Costa Rican lawmakers investigate presidential campaign finance

Costa Rica’s new President Rodrigo Chaves delivers a speech after being sworn in during a ceremony in the Legislative Assembly hall, in San Jose, Costa Rica May 8, 2022. REUTERS/Mayela Lopez/File Photo

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SAN JOSE, Sept 21 (Reuters) – Costa Rica’s Congress on Wednesday opened an investigation into complaints of illegal funding during the election campaign of President Rodrigo Chaves, who took office in May.

A special commission, backed by the opposition, will spend two months investigating complaints about bank accounts linked to several political parties, including Chaves’ Social Democratic Progress Party.

The probe by lawmakers follows the opening of another investigation by prosecutors, which could lead to the suspension of immunity protections for Chaves and Vice President Stephan Brunner, who served as the treasurer of the Chaves campaign.

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Chaves, who ran for office on an anti-corruption message, denied any connection to the alleged illegal funding scheme, while dismissing the allegations as politically motivated.

Costa Rica’s electoral court forwarded the findings of an investigation into Chaves to prosecutors in June. That investigation found that Chaves’ campaign was backed by what the investigation described as a ‘shady fundraising scheme’, with money channeled from corporations and foreigners through a private trust run by current Foreign Minister Arnoldo Andre.

“We will work rigorously, and without defending partisan interests, to make campaign finance transparent because of the complaints that have been raised,” said opposition MP Dinorah Barquero, who added that Chaves could be called to testify.

Chaves and Brunner enjoy legal immunity while in office, but could lose it if such a ruling is sought by the Supreme Court and approved by 38 of 47 opposition lawmakers.

“My conscience is so clear that I sleep well every night,” Chaves said in August in a leaked audio that reportedly includes a conversation in which Brunner discussed campaign finances with Chaves.

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Reporting by Alvaro Murillo; Written by Kylie Madry; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Michael J. Birnbaum