Friday 06 February 2009, San José, Costa Rica

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Legislators Call For Firing Of Housing Minister Following Lavish Lunch

Legislators of the Partido Acción Ciudadana (PAC) and Movimiento Libertario political parties are calling for more heads to roll in the excessive lunch by the head of the Banco Hipotecario de la Vivienda (Banhvi), Ennio Rodríguez, who has since resigned.

Last week, a group of Banhvi officials, including the ministra de Vivienda, Clara Zomer, attended a lunch at a high end Escazu restaurant at a cost of ¢627.117 colones, excessive in these times of financial crisis.

As such the legislative members of both political parties are calling on Costa Rican president, Oscar Arias, for the firing of minister Zomer, who is also the head of the Banhvi board of directors.

Legislator Carlos Gutiérrez was the most vocal. "Who ever ordered champagne must go", said the legislators, who added that the cost cannot be justified and that 11 public officials were out drinking while on the job.

Francisco Molina, head of the PAC legislators, scolded president Arias for not yet having fired Zomer.

The legislator says that the president is contradicting himself, only last week announcing a plan to head off the financial crisis, while allowing his minister to continue in such lavish.

"How can you believe the president? One who alarms us all and asks that we prepare ourselves for the financial crisis or the one who acts with forbearance against one of its ministers who committed the same sin the president of the Banhvi?", Molina asked rhetorically.

The legislator feels the president should refer the case to the Comisión de Ética del Gobierno (government's ethics board) to investigate the controversy and the public officials who took part in the lunch, that included:

• Clara Zomer Rezler, ministra de Vivienda

• José Antonio Li, presidente ejecutivo del IMAS

• Yessenia Calderón and Rolando Vargas, directivos del Banhvi

• Luis Fernando Salazar, viceministro de Vivienda

• Santiago Villalobos, asesor del despacho de la ministra Zomer

• Juan José Umaña y Kattia Aguilar, gerente y subgerente Fundación Costa Rica-Canadá
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