San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Inauguration Draws International Guests

It’s not just any day that a Nobel Peace Prize winner becomes President, and the guest list ofMonday’s ceremony to inaugurate incoming President Oscar Arias proves it. U.S. First Lady Laura Bush, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Spanish Prince Felipe de Borbón and fellow Nobel laureate Rigoberta Menchú are just a few of the international leaders expected to attend the activity, which will start at 11 a.m. at the National Stadium, in La Sabana Park in western San José.

The Presidents of seven other Latin American countries have confirmed their attendance, including Mexico’s Vicente Fox, Guatemala’s Oscar Berger, Honduras’Manuel Zelaya, El Salvador’s Elías Antonio Saca, Nicaragua’s Enrique Bolaños, Panama’s Martín Torrijos and Colombia’s Alvaro Uribe.

In addition, Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian is expected to attend, as are the Prime Minister of the West Indies, Miguel Pourier and Haití interim President Boniface Alexandre, according to the daily La Nación.

José Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS); Enrique Iglesias, head of the Latin American-Iberian Secretariat; and José Luis Machinea, Secretary General of the Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (CEPAL) are also expected.

In addition to Menchú, Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa and other laureates are expected.

U.S. First Lady Bush will be accompanied in the inauguration by U.S.Ambassador Mark Langdale and his wife. Six to eight U.S. congressmen are also expected to attend, headed by Indiana Republican Dan Burton: Missouri Republican Todd Akin, Texas Republican Kenny Marchant, New York Democrat Gregory Meekt, California Democrat Dianne Watson, and non-voting Democrat Madeline Bordallo, representing Guam.

A number of international musicians and television and sports personalities have also been confirmed.

To the disappointment of some, Prince Felipe will come without his wife, Princess Letizia Ortiz, and their six-month-old baby.

While new Foreign Affairs Minister Bruno Stagno told the press Chávez plans to attend and various Latin American leaders are planning meetings with him while here, the Venezuelan Embassy Wednesday said his visit has not been confirmed.

Nevertheless, Stagno said organizers have extensive security measures in place for the controversial leader, as well as others.

“We’ve made all the necessary preparations to ensure order and security for all participants,” Stagno said, adding that 1,300 police will be stationed around the city May 7-8. In addition, many attendees will bring their private security officials.

Unions have announced they will protest the controversial Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA), which Arias supports, during the inauguration.

Streets surrounding the National Stadium and La Sabana will be closed to the public from 7 a.m. until the inauguration ceremony is over and everyone has cleared the area at approximately 2 p.m.

The public will not have access to within 100 meters of the stadium. Streets around Arias’ nearby home in Rohrmoser will also be closed.

Arias plans to walk from his home to the stadium along with members of Costa Rica’s national soccer team, La Selección, and Special Olympic athletes and selected students, according to Al Día.

He will then walk a lap around the track of the stadium to wave to the 15,000 invited guests.

Work has been under way for the past month to paint and prepare the National Stadium for the event, including building a stage for the ceremony, according to Inauguration Planning Committee President José Torres.

In fact, committee members have said that the ¢100 million ($198,000) budgeted for the inauguration activities has not been sufficient to cover expenses.

Arias will host a variety of other activities in preparation for his return to the presidency, including a dinner tonight with visiting Nobel laureates, dinner tomorrow with visiting U.S. congressmen, a special reception Sunday night in the Costa Rican Art museum, breakfast Monday with visiting Central American presidents, and lunch Monday following the ceremony with visiting dignitaries at the Contemporary Museum of Art and Design.

In addition, outgoing President Abel Pacheco will host a gala dinner Sunday night in the National Theater.

Arias will host his first Cabinet meeting Monday night at the National Culture Center, where he hopes to eventually move the Casa Presidencial (see separate story).

These activities will also entail street closures around the sites.

In honor of the inauguration, all public employees will have the day off Monday, so most government offices will be closed.


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