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Tuesday, January 24, 2023

President Rodrigo Chaves attacked Costa Rican media 

The President of Costa Rica labeled several media outlets as ‘political hit men’ after reporting that the Minister of Health hired a social media troll.

Chaves’ attacks were specifically directed at journalists from La Nación, Crhoy, and Teletica.

Weeks ago, Alberto Jesús Vargas Zúñiga, owner of the fake account “Piero Calandrelli,” told the newspaper La Nación that Minister Chacón had been paying him for months to attack journalists on social media. They were aimed at those who criticized Minister Josely Chacón.

In an interview with Semanario Universidad, Vargas assured that his first contact with the ruling party was held during last year’s presidential campaign when he received a phone call from the current congresswoman Pilar Cisneros Gallo, who asked him to collaborate with the candidacy of President Chaves Robles.

Vargas revealed that he was not acting alone and that there is a network of social media accounts that work for the Government and that are coordinated by the public relations expert and evangelical pastor Robert Junior, who is the link between the administration and several people who post on Facebook and TikTok.

Cisneros denied the connection but, according to Vargas, in April of last year and after winning the elections, Chacón (who was Chaves’ campaign manager at the time) offered him the “job.”

During Monday’s press conference, both Chaves and his minister insisted that the payments were made as ‘charity,’ contradicting the initial statements in which they mentioned that the disbursements were for the troll’s participation in a health campaign that would be defrayed with personal resources by the chief of staff herself.

During the press conference, President Rodrigo Chaves accused the media of having a joint campaign with the political parties Liberación Nacional and Frente Amplio to attack the Minister of Health.

Reactions to these statements were immediate. The President of the Association of Journalists (Colper), Yanancy Noguera, described the words of the Costa Rican President, Rodrigo Chaves as “unacceptable and shameful.”

Noguera said that “Costa Rica does not deserve what happened… The President had already treated the press as animals; now he says they are murderers. This is very serious.”

The congressman of the Frente Amplio Party and member of the Financing Investigation Commission, Ariel Robles, deplored the actions of the President.

“His anger and his arrogance are evident, which worries us enormously. Those are not the tones in which we must deal with conflicts; we at Frente Amplio have said it several times,” said Robles.

On the other hand, Eli Feinzaig, legislator of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), also expressed his anger towards Chaves’ words.

“The real discussion we are having, the underlying issue behind this, is freedom of expression and freedom of the press; this is what we are talking about because what we observed yesterday (Monday) and what we heard yesterday is an unpunished attack on freedom of expression in this country,” he added.

For the moment, The Attorney General’s Office confirmed the opening of a file in which the Minister of Health, Joselyn Chacón, is being investigated for the case related to the alleged payments to the troll Piero Calandrelli.

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