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Oscar Arias Apologizes, Opponents Gear Up

May 27, 2005

PRESIDENTIAL candidate andNobel Prize laureate Oscar Arias asked forthe forgiveness of the nation Sunday in thename of the National Liberation Party,although he did not specify for what exactlyhe was apologizing.“There have been shadows in ourbright path and we must make an apologyto the Costa Rican people,” he said.Meanwhile, a day earlier, two otherpresidential contenders – José MiguelCorrales and José Miguel Villalobos –jumped, or were pushed, into the race.Both say Arias has plenty to repent.Corrales, an independent legislatorwho left Liberation in January over disagreementswith Arias, was nominated tothe candidacy by the Patriotic Union Party(UP). Although the candidacy is only nowofficial, Corrales is already second in thelatest opinion polls.Still, he trails far behind Arias, whowould capture 47% of the vote if the election,eight months away, were held today.ARIAS’ apology came during theclosing act of Liberation’s fifth nationalcongress, marking the end of an 18-monthprocess in which party leaders workedthroughout the country to unite followersand redefine the party.Arias, who was President from 1986-1990, would not give the press more specific,concrete details on what the apologyis for, saying only it is for errors committedas humans and that it is best for eachperson to interpret his comments.He denied to the daily Al Día that theapology was driven by accusations thatLiberation has abandoned its ideology andthe fight against poverty and corruption.These accusations have been made byCorrales and other long-time Liberationistswho have left the party in recentyears over disagreements with Arias aboutLiberation’s future (TT, Jan. 21).“Liberation is being held hostage by agroup of neoliberals who want to sell thecountry,” Corrales said.ARIAS agreed Sunday that the party ischanging, and must change in order toadapt to a changing world. However, hesaid the party remains rooted in the idealsof social democracy on which it wasfounded.The presidential candidate presented adocument that will guide the party in thenext 15 years – a product of suggestionsmade by party members during the 18-month process.Leonardo Garnier, one of the project’sleaders, said the creation of the documentwas one of the most intense analyses anyparty has ever done, according to La Nación.Arias stressed a need for Costa Ricansto understand the role of macroeconomicsin development and denied participationin the global market equates to neoliberalism.THE new Liberation document seemsin tune with the policies Arias has beenpromoting in recent years, particularly theCentral American Free-Trade Agreementwith the United States (CAFTA). Ariaswill travel to the United States next monthto try to persuade U.S. Democrats to supportthe agreement.One of the most controversial aspectsof CAFTA is the opening of the state-runtelecommunications and insurance systemsto private competition.“We have seen many cases in whichthe state control of a service or institute isnothing other than an alibi to hide the controlof groups, unions, and minority intereststhat have very little to do with theCosta Rican people. It is urgent to understandthat state control is not equal todemocratic control,” Arias said in hisspeech.CORRALES maintains that publicsupport of the state-controlled institutionsand opposition to CAFTAis hardly limitedto a minority. But to defeat Arias, a coalitionof parties is fundamental. He conditionedhis acceptance of the UP nominationon being allowed to negotiate analliance with other parties.As a presidential candidate, Corraleswill have more negotiating power withother parties, he told The Tico Times,adding that in an alliance he would takewhatever position he was needed, “as captainor sailor.”In the latest CID-Gallup poll of potentialvoters, published in the daily LaRepública, 47% of respondents said theywould vote for Arias. Corrales wouldreceive 22% of the vote, followed bySocial Christian Unity Party Citizen(PUSC) pre-candidate Ricardo Toledo,with 19%, and Citizen Action Party (PAC)candidate Ottón Solís, with 16%.Corrales, who ran for President in1998 and 2002, said he would talk to everyparty but Liberation about an alliance.JOSÉ Miguel Villalobos, a formerMinister of Justice who was pronounced apresidential candidate Saturday by theDemocratic National Alliance (ADN), alsoadvocates an alliance and maintains a conventionshould be held for the selection ofthe alliance’s candidates, with a twomonthcampaign period for the contenders.PAC candidate Solís told The TicoTimes the party has discussed an alliance,but in order for the party to participate, “adefined, precise agenda is a requisite.”

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