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These stories were published Thursday, May 9, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 91
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Pachecos

President Pacheco and his wife visit the crowd that waited for hours alongside the Teatro Nacional Wednesday about 5 p.m. 
 

A.M. Costa Rica photo by Jay Brodell
Security tight for inauguration of president
A.M. Costa Rica photo
Police watch from the roof of the Ministerio de Hacienda.
 
Pacheco’s inauguration speech was full of proposals for new agencies and included a call for a national mental health plan and war on poverty.

Our report:
BELOW

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Under tight security Abel Pacheco, 68, became this country’s president Wednesday. The champion of the common citizen had little contact with those who put him into office. Instead, the inauguration ceremony was colorful and carefully controlled.

Pacheco as president hit the crowd once when he left Teatro Melico Salazar where he took the oath before 800 carefully screened diplomats and invited guests. He did so again in the courtyard of the Teatro Nacional after a three-hour lunch with top diplomats.

He walked down Avenida 2 two blocks to have his first state meal at the Teatro Nacional. But the street had been cleared. School children had been bused in to line the route. But a heavy cordon of Fuerza Publica officers kept adults away. There were no incidents. His lunch guests followed him.

Security officials said they were not worried so much about Pacheco as his guests. Filipe de Borbón, the heir to the Spanish throne was one. Basque terrorists might target him. The president of Colombia, Andrés Pastrana, is a perpetual target. The U.S. delegation headed by Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman could be targeted by countless enemies.

Police were on duty by 6 a.m. clearing Avenida 2, the area around La Solidad Church where morning Mass was held, Teatro Melico Salazar and the plaza in front of the Teatro Nacional. Side streets were blocked. Commanders stationed armed police units on rooftops with binoculars.

Plainclothes security officers even probed every cranny of a large marimba that musicians brought to serenade guests as they walked thorough the gate of Teatro Nacional. West of the theater Calle Principal also was lined by youngsters and sealed off because lesser diplomats walked that way to lunch at the Union Club opposite the main Post Office.

The security posed little problems for traffic because Wednesday was declared to be a holiday, so vehicles, including buses, were not plentiful. Pedestrians were in good humor as were police.

Rain fell while Pacheco was in Teatro Melico Salazar, but sunshine greeted him as he walked east. He was among the last to leave Teatro Nacional. But his guests left in strict diplomatic order amid a flurry of staff, shiny cars and the wail of sirens.

Don't miss Patricia Martin's report 
on the west coast of Nicoya
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School children lined both sides of the path of the president from the Teatro Melico Salazar to the Teatro Nacional. 
A.M. Costa Rica photos
The Pachecos are overwhelmed by students, flags, security and photographers as they reach the Teatro National.
President Pacheco offers abundance of proposals 
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Abel Pacheco, in his presidential inaugural speech Wednesday, proposed a war on poverty.

He also said that a free trade treaty with Canada, now hung up in the National Assembly, should be approved. And he said the country would "with eyes open" consider other free trade agreements, particularly one with the United States and Mexico.

The new president strongly endorsed a new tax plan proposed a month ago by a group of former ministers. Anyone who doesn’t like the plan should not just object but come up with their own solutions to the country’s deep financial crises, he said.

The new president, himself a psychiatrist, said he would push for a national mental health plan for everyone.

He would create a national fishing fleet.

He declared twice that the country would not become an "oil enclave’ or dependent on open pit mining. Instead, he promised to elevate concern for the environment into amendments to the constitution. Offshore drilling has been proposed near Limón, and a firm wants to put in a gold mine north of Cuidad Quesada.

He also said he would create a security council to coordinate all the aspects of citizen well being, including roadway safety. Accidents are the third cause of death in Costa Rica and the second most common cause of handicaps. The council also would handle crime, delinquency and drug trafficking.

He will fight against impunity before the law and work with the Judicial Power to reform the courts.

He also strongly supported tourism but came down hard, as he has in the past, against sex tourism and foreigners or Ticos who would market young men and women to the outside world. Costa Rica will not be a sex destination, he declared unequivocally.

In place of sex tourism, Pacheco said he envisioned Costa Rica as a university center, an Athens of Central America. The country would become a medical, computing, scientific and technical mecca.

The country also would be a place for the promotions and defense of human rights, amplifying its current image as the seat of the InterAmerican Institute of Human Rights, the InterAmerican Court of Human Rights and the U.N.- supported University for Peace.

In short, Pacheco promised to govern with humanism and with honesty: "I will not fail you."

He was talking to about 800 invited guests, mostly diplomats, at the Teatro Melico Salazar on Avenida 2 between noon and 1 p.m.

The effort of ending poverty for 20 percent or some 50,000 families in Costa Rica would not cost any more money because the country now collects enough cash to cure three times the amount of the existing poverty, Pacheco said. His plan is heavy on education with scholarships for poor children, loans for microindustries and state support and supervision of every poor child under 5 years of age. Pacheco had announced his views on fighting poverty March 20 while campaigning.


Waiting youngsters are facinated by the traditional marimba group that welcomed luncheon guests at the Teatro Nacional.
 

Pacheco also recognized outgoing President Miguel Angel Rodríguez for maintaining order and stability while world prices of Costa Rican products tumbled and economic systems were in crises.

Both presidents are from the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana, and Pacheco is seen as someone who will continue the policies put in place by Rodríguez. Rodríguez was at the ceremony and gave an emotional  departure speech and then took off his sash of office and gave it to the president of the National Assembly, Rolando Laclé. There was much hugging. Laclé then swore in Pacheco and put the sash of office on him.

In the audience were these presidents: Alfonso Portillo of Guatemala, Francisco Flores of El Salvador, Ricardo Maduro of Honduras, Enrique Bolaños of Nicaragua, Mireya Moscoso of Panamá, Andrés Pastrana of Colombia and Gustavo Noboa of Ecuador. Also there were Felipe de Borbón, the prince of Asturías and heir to the Spanish throne, César Gaviria, secretary general of the Organization of American States and the first lady of México, Marta Sahagún,

Pacheco told the guests that Costa Rica would compete in the world market with quality and not by paying its people low salaries. He promised to improve the infrastructure of the ports, airports and the road network, as well as modernize energy services, telecommunications and the Internet.

But, said Pacheco, "Economic policy is not an end in itself. Economic development has to serve as the base of human wellbeing."

Pacheco said he has been approached by a group of young people who urged him to guarantee the future of the environment. Therefore, he said he would try to incorporate into the national constitution a chapter of environmental guarantees. This chapter would provide absolute security for first-growth forests so that not a single tree could be cut. The chapter also would protect underground waters sources, rivers and the coral ecosystems, the wetlands, mangroves and the flora and fauna of the forests.

The chapter would be similar to the social welfare guarantees that form the basis of Costa Rican society, he noted.

The entire speech in Spanish is posted at the Casa Presidential Web site: http://www.casapres.go.cr/


 
Carter will talk to Cubans on television during trip
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is expected to deliver a live, televised address to the Cuban people next week when he visits the Communist-run island at the invitation of President Fidel Castro. 

Carter will be the first current or former American president to visit Cuba since the 1959 revolution that brought President Castro to power. 

The Atlanta-based foundation named for Carter says he will deliver his speech next Tuesday at the University of Havana. The topic has not been announced, but President Castro has said the former president is free to issue any criticism he wants. 

The White House, several U.S. lawmakers and Cuban exile groups have urged Carter to address the issues of human rights and democracy during his stay, 

which runs from Sunday through May 17. The 
former president is expected to meet with human rights activists on his last full day on the island. 

Cuba's best known political dissident, Vladimiro Roca, was freed from prison Sunday, after serving all but two months of a five-year sentence for inciting sedition. Activists viewed the release as a goodwill gesture.

The former president says he does not expect the trip to change the Cuban government or its policies. But he does call it an opportunity to explore issues of mutual interest between the United States and Cuba, which do not have formal diplomatic relations. 

Carter has been a critic of U.S. trade sanctions against Cuba. Under U.S. travel restrictions, he had to obtain permission from the U.S. government. 

Chavez says media tries to undermine his power
Special to A.M. Costa Rica 

CARACAS, Venezuela — The President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez Frias, has defended himself against charges that he encourages violence against the press by telling the World Association of Newspapers that the media are trying to "undermine" him. 

In a 90-minute meeting at the presidential palace in Caracas Tuesday, a delegation from the association and the World Editors Forum asked Chavez to investigate attacks on journalists and media, to stop making inflammatory comments about the press that have led to those attacks, and to take other steps to protect press freedom. 

"It is imperative that the president of the country does not, in speeches and in numerous television addresses, use language that could incite violence against media professionals and media enterprises," Pedro Ramirez, editor-in-chief of the Spanish daily El Mundo and a member of the delegation, told Chavez. 

"There is widespread fear among media professionals in Venezuela that they cannot fulfil their professional activities in safety," he said. "The president must assure the media that they need not fear harassment and violence." 

The president replied that the attacks on journalists and newspapers are something to regret, but 

"They are nothing compared to the attacks on Venezuela from the majority of the media." He contended that major media groups had played an active role in the failed coup that briefly ousted him from power April 11 and 12. 

"Most media in Venezuela are deliberately trying to undermine the president's authority and do not show the necessary respect for the office, and for the Venezuelan people," he said. 

Venezuelan journalists and media businesses have reported harassment, intimidation and threats, both before and after the coup. In an apparent government attempt to suppress critical journalism. President Chavez has frequently spoken against journalists in inflammatory terms in political speeches and on radio and television but has spoken of reconciliation since the failed coup. 

The meeting with the Paris-based World Association and the editors’ forum was the first time Chavez has welcomed an international press freedom group since the failed coup. 

The delegation asked President Chavez to fully investigate all attacks on journalists and media and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice. The delegation was particularly concerned with the murder of photographer Jorge Tortoza, who was killed by a sniper shooting from a government building during an anti-Chavez demonstration April 11. 


 
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