Democracy with Two Types of Citizens

Equality of citizens under the law, a defining feature of a democracy, it is a formality in Costa Rica, generating in practice wealth and privileges for some, and poverty and hopelessness for others.

Monday, September 18, 2017

OPINION - Jorge Cobas González - Director of CentralAmericaData

Some Costa Rican citizens - not a few - have "acquired rights" because they belong to one of the corporations to which the laws assigns multiple privileges, and others - an overwhelming majority - work to pay for the privileges granted to the former group.

Edgar Espinoza, in an article on Crhoy.com, accurately chronicles the degradation of the Costa Rican State from "a great rector of civil society which watches over, under equal conditions, the common welfare of all citizens", to a mere instrument to distribute cushy jobs among friends and political cronies.

The Machiavellian side of this democratic degradation is that the booty that constitutes these prebends is not only distributed among those friends and political cronies in the traditional style of Central American dictatorships, but also "democratically" awarded, via wages, bonuses, lavish pensions, job security, and other labor privileges, to masses of state officials, and members of well-organized professional and business corporations who claim and secure their share of the booty. And we say "democratically" - in quotation marks- because among those who benefit from the distribution, as Espinoza points out, "all kinds are found, from politicians with stale pedigrees to liftmen and gardeners, all the way up to ambassadors, bankers, religious leaders, communists, trade unionists and university professors."

Espinoza describes: "Through the course of several governments, these privileges were slipped in like a blank check, gently, within the fabric of the state, sometimes infiltrating routinely between bills that were for a different thing, and on other occasions, through juicy under the table arrangements." In this way, "supreme powers, institutions and the public sector in general took the State by assault to in order make this their absolute "open ark", impregnable and perpetual," forever securing the "intimate privileges of the elites." (our emphasis)

And the writer argues that the situation is "a model of subtle and fine tyranny without pistols on hips or machine guns in shoulder straps which creeps and preys on its victims between the infinite patience, ingenuity and laziness of this population ...For much less a revolution would have burst into life here, but even that is not possible now because through they satanic way that political power has forged everything, instead of overthrowing a single dictator, we would have to overthrow thousands of them, who today live off luxurious salaries." (our emphasis)

Beyond the unacceptable inequality among the citizens that this causes, this situation is leading the economy of the country to its destruction, because it inhibits honest businesses who are dedicated to producing excellence and healthy competitiveness, favoring lobbying and corruption.

Edgar Espinoza despairs and declares he has no idea how to make democracy in Costa Rica stop being a formality, where equality before the law depends on the "rights" that each citizen has "acquired", and the legal imaginary friend that supports these "rights". Because any legal action against the privileges of the holders of these "rights" will always conflict with the opposing decisions of a higher court, decisions that will not only have the support of the laws that established those privileges, but which will also inevitably be influenced by the personal interest of the magistrates, also privileged by the devilish system of appropriation of state resources. And it will not be the Legislative Assembly that dismantles the shambles of the unjust distribution of the wealth of the country, because inevitably its members do not represent the population as a whole, but the corporations which are the subject of those privileges.

Perhaps the peaceful solution to this situation is to return to the majority of citizens, through a plebiscite, the ability to annul the concept of "acquired rights" embodied in these privileged laws, to re-establish real equality among all citizens of Costa Rica

A year ago this topic already gave us nightmares:

One bright spring morning a garden flourished gloriously and everybody wanted flowers. John said "I deserve 10" and the gardener gave him 10 flowers. "I want to take 11" said Peter, and 11 were handed over to him. "I demand 12" protested Manuel, and he got 12. "I want 13" shouted Joseph, and he received his 13 flowers. A lot of people called out their demands and got what they asked for. In the end there was only one somewhat wilted flower left that was given to a mute person with no name. And the gardener was acclaimed for his generosity.

But the following spring the garden produced much fewer flowers, in spite of this, John tried to take his 10, Peter his 11, Manuel his 12 and Joseph his 13 flowers. "That is what corresponds to us," they shouted. "It is our right" they claimed. And they hired a lawyer who filed a lawsuit to force the gardener to deliver what belonged to them by "acquired right". And the judge, who was Manuel, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. 

The first to go crazy was the gardener, who did not have enough flowers to comply with the court ruling. After that all of the others began to wander around crying "acquired rights!" roaming through the garden punching each other in the scramble for the few available flowers.

The nameless mute sat to one side and with empty hands, stared uncomprehendingly.


More on this topic

Privileges increase prices of gasoline

October 2017

A savings fund, housing loans, expenses for recreation and bonuses, scholarships for children, and restaurant services for employees of the state and the monopolist hydrocarbons distributor of Costa Rica, are financed through the prices paid by consumers, even by the poorest.

OPINION

"Acquired Rights" or The Garden of Fools

August 2016

One bright spring morning a garden flourished gloriously and everybody wanted flowers. John said "I deserve 10" and the gardener gave him 10 flowers. "I want to take 11" said Peter, and 11 were handed over to him. "I demand 12" protested Manuel, and he got 12. "I want 13" shouted Joseph, and he received his 13 flowers. A lot of people called out their demands and got what they asked for. In the end there was only one somewhat wilted flower left that was given to a mute person with no name. And the gardener was acclaimed for his generosity.

But the following spring the garden produced much fewer flowers, in spite of this, John tried to take his 10, Peter his 11, Manuel his 12 and Joseph his 13 flowers. "That is what corresponds to us," they shouted. "It is our right" they claimed. And they hired a lawyer who filed a lawsuit to force the gardener to deliver what belonged to them by "acquired right". And the judge, who was Manuel, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.

Unacceptable Threat by a Trade Union Leader

September 2015

The private companies should have to consider the risk posed to Costa Rica's business climate by the excesses of state union leaders.

EDITORIAL

Costa Rica's democratic traditions pale before the attempt made by a trade unionist to silence the media by threatening the safety of journalists.

Costa Rica: Public Salaries Under the Spotlight

December 2013

Entrepreneurs and ALL presidential candidates agree on the need to eliminate privileges and unfair wage abuses in the public sector.

"On this point the five candidates that top the polls agreed during a debate organized by the Costa Rican Union of Chambers and Associations of Private Business Sector (UCCAEP)," reported an article in Ameliarueda.com.

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