Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla is engulfed in a scandal after it was revealed that she recently made international trips using a private jet belonging to a Colombian with alleged ties to drug trafficking. Two cabinet members have stepped down in response to public outrage, but questions remain about her links to the suspect.
Reuters reports that the Costa Rican attorney general's office is investigating Chinchilla over two flights she made, one in April to Caracas for Hugo Chavez’s funeral, and another last week to Lima to attend a private wedding. These trips were apparently arranged by an individual who introduced himself to Communications Minister Francisco Chacon as Gabriel O’Falan, and claimed to represent Colombian oil company THX Energy. However, this week it emerged that the man was in fact Gabriel Morales Fallon, who is suspected of links to drug trafficking and money laundering ties.
Chacon stepped down on Wednesday as the revelation became public. According to La Nacion, the head of Costa Rica’s Intelligence Directorate (DIS) and Chinchilla’s drug czar have now stepped down as well, citing a failure to properly investigate Morales’ background.
Despite the resignations, responsibility for the incident will likely fall squarely on Chinchilla’s shoulders. As analyst James Bosworth notes, the country prohibits politicians from accepting undisclosed gifts.
The scandal also has implications for the status of organized crime in Costa Rica. While the Central American nation has largely avoided the drug-fueled violence that has gripped other countries in the region in recent years, there is widespread concern about powerful criminal interests exerting increasing influence over Costa Rica’s traditionally stable democratic institutions.
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