San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Assembly Beefs Up Security; Arias Preps for Power

• The Legislative Assembly is increasing security in anticipation of President Abel Pacheco’s submission of the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA) for legislative debate. Although no one knows when that moment will come, legislators have approved hiring five new security guards, the daily La República reported, and national police officials are coordinating a plan to handle large anti-CAFTA protests. Visitors to the assembly will also be restricted and lighting around the building may be improved, the daily reported.• Although National Liberation Party presidential candidate Oscar Arias has yet to be elected, he is already taking leadership actions, including sending the assembly a bill to update the concessions law, the daily Al Día reported. The former President (1986-1990) also called Foreign Minister Roberto Tovar to offer his advice regarding the dispute between Costa Rica and Nicaragua over the San Juan River (see separate story). Arias told the daily he is taking these actions “for the good of the country,” and it is better than doing nothing. Arias also called on the current government to speed up the judicial process against former Presidents Rafael Angel Calderón and Miguel Angel Rodríguez, who are accused of corruption; according to the daily, Arias said that if the Prosecutor’s Office is still gathering evidence, prolonging the former Presidents’ house arrest is not justified.• The Citizen Action Party (PAC) chose some political newcomers in last weekend’s assembly to run for legislative positions along with Presidential candidate Ottón Solís in the Feb. 5, 2006 elections. “Yes, these people are new to politics. Later, we will make them famous,” Solís told the daily La Nación. However, Josette Altmann, ex-wife of former President José María Figueres, did not take well to the process and renounced her candidacy, alleging a lack of democracy within the nomination process, according to the daily Al Día.• At Saturday’s assembly, Solís also reiterated his party’s pledge to use only half of its share of approximately $32 million in government-provided campaign funding. He challenged the other politicians to do the same and spend the other half on scholarships for students.• Though the nation still has months to decide which candidate will be the best President, the decision of who is the hottest has apparently already been made. In an Al Día poll of the most handsome Ticos, none other than the Libertarian Movement Party’s Otto Guevara came in first, beating out soccer players and other Costa Rican celebrities. When asked by the daily what he thought was his best attribute, he said women were attracted to “his firmness… in making decisions.”–Tico Times reporter Leland Baxter-Neal contributed to this report.

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