San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Jailed Ex-Presidents Get Web Sites

EX-PRESIDENTS Rafael ÁngelCalderón Jr. (1990-1994) and MiguelÁngel Rodríguez (1998-2002), both servingpreventive detention orders whileunder investigation for charges of corruption,have resorted to the Internet to defendthemselves.Supporters of the two ex-Presidents,both from the ruling Social Christian UnityParty (PUSC), serving time in the LaReforma penitentiary, 20 kilometers northeastof San José, created the Web sites.Though they cannot have computers intheir individual jail cells, both wrote messagesby hand that were later posted ontheir Web sites by family members.THE first Costa Rican ex-Presidentto pioneer the Internet as a method of selfdefense was Calderón, accused of headinga group of public officials, politicians,and business owners who allegedlyaccepted $9 million in illegal commissionsconnected to a loan from theFinnish government to the SocialSecurity System (Caja).The Web site was posted in December 2004.Calderón’s site lays on a thick emotionalappeal, presenting viewers with familyphotos and trying to instigate a show ofsolidarity through a yellow ribbon campaign.“I’VE received an infinity of messagesfilled with love and support from the entirecountry,” Calderón wrote. “In some cases,the addresses are attached and in the solitudeof my cell I have responded, while Igive thanks to the Lord for having all ofyou, who, together with my family, giveme breath and renew my faith.”The site implores its readers to attach ayellow ribbon to their cars if they “lovetheir country and still believe that the ruleof law should reign, a call to respect thedignity of a Costa Rican, but above all, torespect the right of equality and justice.”RODRÍGUEZ developed the Web, which bears thePlatonic quote “The masterpiece of injusticeis to seem just without being so.”“A fair trial. That is all I ask: to bejudged by competent courts, in conformitywith the procedure established for everyone,with the possibility of defense andrational evaluation of the evidence inaccord with the rules of healthy justice,”Rodríguez entreats in one of his writtenmessages.He has been accused of havingreceived millions of dollars in bribesfrom the French-based transnationaltelecommunications company Alcatel,the Spanish electrical company InstalacionesInabensa S.A. and from the governmentof Taiwan.Rodríguez, who stepped down from amonth-long stint as Central America’s firstSecretary General of the Organization ofAmerican States (OAS) to return to CostaRica to respond to the corruption chargesOct. 15 (TT, Oct. 22, 2004), says on thesite, “I came as the still-functioningSecretary General of the OAS but I wasreceived with a circus to exhibit me andlynch me before public opinion.”HIS site calls for justice in a strictlylegal appeal, invoking articles of the PenalProcessing Code and arguing he has beensubjected to judgment by public opinionrather than a proper court. The site is withoutphotos and framed in red and blue ona white background, the national colors, ina professional, patriotic and no-nonsensepetition for justice.The Web sites of both ex-Presidentsoffer users the option of publishing theircomments or letters and include recentnews reports and commentary related tothe cases.

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