Case of Rodrigo Chaves tests women’s rights in Costa Rica, says ‘The New York Times’

In an article published this Friday, the American newspaper New York Times affirms that the presidential election this Sunday, between Rodrigo Chaves and José María Figueres, poses a challenge for the rights of the female population in the country. “Case of harassment puts women’s rights to the test in the close election in Costa Rica,” headlined the prestigious media outlet.

“He was demoted from a high-ranking position at the World Bank for a case of sexual harassment. Now, economist Rodrigo Chaves—who has campaigned as an outsider in an election marked by anger against traditional politicians—is leading the polls to become Costa Rica’s next president on Sunday,” reads the article’s introductory paragraph, Originally published in English in the digital version of the Times.

The report reviews the case of sexual harassment, revealed by The nation, for which Chaves was sanctioned at the World Bank, in August 2019, when he was country director of the institution’s office in Indonesia. The complaints filed by two officials culminated in a job transfer and the freezing of the salary of the now presidential candidate. Chaves resigned from the Bank days later, and returned to Costa Rica to become Minister of Finance in the government of Carlos Alvarado.

In June 2021, when Chaves had already resigned from the position of Treasury chief, the WB Administrative Court, made up of seven independent judges, reviewed the case and concluded that the facts denounced by the officials qualified as sexual harassment. The institution apologized to those affected, restricted Chaves’ entry to the facilities of the Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and prohibited him from being rehired for three years.

“Since then, Chaves has denied or misrepresented the findings; instead, he has said the World Bank found little more than mere speculation against him, referring to the Bank’s initial decision not to classify his actions as sexual harassment. He has also said that he can freely visit the World Bank facilities, contradicting the access restrictions imposed by the institution”, points out the report of the New York Times.

The Times describes the ascent of Chaves until reaching the second round of elections, high in the polls, as “unexpected”, “in a country that has taken a leadership role in the advancement of social rights in Central America, which he underlines as the The desire to punish political elites for what many voters see as inadequate government responses to political scandals and economic hardship is casting a shadow on most other issues.

The article in the US media states that Chaves “denies and tone down a documented history of sexual harassment” two years after the former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Óscar Arias Sánchez, of the National Liberation Party (PLN), ” narrowly escaped” from the judicial process for alleged sexual abuse and rape that was opened against her, but was finally closed at the request of the complainants.

The publication also highlights that the history of sexual harassment has not diminished the intention to vote in favor of Chaves, who, rather, has benefited from the unpopularity of his opponent, José María Figueres, who is blamed by sectors of the population for alleged acts of corruption stemming from his term as president in the 1990s.

“Figueres has denied the allegations, and prosecutors who investigated the payments, which occurred after he left government, did not press charges. However, in the eyes of many Costa Ricans, Figueres and his party represent the venality and elitism of the country’s political system,” the report says.

The article also attributes Chaves’ popularity in part to the support of journalist Pilar Cisneros, who hand in hand with the presidential candidate won a seat in the Legislative Assembly for the period 2022-2026.

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Case of Rodrigo Chaves tests women’s rights in Costa Rica, says ‘The New York Times’