María Rosa López: from Vice-mayoress to Mayoress amid controversy

Written by Marisol

By: Marisol Arias Photo by: Marisol Arias 

By a slim 156-vote margin, María Rosa López is the first woman for the position of mayoress of Santa Cruz.

Born in Brasilito, this retired and former educator gets into known ground: for four years she was Santa Cruz Vice-mayoress.

Attrition in an adverse climate in the municipality in her relationship with current mayor Jorge Chavarría, criticisms about her refunding or not more than 70 million colones she received as incentive prohibition in the exercise of her profession and the receiving her vice-mayoress salary simultaneously with her pension income were undeniably present during the electoral process. Today, these are not resolved issues she has to face.

With the difficult task to pull Santa Cruz out of blackwardness in many respects and to achieve the high expectations of a more informed and demanding citizenship, THE Tamarindo News interviewed the newly-elected mayoress. Here there is an excerpt of the conversation.

Tamarindo News (TN): You are the new mayoress for Santa Cruz. What does the Municipality represent for you, regarding your political career and your personal life?

María Rosa López Gutiérrez (MRL): It is an honor, a challenge and other responsibility in my life. I have held various positions, as a teacher, as a community and union leader. For five years I held the ANDE Union Secretary post (a teacher´s syndicate)… The truth is to get here, I´d never thought getting involved in politics, but it happened. When I was vice-mayoress I realized much can be done for the people in Santa Cruz. The canton needs support and to move forward.

TN: The vote margin to win the elections was slim. Some say you could take better advantage from being in the municipality and from there you could help interest groups or channel benefits to have electoral support. How do you respond to these criticisms?

MRL: I resolute deny having used municipal resources to work with people. On the contrary, the service they were given, not from me but from the vice-mayoralty, was useful for us to become known and what we could do. No public resources whatsoever were used in the political campaign.

I was terribly pursued and accused of false attacks at all times. Yet, people supported me and that says much of our work.

I got the mayoralty without any commitment.

TN: Which sectors do you think feel represented by you?

MRL: Being born in the coast and being a woman were largely a help. There never had been a mayoress before. Women supported me; they know the tasks of mothers and as home providers.

TN: You mention many priorities in your governing plan; one is road infrastructure improvement. How do you think to improve canton´s ways of communication to enhance its competitiveness, given that some of them are collapsed and some others, inexistent? Where will you find the resources?

MRL: Of course we are concerned about the large amount of damaged routes and bridges. Now, Law 8114, from where resources are taken from, is insufficient to solve all canton´s problems. The new Law 18001 allows municipalities take more funds, it may not be possible the 100 per cent because I cannot offer such thing, but to the extent possible, we will perform a strict planning.

TN: Peripheral areas of Santa Cruz, as coasts, feel municipality´s neglect and that they generate resources and wealth but there are no investment restitutions. There are no major works; just occasional. There is no adequate planning but merely “plugging holes”, with an electoral patronage attitude and not with a communal development vision. Being you born in the coast, how will you reverse this situation?

MRL: With good reason coastal people feel abandoned. For many years, they have generated the canton´s resources. Not only the coast feels abandoned, but also Santa Cruz center feels the same. I do agree with the ones who generate the funds want to see the results. We must give the coastal people better conditions in order they generate more resources so will feel happy.

I find it very important to have a municipal office in Tamarindo. In other occasions there was one that worked temporarily, with significant results.

TN: The office you mention was used primarily to collect taxes. Don´t you think it can offer further services, for example, an increased presence of the municipal police?

TN: We have to analyze that. Municipal officers don´t provide security. This is a Public Force issue. Sometimes, all police forces are working together and we aren´t even able to cope. In the coast there are many people from outside that make misdeeds. We must keep on fighting to support Police entities.

TN: We know the Municipal Council takes too long to make decisions. How will you do to materialize important and delayed community urgencies? Which will your commitment be to make them more expeditious?

MRL: We have to be committed. Municipal Council makes its own decisions but needs the mayoralty´s information. The mayor must execute all Council´s agreements. There may have been a rupture and possibly the Council receives nothing and the mayor doesn´t execute because lacks the Council´s agreement. I think it is important to control, to organize what we have in the canton and make the planning.

We may well have neglected to some degree. As current vice-mayoress I wanted to expedite procedures, but this is the mayor´s duty. When I get the mayoralty, things will be different.

TN: From your current vice-mayoress position, you are said to have grown apart the canton´s management. When you announced your candidacy for the mayoralty, some said your proposal was a continuation of the current one. How do you refute the statements that your management will not be “more of the same”?

MRL: On the contrary, I didn´t grow apart; the mayor did. He kept on removing my functions and sent official letters to the department leaders to inform them he was making the decisions. I understood how the situation was.

TN: According to the TSE´s provisional results, the Municipal Council is integrated by councilors of various political parties. It will be a great challenge for you to build agreements.

MRL: It will be, but I think if we all want to serve the canton, this shouldn´t be a problem.

TN: How much was your reputation damaged by an accepted anonymous accusation, through which the Municipal Council and the mayor obliged you to refund 70 million colones for allegedly receiving the payment for incentive prohibition, which you were not supposed to receive and made you attend judicial bodies, among them the Constitutional Chamber? Besides, you were criticized by receiving your salary as vice-mayoress as well as your pension income. Was it improper to receive the benefit, the salary and the pension income?

MRL: I have repeatedly said that the Court decides. I got to the municipality and the auditor sends an official letter to Don Jorge (current mayor) telling him I have to waive my pension income, which I do. But the Legal Department lawyer tells me there is jurisprudence for retired people to work. Then I present an appeal in the Constitutional Chamber. The Chamber confirms my pension income and also removes the auditor´s letters, being sent now to the District Attorney´s office, which draws my attention.

TN: Do you say there have been political pressures?

MRL: I think this has taken its toll; it is persecution. Today (February 24) I received a paper that is in the District Attorney´s office, the current mayor gives it to me. I have to refund 70 million colones for incentive prohibition, when he had composed a resolution on my side…It wasn´t me, I don´t claim for my salary, I haven´t decided about it, he signs and authorizes about it (the mayor).

TN: Do you have political enemies, María Rosa?

MRL: Of course I do, and within my own party. Unfortunately, the number will increase. Others have taken advantage of this situation.

TN: The visit of former President of the Republic and President of Partido Liberación Nacional to Santa Cruz was to promote your candidacy?

MRL: Not at all. He came because other partners, who had lost in the first assembly when choosing the mayor candidate of Santa Cruz, told him I hadn´t been elected in the first assembly and that there was a situation… Then the Committee in the Green Balcony (PNL´s headquarters) decided to repeat the election. When he comes to Santa Cruz, he meets us and never imposed us anything, he wanted us to reach an agreement, which we didn´t manage to do. It was very difficult…

Personal Information

Profession: Educator

Work experience: a as teacher and union leader in a educator´s syndicate

Mother-of-seven, she has eight grandchildren

In a few words:

Regulatory plans: Very necessary. Missing plans have to be fulfilled. It is regulated that without them, there are no construction permits and we are delaying the towns´ developments.

Jorge Chavarría (current mayor of Santa Cruz): What a pity! she laughs. He´s part of the story.

Waste: very important project achieved by the municipality that has to go on.

Communitary security: all communal bodies must be coordinated, not only with development associations but with security committees as well.

Unemployment: a serious problem in Santa Cruz we have to tackle from now on. I´ve always said, no development, no jobs; no jobs, there is hunger. We have to think how to develop small and medium-sized enterprises.

Marina in Flamingo: very necessary and in progress.

Tamarindo: a development center to pay attention to, and give better conditions to every entrepreneur.

Sustainable development: Of course we can´t grow and affect environment. There must be a balance.

Development associations: very important active bodies. My congratulation and support to them.

Water: a serious problem in the coast, which needs a solution

Youth: it´s demanding its space. The young are saying: “Open the door, we want to get in”; they will have my support: we have very young vice-mayors. I have children and grandchildren and I ´m committed to the young.

Your priorities: cantonal road work, municipal facility and management modernization of the municipality.

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