A few weeks ago started officially the political race towards the presidency of Costa Rica. I say officially because up until one or two weeks ago only one party had its ads posted all over the place... for the last two years. Naturally said party was the one currently on power. Of course that's not a legal thing to do, and our Political Constitution (like our Magna Carta, or simply our Constitution) do not allow it, but then again, it's not like our politicians were subject to The Law, particularly not our President.
This elections come to the country with a somewhat sour taste, as the memory of the last elections, won by twisting arms and changing our laws so that this men could reelect himself as president again, and loot on our country is still fresh. Fresh is still as well the memory of the Referendum, won by the supporters of the CAFTA, where the President, who should have remained on the margin of it took every available chance to talk about it, promote it and even blackmail people, to my understanding (I've been told there's a video about him pretty much conditioning the building of schools and roads to the approval of the CAFTA), where the political truces were not observed by the CAFTA party, where public funds were diverted to fund this campaing, where nothing was done when humble factory workers were threatened with their jobs if the CAFTA didn't pass, were offered rides to vote if they voted yes, and they had to present a picture taken with a cellphone of their vote, their SECRET vote to prove they have kept their end of the bargain.
So what's running two years ahead to wash people's mind? Presenting the face of a woman that has little to none empathy and she has showed it often, turning to what the President had to offer rather than listening to the people. like her mentor, she refused to go to public debates with other presidential candidates, and lies. Her campaing is nothing but a carbon copy of that of her mentor, filled with empty words, devoided of concrete plans and actions. It's a popularity race, not one of ideas and proposals. Behind her gathered strong political and financial arms to put her in the Presidential Chair by May 1st, 2010, by any necessary means. Indeed the troop is not above cheating, as they have often proved it.
However slowly the bridges came to trample the "unblemished" image of the new pupet of the Government. There was a "situation" with the Juan Santamaría International Airport, which wasn't adecuate, with half done renovations in the hands of private concessionaires what needed more money to finish what they had promised with an already offered and aproved licitation contract. And so it seems that our Transport and Infrastructure Minister paid them. There are also some ports, among them the Caribbean port, an important port for Costa Rica, currently in Public hands, with a strong Union, which this Government is trying to give to private hands. (Okay, I kind of see it dangerous to give away all ports, air and sea to private hands, specially when much or four economy, if not all, depends on them... but that's just me.) Interestingly the Government offered around $130 million to the workers of this port so that they give up the port. When you see these numbers, and lets not think about the blatant corruption going on here, the buying of wills, you'd say that the Government has money.
A lot of roads and highways are given in consession to be "built" when they are already built, and the only thing that happens is an annoying traffic jam for month only to end up with the exact same road or highway now with a 100 m segment of 8 lines (the rest is your average 2 line road) to accomodate 8 tollboots to charge $2,5 for a pass that used to be $0,15. Good thing I have no car nor I live that way. And this is done to several already existing roads and highways. Of course, there's another highway that have been in project some 40 years already (my dad was a kid when the project started), but it hasn't been... well, ain't even hald way, for what I've heard, BUT they are already charging for the already built part.
I guess part of that money must come back to the Government, not to mention all the taxes you must pay for cars, which is another reason I don't want a car (in Costa Rica. I'll most likely have one in Hungary). So, I'd say, there's money there.
Then a metallic piece in a bridge between Alajuela and San José... and pretty much in Heredia... goes loose. It has to be replaced. There are HUGE traffic jams, and a private enterprise replaces this piece, known in Spanish as "platina". It was a whole lot of money to replace that thing. Next day the "platina" fails. Dude, for so much money, at least let it be good for a year before it goes bad again! It's replaces again for a whole frigging lot of money and it's still "not so good". Okay, this starts to look bad on the Government. It's an important road connecting two, even three populous provinces, with heavy traffic and no real alternative roads. The "Masterminds" decide that repairing the bridge will take four to six months during which it should be closed in both directions. So how to reroute the traffic? No idea. Either alternative route is already collapsed. It has been since 20 years ago (curiously since the middle of the first period of our current President. Isn't that odd?) The Twitters go crazy with #laplatina topics all over the place. It's a stain, but the Government, the President and his current presidential candidate pupet do what they do best and ignore the topic. They are above any platina issue, and they pretend nothing has happened.
Well, yeah, only that this past Thursday another bridge put yet another stain on their campaing and Administration.
If you live or have been to Costa Rica, you've probably seen those "hanging bridges" in the non-capital-city or non-province-capital-city areas that really test your bravery. Yeah, those "Converting Bridges" (converting because whether you believe in God or not, you feel fear and cross muttering "Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God", and when you reach firm land you sigh and feel like falling on your knees, kissing the land and break into prayer and adoration to the Lord who has saved you. A positively religious experience). Costa Rica has many and I have been "blessed" with the experience of crossing some of them.
This Thursday in Turrubares the prayers weren't answered, the bridge fell and five people died. But before you go blaming God, let me remind you that God is not in charge of the Infrastructure and Transportation Ministerium. This bridge was one of the several in critical conditions around the country. It was one of the bridges presented a year ago in a news' piece about life threateing bridges in the country. The images of the wavering brigde back then were shocking. Notes and letters from the communities and concerned comissions were sent to the Minister with no answer.
For this particular bridge there was a program sponsored by the Government of Taiwan. The money, the planning, everything was done and ready to be replaced. Clean donation money. Then our President decided wisely to break relations with Taiwan in order to tie relations with China. Well, Taiwan in a gesture of grandeur said it won't leave projects half done, but would finish them. (So, technically the clean donation money for the bridge is still there??) China offered no bridges, but hey, they made a crater where our National Stadium used to be, mamed birds and dogs around it, filled it with Chinese workers (not a dime goes to Costa Rica for even their wages are paid IN China), build walls and isolated them completely, and as result they'll give us a new National Stadium... scribbled on the walls with Chinese legends, far bigger than their translation to Spanish. (Kind of feel like our Indian ancesters when the Spanish came over.)
So, somehow there was no new bridge and after a bus crossed it, there was no bridge at all. Strangely, a few hours after the catastrophe, the neighbours noticed how personel from the Ministerium run to place brand new signs all over the place indicating that the bridge was dangerous. By then there was no bridge, so there was no danger. Of course, the Minister tried first to say that it was the fault of the bus driver because he should have known that the bridge was dangerous. The whole town shut her up signaling that the signs were placed AFTER the bridge fell. Besides yes, everybody KNEW the bridge was dangerous, prove of it are the hundreds of letters sent, but the Minister did nothing.
The Minister did all in her power to pin the blame on anyone but herself. The busdriver for crossing the bridge, enven though the route was aproved by the Ministerium, and said Ministerium never really went checking that a transbord were done at the bridge. The bus company for running an unauthorized bus, as if the evil were the given bus and it wouldn't have happened under any other car. And then again, wasn't the Ministerium the one that authorized the route and failed to check on it? Then came the excuse that there were a lot of problems that couldn't be tackled in 3-4 years. Is it so? But, this Minister was the Viceminister of the same Ministerium in the prior Administration, so she has already been there.... 7-8 years?
Then there was the excuse of being no money. Okay, a study by the people involved in the Taiwan project, as well as the Engineering Craft indicated that you needed $900 thousand to build the bridge. The Minister said they needed $15 million for 10 bridges. That would be an average of $1,5 million per bridge, and if we don't think that there's a ruse here, some corruption, then why not starting with the cheapest bridge? The one that takes only $900 thousand? Yes, right, I forgot: No money.
Okay, I'll recap:
1. There's money to pay Alterra when it exceeds its estimated costs for improving the Airport.
2. There's money to concession roads and highways that are already there.
3. There are $130 million to bribe the Caribbean Port workers.
4. There's money to pay TWICE a failed platina.
5. There aren't $15 million for 10 life threatening bridges.
6. There aren't $900 thousand for reparing a bridge, which could have saved 6 lives.
Add to it, the materials needed to build the new bridge were rusting and rotting away in the wearehouse of the Ministerium for already 2 years. Since a year ago they had a note issued by the Engineering Craft, the highest Authority in the matter, that the bridge wouldn't make it to 2010. And then, wasn't it true that Taiwan was going to finish the projects signed here? What happened with that?
Pressure built upon the Minister until she finally resigned yesterday. Up to the last moment the President said that he supported her and that he was HAPPY with her work. He added "I put her there, and only I'll decide if she leaves or stays. And I'm happy with her work". What work? Wasting money and killing people? And now, even after she resigned (curiously her resignation isn't irrevocable), the President said he expects her to think things over.
He shows again his superbity is taxing for the country. If the people doesn't think the way he wants then to think, then he will bully them into it. He separated the Government from the people, mocking them when he or his brother were questioned, berating the powers, bullying. But now, mocking, disregarding so blatantly he outrage and pain of the people will cost him, and could very well cost his party's presidential candidate the election. So close to the elections, which will be held the first Sunday of February, this isn't something that could be washed away. Not when the Minister declared in a press conference that the Government, the State (and therefore the Party and the President) have failed the people.
There's only one way to win these elections. Mark my words. Through heavy duty corruption.
Bridges and death are opening Costa Rica's eyes.