Private Plane Trip Rocks Costa Rican Government

The news [es] that an oil company provided a private plane for President Laura Chinchilla's trip to Peru has rocked the Costa Rican presidency and its structure of contributors.

Originally the purpose of the trip was to attend the wedding of Vice President Luis Liberman's son. However, to make the most out of the trip, an appointment with Peruvian President Ollanta Humala was set.

As communicated by the Presidency communications manager, the meeting with President Humala was scheduled before the trip to address Costa Rica's chances to join the Pacific Alliance and to talk about a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) ratified last April.

Later it was made public that President Chinchilla had also used that same plane to attend President Hugo Chávez's funeral in Venezuela.

Although many frowned upon the fact that a private company provided a plane for the President's trip to Peru, on May 15 another issue was added to the news: the company that lent the airplane [es] is connected to a businessman questioned for drug trafficking in Colombia. The businessman, Gabriel Morales Fallón, was part of the board of Thorneloe Energy, today known as THX.

According to publications on Semana [es] and El Tiempo [es] in Colombia, Morales has been investigated for his links with a drug dealer known as “Chupeta”.

Francisco Chacón, until then Costa Rican Minister of Communication, noted [es] that they believed that Gabriel Morales’ mother's last name was Olafán and not Fallón, and they alleged being misled. It was later confirmed that the businessman had changed his name.

The President didn't take long to issue a response. During a national broadcast she announced some of the government's corrective measures:

The President mentioned two important points during her televised speech: “The management and acceptance by the Presidency were careless, without all necessary procedures and controls to assure integrity and safety”, and goes on to say: “The omissions were particularly serious regarding national security and protection to the President of the Republic. Furthermore, it could endanger the country's solid international image, that has always fought drug trafficking and organized crime”.

“We shall never forget this lesson, it's a hard one”, said the President at the end of the national television broadcast.

As a result, two government officials resigned from their positions: Communication Minister Francisco Chacon, and the head of the Direction of Intelligence and Safety Mauricio Boraschi.

Cristian Cambronero (@cambronero) [es] said on his Twitter account:

@cambronero Vuelo de la presidenta Laura Chinchilla acaba con la caída de su hombre fuerte.

@cambronero [es] President Laura Chinchilla's flight ends up with the fall of her strongman.

The President's long time personal assistant, Ms. Irene Pacheco, has also left her position.

Laura Chinchilla said that Boraschi and Pacheco didn't do their duty [es] in verifying the origin of the plane.

President Chinchilla (@Laura_Ch) [es] added on her Twitter account:

@Laura_Ch He aceptado renuncia de 2 funcionarios, entre ellos Comisionado Antidrogas quien libró valiente lucha antidrogas pero descuidó mi seguridad.

@Laura_Ch [es]: I've accepted the resignation of two government officials, including the Anti-drugs Commissioner, who fought drugs bravely but neglected my security.

The government has been weakened and the President's circle of trusted officials has been reduced after this episode. Furthermore, the flaws in security have shown the deficiencies in the national security service.

The Republic's General Attorney and the public prosecutor have initiated separate investigations [es] about the trip in the private plane, about the government's relationship with the questioned company, and about the failure to comply with obligations.

Picture of Ollanta Humala and Laura Chinchilla by Flickr user Presidencia Perú, taken on May 13, 2013 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

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