San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Ruling against Iraq War Support Celebrated

A week after the nation’s highest courtannounced that Costa Rica must requestto have its name removed from the WhiteHouse list of nations that supported theU.S.-led invasion of Iraq, citizens andgovernment officials have come forwardto praise the decision.President Abel Pacheco, however, stilldenies he supported the war.Legislator Marta Zamora, from theCitizen Action Party (PAC), on Mondaypublicly read a letter containing thousands ofsignatures that will be sent to Iraq. It asks thecitizens of the war-torn nation to forgiveCosta Rica for having been named a memberof the “Coalition of the Willing,” whichthe letter calls “the list of shame.”The letter, a cooperative effort of severalorganizations, states that Costa Ricans“publicly ask forgiveness to the people ofIraq because the name of Costa Rica wasblemished by its inclusion in the group ofwarriors.”FOREIGN Minister Roberto Tovar,while maintaining that neither the Presidentnor the government of Costa Rica ever supportedthe war, confirmed that he had sent aletter asking the United States to removeCosta Rica’s name from the list.However, as of press time, CostaRica’s name still appeared on the Coalitionlist on the White House Web site, House spokesman Scott McClellan told the Associated Press (AP) “we’repleased by the strong international support forthe ongoing efforts to help the Iraqi peoplebuild a free and peaceful future.” About CostaRica requesting its name be removed from thelist, he added, “If that’s what they want, thenI’m sure we will do that.”SAN José Mayor Johnny Arayaexpressed his support for the court’s decisionat a special ceremony Saturday honoring thevictims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacksin the United States (see separate article).“I’m totally in agreement with thedecision. Costa Rica shouldn’t have beeninvolved in that coalition,” Araya told TheTico Times. “Though we don’t participatedirectly in the war, the fact that we supportit contradicts all the best traditions and valuesof Costa Rica and its people.”THE decision of the ConstitutionalChamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV),announced last week, was based on anAug. 11 hearing during which justicesreviewed three motions of unconstitutionalityfiled against Pacheco for his decisionto offer moral support for the Iraq invasionin March 2003.The cases were filed just after the warbegan by Ombudsman José ManuelEchandi, lawyer Luis Roberto Zamora, andlawyer Dunia Chacón, representing theCosta Rican Lawyers’ Association.The court declared that the decision tosupport the war, even if only morally, isunconstitutional (TT, Sept. 10).The U.S. Embassy in San José issued astatement acknowledging the ruling andagreeing to remove Costa Rica from the list.“Costa Rica’s membership in theCoalition was an expression of the country’sopposition to terrorism. We welcomed andappreciate Costa Rica’s participation on thatbasis. Costa Rica is a democracy in whichthe rule of law prevails. We respect that theGovernment of Costa Rica must take appropriatesteps to conform to its highest court’srulings,” the statement said.MEANWHILE, the film “Fahrenheit9/11,” which harshly criticizes the Iraqinvasion, the U.S. War on Terror and U.S.President George W. Bush, is experiencingbooming success in Costa Rica, MagalyCinemas marketing chief Carlos Marínsaid this week.In the film, Costa Rica is mockinglyannounced as a member of the coalitionand represented by a man on an ox cart –something lawyers used as evidence in theSala IV hearing to argue that the country’sinternational reputation had been damagedas a result of the President’s decision.Fahrenheit 9/11 is only showing inthree theaters in the country, Marín said,and routinely sells out at all three locations.The film grossed $15,000 in itsopening weekend here, he said, a hugedraw for a country of 3.8 million people.PRESIDENT Pacheco continues todeny that he ever supported the war in Iraq,conceding only that he supported the“defense of…the citizens of an ally.”In June, when asked if he would everconsider voluntarily removing Costa Ricafrom the U.S.-led coalition, the Presidentresponded, “there does not exist the mostremote possibility that Costa Rica will ceaseto consider terrorism a barbarity in this worldthat must be condemned” (TT, June 18).(Tico Times reporter Robert Goodier contributedto this article.)

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