San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Arias’ Security Detail Draws Criticism

For the second time in two weeks, observers criticized police reaction to protests against the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA) during ceremonies involving President Oscar Arias.

Arias visited San Carlos, in north-central Costa Rica, to celebrate the canton s anniversary Tuesday. His visit to the canton s capital, Ciudad Quesada, included a special Cabinet meeting and a service in the town s cathedral.

A small group of CAFTA opponents protested outside the church, held back by approximately 150 police officers, according to the daily La Nación. San Carlos bishop Angel San Casimiro criticized the size of the security force as excessive.

He added that if deceased former President José Pepe Figueres Ferrer, whose 100th birthday was celebrated Monday (see separate story), could come out of his tomb, he would die again because of what s happening here.

Security measures last week during the Sept. 15 Independence Day celebrations in Cartago, east of San José, also drew criticism from the National Association of Public and Private Employees (ANEP). Nine students protesting CAFTA were briefly detained but not arrested by local police, who claimed protesters had tried to steal the torch of independence (TT, Sept. 21).

Political analyst Luis Guillermo Solís spoke out against the police response in Cartago in ANEP s electronic newsletter. He told The Tico Times that although it s the government s duty to protect the public, this is not to say that the government is justified to use excessive force.


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