TAIWANESE Vice-President Dr. AnnetteHsiu-lien Lu is in Costa Rica this weekwith high-ranking officials from her governmentto “strengthen the traditional bonds offriendship and cooperation that existbetween both governments and peoples.”Her visit comes as investigative reportsof questionable financial ties between thetwo nations continue to surface.The Taiwanese government over thepast six years sent $4.8 million to a privateCosta Rican association, and that moneywas channeled to the Costa Rican ForeignMinistry, paying the salaries of 21 employees,according the daily La Nación.However, Taiwanese chancellor Tan-Sun Chen said that Taiwan contributed toCosta Rica solely for development projects,not for salary augmentations (TT, May 28).The Libertarian Movement on Tuesdayannounced it would present a motionrequesting that Foreign Minister RobertoTovar be censured because of the possiblemisappropriation of funds.Officials from the Taiwanese Embassyin San José told The Tico Times this weekthat Hsiu-lien’s visit, which beganWednesday, is not in response to the allegationsof a scandal, but was already a partof her scheduled agenda.WHATEVER the funds were intendedfor, they weren’t the only gifts fromTaiwan sent to Costa Rica.In April of last year, for example, the$26.1 million, Taiwan-funded “FriendshipBridge” over the Tempisque River inGuanacaste opened (TT, April 11, 2003).Taiwan has also contributed funds forinfrastructure projects such as a new highwayin the northern zone and the cruiseship dock in Puntarenas.Additionally, two anonymous donorsfrom Taiwan contributed some $500,000 toPresident Abel Pacheco’s election campaignfund – a possible violation of CostaRica’s Electoral Code.Shortly after the scandal was broughtto light last August, former TaiwaneseAmbassador to Costa Rica Steven Wangresigned. He denied it had to do with thescandal (TT, Sep. 12, 2003).TAIWAN’S history of such gifts hascome under intense scrutiny both in localand Taiwanese media reports.Taiwan’s involvement in the lucrativeshark-finning industry in Costa Rica hasalso drawn considerable controversy.A Tico Times investigation last yearfound that fishing vessels built and mannedby the Taiwanese, yet flying foreign flags ofconvenience, were able to illegally unloadtruckloads of shark fins at Costa Ricandocks – not attached to the shark’s body.Exported shark fins can bring up to$200 per kilogram in some Asian markets(TT, July 25, 2003).HSIU-LIEN’S delegation fromTaiwan includes the UndersecretaryGeneral of the Presidency, the Vice-Minister of Foreign Relations, the Vice-Minister of Government Information, theGeneral Director of the Department ofCentral and South America Affairs and theGeneral Director of Protocol.Hsiu-lien was also accompanied bymembers of the Consultation Counsels ofHuman Rights and Science and Technology,as well as a group of journalists.This is not the first time a high-rankinggovernment official from Taiwan has visitedCosta Rica during the two country’s 60years of foreign relations.According to Taiwan’s Central NewsAgency, President Chen Shui-bian visitedCosta Rica in August 2000, less than threemonths after he assumed the presidency.THE Central News Agency alsoreported that Costa Rican President AbelPacheco visited Taiwan with a 23-memberdelegation in 2002, where he received anhonorary doctoral degree in psychologyfrom Fu Jen Catholic University.Pacheco visited Taiwan again in 2003,according to officials from the CasaPresidencial.Costa Rica, as one of only 27 nationsthat recognizes the Asian breakaway country,shares important diplomatic relationswith Taiwan.In October 2002, for example, Taiwanthanked the Costa Rican LegislativeAssembly for passing a resolution urgingChina to remove missiles deployed in itssoutheastern coast, opposite Taiwan, theCentral News Agency reported.COSTA Rica and Taiwan also have animportant trade relationship. Total two-waytrade between Costa Rica and Taiwanreached $104.9 million in 2003.Costa Rican exports more than tripledbetween 2001 and 2003, increasing from$11.3 million to $38.5 million last year.Costa Rica’s main exports to Taiwan aremodular circuit parts, machine parts, freshfish, leather and cow skins and fiberglass.Total imports from Taiwan totaled$66.4 million in 2003. Similar importtotals have been reported since 1998.The largest Taiwanese import productsare components for textile production,plastic, screws, bicycle replacement parts,tires, circuit boards, vehicles and shoes,according to Costa Rica’s Foreign TradePromotion Office (PROCOMER).
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