Among books full of notary records and legal documents, Liberian Aida María Montiel Héctor receives us in her office.
At age 72, the Liberian litigation lawyer says that sexual education guides are necessary in to prevent adolescent pregnancies, even though she hasn’t read them. She also says that she will be joined in congress by recognized faces from the National Liberation Party, such as Oscar Talavera the advisor to the Liberia mayor.
In a 90-minute conversion, Montiel explained that the projects that are a priority for her range from the Rio Piedras reservoir to making English a mandatory language starting in kindergarten. Following is an extract from the interview:
—What is your proposal for education?
“That English be taught starting in kindergarten. To see how we can double English classes. We want to sell the idea to the new government. Currently they are teaching classes in schools.”
—Is there anything drafted for this idea?
“No, there is no bill yet. I am probably going to speak with the education minister to see if it can be implemented now that kindergarten is mandatory.”
—Are you in favor or against the sexual education guides?
“Look, I am not against but it depends on what they look like because I think that deep down there has been a taboo around this. You know that what’s most important is preventing adolescents from getting pregnant because it ruins their lives. In other words, we have to have a sexual guide to prevent adolescent pregnancies. I am more interested in that point than the tale that here what is criticized is that personal relationships should be talked about more than the act.”
—Have you read them?
“No, I haven’t read them”.
—The panorama in Congress doesn’t look like an easy one for reaching agreement. With which congressmen and women from other parties do you think that it will be easiest to negotiate with?
“For starters, the ones from Guanacaste.”
—Have you met? Have you spoken?
“No, no we can’t meet yet. We have talked, with Peña (Rodolfo Peña from PUSC) I speak with him often. He lives here (Liberia) and I have no problem. But the other girl (Mileidy Alvarado from the PRN) she lives in Cañas and I haven’t been to Cañas. I have barely been to San Jose to see the office.
—¿With which other lawmakers do you think it most likely to reach agreements?
“Well, we have Pedro Muñoz from PUSC, and we’ll try to pull in the diputados that we known have a connection to Guanacaste. There is also a girl named Karine Niño (PLN congresswoman for San Jose) that has connections to Guanacaste and she’s from Liberation and maybe we can get about six (legislators) with interest in Guanacaste.
—What bills are a priority that you will commit to pushing for in congress in order to benefit the province?
“There are mega-projects that I am going to try to continue, the ones in which there has already been a lot of money invested. One is the Rio Piedras reservoir.
—There is already a bill in Congress, Paacume. Would you consider supporting it?
“No, no no. That project started under Arias, now this government pushed for it a little bit, at least they are coming up with the plans for the reservoir project.”
—What other projects are you going to…
“There are a lot of things here. How do we bring companies to Guanacaste to create jobs? Why was Discovery Channel talked about so much but it got stopped. Discovery Channel would have provided 4,000 jobs.”
— You promised during campaign to provide employment solutions for Guanacastecans….
“Well, let me tell you. I am talking about that project that at the end of 2018 is going to be a reality.”
“Yes, Discovery. We have to support it from the municipal level and from everywhere. Why? because it could be a job solution. If we keep thinking small development and not big development than we are never going to get ahead.”
—What infrastructure projects do you think you can push for from congress?
“I see that there are things approved in congress such as the IADB (Inter-American Development Bank) loan for the Cañas-Limonal highway. It doesn’t get done because there is no political will on the part of the transport ministers. I have to take it off the shelf because it could provide sources of work. A highway like that gives quality to Costa Rica.
—Are you willing to grapple with ministers?
“Oh, I will grapple with anyone for Guanacaste. And let me tell you, I am going to go speak with this one that’s about to leave (the MOPT minister Germán Valverde) and have him tell me why they haven’t called for bids for that project.”
—What other projects do you want to push for?
“It’s also important that our airport (Daniel Oduber) can handle imports and operates 24 hours, because then we will be able to attract companies like Intel that export chips on planes.”
—So it would be for cargo transports and not just passengers?
“No. Let it be for cargo! We have the advantage that it doesn’t have any airport. We don’t have mountains, so airplanes can leave with more cargo.”
—Do you agree with promoting a private concession model across the country to ease the delays in infrastructure?
“Yes, I agree.”
“Because the government is broke. It has no money.”
—Do you promise to unblock the City Government initiative?
“Well…um, when it’s already a city, let me tell you honestly, I can speak but the man (Julio Viales, the mayor of Liberia) has a closed mind.”
—You are from the same party. You don’t get along?
“No, no. Not me. Ask around in Liberia who the mayor is. I have no problem with the mayor, I can speak, the problem that we have is that he doesn’t listen to the city council and you think he is going to listen to me?
—But you are a congresswoman
“Yes, daddy-o, but the city council is the heart of city hall! What makes a successful mayor? One who has a dialogue with the city council.”
—And you don’t think you could establish…
“It’s been tried. Look, we have tried to get the city council and the mayor…look, the city council is the one in charge. I’m going to give you an example. The mayor makes the budget and the city council shows up (he strikes the table) and cuts it up into pieces. So, what is happening? There is no dialogue between the city council and the mayor! And that’s where all city halls fail. If he doesn’t listen to city council, you think he is going to listen to me.
“That’s what you think.”
—You are on another level
“Hmm, but look…”
—So, as a congresswoman you aren’t going to work with the mayor of Liberia?
“No daddy-o, it’s that, no….it’s that you aren’t understanding me. I am in favor of having a dialogue.
—What are you going to do in order to have a good relationship with Guanacaste’s mayors?
“Let me give you the case of the mayor of Tilarán. Juan Pablo (Barquero) is a model mayor, a young guy that has empowered a lot of people in the canton. I would like to copy that from him and tell all the mayors how we empower people in the canton so they can launch their company, train and be successful.”
—How would you make those links?
“Well, that would have to be coordinated with the cities and us looking for advisors that explain to entrepreneurs what the trick is to be able to win.”
—Is your relationship with city halls going to be a close one?
“Yes, it’s going to be a close one and I am going to bring Juan Pablo, with whom I have a good relationship, so he can tell them (city halls) how to launch companies.
—Have you already decided which cantons you are going to be in charge of?
“Yes. Titi, (PLN congressman Luis Antonio Aiza) has to take charge of Santa Cruz, Nicoya, Hojancha and Nandyure and Filadelfia (Carrillo). I have six, Abangares, Cañas, Tilarán, La Cruz, Liberia and Bagaces.”
—Have you met with the heads of the party?
“Yes of course, we have meetings every Monday in San Jose.”
—What are the plans for the next few months?
“Look, right now they are instructing those of us that haven’t been around. There are four congressmen (from the PLN) that have already been in congress, among them Titi (Luis Antonio Aiza). What we have to do is reed the rules (of congress) and they are going to give us courses from Incae. We are in preparation. We are studying topics like how congress operates, accommodating office space and personnel.
—In the meetings that you have been to, what are the topics of priority?
“Look, well you know very well that the defeat hurt us all. That has been talked about a little but but the our reality as a Liberation block is that we have to be willing to have a dialogue, of trying to push the party forward, because if we do a good job and we are all right I think at the end of the day the party will move forward.
—Who are your advisers, Ms. Aida?
“Haha…Look, one adviser is Heriberto Cubero, a guy from Las Juntas de Abangares, who works in ICE.”
—What’s his profession?
“He is like….what he does is when a company wants broadband he goes and does the study to see what ICE can provide”. I met him through the party and he is excellent.”
—And what will be his function as your adviser?
“The function that I want him to have is coordinating with city halls of Tilaran, Cañas and Abangares for me to go and make visits.
—Is there anything that compromises you?
“No, the people I have named is because I am convinced that they can help at different levels. For example, Óscar currently works in the Liberia city hall, he is an adviser to the mayor and, well, that could be an important contact for me. He is going to have to look at La Cruz, Liberia and Bagaces.”
—And other advisers?
“The other one is named Xinia Montano. She is from Liberia but she lives in San Jose. I have known her for 30 years, and not for being a politician. She worked in the OAS. What an interesting woman”.
—And what is she going to help you with?
“No more, no less than being my head of my office. She is going to be permanently by my side and she is going to coordinate all the personnel. The other adviser is Óscar Talavera. He is a politician.”
—Were they selected for you, or did you select them?
“No, no one imposes anything on me.”
—The party hasn’t offered anyone to you?
“If only you knew the number of people who call me. It’s hard. Even Oscar Arias has called me. You don’t even know what kind of pressure that is.
—What is your criteria to select your advisers?
—Did they help you during the campaign?
“Talavera and Heriberto helped me.”