Reporting: Costa Rica
JUDGE ISSUES ARREST WARRANT FOR O.A.S. SECRETARY-GENERAL
by Saray Ramírez Vindas
American Reporter Correspondent
San José, Costa Rica
SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica, Oct. 8, 2004 — A Costa Rican judge has issued an international arrest warrant for former president Miguel Ángel Rodriguez, who until he resigned this afternoon was Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS). The warrant came after prosecutors alleged that Rodriguez, who as OAS head was one of the most influential figures in the Western Hemisphere, conspired to receive illicit payoffs from the French telecommunications giant Alcatel and others.
The order was issued by Isabel Porras of the Secundo Circuito Judicial and was announced at 8 p.m. EST Friday by Francisco Dall'Anese, the fiscal general, the country's top prosecutor.
The action came just a few hours after Rodríguez resigned his post in Washington, D.C., as Secretary-General of the Organization of American States, the hemispheric version of the United Nations.
Dall'Anese said that a letter outlining the arrest warrant and the charges were delivered to U.S. Embassy officials here and that Costa Rica is seeking the help of the United States for keeping track of and bringing Rodríguez back to Costa Rica.
This is the climax of a long series of scandals dating back to June. Rodríguez told officials at the OAS headquarters in Washington that he would be leaving Oct. 15. Dall'Anese said that he would like to speed up the arrival of Rodríguez in Costa Rica.
Others in the judicial system expressed fears that the former president would seek political asylum in another country, perhaps Venezuela.
Dall'Anese said that the judicial branch was handling the situation the same way it would for any other suspect who was in a foreign land.
Rodríguez, who was president here from 1998 to 2002, took over the OAS top spot just last month, on Sept. 23.
There was no word on any judicial activity involving the wife of Rodríguez, Lorena Clare Facio. Others involved in the scandal said she accepted money.
Rodríguez has been linked publicly to payoffs by the French telecommunication firm, Alcatel, that received a $460 million contract to improve cellular telephones. Just last week Dall'Anese said Rodríguez was a witness and not a suspect.
A judge prohibited Rafael Ángel Calderón, another former president, from leaving the country because of his apparent involvement in a $9 million payoff from a loan deal with Finland and the purchase of $39 million in medical equipment in 2002.
President Abel Pacheco said earlier Friday that he felt betrayed by Rodríguez and his alleged involvement in the scandals. He also said he hopes that Rodríguez is innocent.
Vindas is a contributor to A.M. Costa Rica, a news and information Website based in San Jose, Costa Rica.