San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

President Accuses Press of Attacking Him

PRESIDENT Abel Pacheco’sunsteady relationship with the pressbecame even shakier last week as heaccused unnamed media of trying to makehim look corrupt.“In recent weeks, some media havemounted a campaign to cast doubt uponmy integrity, transparency and honesty,”Pacheco said. “The strategy they have followedis clear and evident: first they present,with pronounced embellishments ofscandal, a series of isolated facts. Thenthey put them together and look for a fewpeople to confirmwhat the media(in question) havealready divulgedas a pre-judgeditem.”This month,Channel 7 TVNews has led theway in revealingPacheco’s acceptanceof controversialgiftsincluding planetickets fromGrupo TACA airlines and lifetime membershipsto a luxury resort as well as hisconnection to Costa Rica’s honorary consulto Spain, who had reportedly expressedinterested in investing here (TT, June 3).The gifts apparently violated a 2002decree by Pacheco prohibiting gifts of anykind to public officials, and the 2004 anticorruptionlaw (see separate story).PACHECO, who was hospitalized thisweek with high blood pressure (see separatestory), was quick to apologize foraccepting the flights and memberships butbecame more critical of the press as thefallout continued. On June 2, he gave aspeech on government-sponsored Channel13 TV accusing unnamed media ofdifamación, a type of libel that damagesthe reputation of a person, company ororganization.Channel 7 was quick to respond toPacheco. News co-anchors IgnacioSantos and Pilar Cisneros presented anon-air editorial June 3 in which they criticizedthe vagueness of the President’sallegations.“There’s no doubt, Mr. President. Youhave an obligation to specify who hascommitted the serious act of libel againstthe head of state,” the editorial said. “We,the press Don Abel does not like, never usewords like those he used yesterday: ‘Iunderstand,’ ‘they tell me,’ ‘they say,’ ‘theyinsinuate.’ No, Mr. President… Speak withfirst and last names.”THE editorial also stated that while aPresident should no doubt enjoy luxuriessuch as flying in executive class (he fleweconomy class to Guatemala last weekafter returning his free-flight pass fromTACA), “it was you, and only you, DonAbel, who (in 2002) prohibited that in yourcode of ethics… Don’t blame journalistsfor what was your first decision (asPresident).”La Nación reacted to the President’scharges with a series of direct quotes fromPacheco that they called “inconsistent”regarding the accusations and the 2004anti-corruption law.However, the radio station EcoNewspublished full-page advertisements inseveral daily newspapers in support ofPacheco, saying “Putting into questionevery action of public functionaries onlydamages a democratic society like ours.”The ad also says it is the responsibilityof the press to denounce irregularities butthe accused must be allowed the right torespond.PACHECO has not specified a reasonfor what he claims is persecution bythe media, although he has implied thatthose who oppose his administration’s taxreform bill and his stance on the CentralAmerican Free-Trade Agreement with theUnited States (CAFTA) may be behind,or at least supportive of, the allegedmedia attacks.

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