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Costa Rica’s Minister of Finance resigns ahead of possible sanctions

October 23, 2019

The Minister of Finance of Costa Rica, Rocío Aguilar, who led a fight to contain the country’s explosive fiscal deficit, resigned Wednesday after the Comptroller’s Office recommended sanctioning her for improperly authorizing payments of public debt.

Aguilar said she does not agree with the Comptroller General’s decision, which cited her approval to pay off more than $300 million (182 billion colones) of the public debt without proper authorization from the Legislative Assembly.

“It seems to me that it is a wrong decision of the Comptroller (but) I have not decided to appeal it, either,” she said.

The Comptroller recommended that President Carlos Alvarado punish Aguilar for having made the emergency payment shortly after the government took office last year.

Aguilar said that the previous administration had not budgeted for that payment and that the country was exposed to a financial sanction if it did not comply.

She explained that she chose to leave office so as not to force President Alvarado into making a decision regarding the sanction.

“That decision (to sanction) will always remain in the hands of the president, and I do not want to leave it at that crossroads,” Aguilar explained.

President Alvarado praised the former minister and said “her hard work was key to stabilize and clean up public finances.”

Aguilar assumed the conduction of a fiscal reform approved at the end of last year by the Legislative Assembly to contain the fiscal deficit that had reached 6% of GDP in 2018.

The Costa Rican Union of Chambers of Private Enterprise, the main business union in the country, urged President Alvarado to “name someone who gives continuity to Mrs. Rocío’s work and guarantees the country’s good direction on the macroeconomic issue.”

“These have not been simple times for the president,” said the now ex-minister, who highlighted President Alvarado’s “courage” to face financial problems that have plagued Costa Rica for many years.

“I am proud to have served you,” said Aguilar, accompanied by other members of the cabinet.

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