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Hitler reference stirs up Legislative Assembly session

October 2, 2014

Lawmaker Ottón Solís, the founder of the ruling Citizen Action Party (PAC), on Wednesday evening apologized to former President Óscar Arias for a remark he made referencing Adolf Hitler, following Arias’ announcement of a proposal to reduce the country’s fiscal deficit.

Solís, who served as minister during Arias’ first administration from 1986-1990, acknowledged he used an “unfortunate metaphor” when he stated that he’d rather “hear Hitler speaking on human rights than hear Óscar Arias speaking on how to reduce the fiscal deficit.”

The legislator, who chairs the Assembly’s Financial Affairs Commission, made the comment Tuesday during a session where lawmakers were discussing current President Luis Guillermo Solís’ proposal for the 2015 national budget.

Ottón Solís (no relation to the president) was referring to a public statement in which Arias criticized the administration’s plan to transform the country’s sales tax to a value-added tax and global income tax.

Arias recommended the government instead lower public spending by at least 2 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and increase revenue by 3 percent with new taxes.

The lawmaker said that former two-term president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Arias lacks the “moral authority” to discuss tax issues because he inherited a budget surplus and left office with a large fiscal deficit.

“Arias should not be making any recommendations. He failed, during both of his terms, to achieve a significant reduction of the fiscal deficit. He pays attention only to peace proposals; he doesn’t even read anything related to taxes,” Ottón Solís said on Tuesday.

Following those comments, the Broad Front Party’s top lawmaker, Gerardo Vargas Varela, repeated the Hitler reference in a full Assembly session. Another Broad Front Party lawmaker, Ronald Vargas Araya, posted the comment on Twitter, saying, “I’d rather hear Hitler’s advice on human rights than Óscar Arias’ advice on fiscal policies for Costa Rica.”

That sparked outrage from National Liberation Party (PLN) lawmakers, including Sandra Piszk Feinzilber, who – visibly upset – stood before the Assembly and declared: “This is not a budget or tax discussion anymore; it’s a human rights issue. You should never mention the name of a person who did so much damage to thousands of people, and to a nation that still suffers for it. [Note: We think she meant to say “millions.”] To say that someone would prefer advice on human rights from him [Hitler], is totally unacceptable from anyone, and even more so from a legislator.”

The PLN’s top lawmaker, Rolando González Ulloa, then demanded Vargas retract his statements, saying Vargas is not “a worthy representative of human rights.”

Ottón Solís apologized, admitting he was responsible for the remark.

“I stupidly used that phrase. I apologize to those who fight for human rights, to former President Arias and to PLN lawmakers. I did not intend to say that Óscar Arias does not believe in human rights,” he said.

The Assembly’s session then continued after Ronald Vargas also apologized for posting the comments on social media.

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