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These stories were published Monday, Jan. 28, 2002
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Green flags and supporters stretch for blocks along Paseo Colon on Sunday  afternoon while a stiltwalker pretends to stumble while waving a party flag. 
Massive turnout gives Liberación a big boost
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Partido Liberación Nacional won the battles of the rallies Sunday with a massive display of depth that dwarfed the efforts of the other major parties.

The Liberationistas wanted 150,000 participants at their afternoon rally in Paseo Colon. They got at least 100,000, and the crowd stretched from the speakers’ area near Purdy Motors all the way to in front of the Hospital de Niños nearly at the head of the six-lane avenue.

Nowhere near that many loyalists showed up seven days earlier for the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana rally featuring presidential candidate Abel Pacheco. The Partido Acción Ciudadana did not see a massive display and has perhaps 3,000 to 4,000 participants total during their rally Saturday.

Even the winds favored the Liberationistas, as a steady 15 to 20 mph breeze kept the green and white party flags standing straight out from their staffs.

Liberationista presidential candidate Rolando Araya had former presidents Luis Alberto Monge and Oscar Arias warm up the crowd. Araya invoked the fallout from the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States twice as he discussed unemployment and problems that could only be solved, he said, with the expertise of his party.

His 30-minute talk was twice as long as the one by Pacheco the previous Sunday, and was delivered with strong emotion.

Araya said he was deeply proud of Costa Rica and outlined the accomplishments of his party, beginning with the war and revolution of 1948. He wore a green jacket, and Channel 6 television carried the speech live while other channels carried the Mexico-Korea and the United States-El Salvador soccer games. In all, the gathering took about six hours, causing diversion of much traffic.

The Partido Acción Ciudadana rally at the Plaza de la Democracia lasted a little less than three hours. The participants were younger than at other political rallies, and many brought youngsters.  There was much coming and going, and police at the scene estimated 

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the participants at from 2,000 to 2,500 at any one time.

Presidential candidate Ottón Solís stressed his desire for change, some of which will be a long time in coming, he said. But some changes can be made by May 8, when the new president takes office, and without spending a lot of money.

He said that he would put managers instead of politicians in key positions to help change the fact that the public sector spends 40 percent of the gross national product.

He said he wants managers who come with master’s degrees in administration and technology from the leading universities, managers who work and don’t talk much.

The elections are next Sunday, Feb. 3, and provisions for a runoff have been made in case no candidate gets the required 40 percent of the vote.

Dry day for tourists

by the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Egad! What happens if you buy air tickets and travel all the way to Costa Rica and there’s no beer?

That was the situation that confronted tourists in San José Saturday and Sunday after the police closed down all liquor and beer sales because of the political rallies being staged within city limits.

Each bar had paper tapes marked with the municipal seal pasted across the doors. Restaurants were on their honor not to serve alcohol, and they did not. Groups of Costa Ricans could be seen watching the national soccer team by television seated a tables with empty soft drink bottles.

In the streets, dazed North American tourists in shorts could be seen wandering from one closed bar to another. Alcohol sales were normal elsewhere, including Escazú.

The red and yellow of the Partido Acción Ciudadana cover Plaza de la Democracia Saturday.
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Corruption moves higher on the list of priorities
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

Corruption is much in the news, particularly in light of the economic disaster that is Argentina.  Citizens there protested over the weekend, in part because they believe they have been robbed and thrown into poverty by a procession of crooked politicians.

Anti-corruption efforts have been linked to pro-democracy efforts at the international level, and several treaties address corruption. One is the InterAmerican Convention against Corruption to which Costa Rica is a signatory.

Negotiations started discussions last week in Vienna on an international treaty against corruption under the auspices of the United Nations.

The United States-led war against drugs has an anti-corruption dimension because drug trafficking cannot take place without official corruption. Some would say that corruption was the reason the United States invaded Panamá to capture Gen. Manuel Noriega in December 1989.

There is a close link between corruption and terrorism, say international experts. Transparency International reported that Vaclav Havel told an anti-corruption conference in Prague late last year that "Fighting corruption is fighting terrorism," and that the United Kingdom is criminalizing the bribery of public officials abroad under the banner of anti-terrorism legislation.

Closer to home, Ottón Solís is running a presidential campaign that stresses fighting corruption, and he has vowed to root out corruption in his administration if elected. Other candidates also have mentioned corruption, but it is not among the top five or six issues this election.

Transparency International (http://www.transparency.org), the organization that rates countries based on their perceived corruption has placed Costa Rica at 40th place, along with Mauritius and just behind South Africa and Lithuania and just ahead of Greece and South Korea.

Meanwhile, this morning, Democrats Abroad will hear Cristina Rojas Rodríguez, a researcher, lawyer and mediator present results of her survey titled "Corruption in  Costa Rica: Causes, Consequences and Countermeasures."

According to U.S. Secretary of State Colin L Powell, corruption "flourishes when democratic institutions are weak, laws are not enforced, political
will is lacking, and when citizens and the media are not allowed to be partners in democracy."

"Corruption and unethical behavior by public officials are serious threats to basic principles of democratic government, undermine public confidence in democracy and threaten the rule of law," he said last May.

César Gaviria, the secretary general of the Organization of American States, earlier this month described corruption as "a terrible cancer that undermines the legitimacy of institutions and the rule of law."  He said the Hemisphere still has a long way to go in its war on this scourge and that disparities between rich and poor also make corruption a social justice issue. 

In a report to the U.S. Congress on conditions in Latin America last spring, the Bush Administration listed some points that need to be considered to serve as barriers to corruption. They include
:
• systems of government hiring and procurement that assure openness, equity and efficiency;

• standards of conduct for public employees; 

• financial disclosure requirements for public employees; laws that deny favorable tax treatment for any individual or corporation for payments that violate laws against corruption; 

• whistleblower protections; 

• oversight bodies with authority to develop new anti-corruption mechanisms; accounting systems


Analysis on the news


and internal accounting controls; addressing the relationship between equitable compensation and probity in public services, and 

• mechanisms to encourage participation by citizens and  non-governmental organizations in efforts to prevent corruption. 

The Bush Administration and others in the U.S. government believe that streamlining government by privatizing some government businesses will reduce corruption. That view is shared in Costa Rica by Otto Guevara, the Movimiento Libertario candidate for president.

The net effect for Costa Rica is that as more international conventions and treaties come into effect, the country will have to make some substantial changes in its laws. The treaties and conventions usually require nations to take certain steps to make their laws conform to an international ideal.

The InterAmerican convention requires signatories to support extradition for corruption offenses and to make certain acts illegal if local law does not already do so. An example is the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, passed by the United States in 1977 that criminalizes corrupt acts by U.S. citizens anywhere in the world.

For some, the preventative to corruption is transparency, hence the name of the international organization. That term means that citizens know what is expected of them to obtain services from the government and that the actions of the government as it responds to citizens is open to inspection.

Costa Rica has an open National Registry where anyone can check the titles to land and other types of ownership. Still, there has been corruption there, and recently 300 employees were reassigned in an investigation of false land ownership titles that had been filed.

In light of such disclosures, some organizations stress that the role of the news media is to keep politicians and public servants honest. A  leading Latin American organization engaged in fighting corruption is El Salvador-based Probidad (http://www.probidad.org), and it has spun off a second organization, Periodistas Frente a la Corrupción (http://www.cipe.org/pfc).

Costa Rica’s vigorous daily press and television stations seem to have no shortage of stories about potential corruption and the arrests of persons so involved. Such stories include reports of bribery, official favoritism, big-rigging, influence-peddling and circumvention of the judicial system.

Because corruption is so closely linked to terrorism, drug trafficking and money laundering, the issue will be getting plenty of mentions, particularly in light of world efforts to attack the networks of any number of terror and drug organizations.

Argentine response
called ‘new paradigm’

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. approach to Argentina's economic problems is part of a Bush Administration effort to construct a "new paradigm" for dealing with global economic crises, says Deputy Treasury Secretary Kenneth Dam.

There is a growing international consensus against large-scale financing for a country whose problems are "rooted in policies and structures," he said told the World Affairs Council.

Argentina defaulted on its foreign debt and devalued its currency after the International Monetary Fund refused to extend new loans to the country in December. Bush Administration policy is to support additional financial assistance for Argentina once the country has committed to a "sound and sustainable" economic plan, Dam said.

Dam confirmed that there continues to be little evidence of global repercussions from Argentina's financial crisis, and credited the International Monetary Fund for helping to contain the damage. 

"Steps were taken by the Fund, through its existing program with Brazil, to give confidence that Argentina's closest neighbor would not fall victim to contagion. And the markets came to see that a workout was inevitable," Dam said.

The Argentina case shows that the international community does not have to face contagion every time a large borrower runs into trouble, Dam said.

"We are thus well along the way to a new paradigm," he said.
 

Duhalde requests
patience from citizens

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina —President Eduardo Duhalde has said he is well-aware of the hardships being experienced by his fellow citizens, but warns that suffering should not threaten to create what he called a "worse" tragedy for the country. 

Duhalde made the comments in a pre-recorded talk Saturday broadcast over Radio Nacional one day after tens of thousands of Argentines staged a nationwide protest. 

Speaking informally in his pre-recorded broadcast Saturday, President Duhalde urged Argentines to give his government time to come up with solutions to the country's dire situation. 

He said after being in office only 25 days, his government has already come up with numerous measures to ease the suffering caused by the lingering recession and the devaluation of the peso.

The Argentine leader also had harsh words for the nation's banks, calling their behavior this past week "shameful." He was referring to their initial lack of response to government decrees easing certain limits on cash withdrawals which were imposed in early December by the ousted government of President Fernando de la Rua. 

Duhalde warned his government will not tolerate such behavior, and will punish banks that do not comply with government orders.

His pre-recorded broadcast was aired one day after tens of thousands of Argentines took to the streets of Buenos Aires and other cities late Friday in the biggest protest since Duhalde took office. Beating pots and pans, marchers denounced the country's politicians for bringing Argentina to ruin through mismanagement and corruption. 

Most of the demonstrators protested peacefully, but there were some clashes between police and rock-throwing youths that resulted in injuries and more than a score of arrests. 

In his talk Saturday, Duhalde said he is well-aware of the hardships being experienced by his fellow citizens, but warned that suffering should not threaten the country's stability. 

"The country has been experiencing street protests, some legitimate, others not, some peaceful, some violent," he said. "I understand the suffering of the people, he said, but be careful because we cannot let our pain lead to an even greater tragedy."

Duhalde became President Jan. 1, the fifth to hold office, including two caretaker presidents, in less than two weeks. Bloody riots and protests forced President Fernando de la Rua to resign Dec. 20 after two years in office. 

Anti-government protests also brought down interim President Adolfo Rodriguez Saa on Dec. 30, barely a week after he was chosen by Congress to govern the country. 

Man takes bullet
as trio seek car

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man believed to be a North American suffered a bullet wound to the stomach when three men tried to take his automobile Saturday night in San Antonio de Escazú

He was identified as Billy Daily, 58. He sought help at a nearby restaurant, Mirador del Valley Azul, where employees helped him until rescue workers arrived and took him to a hospital.

Tax pact reached
with The Bahamas

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Bahamian Finance Minister William Allen signed an agreement Friday on behalf of their respective countries that commits the United States and The Bahamas to sharing tax information with each other, in a cooperative effort to cut off funding to terrorist organizations.

The United States has recently concluded similar landmark tax-information exchange agreements with the Cayman Islands and Antigua & Barbuda. In his signing ceremony statement, O'Neill described The Bahamas as "a recognized leader in the Caribbean" and praised its government for moving quickly "to identify and freeze suspect accounts" in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against New York and Washington.

"By signing this agreement, The Bahamas leaves no doubt that it should be counted among the financial centers of the world that are committed to upholding international standards" and that it "simply will not tolerate the abuse of [its] financial institutions for illicit purposes," O'Neill said. 

Rio group meets here

Heads of state from the 19 Latin and Caribbean countries that belong to the Rio Group will meet in Costa Rica April 11 to discuss world trade promotion and how to combat terrorists, according to the Organization of American States.

New president says
he will fight crime

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Businessman Ricardo Maduro, the new president of Honduras, is promising a "zero" tolerance policy against crime.

Maduro, a former central bank chief, took the presidential oath Sunday at Tegucigalpa's National Stadium. In the crowd was Costa Rica’s president, Miguel Angel Rodríguez.

Speaking before an estimated 35,000 people, he began his four-year term by vowing to fight widespread poverty and criminals who, he says, currently act with impunity. Maduro's son was shot to death five years ago in an apparent kidnapping attempt.

His inaugural ceremony featured a 21-gun salute, while F-15 fighter jets of the Honduran air force flew overhead.

In the November election, Maduro led the conservative National Party to victory over the incumbent Liberal Party. He replaces outgoing president Carlos Flores, who was constitutionally barred from seeking a second term

Policemen killed
in rebel ambush

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombian officials say suspected leftist rebels killed five police officers in an ambush along a northern roadway. 

Authorities suspect rebels with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia were responsible for Saturday's attack in Cesar Department about 600 kms. (360 miles) north of here. Officials say suspected guerrillas with the group, known as FARC, stopped the officers' vehicle by exploding a bomb and then opened fire. 

The attack comes one day after a bomb explosion here killed four police officers and a 5-year-old girl. No one claimed responsibility, but officials blame FARC for that attack also. At least 26 other people were hurt in Friday's blast outside a crowded restaurant across the street from a police station. 

Shortly after the explosion, authorities deactivated a second bomb near another police station in Bogota. A third bomb, hidden in a shopping cart in another part of the city, was also defused. 

The violence comes less than a week after government and rebel negotiators initialed an agreement to continue talks aimed at reaching a ceasefire by April. Colombia has been wracked by civil war since 1964. About 40-thousand people, mostly civilians, have died in the fighting in the past decade alone.

Victims in boat
include newspeople

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazilian news reports say a boat carrying 100 people has sunk in northern Amapa State, killing at least three people. At least 30 others are reported missing. 

Estado News Agency says politicians, journalists and executives were traveling to a political rally when their vessel collided with a raft on Saturday. The agency says the boat sank in about five minutes. Reports say the trip was organized by Brazilian lawmaker Fatima Pelaes, who survived the incident.  Estado quotes a local politician, Iracu Colares, who says passengers are being transported to shore, and an unknown number of people are still trapped inside the boat's hull.

American, British airlines
rejects U.S. conditions

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — American Airlines and British Airways both rejected conditions for antitrust immunity imposed by the U.S. government on their proposed alliance just hours after the U.S. Transportation Department issued the conditions.

The Transportation Department decision would have required the two airlines to shift some business to competitors in an accord that was likely to reshape transatlantic air travel.

"We will not do this deal at this price," American Chairman Don Carty and British Airways Chief Executive Rod Eddington said in a joint statement Friday.

The Transportation Department made its final approval of the alliance conditional on the willingness of the two carriers to give up 224 take-off and landing slots and hand them over to competitors, a Friday news release said.

Currently, only two United Kingdom and two U.S. airlines offer connections between U.S. airports and London's Heathrow Airport. The Transportation Department’s decision would have resulted in 17 new roundtrip daily flights between U.S. cities and Heathrow served by four additional U.S. airlines.

Airline alliances are joint ventures that range from agreements to share frequent-flyer programs to comprehensive integration of marketing and operational efforts involving decisions on price, capacity, schedules and other matters.

U.S. border security
to cost $2 billion

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

PORTLAND, Maine. — President George Bush will ask the U.S. Congress to increase funding for border security in the coming fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 from $8.6 billion to $10.7 billion.

In a speech Friday in Portland, Maine, Bush stressed the importance of preventing the flow of illegal drugs, terrorists, and arms into the United States, but at the same time not tying up commerce.

The administration's budget request for border security includes the following:

— increasing the budget of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) from $4.1 billion to $5.3 billion to modernize systems for tracking foreign visitors to make sure "they're not part of some al-Qaeda network that wants to hit the United States," Bush said.

— increasing the budget of the U.S. Customs Service from $1.7 billion to $2.3 billion to cover the hiring of approximately 800 new inspectors and agents as well as purchase of new technology.

— increasing the budget of the United States Coast Guard from $2.6 billion to $2.9 billion for homeland security related missions for protecting ports and coastal areas — the biggest spending request ever for the Coast Guard, Bush said.

— increasing the budget of the Department of Agriculture from $47 million to $61 million for agriculture quarantine inspection programs.


 
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