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Cablegate: Costa Rican Prosecutor Ready to Indict Former

VZCZCXYZ0016
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #0649 0932224
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 032224Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7698
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHHE/AMEMBASSY HELSINKI 0072

UNCLAS SAN JOSE 000649

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN JASON MACK

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR KCOR FI CS
SUBJECT: COSTA RICAN PROSECUTOR READY TO INDICT FORMER
PRESIDENT CALDERON

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Costa Rican federal prosecutor's
office is finally ready to indict former president Rafael
Angel Calderon (PUSC) for corruption allegations stemming
from a 2001 loan from the government of Finland to the Costa
Rican social security fund (INSS). If convicted, he could
face up to 12 years in prison. Calderon welcomed the chance
to present his defense, confident that the charges would be
dropped. The once-popular Calderon is mulling over another
run for the presidency in 2010 and needs to get this incident
behind him. Recent polls give him a 60% disapproval rating,
but a positive outcome in court could help him regain support
and would buttress his claim that the charges against him are
political. Costa Rica needs to get this languishing case
behind it as well, to show that the judicial system can act
on corruption allegations. END SUMMARY.

--------------------------------
CALDERON TO GET HIS DAY IN COURT
--------------------------------

2. (U) On March 16, the Costa Rican federal prosecutor's
office announced that it was ready to file a criminal court
indictment against former president Rafael Angel Calderon.
Calderon, founder of the Christian Social Unity Party (PUSC)
and president from 1990-94, was arrested in October 2004 for
his alleged involvement in a corruption scandal. He will be
charged with embezzlement, bribery, and aggravated corruption
for allegedly accepting a USD 450,000 "commission" after he
promoted a USD 39.5 million loan from the government of
Finland to INSS in 2001. If a criminal judge approves the
indictment after a preliminary hearing (not yet scheduled),
Calderon would stand trial If found guilty, Calderon faces a
3-12 year sentence.

3. (U) After his arrest in October 2004, Calderon spent six
months in preventive detention followed by another six months
under house arrest. He was given conditional liberty in
October 2005, provided he not leave the country. Calderon
asked the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR)
to review his case in September 2005, alleging the
allegations against him were politically motivated. An IACHR
decision is still pending.

--------------------------------------------- --------
CALDERON WELCOMES COURT CASE, MULLS RUN FOR PRESIDENT
--------------------------------------------- --------

4. (U) In a newspaper interview, Calderon said he is happy
to finally have the case brought to trial, confident that it
would be able to clear his name and finally put the incident
behind him. Calderon believes that if he is cleared, he
could be a viable presidential candidate in 2010, stating to
the media that "90 percent of the (PUSC) party leaders are
totally supportive of me." He has said in various interviews
that he will not decide until 2009 whether or not to run for
president.

-------
COMMENT
-------

5. (SBU) Calderon no doubt expects to be cleared of
wrongdoing, assuming his case even passes the preliminary
phase. Calderon,s is one of the two "Ex-Presidents"
corruption scandals that exploded in late 2004 (the other is
the case of then-OAS Secretary General Miguel Angel
Rodriguez). The evidence against Rodriguez is considered
much stronger, and both cases have been ready for prosecution
since July 2006. Judicial bureaucracy appears to be the only
reason authorities are leading with the weaker Calderon case.
Although a popular president, he faces an uphill battle to
be re-elected. His PUSC party, once one of the two major
political forces in the country, all but disappeared in the
2006 elections, winning only three percent of the vote. It
has since regained some respect and support by consistently
supporting the Arias administration,s coalition in the
legislative assembly. The February 2007 CID/Gallup poll
showed PUSC polling ahead of the opposition PAC party, 16
percent to 13 percent, but pollsters tell us PUSC support is
broad but not deep. Calderon will have to overcome the 60
percent personal disapproval rating revealed in the same
poll, in order to make a comeback, should he be cleared by
the court. Costa Rica needs to get this languishing case
behind it as much or more than Calderon, however, in order to
demonstrate that the judicial system can act on corruption
allegations, even up to the highest levels of government.
WEITZENKORN

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