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Viewing cable 05SANJOSE2642, HEALTH MINISTRY ORDERS ASSEMBLY TO COMPLY WITH

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05SANJOSE2642 2005-11-11 10:10 2011-03-03 16:04 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy San Jose
Appears in these articles:
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-03/Investigacion/NotasDestacadas/Investigacion2697430.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-03/Investigacion/NotaPrincipal/Investigacion2697496.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-03/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2697489.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-03/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2697532.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-03/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2697535.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-03/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2701964.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-03/Investigacion/Relacionados/Investigacion2701965.aspx
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SAN JOSE 002642 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV ETRD CS
SUBJECT: HEALTH MINISTRY ORDERS ASSEMBLY TO COMPLY WITH 
HEALTH CODE OR SHUT OFFICES; CAFTA-DR COULD BE AFFECTED 
 
1. (U) Summary: The Health Ministry ordered the Legislative 
Assembly on November 7 to either make health and safety 
repairs in the buildings it occupies within the next two 
months or shut down various offices.  President of the 
Legislative Assembly Gerardo Gonzalez reacted to the order by 
accusing the executive branch of attempting to delay debate 
of the U.S.-Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade 
Agreement (CAFTA-DR), which was scheduled to begin soon. 
Gonzalez does not dispute the existence of serious health 
hazards in the Assembly, only the timing of the order and the 
impossibility of making the repairs in such a short time 
frame. President Pacheco told the press:  "No one is trying 
to close down the Assembly."  End summary. 
 
2. (U) On November 7, the Ministry of Health declared offices 
of the Legislative Assembly to be "uninhabitable" for health 
and safety reasons and ordered the Assembly to either fix the 
problems or vacate the offices.  The problems include 
overcrowding, open sewers, infestation by rats, cockroaches, 
and mosquitoes, bare electrical wires, and fire and seismic 
vulnerability.  Depending on the problem, the Assembly was 
given 15 to 60 days to make necessary repairs. 
 
3. (U) Antonio Ayala, executive director of the Legislative 
Assembly, told the press on November 8 that he will need to 
rent temporary offices for 800 of the 1,000 people who work 
in the Assembly and that it will take approximately six 
months to make the repairs.  The cost of the repairs is 
likely to be higher than the cost for construction of an 
entirely new Assembly structure. 
 
4. (U) Assembly President Gerardo Gonzalez, who for the last 
several months has been complaining about the conditions in 
the Assembly and urging the construction of a new building, 
noted the impossibility of complying with the order to repair 
on such short notice.  He said that Assembly proceedings 
could be interrupted and further observed "I don't know 
whether to believe it or not, but there are some in the 
Executive Branch who do not want CAFTA-DR to be debated in 
the legislature." 
 
5. (SBU) Health Minister Rocio Saenz, who is known to be a 
CAFTA-DR skeptic (like President Pacheco), responded 
indignantly to Gonzalez, saying of her ministry, "We are a 
serious entity."  She noted that the health inspection was 
prompted by complaints over the last two years from deputies, 
employees, and visitors to the Assembly.  She said that the 
Assembly has the right to request a longer time period to 
correct the problems. 
 
6.  (U) President Pacheco told the press on November 8: "No 
one is trying to close down the Assembly, unless it is by 
force majeure, like a fire or hurricane.  Then they will meet 
somewhere else."  He said he would be happy to talk to 
Gonzalez about the matter, but that Gonzalez is not 
interested in meeting with him because "he says I have 
Alzheimer,s and forget everything."  (Gonzalez denied 
speaking about Pacheco in such disrespectful terms but did 
confirm that past meetings with the President have not been 
fruitful.) 
 
7. (SBU) Comment: Embassy officers who frequently visit the 
Legislative Assembly can personally attest to the truth of 
the findings by the Health Ministry.  The Assembly is made up 
of several buildings and a confusing warren of offices, parts 
of which are dirty and malodorous.  Polcouns recalls one 
visit to a deputy's office when, on being escorted inside, he 
pointed out a live bat on the ground in front of the doorway. 
 The deputy kicked the bat aside, and the meeting commenced. 
Similar health and safety hazards 
exist in many public buildings in Costa Rica.  A fire broke 
out in a public hospital last July, killing 19.  It was later 
discovered that there were no fire alarms, sprinklers, or 
hoses in the vicinity of the fire.  So the Health Ministry, 
heavily criticized then for being too lax, has reason now to 
be cautious. 
 
8. (SBU) Comment cont.: Nevertheless, we cannot blame 
Gonzalez for being suspicious.  All of the problems pointed 
out by the Health Ministry are longstanding, and it is 
curious that action is being taken now, just as CAFTA-DR is 
about to be debated.  It is widely believed that President 
Pacheco, though he is the one who introduced the legislation 
on October 21, wants it to move slowly through the Assembly 
so as not to provoke anti-CAFTA-DR demonstrations.  But if, 
as Pacheco says, the Assembly can meet anywhere, debate on 
CAFTA-DR can begin. 
LANGDALE