San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

President Returns Club Memberships

PRESIDENT Abel Pacheco thisweek announced that he has returned twofree lifetime memberships he and hiswife, Leila Rodríguez, received during atrip to a luxury resort in the DominicanRepublic earlier this month.The announcement followed a flurryof accusations and criticism in the localpress, leading to an examination ofPacheco’s May 13-14 trip by CasaPresidencial auditors. Pacheco read fromthe auditors’ report during the press conferencefollowing his weekly Cabinetmeeting Tuesday.According to the auditors, Pacheco’sacceptance of free air transportation to theCap Cana resort in the DominicanRepublic – he was invited by the Hazouryfamily, which co-owns the club – was notconsistent with a transparent government.“It was definitely not good,” Pachecosaid. “I recognize that and ask for forgiveness.”He also read aloud from a letter to theHazoury family in which he explained hisdecision to return the free lifetime membershipsthey had given him during thetrip. The auditors’ report said Pachecoshould do so because the membershipsare non-transferable and of no value tothe state.Because the Hazoury family, and notthe Costa Rican government, paid for theair tickets, there is no reason to reimbursethe state for those funds, the auditors’report said.At last week’s press conference, thePresident dismissed claims that his visitwas imprudent, given the Hazoury family’sinterest in investing here, particularlyin railroad infrastructure. Pacheco said hehas no investments or other personalinterests involving the Hazoury family(TT, May 20).Pacheco attended the May 14 inaugurationof one section of the exclusive residentialCap Cana complex, located east ofSanto Domingo, along with LeonelFernández, President of the DominicanRepublic.On Tuesday, Pacheco also spoke atlength about a small box he had receivedas a gift from U.S. President George W.Bush during his recent visit to the WhiteHouse. Pacheco was in the United Statesto discuss the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States(CAFTA). He met with Bush and thePresidents of the rest of the signatorycountries at the White House May 12(TT, May 13).Following their meeting, Bush presentedPacheco and the other leaders withsmall keepsake boxes bearing the imageof the White House on its cover. Auditorsdetermined the value of the box is notsufficient to require that it be turned overto the government.“It’s a very beautiful little box,”Pacheco said before having a CasaPresidencial staff member fetch the itemso Pacheco could show it to reporters andread from the plaque inside. He plans tokeep it, he said.

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