The Costa Rican government this week took the unusual step of denouncing a cover story appearing in this Central American country’s leading weekly news magazine as one that “could produce anti-Semitic feelings.”
The latest issue of Rumbo magazine, published by the largest newspaper company in the country, features a cover story titled “Jewish Power.”
The article focuses on the political and economic clout supposedly wielded by the small Jewish community here.
The magazine cover boasts a large blue Star of David and includes the sub- headline: “They are few, they do not exceed 2,500 people, but they penetrated Costa Rica’s most important circles of power.”
The cover also points out that “in industry, 25 businesses have Hebrew directorship” and that four Costa Rican banks are Jewish-run.
On Wednesday, the same day the magazine hit news-stands, the Cabinet voted to condemn the magazine story as “absolutely contrary to the Costa Rican way of life.”
The article “ignores history and forgets the tragic moments humanity has lived due to the creation and growth of anti-Semitic feelings.” the Cabinet said in a statement read by a visibly angry Presidency Minister Elias Soley.
“we express to the directorship of Rumbo our deeply felt disapproval of this publication that could produce anti-Semitic feelings,” the president said.
Magazine director Aixa Saborio said the magazine “had no bad intentions” in running the article. She added that she did not understand the government’s criticism.
The influence of the Jews “is a reality that cannot be hidden” she said. “Being so few, they are very entrenched in the political and economic life of the country.”
Costa Rica’s second vice president, Rebecca Grynspan, one of several prominent Jews mentioned in the article, described the report as dangerous.
“The article’s content does not ponder how, in a country as ample as Costa Rica, a group can effectively come here and prosper, which is a positive aspect.
“Instead they present it as if in Costa Rica, there is a group that has more than it deserves,” she said. “And that I see as being dangerous and prejudicial.”
Her husband, Legislative Deputy Saul Weisleder, the most prominent spokesman for Costa Rica’s Jewish community and a leader in the governing Liberation Party, said he thought the article was mostly objective and “in some ways has a favorable tone.”
But, he added, “it is very unfortunate that the magazine has taken up this subject and especially the headline, which is what the greatest number of people read, which reminds us of black pages from the European and German press from the Nazi regime.”
The largest Jewish migrations to Costa Rica came in the period between the two world wars. Most of the people named in the article are second-generation Costa Ricans descended from Polish Jews.
The country’s vice president and a Cabinet minister are members of the Jewish community – as are two deputies in the Legislative Assembly, the heads of some of the larger importing and construction firms and the presidents of four private banks.
One member of the community, Luis Fishman, is considered a front-runner for the opposition Social Christian Unity Party’s 1998 presidential nomination.