Protesters try to disrupt speech by President Chinchilla

Roberto Thompson and Ms. Chinchilla before the Juan Santamaría statute. Photo: Casa Presidencial

President Laura Chinchilla took a harder line toward Nicaragua in a speech Monday and likened the current administration there to the filibusters of 1856.

The scene was a celebration in Alajuela, the home of Juan Santamaría, the drummer boy who died igniting a filibuster stronghold in the Battle of Rivas.

Ms. Chinchilla was speaking on the eve of a meeting between the two countries to discuss drug trafficking and other topics, but not the border dispute at the Isla Calero. The discussion will be at the Nicaraguan border at the vice minister level.

Ms. Chinchilla was interrupted by protesters who appeared to be affiliated with Alianza Patriótica, the relatively new political party that contains many who opposed the free trade treaty with the United States. One women banged pot lids and another hammered on a frying pan. Men waved signs. A Fuerza Pública officer tackled one man, and police said later four person were detained.

Meanwhile Ms. Chinchilla demanded respect for the occasion. Her comments were met with applause and cheers by the assembled politicians and public.

Juan Santamaría died 155 years ago Monday. The filibusters were led by U.S. citizen William Walker.

Ms. Chinchilla characterized the national hero as a reluctant warrior faced with a threat to the country sovereignty. She identified the current threats as poverty, exclusion, violence and corruption.

As is traditional with presidential visits, Ms. Chinchilla inaugurated the first steps in restoring Parque Juan Santamaría and signed a bill declaring him officially a national hero.

She also placed a floral offering at his statute with the help of Alajuela Mayor Roberto Thompson.

She also signed a letter of intent for the restoration of the Casa de la Cultura in Alajuela and an agreement for sewage and drinking water projects in the area. Another agreement calls for the restoration of train service to Alajuela.

The meeting with Nicaraguan officials will be in Peñas Blanca at the northern border at 10 a.m.. Mexican and Guatemalan diplomats will assist, said the foreign ministry.

Nicaraguan officials said that one reason for the October invasion of the disputed area was to crack down on drug trafficking. The ministry said that this will be a topic of discussion.

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