Ex-President Rodríguez Back in House Arrest

March 18, 2005

WHAT a difference a day makes.On Monday night, former Costa RicanPresident Miguel Ángel Rodríguez (1998-2002) ate his evening meal at the penitentiaryLa Reforma, outside of San José,where he was serving a preventive-detentionorder while the Prosecutor’s Officeinvestigates corruption charges against him.On Tuesday, following a successfulappeal to have his prison order changed tohouse arrest, his family welcomed himback to his home in the western San Josésuburb of Escazú with a steak dinner,according to his wife, Lorena Clare.“We’re going to give him red meat,which he loves,” Clare told The TicoTimes Tuesday afternoon while awaitingher husband’s return.“AS you can imagine, I am so happy tohave him at home once again,” she said. “Ihave missed him so much. It has been fivevery difficult months – which is not to saythat we do not have a difficult time in frontof us. We will keep fighting,” she added.In a statement to the press, Rodríguezthanked his family, lawyers and friends, aswell as the other Costa Ricans who havesupported him, for helping him “overcome…the human rights violations somehave committed against me.”On Monday, Second Circuit Courtjudge Gabriela Jara, the same judge whoordered Rodríguez be moved from housearrest to La Reforma in November (TT,Nov. 5, 2004), ordered that Rodríguezserve three months’ house arrest. She alsorequired that he pay ¢250 million($537,000) in bail, which his lawyer didon his behalf Tuesday morning by mortgagingRodríguez’s house.ACCORDING to an e-mail fromJudicial Branch spokeswoman SandraCastro, Lara also ordered that visits tothe Rodríguez home be restricted to a listof people registered with the court; thatRodríguez not communicate with anyothers involved in the corruption investigation;and that officers from the PublicSecurity Ministry guard the home at alltimes.Rodríguez’s defense team used hishealth problems to argue for his releasefrom prison.“He has had a circulatory condition forsome time,” Clare said. “It is dangerouswhen people are under stress. With treatmentand care, it is less dangerous. Nowhe has to recuperate, lower his stress level,and take great care.”President Abel Pacheco, a psychiatristwho often refers to his medical background,agreed the condition could be seriouswhen questioned about Rodríguezafter his weekly Cabinet meeting.“He has hypertension and has awidening in his abdominal aorta…whichcould burst” if his blood pressure rises.“That could put his life at risk,” saidPacheco, who himself was recently hospitalizedfor hypertension and heartproblems (TT, Feb. 25).Betsy Rojas, a spokeswoman for theRodríguez family, told The Tico Timesdoctors had ordered that Rodríguez restafter returning home and refrain from givinginterviews.DESPITE the hoopla over his health,Rodríguez’s lawyers emphasized theprogress of prosecutors’ investigationswere also responsible for Lara’s decision.The fact that prosecutors have alreadyexamined most of the necessary proofsreduces the fear that Rodríguez mightinterfere with the investigation from hishome, lawyers told EFE wire service.Rodríguez has been in preventivedetention since October, when he returnedto Costa Rica from Washington, D.C. toface the allegations against him (TT, Oct.22, 2004). He was in Washington servingas the Secretary General of theOrganization of American States (OAS), aposition from which he resigned when hewas accused of accepting illegal paymentsfrom global telecommunications firmAlcatel (TT, Oct. 15, 2002). Rodríguez isalso accused of receiving $400,000 fromthe government of Taiwan and $1 millionfrom a Taiwanese business.This is the second time Rodríguez hasappealed his preventive detention order.His previous attempt, on Feb. 21, was notsuccessful.FORMER President Rafael ÁngelCalderón (1990-1994) remains in LaReforma, where he occupies an individualcell identical to the one given toRodríguez.Calderón is accused of mastermindingthe distribution of a $9.2 million “commission”on a $39 million medical equipmentpurchase by the Social Security System(Caja) in 2001 (TT, Oct. 22, 2004).Calderón, like Rodríguez, has cited poorhealth in appeals of his prison order, but hisappeals have been unsuccessful. He isscheduled to leave La Reforma when hispreventive detention order expires Tuesday;however, the Prosecutor’s Office requestedan extension of that order yesterday.At press time, a judge had not ruled onthe request.

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