s General Directorate of Elections and Political Party Financing, which now must determine possible legal responsibility for those involved, TSE lawyer Andrei Cambronero told The Tico Times.
If the TSE determines a violation was commited, those involved would face legal charges before a penal court, according to Article 285 of the Electoral Code.
If found guilty, perpetrators could serve up to 12 months in prison, or up to six years in prison if the defendants are public employees.
In his Facebook posts, José González also said that the PLN has been creating messages and Internet memes on similar comedy pages, which have widely circulated in recent days and mostly target Broad Front Party candidate and current lawmaker José María Villalta.