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predicted for Costa Rica
By Jay Brodell
Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera frankly told Democrats Monday that he was speaking to convince them that his candidate should win the Costa Rican presidential election.
Solís, who taught political science at the University of Michigan, did so in fluent English. His candidate is Rolando Araya, of the Liberation National party.
|Solís, as the candidate's
coordinator for foreign affairs, is a likely foreign minister in an Araya
government, he agreed after his talk.
So his words carried weight. In short, he sees a very tight race, played out on the television screen with possible influences by third-party candidates with from 75 to 80 percent of those eligible finally voting. Thanks to television, "the shallowness is going to be horrendous," he said of the campaign.
No matter who wins, Solís said, the new president will not have a strong mandate due to the close vote, he predicted. "Bipartisanship remains a strong element of Costa Rican politics," he said.
The current president, Miguel Angel Rodriquez, is a member of Partido Unidad Social Cristiana. He can't run again. But Abel Pacheco of the same party is showing more strength in surveys than Araya.
Solís said Pacheco, a career politician, is perceived as not being a politician by the public. He admitted that Pacheco seems to be less stiff in public than his candidate, Araya, who has a habit of keeping his chin in his chest.
The election is Feb. 3, the first Sunday of that month
Two minor party candidates concern Solís, he said. One is Ottón Solís, the charismatic candidate of the new Acción Ciudadana Party. The other is Otto Guevara of Movimiento Libertario. Both these candidates can take votes away from the major candidates, and a showing of more than 5 percent of the popular vote by Ottón Solís would mean trouble for Araya, Luis Guillermo Solís said.
The speaker likened the minor party candidates to Ralph Nader's candidacy in the U.S. presidential elections, a sore spot for U.S. Democrats in Costa Rica, many of whom feel Nader pulled enough votes from their party to give the election to George Bush.
Solís said that scandals involving the major parties would help the minor candidates who stress anti-corruption proposals. Solís referred directly to news reports Monday of how current deputies had interceded with government officials to win visas for Chinese immigrants. He characterized the visas as having been sold.
Despite the abundance of other issues to be addressed in Costa Rican life, the campaign will be played out over these four, he predicted:
Revamping the Costa Rican economy, which still principally is agrarian, is vital, he said, noting that the major national economic indicator, the gross domestic product, is in "serious condition" and that the colon is overvalued.
His solution, he said, is a return to the strong welfare state of 20 years ago where governmental power, made more efficient, can provide low-interest housing loans, eliminate poverty and champion health reforms. A strong central government is vital to development, he said. Economic reverses in the 1980s deflated the state's power then.
"Capitalist progressive states are strong states," he said. He got no argument from the more than 40 Democrats in the audience at the Gran Hotel Costa Rica, particularly when he invoked the name of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, also a Democrat, who pioneered social legislation in the 1930s. Ironically, most of his audience are U.S. citizens who will not be voting in Costa Rica's elections.
To make his point about a strong central government, Solís displayed his Costa Rican cedula of identity. Many U.S. students he has met here feared the cedula as an example of author George Orwell's Big Brother, he said. Then he produced his U.S. Social Security card and characterized it as being worse in terms of personal privacy than the cedula. The point was that the United States maintains a stronger central government.
Solís, trained as an historian, is a political science professor and an associate dean at the University of Costa Rica and project manager of Trans-border Cooperation in Central America as part of the Foundation for Peace and Democracy
Some of Luis Guillermo Solís' other points in his talk Monday:
• Peasants are dying all over the world, including in the United States, in part, because of globalization and increased commerce in agricultural products. "You subsidize agriculture, or they die."
• "Central America is a real mess" because of irresponsible treatment of the regional agenda. There is increasing poverty, tension at borders and a lack of a regional vision. "We need the rest of the region" even though "some Costa Ricans think we should have appeared in the middle of Europe. . . " instead as part of Central America.
• Costa Rica's alliances with other Latin countries have weakened. There is no dialogue with the Southern Cone of Chile and Argentina. More contact needs to be engineered with Mexico, the United States and Canada, which have created the North American Free Trade Alliance.
• There are all sorts of reasons for Nicaragua and Costa Rica to have better communication. Despite the possibility that Daniel Ortega, the Sandinista leader, might be elected president in Nicaragua, Costa Rica must deal with whatever government comes to power there democratically, no matter what the United States does.
• "In Spanish the word for 'accountability' is hard to find." Nevertheless there is a need for public control of public action, perhaps more access to records and what is being called transparency of government.
• As abortions are outlawed, abortions are continuing to be performed in Costa Rica," but "it's going to be many, many years" before Costa Rica legalizes abortion as has been done in the United States, in part, because of the influence of the Catholic Church.
• Journalists should be liable if they say something that is not true.
The press should be responsible for what it publishes.
|Powell will make a visit to Colombia
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell will visit Colombia Sept. 11 to 12 after participating in the Organization of American States Special General Assembly in Lima Sept. 10 to 11, the State Department said Monday.
In Colombia, he will meet with President Andres Pastrana and other Colombian officials in order to underscore continuing U.S. government support for Colombia's efforts to combat the illicit drug trade, strengthen its democratic institutions, and promote economic and social development, the department announcement said.
He will also meet with other sectors of Colombian civil society.
The trip announcement comes the week after a Colombian senator introduced
legislation in the National Congress to legalize drugs. The U.S.-backed
program of aerial spraying to kill cocoa plants and poppies also is under
attack because Colombian peasants claim they are being made ill by the
chemicals being used.
But he will not go to South Africa
The United States says Secretary of State Colin Powell will boycott the U.N. Conference on Racism beginning Friday in South Africa because of what it calls offensive anti-Israel language in the agenda.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Monday the exact nature and level of U.S. representation, if any, is still being considered. Boucher also said that last minute attempts by conference organizers to remove the offensive language from the agenda are not enough.
In a clear reference to Israel, Boucher said the agenda still includes many references to one country, and to its policies as being racist.
In Johannesburg, U.N. Human Rights High Commissioner Mary Robinson, the secretary-general of the conference, said that the controversial language equating Israel's policy of Zionism with racism has been "done away with." She said flexibility is being shown in the search for language addressing such problems as slavery and colonialism, and the Middle East.
She called on all countries to attend the conference at the highest
level possible to help in the fight against racism. Israeli officials said
Monday that Israel will likely boycott the Durban conference.
Colombia to extradite Ochoa
The president of Colombia has cleared the way for the extradition to the United States of accused drug trafficker Fabio Ochoa, who was linked to the now-defunct Medellin cocaine cartel.
President Andres Pastrana signed an order Monday authorizing the extradition of Ochoa and two other drug suspects. Ochoa faces trial in Florida on a list of U.S. federal drug charges that include cocaine trafficking. He has five business days from the time of the decision to appeal his extradition.
Ochoa was once a leader of the Medellin cartel, whose reputed head,
Pablo Escobar, was killed by Colombian authorities in 1993. Officials say
the cartel shipped an estimated 30 tons of cocaine monthly to the United
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