Municipalities file unconstitutionality actions against Rodrigo Chaves’ decree

Municipalities file unconstitutionality actions against Rodrigo Chaves’ decree
Municipalities file unconstitutionality actions against Rodrigo Chaves’ decree

Four municipalities filed before the IV Chamber unconstitutionality actions against executive decree 44263-MOPT, published in September 2023 by President Rodrigo Chaves Robles and the then Minister of Public Works and Transport, Luis Amador Jimenezwhich comes into effect next Wednesday, July 10.

This is a decree that redefines which are national roads, under the responsibility of the government, and which are cantonal roads, under municipal supervision.

The plaintiffs are the municipalities of San Ramón, Aserrí, Sarapiquí and Abangares. The action of the latter municipality has already been filed and the Constitutional Court has given a hearing to the Attorney General’s Office (PGR); the Minister of Public Works and Transport, Mauricio Batalla; and the Minister of the Presidency, Laura Fernández.

According to the mayors, this decree is part of the plan of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MOPT) to increase the number of kilometers of the road network serving the 84 municipalities of the country.

The National Association of Mayors and Intendants (ANAI) and the National Union of Local Governments (UNGL) have spoken out against the initiative, and claim that the transfer of routes to the municipalities would be done without giving them the necessary budgetary resources to serve the 3,071 kilometers of both tertiary and secondary roads.

Municipality of Abangares: Decree violates the Political Constitution

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Mauricio Batalla, current head of the MOPT, has advocated for the transfer of national routes to the cantonal road network. In this sense, he supports the decree signed by President Rodrigo Chaves. Photo: (JOHANFRED)

The nation had access to the action filed by the mayor of Abangares, Javier Bogantes Castroon June 24, representing the Guanacaste municipality. The claim was filed under file 24-016409-0007-CO.

Bogantes argued that the decree signed by Amador and Chaves violates Article 170 of the Political Constitution, which establishes that municipal corporations are autonomous. The mayor also argued that the constitutional principles of reserve of law, reasonableness and proportionality are violated.

“The regulation is challenged because it defines new conditions for both the national road network and the cantonal road network, in such a way that, tacitly, it transfers via decree more than 3,000 kilometers of road network to the municipalities, without complying with the constitutional and legal requirements and without the transfer of resources to be able to fulfill the responsibilities,” details the action filed.

According to the mayor of Abangares, transferring full and exclusive attention to a part of the national road network is giving a new competence to the municipalities and, therefore, It must be done through a bill.

He also claimed that the MOPT is trying to avoid its legal and constitutional responsibilities. He said that Minister Batalla has expressed this intention, recognizing that the National Road Council (Conavi) does not have sufficient resources to take care of the national road network.

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“By getting rid of 3,071 kilometers, they would be left with around 4,908 kilometers. On the other hand, local governments that currently manage 83% of the country’s entire road network would add 3,071 km of national routes to the 38,032 km that they already own,” the appeal states.

The ANAI confirmed to The nation what More municipalities are preparing to present actions of unconstitutionality against the presidential decree, although he did not specify which or how many, since the proposal must still be approved by the respective municipal councils.

According to Minister Batalla, the government’s objective is to transfer to the municipalities the responsibility of attending routes that are not essential or of strategic importanceas are the roads that lead to ports, airports and borders.

The nation He confirmed that the official held a virtual meeting with the mayors last Friday, June 21. The minister confirmed that he intended to explain to them the percentage of money that will be transferred to them, the number of kilometers of roads that they will service and how the process of handing over the roads will be carried out.

The mayor of Río Cuarto, José Miguel Jiménez, who participated in the meeting with the minister, indicated that they offered to grant the municipalities 12% of what is collected with the single tax on fuels although, according to data from UNGL, Conavi has assigned and 21.75% of that tax to attend to the roads that it now intends to move.

MOPT denies that decree is unconstitutional

On June 19, Minister Mauricio Batalla stated that Executive Decree 44263-MOPT aims to establish which roads in the country are of strategic interest to the Executive and which are not. Based on this document, they will decide which roads will be delegated to the municipalities.

Their position differs from the analysis carried out by ANAI and UNGL. These organizations claim that the MOPT decree seeks to carry out the immediate transfer of highways, which violates articles 170 and 171 of the Political Constitution and the General Law on the Transfer of Powers from the Executive Branch to Municipalities.

For this reason, UNGL, ANAI and the municipal federations sent a letter to President Rodrigo Chaves on June 21, in which they requested that the decree be repealed. They gave the Executive Branch until June 30 to respond to their requests, but they had not received a response until July 4.

Last Friday, June 21st The nation He asked the MOPT which funds would be transferred to the municipalities, where this money would come from, the approximate amount and the percentage it represents in relation to the total funds allocated to road infrastructure. However, no response was obtained to these queries.

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Later, the Vice Minister of Infrastructure and executive director of Conavi, Efraím Zeledón, declared that the project is not new, but that it was worked on by the administration of Luis Amador (former head of the MOPT) with the previous mayors. He added that a public consultation was held but only two people expressed their discontent.

“It is something that has been worked on, it is not as it has been misinterpreted, that the Ministry wants to score a goal or something like that, there is really no bad intention. Many municipalities have the idea that the decree includes a list of routes that will be automatically transferred, that is not correct. The decree only establishes the parameters to define which routes are not part of the strategic network and could be transferred to the cantonal road network,” said Zeledón.

“We have spoken with many mayors who are aware that at this time, due to budgetary limitations, the MOPT and Conavi cannot take on routes that are not strategic for us. It is very difficult for us to serve them. Many mayors see this as something positive because they can define how to serve the routes,” added the vice minister.

Finally, Zeledón indicated that under current legislation there is no regulatory framework that allows the transfer of national routes to cantonal routes, and that this decree would open that possibility.

The decree criticized by the municipalities was signed on September 19, 2023, by the then head of the MOPT, Luis Amador, and the President of the Republic, Rodrigo Chaves. Photo: (Jose Cordero)

ANAI and UNGL reject proposal to transfer kilometers of roads to them without a budget

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