Miguel Ángel Rodríguez

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For other people named Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, see Miguel Ángel Rodríguez (disambiguation).
Miguel Ángel Rodríguez
MiguelAngelRodriguezEcheverria.jpg
8th Secretary General of the Organization of American States
In office
15 September 2004 – 15 October 2004
Preceded by César Gaviria
Succeeded by Luigi R. Einaudi
acting
President of Costa Rica
In office
8 May 1998 – 8 May 2002
Preceded by José María Figueres
Succeeded by Abel Pacheco
Personal details
Born (1940-01-09) 9 January 1940 (age 74)
San José, Costa Rica
Political party PUSC
Spouse(s) Lorena Clare Facio
Signature

Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Echeverría (born 9 January 1940) is a Costa Rican economist, lawyer, businessman, and politician. He served as President of Costa Rica from 1998 to 2002 and was briefly Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) in 2004, before stepping down and returning to his country to face allegations of financial wrongdoing during his presidential tenure in Costa Rica. On 27 April 2011 he was sentenced to 5 years in prison for corruption.[1]

In December 2012 he was exonerated by an appeals court.[2]

Early life[edit]

Rodríguez was born in San José. At the University of Costa Rica he obtained degrees in both economics (1962) and law (1963) and worked there briefly as an assistant professor of economics. He then attended the University of California, Berkeley in the United States, where he received both M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in economics in 1966, having completed a thesis on monetary policy. Immediately after graduating he returned to Costa Rica to serve as Minister of Planning and member of the board of directors of the Costa Rican Central Bank, during the government of president José Joaquín Trejos.

In the 1970s and 1980s Rodríguez combined academic work as a professor of economics at the University of Costa Rica and at the Autonomous University of Central America with a business venture in cattle holding: Grupo Ganadero Industrial, S.A.

Rodriguez is also a devout Roman Catholic. His brother, Álvaro Rodríguez, currently serves as Superior General of the De La Salle Brothers.

Political career[edit]

Rodríguez ran three times for president. In 1990 he lost his party's nomination to Rafael Ángel Calderón. In 1994 he won his party's nomination but lost the election to José María Figueres. He finally secured the presidency in 1998. In spite of his experience as an economist and businessman, his presidency was generally regarded as ineffectual. Proposed free-market reforms, including a plan to end the state monopoly on telecommunications, fell apart under opposition from the trade unions of government employees and other groups, but he was successful in reforming the retirement system[citation needed] and opening it to private participation as well as giving in concession to a private company the operation of the main port in the Pacific Ocean (Caldera).[citation needed] After his term of office, Rodríguez worked as a consultant at Manatt Jones Global Strategies and as a visiting professor at George Washington University in Washington, D.C..

Political views[edit]

Rodriguez is widely considered a believer in free enterprise and a pro-market politician, who favors market reforms and the opening of the economy to foreign investment.

He is also considered a social conservative. In 1998 Rodriguez incensed people in the gay community, by opposing a gay/lesbian festival in a beach resort in Quepos, in the central Pacific region of Costa Rica. Rodriguez, at the time the president of Costa Rica, was quoted in the press as saying "It is important that the appropriate authorities not grant any permits for any type of public activities associated with the gay/lesbian festival". His position was echoed by Mons. Roman Arrieta, Archbishop of San Jose, and Father Minor de Jesús Calvo, a conservative priest that had at the time a program in TV. Francisco Madrigal, the director of Triangulo Rosa, a gay/lesbian organization filed a complaint in the Costa Rican Supreme Court's complaints division against Msgr. Román Arrieta Villalobos, the Archbishop of San José, and Father Minor de Jesús Calvo. Triángulo Rosa also registered a complaint with the Defensoría de los Habitantes, the government's ombudsmen organization, against the President of Costa Rica, Dr. Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Gay organization fights discrimination.

Secretary-General of the Organization of American States[edit]

On 7 June 2004 he was unanimously elected to replace César Gaviria as secretary general of the OAS. He began his term on 15 September 2004 but served only 1 month, before stepping down when a former political collaborator accused him of having accepted a kickback from the French telecommunications firm Alcatel, which had been awarded a large government contract for cellular phone bandwidth during Rodríguez's tenure as president.

On 8 October 2004, Rodríguez resigned as OAS Secretary General, effective 15 October, and was replaced by Assistant Secretary General Luigi Einaudi, a former U.S. State Department official who assumed the title of Acting Secretary General. After resigning from his post, Rodríguez returned to Costa Rica on 15 October 2004 and was placed first under house arrest and two weeks later in jail, pending further investigations.

Acussations of involvement in corruption scandals[edit]

Political contributions from Carlos Hank[edit]

In 1997, while Rodríguez was a candidate for the Presidency of Costa Rica, he met Carlos Hank González, a Mexican politician and rich businessman. He reportedly accepted campaign contributions from Hank, which is forbidden by Costa Rican law. The international media gave coverage allegations of these illegal payments. Most of the articles hinted that Hank had ties with organized crime.[3] Rodríguez denied any wrongdoing.

Payments from Taiwan[edit]

News reports claimed that Rodríguez had also received $1.4 million from the government of Taiwan. This amount was deposited in Panama in an account controlled by the firm Inversiones Denisse S.A., a consulting firm that allegedlly belonged to Rodríguez. His lawyers claim that Rodríguez was no longer the owner of Inversiones Denisse when the payments took place.[4] The motivation for the Taiwanese government payments is unknown. Taiwanese officials, however, have recognized that their cooperation with allies led to corruption in some cases. President Ma Ying-jeou promised to end what he called "the diplomacy of the cheque book."[5] In 2007 Costa Rica ended its diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, shifting to diplomatic relations with mainland China.

Payments from reinsurers[edit]

On 22 October 2010, the British media reported that Julian Messent, a former executive in the reinsurance firm PWS (owned by Lord Pearson), had pleaded guilty in Southwark Crown Court to paying £ 1.2 million in bribes to three Costa Rican officials, in exchange for a contract with the state insurance monopoly, the Instituto Nacional de Seguros (INS). The money was disbursed in 41 payments, over the period from 1999 to 2002.[6][7] Messent was sentenced to serve 21 months in jail. According to the sentence, Mr. Messent should pay a fine of US $ 160,000 to the Costa Rican state. http://www.nacion.com/2010-10-26/ElPais/UltimaHora/ElPais2568554.aspx The Costa Rican media suggested that the unnamed officials might be Rodríguez, former INS director Cristóbal Zawadski, and former director of the INS's reinsurance department Álvaro Acuña Prado.[8]

Rodríguez, Zawadski, Prado, and several others were already under investigation in Costa Rica after it had been revealed that PWS had transferred at least $200,000 to Inversiones Denisse, a Panamanian firm owned by Rodríguez. PWS allegelly inflated the policies of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) in order to create a discretionary fund of $1.6 million. The director of ICE at the moment that this operation took place was Rafael Sequeira, father-in-law of Rodríguez's son. The other reinsurer that made payments to the company of Rodríguez was the firm Guy Carpenter Reinmex, based in Mexico.[9]

On July 30, 2013, The Prosecutor's Office requested the opening of a judicial investigation of alleged embezzlement charges against Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, according to the weekly newsapaper The Tico Times. The investigation also includes the president of the National Insurance Institute (INS) Cristóbal Zawadzki Wojtasiak and Álvaro Acuña Prado, a department manager at INS. Reportedly, Rodriguez dismissed the charges in a press release, stating that these charges are a gross persecution against him, and that he will fight the allegations in courts. He also mentioned that the Prosecutor Office had already decided to dismissed the charges in 2005.

ICE-Alcatel scandal[edit]

Rodríguez was tried in Costa Rica for allegedly receiving more than US$ 800,000 in payments from Alcatel, a French telecommunications company, in exchange for helping the company receive a government contract to provide 400,000 cell phone lines. In 2007, Christian Sapsizian, a former adjunct to the vicepresident of Alcatel for Latin America, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court of Miami to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by conspiring with Edgar Valverde (the president of Alcatel in Costa Rica) to bribe an "official" of the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE) and a "senior government official" of Costa Rica. Mr. Sapsizian was sentenced to 30 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and forfeiture of $261,500.[10]

The prosecution in Costa Rica alleges that the "senior government official" was President Rodríguez, and that the ICE official was José Antonio Lobo, who has agreed to testify against Rodríguez in exchange for immunity from prosection. Valverde, Rodríguez, and seven other people were tried in Costa Rica for their alleged involvement in the kickback scheme. After long delays, the trial began on April 2010. The trial took many months, because 110 witnesses appeared before the judges.[11] On 28 April 2011, Rodríguez Echeverría was sentenced to 5 years in prison for his participation in the kickback scheme. Moreover, he will not be able to serve in public office during 12 years. Miguel Angel Rodríguez sentenced to five years in prison-Spanish. The other defendats were also found guilty and received sentences ranging from two to 15 years of prison Three defendants will go directly to prison.

In 2010 Alcatel-Lucent agreed to pay a fine of US$137.4 million to avoid US prosecution for alleged bribes paid in several countries, including Kenya, Taiwan and Costa Rica.[12] In a separate deal with Costa Rican government, Alcatel-Lucent also agreed to pay a fine of US$ 10 million. The agreement with the Procuraduría General de la República, the legal representative of the Costa Rican state, is intended to compensate for the social damage brought about by the kickback scheme. Originally, the Procuraduria had demand a compensation of US$ 60 million. Reportedly, the Procuraduría will also pursue compensation from other people currently on trial. The compensation sought amounts to US$ 52 million.[13]

Sentence[edit]

On 27 April 2011 he was sentenced to 5 years in prison. In 2012 the sentence was revoked amid accusation of prosecutor misconduct (http://www.nacion.com/2013-02-27/Sucesos/tribunal--lobo-mintio-en-caso-ice-alcatel---para-beneficiarse-.aspx). The appellation tribunal found that Lobo, the crown's prosecution witness was not only given immunity (even as from his own declaration he was the mastermind of the transactions) but was allowed to keep the money he obtain from the illegal transactions (an amount more than 3 times that of Rodriguez). Lobo also changes versions more than 7 times and the appellation tribunal found unusual that Rodriguez was accused using one version on the events but condemn using a different version, harming his ability to mount an effective defense.

References[edit]

External links[edit]


Political offices
Preceded by
José María Figueres
President of Costa Rica
1998–2002
Succeeded by
Abel Pacheco
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
César Gaviria
Secretary General of the Organization of American States
2004
Succeeded by
Luigi R. Einaudi
acting