Politics

5 points to understand the Commission for Guanacaste at the Congress

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Translator: Arianna Hernández

On June 20, the Legislative Assembly’s special commission for Guanacaste met for the first time. It’s a forum for Guanacaste’s legislators and other legislators interested in the province to analyze, study and send recommendations for legislative projects that involve Guanacaste.

The four new legislators, Daniel Vargas (Social Democratic Progress Party), Melina Ajoy (Social Christian Unity), Alejandra Larios and Luis Fernando Mendoza (both National Liberation), asked the plenary to form the new commission in the second week of May.

The goal is to centralize efforts for Guanacaste through their posts, explained the president of the commission, Daniel Vargas.

Although creating this commission is not a mandatory procedure within the legislature, the last two terms of Guanacastecan legislators had a special commission. However, public records from the Legislative Assembly show that the officials met about once a month, depending on the agenda.

That’s how the new legislators want to make a difference. Their goal is to meet at least twice a month to discuss the most relevant issues for the province. Vargas added that he hopes the commission will be an open forum so that Guanacastecans can explain their problems in the assembly.

The legislators have already met twice. In the most recent session, on July 4, they requested an audience with Vice Minister of Public Works and Transportation (MOPT) Alejandro Guillen and with the executive director of the National Road Council (CONAVI for the Spanish acronym), Annia Rosales. During the session, the representatives questioned the leaders about work on the La Amistad bridge and the road between Limonal and Cañas.

Here are five points to explain what this commission is and how it impacts the province of Guanacaste:

1. What is the purpose of a provincial commission?

Provincial commissions are forums within the Legislative Assembly to discuss the issues on the agenda that have to do with the development of a specific area. The Guanacaste commission has the duty to analyze how the bills presented in the assembly can impact the province from economic, tourism, social and labor standpoints.

All of the provinces have a commission, with the exception of San Jose. Members are not required to hold regular sessions.

However, Eugenia Aguirre, a researcher at the National Policy Observatory of the University of Costa Rica (UCR), believes that if a provincial commission is committed to its work during these meetings, the bills presented by Guanacaste could be enriched by a closer look at its population.

Well-directed commissions can serve the purpose of proposing a national agenda that takes cantonal issues into account. That is so if it is well managed and there is commitment. It depends a lot on the leadership because many times, they can go unnoticed,” emphasized the political scientist.

2. Who is the commission made up of?

According to the Regulations of the Legislative Assembly, any special commission must have an odd number of members, between five and nine. That way, they make sure not to end up with ties when they vote. There are currently seven members: the four legislators from Guanacaste, as well as Fabricio Alvarado from the New Republic party, Antonio Ortega from Broad Front and Johana Obando from Liberal Progressive.

Aguirre explained that within the Legislative Assembly, there are parties that join the provincial commissions to get closer to the provinces where they don’t have representatives or where their political forces are reduced.

The (provincial) commissions put those parties that have no voice in those provinces in a bind. They must pay attention to the territorial bodies from there,” the expert said.

3. What Guanacaste issues will the current commission give priority to?

According to the president of the commission, during these first months, the organization will give priority to issues of infrastructure, agriculture and water in the province. However, Vargas is open to being able to address other issues such as employment and work with the municipalities.

Their progress will also depend on how the legislative agenda advances at the national level.

There is no particular focus for the commission. “We aren’t married to a single issue. We’re really going to move forward as the agenda and relevance of issues in Guanacaste and here in the assembly change,” said the legislator.

Melina Ajoy [on the left] and legislator Daniel Vargas [center] are the secretary and president of the special commission for Guanacaste. In the photo, they met for their first session on June 20 of this year. Photo: Julio Peña

4. How does a legislative commission impact Guanacaste?

Paacume stands out the most among projects that the Guanacaste commission worked on in the last term. Its members succeeded in analyzing, studying and collaborating on creating the bill until its approval in April of this year, weeks before the end of the legislative term.

Other projects had a smaller scope, such as the approval of land donations to schools and associations in Liberia or a failed attempt to create a sixth district in that same canton. The majority of the projects were focused on the province’s capital, a characteristic that these legislators plan to change to address the rest of Guanacaste.

Vargas affirmed that Guanacaste’s representatives are trying to raise awareness of “the problems of Guanacastecan society and present them at the national level” in order to gain allies in the assembly that will help promote projects related to Guanacaste.

Aguirre affirmed that the relevance of a commission depends merely on the relevance and seriousness that its members give it. They can create and modify bills with axes focused on the Guanacaste population, but they can also go unnoticed during the four legislative years.

Guanacaste has a need for a representative national forum for the province’s elected representatives. In that way, these representatives can provide relevant content and topics from that province,” explained the political scientist.

5. How can I contact this legislative commission?

Currently there is no official email to write to the commission. However, you can contact each legislator who is part of the commission directly:

Daniel Vargas – [email protected].go.cr

Melina Ajoy – ​[email protected] 

Luis Fernando Mendoza – [email protected] 

Alejandra Larios – [email protected] 

Fabricio Alvarado – [email protected] 

Johana Obando – [email protected] 

Antonio Ortega – [email protected] 

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