- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 15, 2002

New Costa Rican President Abel Pacheco said yesterday that his country, which has no army and has experienced nearly half a century of peace, may become the site of a U.S.-supported international police academy.
In an interview, Mr. Pacheco said he spoke with President Bush at the White House on Thursday about opening the police school in Costa Rica.
It would train officers from throughout North and South America to handle "modern" threats, Mr. Pacheco said.
"The police will learn management of very modern crime circumstances for which our traditional police aren't prepared," Mr. Pacheco said in Spanish.
The West Virginia-sized country known by locals as the "Switzerland of Central America" was chosen because of its central location and peaceful history, according to Costa Rican Ambassador Jaime Daremblum.
Officers would train to face such problems as terrorism, drug trafficking, domestic violence and kidnapping. The project would be a joint venture within the Americas to promote better law enforcement.
Costa Rica's legislative assembly must approve the plans before work on the police school begins.
"We believe globalization has to start with the globalization of justice," Mr. Pacheco said. "We can't talk about the globalization of commerce without talking about what happens to the people."
Mr. Pacheco, who took office last month, also spoke of Costa Rica's concerns about access to the U.S. market.
He discussed with Mr. Bush a Central America Free Trade Agreement, which would open U.S. markets to small businesses in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
"The president was very emphatic in saying, 'This is going to happen,'" Mr. Pacheco said.
The five Central American countries recently began negotiations as a bloc with the United States to find new outlets for crafts, textiles and food made by thousands of workers in small home industries, Mr. Pacheco said.
For the first time, democratically elected presidents lead all five nations.
Improving the scene for agricultural trade, however, will be more difficult because Costa Rica fears that cheap American rice will drive its own farmers out of business.
"I do not think the state will be eager to accept agricultural products in Costa Rica," Mr. Pacheco said. "We are an agricultural country."
The U.S. Congress will begin looking at the proposed Central American trade zone as soon as it completes a U.S.-Chilean trade agreement, which may be as soon as August, Mr. Daremblum said.
Critics of the trade agreement, which Mr. Bush proposed in January, say the Central American nations have not settled their economic differences to come together as a single negotiating unit with appointed leadership, as the European Union has. That may hinder Central America's biggest exports agriculture and textiles from entering U.S. markets..


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