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(506) 2223-1327        Published Friday, Aug. 8, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 157       E-mail us
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Police units raid 13 more locations for prostitution
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security ministry initiated a sweep of brothels Thursday. All 13 ended up being closed by municipal officials because the businesses lacked a license or had an expired license, officials said.

Some were decidedly low-budget, catering mainly to working class Costa Ricans. But some, including the The Pirate Club at Avenida 10 between calles 12 and 14, were known in the expat community. Also raided were the venerable Idem and a firm called Eros on Calle 9 between avenidas 8 and 10, according to a reader who saw police there.

Idem, almost a tourist attraction, has been in business as a so-called pension for at least 30 years.

Officials did not supply a list of those places raided, but they did provide photos, including some of The Pirate Club. That location rents rooms for $30 to $50 an hour, according to its Web site. It also says it offers "Therapeutic Massages for both Men & Women."

Immigration agents detained 19 women and a man who were believed to be in the country illegally. They are being investigated. They are Colombians and Nicaraguans.

The lead agency in the sweep was the ministry's  Dirección de Investigaciones Especializadas. Agents were accompanied by Fuerza Pública officers, the Policía Especial de Migración and members of the Policía Municipal. July 25 it was
Pirate Club raid
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo
Fuerza Pública and municipal police await the results of an inspection of The Pirate Club.

the municipal police that headed raids on four brothels in Barrio Amón.

Most of the places raided Thursday styled themselves as massage parlors, according to the Ministerio Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. Some advertised themselves as a pension, a Latin version of a rooming house.

Officials also said that some businesses were dispensing alcohol without a permit. The raids took place all over the capital city.

Agents said they were attracted to some of the businesses by their suggestive signs.


Shriners seek help in locating youngsters in need of treatment
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Shriners in Costa Rica are searching for kids. They seek kids suffering from a host of maladies. The goal is to make them better.

This is the organization that is perhaps best known for the Shrine burn hospitals where injured youngsters get a new lease on a normal life.

According to Shriner Robert W. McInnes the organization here plans to hold a mass examination of youngsters whom the Shriners might be able to help.

He gives this partial list of maladies that the organization's physicians can address:

Scoliosis and spinal deformities, Clubfoot and related deformities, Osteogenesis imperfections, spinal bifida/myelodysplasia, neuromuscular disorders, hand problems, hip disorders, orthopedic problems resulting from cerebral palsy, missing limbs/limb deficiencies, Leg-length discrepancies, metabolic bone disease, skeletal growth abnormalities, spinal cord injuries, burn injuries and cleft palate.
The Shriners in Costa Rica are associated with the Abou Saad Shrine in Panamá. There last year 5,000 people lined up at 4 a.m. for an evaluation, said McInnis, adding that 450 were selected for treatment.

McInnes said Shriners here in conjunction with the 20/30 Club want to do something similar next April or May. A medical team from the United States will be here to examine youngsters, and he expects immediate visa support from U.S. Embassy personnel so the children can go north for treatment. Shriners maintain 23 hospitals throughout the United States.

What McInnes and others want now is preliminary contact with children who can use the help. Once selected, the children receive support from the Shriners until they are 18.

He said expats can contact the 20/30 Club at 2260-8148 or Shriners at 2203-3227 to provide names and contact information of children who need the free medical care.

"We need them to contact us so we can help them," he said.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 8, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 157

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Our reader's opinion
Reader urged rational decision
on U.S. presidential race


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The democratic process is founded on the concept of informed consent which relies on the dissemination of accurate, unbiased INFORMATION about the issues at hand.

Sadly, every time the electorate in the U. S. faces historical choice points like the one before it now in the presidential race, factual information gets tossed overboard in favor of sound bites and slogan mongering like the articles* printed recently in A. M. Costa Rica labeling Obama as a socialist. This has become all the rage among right wingers of late. This guy's a socialist, that program's socialist, and so on and so forth ad nauseum.   
 
When the U. S. finished its beat-down of the Soviet Union, and Russia was  transformed into an emerging buddy to America instead of the Land of the Godless Commies, it was obvious that a new "enemy of the State" would have to be chosen, and the clear choice of the right wing was/is the lefties/liberals and their "socialist agenda." These tactics of the right wing are an insult to the democratic process and the American voter. It's a sly attempt to connect liberal thinking with Communism in the minds of the voters, to take all the evil and dark history of an external enemy and transfer it to an internal political opponent. It's the 50's and McCarthyism all over again.

Half the people bandying the word "socialism" about probably don't even know what it means. The Oxford American Dictionary defines it as: "a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole."

Pretty straight forward. Not very nasty-lefty-Commie. Seems damned logical! (Unfortunatley, as systems go, "socialismo" just doesn't seem to work that well, and socialist governments end up pointing great big guns at their citizens to keep them from running away to live in countries that AREN'T Socialist. Go figure.)

But when you scroll down to the THESAURUS you get "leftism, welfarism; radicalism, progressivism, social democracy; communism, Marxism, labor movement." FASCINATING, ain't it? That's one helluva conceptual jump from definition to perception. It's the kind of leap we're witnessing right now via a national campaign fueled to whack out Obama via disinformation and character assassination. "He's not progressive, he's RADICAL!"

The dictionary goes on to state that: "The term “socialism” has been used to describe positions as far apart as anarchism, Soviet state communism, and social democracy; however, it necessarily implies an opposition to the untrammeled workings of the economic market"

And therein lies the gist of the issue: opposition to the UNTRAMMELED (uncontrolled/unregulated) workings of the economic market" Business people don't like to be told how to run their businesses. Completely understandable, but if history has taught us anything, it's that when left to its own devices, the business community often becomes blind to the effect its practices have on the community/state/nation. Liberals generally want to see things regulated, conservatives don't. It's that simple.

But this is how the campaign process works: You take a simple concept based on an idea that is only radical in nature to a specific group of people because it has the potential to ding their wallets a bit, you hire slick advertising firms and pithy speech writers and throw millions of dollars at them, and you attempt to misrepresent the issue and blow it up to the size of the bogey man's boxer shorts to scare the hell out of people in the hope that they'll jump to conclusions and charge off to the voting booth to strike a blow against "creeping Socialism" instead of sitting down and digesting the issues rationally.

The problem with this kind of political strategy is that it's shallow and disingenuous by nature because it ignores the "big picture" in favor of picking and choosing what serves one party or another while ignoring the obvious contradictions. Are the people who've decided to bail out the lending institutions Fannie Mae and Feddie Mac socialists? How about the suits in favor of bailing out General Motors? Remember when the gov decided to throw a multi-billion dollar life preserver to the CITY OF NEW YORK? Don't these actions imply "an opposition to the untrammeled workings of the economic market?"

Bloody Bolsheviks!

I urge everyone who will be touched by the upcoming election in the U. S. to ignore those who would dismiss EITHER candidate out of hand based on labels and slogans. Take responsibility for your decisions and examine the issues carefully before deciding where you'll put your faith and your vote. Don't be stampeded into an uninformed choice by the disinformation mongers.
Dean Barbour 
Manuel Antonio

* Mr. Barbour refers to a letter to the editor that appeared here Thursday.

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Olympics beginning with opening ceremony early today
By Melissa Hinkley
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Eight Costa Ricans are competing in the 2008 Summer Olympics held in Beijing, China.  The eight will make their entrance along with 10,500 other athletes from 205 other countries.   The opening ceremony is scheduled to begin at 8:08 p.m. Chinese time and is being called the most spectacular Olympic opening ceremony ever produced.

The number 8 is considered lucky, so the games are starting in the eight day of the eighth month of 2008 at 8:08 p.m.

Local television coverage here begins at 6 a.m. on channels 6 and 7. There also will be coverage on cable stations as well as network feeds from the United States. NBC is replaying the opening ceremony tonight, and some cable systems here carry NBC.
 
Terra, Latin America's largest Internet company, will be broadcasting the 17-day event through Internet and by cellular phone.  Terra will be the only company with exclusive Internet broadcasting rights in Latin America.  Terra broadcasts to 18 countries including Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua.  Users will be able to stay updated on Olympic athletes, medal rankings, event times and so on.     

The opening ceremony today will feature performances from a cast of nearly 15,000 including Canada's Celine Dion, China's Liu Huan, Britain's Sarah Brightman and Taiwan's Jay Chou.  The three-and-a-half hour ceremony is estimated to tobe budget buster.  Although it is foreseen
as being extraordinary, much controversy has accompanied the ceremony as well as the Olympics.  The Australian athletic team would not allow its athletes to take part in the ceremony due to the excessive pollution that has consistently plagued Beijing . 

In order to alleviate some pollution concerns, Beijing is placing restrictions based on the license plate numbers of vehicles, much like Costa Rica.  The restrictions will only allow citizens to drive every other day until Sept. 20  In order to enforce the new regulations, more than 10,000 devices have been installed to catch those breaking the laws.  The new regulations will reduce the amount of vehicles by half, eliminating over 1.5 million cars from the street.

Beijing has made some other pricey modifications in preparation for the games including the construction of the Olympic facilities, the “Bird's Nest” and the “Water Cube.”  These, along with 31 Olympic Games venues, were constructed in order to efficiently facilitate the 28 sports and 302 events. 

The most prominent building is the $500 million Beijing National Stadium, nicknamed the “Bird's Nest” because of the twisting steel sections forming the exterior.  The opening ceremonies and other athletic events will take place in the 91,000 seat stadium.  The “Water Cube” or the national swimming center was also built in preparation for the games, costing $100 million. 

The exterior of the building looks like giant bubbles and is constructed to react to changing light conditions. 


Rodrigo Arias defends administration over adviser payments
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rodrigo Arias Sánchez spent five hours before a legislative committee Thursday defending the Arias administration's use of money to hire more than 80 advisers in transactions that were not listed in the national budget.

Arias, the brother to the president, came prepared with a 14-page statement and only appeared to become grouchy when pressed by a Movimiento Libertario lawmaker over who actually arranged the deal with the  Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica.

He finally said he was the one who set up the system whereby the bank would pay Costa Ricans directly for work attributed to them by Casa Presidencial.

The development bank appears to have allocated for two years $1 million to each of the Central America member states. The payments were not part of the budget, and the bank maintains looser rules on who can be paid than does the Costa Rica regulations. Rodrigo Arias maintained that the money belonged to the bank and not the Costa Rica people and, therefore, need not have been listed in the budget.

Rodrigo Arias admitted that there was no formal application process for the advisors. He also urged lawmakers to set up
a plan so that future presidents can hired directly trusted advisers and pay them substantial salaries. So far any written reports or documents produced by the many advisers have not surfaced.

Rodrigo Arias insisted that the money did not represent a secret account. La Nación revealed the existence of the contracts with advisers June 30. The same day Casa Presidencial released a short list of individuals and companies that had been paid, presumably for providing political advice to the presidency.

Later the list grew to 82 entities and the existence of another slush fund, this one in the housing ministry, was revealed. The housing money came from $1.5 million donation for the poor of Pavas by the Government of Taiwan.  Fernando Zumbado resigned as minister of Vivienda this week because of his role in the conversion of the money from Taiwan. The Ministerio Público, the prosecutorial agency, is investigating.

One of those hired by the presidency was Federico Sosto López, who happens to be the substitute magistrate on the Corte Suprema de Justicia. Sosto is supposed to appear before the same committee, the  Comisión Legislativa de Ingreso y Gasto Públicos, today. Critics have said that his judicial job and the contract with the presidency represents a conflict of interest.


Tiny vehicles win praise in the battle of the fuel budget
Both the weather outdoors and my own indoor weather (so to speak) have meant that lately I have been doing a lot of reading and watching TV.  The big subject being discussed right now in the U.S. race for president is the rising cost of oil.  (Not to mention the rising cost of everything else, both in the U.S. and the rest of the world). 

After listening to all of the talk, I am not sure whether the concern is that the people of the U.S. are addicted to oil, to foreign oil, or to driving themselves where they want to go when they want to go there.

This is important because this addiction seems to be contagious.  And overcoming it depends upon how it is seen.  If it is just foreign oil, then the country will simply drill everywhere it can within its borders and surrounding waters, or declare war on a country with oil and annex it. And pollution, if not global warming marches on. 

If it is an addiction to oil, then kicking that is figuring out new ways of making energy, energy one hopes, that will not do the damage done by the fuel made from petroleum, and from plastics and other items (which seem countless) that use petroleum. Kicking the addiction to driving your own car is a far more difficult matter.  It would require mass transportation more convenient and faster than cars are now.  That might be possible. 

Once trains were more efficient than stagecoaches.  And we still have planes for long distances. I remember when I was in Mexico City the Volkswagen cars without doors on the passenger side that would pick up passengers the length of the city street. One could get off or off anywhere along the line. I thought them a great idea.  So much easier than parking your car at each new stop or paying for city parking. 

Stores would have to be built closer to homes or vice versa. Perhaps it would be the death of suburbia, as we know it.  In the cities, for some time now, new high rises are including stores, offices and apartments. 

Or maybe the addiction is simply an addiction to the latest fad, to “keeping up with the Joneses.”  Owning and driving SUVs and Hummers seemed to fit under that category.  Lately on the streets of  San José I have noticed more and more cute little cars — smart cars and super-minis are two of the names, I believe they are called. They look like the cabs of semis to me. They are being made in England and in Europe and sold in at least 25 countries.  I read that the Swiss company that started
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

making them presented the idea to General Motors, who turned it down as non-profitable. 

But they are attracting more and more positive attention, get good mileage and you can park three in the space an SUV takes (very important in San José and surrounding suburbs).  They won’t cure the addiction to driving your own car, but they will make that addiction less costly to individuals and the environment.  And they will seem less formidable to pedestrians. and bicyclists. Of course, more of them might be run over by city buses, which is where I will be.

I have no idea how I am going to segue into the topic of monotheism,  except to quote Sophocles’ warning that “Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse.”  I have been reading "The Alphabet versus the Goddess" by Leonard Shlain.  The subject includes ancient religions in the Middle East.  According to Schlain, most of the civilizations bordering on the Mediterranean were polytheistic with their Gods often personifying human emotions and traits.

It was the Hebrews who came upon monotheism and the concept of an abstract being, who could be accessed through words, not through images, dance and group rituals.  And it was the alphabet and the rise of literacy that helped a God replace polytheism.

Before the advent of one God, there were wars, wars for land, for women, for booty or to avenge a perceived wrong, but there were no religious wars before monotheism.  Human sacrifice ended, but human torture flourished.  The curse of this “vast” happening is that there is no end to religious wars.  Even now, that most cultures in the “civilized’ world have settled into accepting one God instead of many, wars continue because believers are arguing over the path or road one must take to properly worship that God. 

My suggestion is that we abandon tanks and Hummers and bombers (gas-guzzlers, all), get into smart cars and then the road will be wide enough for everyone.  The destination seems to be the same, just don’t try to take up so much space.  I’ll wave to you from the bus.



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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 8, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 157


U.S. Embassy says Heredia school harbored runaway moms
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. embassy letter says that the European School in Heredia was known for harboring fugitive children and that's why embassy personnel had to investigate the case of Chere Lyn Tomayko with care. Revealing the letter this week was part of a initiative by embassy workers to show they had not made mistakes in the case.

The letter was shown by an embassy representative to a reporter. The letter had no name or official markings, but the embassy representative said it outlined the steps taken by the embassy in the Tomayko case and that all the statements made in the letter were factual.

The school's director denied the allegation.

Ms. Tomayko is wanted by a U.S. federal court to face a parental kidnapping charge. She fled Texas with her two daughters Alexandria and Chandler in 1997 and has been living in Costa Rica for years, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. She was believed to be living in Heredia and teaching at the European School. The security minister granted Ms. Tomayko refugee status July 23 after Ms. Tomayko alleged that her ex-boyfriend in Texas, Roger Cyprian, abused her.

The letter from the U.S. Embassy regarding the case said, “According to Sylvia, the European School at that time was known to harbor children from other countries. . . The school accepted the stories  of the taking mother that the father was abusive and therefore should not be returned.”

The letter did not say who Sylvia was, but stated that because of this information inquiries at the European School had to made in secret. “Any contact with the school would likely have warned Tomayko of our interest,” stated the letter.

An A.M. Costa Rica reporter, acting on behalf of a reader, alerted an embassy diplomat in 2002 that Ms. Tomayko was at the school in Heredia. Subsequently the newspaper has criticized employees here for fumbling the case and suggested that embassy workers deliberately put off arresting Ms. Tomayko until her daughter turned 18 and could not be returned to her biological father.

The director of the school, Anne Aronson, denied on the phone Thursday the embassy claims that her school harbored fugitives. She also said Ms. Tomayko never taught at the European School and that her daughter, Alexandria, only attended the school for about a year.  The school director said that there were, however, previous cases of children of  fugitive mothers attending the school.

“You never know it until the case comes up in the newspaper,” said the school director. About seven years ago a mother called Ms. Aronson saying that the police were arresting her, said the director. Ms. Arsonson said she was shocked by the news and had no idea the mother was a fugitive. She also said she absolutely did not realize Ms. Tomayko was a fugitive until she saw a picture of Alexandria recently in the newspaper and recognized her as a former student. 

Ms. Aronson said she checks the police records of her teachers as required by Costa Rican law to get a work permit. She does not do so for students or their parents, as this is not required by law, she said. 
The letter from the U.S. Embassy also said the embassy contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2002.  Cyprian said Thursday he never received any of that information. “I can tell you that I never heard that the FBI or the U.S. Embassy knew where Chere was.  So this is news to me,” said Cyprian in an e-mail Thursday. Cyprian had been working with FBI agents in Texas on the case.

The embassy showed a reporter a document from the FBI Dallas-Fort Worth branch to the FBI Miami division Liaison Office. The document was dated Feb. 12, 2002. That was five days after a reporter notified the embassy of Ms. Tomayko's possible whereabouts. Beverly Esselbach, the FBI community outreach coordinator in Dallas, confirmed Thursday that the document was authentic, although she said she could not confirm from where the bureau had received a tip. If the embassy had the document, that means the two organizations had some sort of contact, said Ms. Esselbach

There seems to be little information about what happened after that tip was received.

The embassy letter also said, “A.M. Costa Rica routinely states that Tomayko was on the FBI's 10-most-wanted list, so it is therefore inconceivable that we could have been so inept as to miss her all these years. In fact, Tomayko was on a wanted list of parental child abductions with dozens of others but never on the 10-most-wanted list.”

In an official statement released July 24 by the U.S. embassy contradicts part of this statement and says “Ms. Tomayko was on the list of the 10-most-wanted by the FBI, for kidnapping of minors.” A reporter saw Ms. Tomayko's photo on the 10-most-wanted list along with Osama Bin Ladin in 2002.

The embassy letter also denied that the case had anything to do with race and employees did not even know Cyprian was black until the news came out in A.M. Costa Rica in 2007.  The embassy woman working on the case, Isabel Picado, who had spoken with Cyprian on the phone, was “dumbfounded” when she heard this information, according to an embassy document. 

The FBI Web site had a clear picture of Alexandria and Ms. Tomayko for many years. Also the 2002 FBI document stated that both of Ms. Tomayko's daughters were biracial.

The question still remains as to what was going in the investigation between 2002, when the tip was received  until 2006. The embassy letter simply states that there were, “sporadic e-mails” during these five years.

Many of the statements in the unattributed letter parallel those made in e-mails to Cyprian by David Dreher, the current consul general at the embassy. He blamed the FBI  and not the embassy for fumbling the case. However, he never has spoken with A.M. Costa Rica and has not acted on e-mailed invitations to do so. He told Cyprian he was basing his opinion of the case on information contained in embassy files. Most U.S. diplomats who were there in 2002 are not there now.

A.M. Costa Rica has called editorial for an independent investigation of how embassy workers handled the case.

The FBI agent in Texas who worked on the Tomayko case since 2000 said on the phone Thursday that he could not give any comment.


México's Caderón asks legislators to get tough on kidnappers
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican President Felipe Calderón has sent a new initiative to his country's congress that would impose life in prison for those convicted of several categories of kidnapping, including current or former policemen involved in the crime. Mexico has one of the highest rates of kidnapping in the world, and police have often been linked to cases around the country.

In a televised speech Thursday, Calderón called on the legislative body to take action soon on a proposed reform that would stiffen penalties for kidnapping.

He said he is sending this proposal to the congress because the Mexican people demand stronger penalties for vicious and cruel crimes. He said he wants to end the impunity enjoyed by many kidnappers, especially those who are law enforcement officers.

He said the sentence of life in prison should be given to police officials and former police officials who are convicted of involvement in kidnapping. He also said the penalty should apply in several other circumstances including cases where the victim is a minor or an invalid and cases in which the victim is mutilated.

In recent days Mexican news reports have provided grim details about the death of a 14-year-old boy who was kidnapped off a México City street in June. His body was found last week. The victim, Fernando Marti, was the son
of a prominent businessman, who paid the ransom the kidnappers demanded and still lost his son.

Such stories are common in México at all class levels. For many years, kidnappers concentrated on rich businessmen, show business personalities and, occasionally, foreign visitors involved in business investments here. Now, there are cases of relatively poor people being targeted.

Some commentators here have described kidnapping as an act of terrorism, although in Mexico the motive is generally money rather than politics. There have been cases of victims being tortured and mutilated by their captors. Sometimes the kidnappers will send an ear or finger to the parents of the victim to put pressure on them.

Most kidnapping cases go unsolved and the perpetrators remain at large. In many cases that have been resolved, investigators found that policemen were involved. Prosecutors believe police officials provided information to the kidnappers of Fernando Marti, and several police officers have been detained for questioning.

Since taking office in 2006, Calderón has launched major offensives against organized crime, concentrating for the most part on drug traffickers. The violent criminal gangs have killed hundreds of people in the past few years, including many policemen. This week a high-ranking homicide investigator in Juárez, on the U.S. border, was killed in a hail of gunfire outside his home. He was the fourth officer to die there in the past week.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 8, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 157


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U.S. expresses its concern
over decrees by Chávez


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United States Thursday expressed concern about recent moves by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to expand his powers through a series of executive decrees. The decrees, made public this week, have spurred domestic protests.

The State Department is calling the rule by decree effort by Chávez worrisome, and it says the controversial Venezuelan leader appears to be trying to take, by fiat, powers he had been denied by the country's voters in a referendum last year.

Officials in Caracas said Chávez issued a set of 26 presidential decrees last week, at the end of an 18-month period in which he had been given special authority by the country's national assembly.

The decrees, which were only made public by the government Monday, give Chávez — among other things — the power to appoint regional leaders with broad budgetary powers, and to set up a civilian militia that critics say rivals the existing military and would emulate civilian monitoring groups that control many aspects of life in Cuba. Other decrees would allow the Venezuelan leader to expropriate goods from private businesses and increase state control over food distribution.

Domestic critics of Chávez have called the action the equivalent of a coup-d'etat and a protest march by about 1,000 people in Caracas Wednesday was blocked by police using tear-gas.

At a news briefing, Gonzalo Gallegos, the State Department acting spokesman, said rule by fiat runs counter to fundamental principles to which Venezuela is committed under the Inter-American Democratic Charter. He said the way the new laws were presented deprived Venezuelans of their right to debate them.

The defeated referendum would have imposed radical economic changes and allowed Chávez to run for re-election indefinitely. After his electoral setback, the Venezuelan leader, who has clashed repeatedly with the Bush administration, appeared to be taking a less confrontational approach.

But his domestic opponents have been alarmed by the decrees and other recent developments, including a decision by the country's Supreme Court to bar more than 250 people from running for office in November elections, while they are being investigated by the pro-Chávez state comptroller-general on corruption charges. Those affected are mainly aligned with the opposition including a popular Chávez critic, Leopoldo López, who would be prevented from running for mayor of Caracas.

Chávez said in a speech late Wednesday that concerns about his new decrees are overblown and that he is acting lawfully for the benefit of the entire country. He said anyone who objects to his decrees is free to challenge them in the supreme court, though critics of the populist leader say that would be futile given that six of its seven members are considered Chávez supporters.

Protest leaders have vowed more marches including a larger one in the capital Saturday.


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