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The stories on this page were published Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2001
A tight, shallow campaign
predicted for Costa Rica

By Jay Brodell
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

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:

   security,
   the cost of living,
   the quality of social services, including health, 
         education and housing,
   and corruption.

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

Solís makes these points:

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.
 
IBM gets even smaller

IBM researchers created and demonstrated the world's first computer circuit within a single molecule, which may someday lead to a new class of smaller and faster computers that consume less power than now, the company said Monday.

The researchers made a fundamental logic circuit that is the basis for all of today's computers from a carbon nanotube, a tube-shaped molecule of carbon atoms that is 100,000 times thinner than a human hair.

In making the ``voltage inverter'' circuit, also known as a ``NOT'' gate, the researchers encoded the entire inverter logic function along the length of a single carbon nanotube, the company said.

The processors at the heart of today' s computers are basically vast and intricate combinations of the NOT gate.

More important, the output signal from IBM's new nanotube circuit is stronger than the input. This phenomenon, called ``gain,'' is essential for assembling circuit elements into useful microprocessors. Circuits with a gain less than one are ultimately useless the electrical signal becomes so faint that it cannot be detected. Since IBM's nanotube circuit has a gain of 1.6, IBM is hopeful that even more complex circuits could be made along single nanotubes. 

We are featured

Hispanicvista.com, the Hispanic point of view, a bilingual website based in California, is featuring A.M. Costa Rica this week because this publication is a new arrival on the newspaper scene. You can check them out at http://www.hispanicvista.com/index.asp

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    States. 
 


 
 
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