San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Controversy Erupts over Taiwan Payments

REPORTS of payments of at least$400,000 from the government of Taiwan toformer President Miguel Ángel Rodríguezhave caused a stir in the LegislativeAssembly and prompted Costa Rica’sForeign Minister, Roberto Tovar, to ask theTaiwanese embassy for clarifications.Some legislators have renewed callsthey made last week to break ties with thetiny Asian nation.Both the Taiwanese Embassy in SanJosé and Rodríguez have admitted the paymentswere made, but inconsistencieshave surfaced as to the money’s true destinationand purpose.Rodríguez told prosecutors he receivedthe payments from Taiwanese governmentto finance his campaign for SecretaryGeneral of the Organization of AmericanStates (OAS), La Nación reported, a posthe was elected to in June and resignedfrom Oct. 15 amid corruption allegationsin connection with a government telecommunicationscontract (see separate story).THE alleged payments from Taiwanwere first revealed by Rodríguez’s businessmanager, Rafael Sequeira, during atestimony before the Prosecutor’s Officeon Oct. 11, La Nación reported Oct. 13.The report said the government of Taiwandeposited the funds into an account of thePanamanian company InversionesDenisse, which Rodríguez controls, in twotransfers of $200,000 each, during his termas President (1998-2002).Two days later, Tovar sent a letter toTaiwan’s Ambassador to Costa Rica, TzuDan Wu, asking him to “clarify details andcircumstances of the transfer of funds proceedingfrom (Taiwan) to the businessDenisse S.A.,” according to a statementfrom the Foreign Ministry.Ambassador Wu responded in a letterto Tovar acknowledging the embassy didmake two transfers of $200,000 – duringRodríguez’s administration – to theFoundation for the Liberty and HumanDevelopment of Costa Rica, after the samefoundation in November of 2000 requested$1.2 million to fund “seminars andtraining meetings” to “promote citizens’rights and human development.”RODRÍGUEZ, however, said thepayments were a loan.“It was not a gift, a price, nor anythingof this style,” but rather a loan,Rodríguez’s legal defender Rafael Gairaodtold AFP news service on Tuesday.Taiwanese Foreign Minister Chen Tansunhad told the press in Taiwan thisweekend that the payments were “impossible.”He said the allegations result frominternal political bickering.“Every country has its political animosities.We don’t want to participate inthem,” Tan-sun added.La Nación also reported alleged paymentsof more than $1 million made toRodríguez by a business called FriendshipCompany, suspected of being fromTaiwan.In reference to the alleged paymentsfrom Friendship Company, the note fromWu sent to Tovar said the Taiwanese government“has no knowledge of the mentionedtransaction.”PRESIDENTAbel Pacheco, who alongwith Rodríguez belongs to the ruling SocialChristian Unity Party (PUSC), also reportedlyreceived questionable campaign contributionsfrom corporations in Taiwan. UnderCosta Rican law, campaigndonations fromforeign sources areprohibited.Casa Presidencials p o k e s w o m a nIvannia Arias toldThe Tico Times thisweek that Pachecohad opened his bankaccounts to allowprosecutors toinspect the donations,but that he hadnot given up hisdiplomatic immunity,as he said he would inSeptember 2002, soon after the allegeddonations were revealed (TT, Sept. 27,2002).“No one asked me for anything inexchange for that money. They wanted meto be President,” Pacheco said last week.The President insisted he would notbreak ties with Taiwan.HOWEVER, some members of theLegislative Assembly this week continueddiscussing the possibility of moving tobreak off diplomatic relations withTaiwan, said Ricardo Gonzalez, aspokesman for the National LiberationParty (PLN). Severing ties was proposedby opposition leaders last week.Luis Ramírez, PLN leader in Congresssent a letter to Ambassador Wu requestingthat the Taiwanese Embassy immediatelyclarify the payments made to Rodríguez,as well as “presidential candidates in thetwo national election campaigns of CostaRica” in 1998 and 2002.“What is the international philanthropicinterest to make so many donations andgive so much money to the Costa Ricans?”Ramírez asked in the letter. “What end isyour government pursuing with this helpand this excessive and abusive financingin our economy and political system?”AMBASSADOR Wu responded witha letter saying that “the government of theRepublic of Costa Rica and the governmentof the Republic of China (Taiwan)are handling said matter by means of adiplomatic channel.”Taiwan is often the object of speculationbecause of donations it gives countriesallegedly in exchange for maintainingdiplomatic relations with it rather thanwith mainland China. Only 26 countriesrecognize Taiwan and not China, andCosta Rica and Nicaragua are two of them.The Taiwan daily United EveningNews reported Nicaraguan PresidentEnrique Bolaños also allegedly receivedseveral million dollars to finance his campaignin 2001.ECOLOGICAL organizations herehave accused Pacheco’s government of“shutting its eyes” to the exploitation ofCosta Rica’s marine fauna (mainly tunaand sharks) by Taiwanese ships, inexchange for the money and assistance.A Tico Times investigation last yearrevealed that Taiwanese vessels wereillegally unloading massive quantities ofshark fins – without the bodies attached –at private Costa Rican docks (TT, Aug. 8,2003).Members of more than a dozen nongovernmentalorganizations on Saturdaymarched from downtown San José to theFinance Ministry to call for an end toshark finning, the brutal practice of slicingthe fins off a shark and discarding the carcassesin the ocean.

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