image of Alvaro Ugalde climbing hill

In Alvaro’s Words

Alvaro Ugalde Oral History – Transcript and Audio Recording # 10, Nov 9, 2007


More about Corcovado National Park and Thoughts on Daniel Oduber

Once humanity left Corcovado, almost at the same time with a few exceptions, then the Park Service breathed. You have to remember that the Park Service was pretty much neglecting the rest of the system to get rid of this problem. So we basically kept improving the ranger stations, one in Sirena, one near La Palma, one on the north side of the park, and one near Madrigal river, at the mouth of the river which was at the end to the south. We kept working on trying to get these cows and pigs out of the park and begin patrolling, but we never even thought of scientific monitoring or getting data on restoration. I simply decided that nature will take care of itself. Every time I flew over the park, saw the light green to dark green and more dark green, I just said “Oh my Lord, we made it.” Later on, people like scientists from the world began to visit Sirena, some of them actually to record at least what was happening around Sirena. So I have seen records from Larry Gilbert, for example, with pictures from '75, '76 and later that documented at least from the macro level. I think they also did research following some of the species, especially plant species and butterflies etc. as the land changed by itself over the years. Pictures when you see that Sirena was pretty much a big farm, as I said, and when you go today, the only thing in the open is the airport with big trees along it, back then when it was just fence posts and barbed wire dividing the airport [and the neighboring] pastures. There are visual [records] of that. The rest, forget it. What scientists didn’t do, we didn’t do. Then came people like Dr. Eduardo Carrillo, who started to monitor the population of jaguars, pigs, and anything that could be captured by cameras, tracks and [droppings] of animals. Not immediately, not organized, but later some monitoring began. Good. It was good that Eduardo started that because it gave us indicators later that hunting was back in the park and that’s another chapter of this history.

I am going to speak about don Daniel Oduber, ex-President Oduber, my hero. The first time I ran into don Daniel, I was still a teenager, I think. It was when Daniel was running for presidency. I take it back. The first time I ran into Daniel Oduber was when my father took me to see him. He was Minister of Foreign Affairs back then. My father had met Daniel in high school at the seminary. When I expressed my desire to go to the United States, my father took me to the Foreign Affairs where he was in charge and requested a note from him to the US embassy. I remember walking out of the US embassy with a green card. That must have been Daniel influencing my life without knowing that the future will put us together, fighting and working. I used to go to the public campaign plazas, when he was campaigning to be president. He actually ran for presidency three times. He didn’t make it until the last time. So, take four years, and four years, I must have been ten years old when I went to the campaign plazas. I didn’t go because he gave me that note. My family belonged to his party and the public plazas were part of the campaigning in the elections. Many people still go to the public plazas today, but my family stopped doing that a long time ago. Then came my years as administrator of Santa Rosa National Park. Actually it was before that, during my six or seven months as volunteer at Santa Rosa, before I became administrator. When I went to Santa Rosa, the first few things I learned were: first, that somebody had a concession to have cattle in that finca. Obviously when you create a park, you have leftover situations, legal or illegal, that you have to solve. In this case, it was a legal operation by a guy from Liberia, Chamorro I think was his last name, who in turn was administering a lot of cattle for Daniel. Daniel Oduber had two big farms in Guanacaste, one closer to the park, the other closer, next to the present airport in Liberia, the International Daniel Oduber Airport. That’s the name for it. The other thing I learned was a neighbor of the park, a Cuban ex-patriot, Pedro Abreu, who was highly involved with don Pepe Figueres, the Liberation Party leaders, including don Daniel Oduber, had moved the fence into Santa Rosa, actually stolen 60 acres I remember. This neighbor Abreu used to cut the fences between him and the park, therefore we had Chamorro cattle, Oduber cattle and Abreu cattle, all mixed together under legality and illegality. Daniel, at that moment, was a congressman when I became involved in Santa Rosa. This is let’s say December '69, when I started going to Santa Rosa with Tex Hawkins. It was Tex Hawkins who called to my attention that Santa Rosa was being destroyed by cattle and squatters. Daniel was not involved in the first phase of the park, which was getting the squatters out. I don’t remember, but he used to come from time to time to see his cattle. I don’t know if he ever knew, or that I ever told him, that I was the kid that he had written a little note to the US embassy several years back. Maybe I did, but I don’t remember.

He and I became friends. He was a congressman. I knew he was a powerful person. I remembered him from campaigning times, and he could be, or could become a fierce enemy, which he did. Again, two faces, two lives. The fights against Daniel, legal etc., pressure and then Daniel and I as friends. I don’t remember the first time I ran into him but it was at Santa Rosa. I think it was shortly after July 1970, because when Mario and I were successful in getting the squatters out of the park, I must say in parentheses that these were squatters to Somoza. The property was turned park, therefore they became squatters of the park, but it was not they invaded the park. I was beginning the process of negotiation with ITCO, with the squatters, an interesting story also. I remember one day we were riding the horses out of the beach, up to the historic house. It was Mario, myself, one of the attorneys from the Attorney General’s office, and two people from the Procuraduría. I remember then these two guys breaking the news to Mario and I, at least talking about the issue that President of Congress, Daniel Oduber, the next president-to-be of Costa Rica, had presented a bill in Congress to move Santa Rosa from the Park Service to the Tourism Institute. Obviously, your simple name for that was throwing the baby [out] with the bath water. We had hardly been six months working and cleaning the park, we were very successful at that moment getting IDA to give them land in Cañas, blah, blah, and here comes don Daniel Oduber giving the park to ICT, Instituto Costarricense de Turismo. And then when you read the bill, the proposed bill, its arguments were the park was full of squatters. Well, the hell it wasn’t. At that particular moment, we were successful and other things like that, therefore we turned it over to ICT and the articles went on, we created a tax on cigarettes, which was good from environmental and personal perspectives, and a tax on alcoholic beverages. The result of this tax was eight million colones, which was a million dollars, which was then by the same bill, distributed between Santa Rosa in the hands of ICT, and other things for the government. And these two personalities, they were characters, these two guys that were riding with us thanks to them we were able to clean the squatters, from the Attorney General’s office, said “Forget it, Alvaro and Mario, nobody can beat Daniel Oduber.” So it must been at that moment that I came in touch with him, both at Santa Rosa when he came to see his cattle and then when we went to seek him at Congress to plead with him to withdraw that bill. A very nice person, all the time. He would see us, hear us, say something politically right. Nothing happened. He didn’t withdraw the bill from Congress. So Mario and I told these two personalities, Ocampo was one of them and don Aguilar Bucareli was the other. I will say more about them in the future. They said, “Forget it. He is the most powerful in this country.” What we told them was, “The law is the law after the president signs it, and then it goes to the public Gazette. So let’s see.” That long fight against Daniel went on for a long time. We decided to fight him with a strategy in our hands. I will dwell on that later. Daniel and I became friends. He kept coming to Santa Rosa. He saw me working with the youths putting whitewash on the walls of the historical building, opening trails, like the Naked Indian Trail. Every time I run out of water, I run to his farm near the airport of Liberia, I said ldquo;Daniel, I need a deep well, so please tell the institution that digs deep wells to dig one for us at Santa Rosa.” And he would say, “Of course, but take a shower and go in the pool.” That type of friend. He got the wells done. Interesting, there was a man I met there, a young Colombian, who had a deep well company, drilling company in Liberia, Gustavo Echeverría, who later not only donated these wells to the park, but later became a huge donor of land to the area, thousands and thousands and thousands of hectares, to Santa Rosa, to Guanacaste, to Palo Verde, that’s Rocío Echeverria’s father, Rocío is the director of ProParques Foundation, which Steve Aronson created after coming to Nectandra and hearing my complaints. Life is very interesting. I met her father before she was born.

Daniel... I remember this terrible neighbor we had. We decided to take him to court for having taken illegally state land because Santa Rosa had been bought by ICT at the advice of Kenton Miller. You see, ICT bought 10000 hectares from Somoza. Those were the initial 10,000 hectares of what’s today 150,000 hectares. When Congress passed legislation saying the park system was under the Ministry of Agriculture, they lost Santa Rosa, the Tourist Institute. They were fiercely pushing the politicians, including Daniel, to get it back. Therefore there was an open, bleeding wound for decades between the Tourism Institute and the Park Service. They never forgave us for having taken Santa Rosa from them. Thank God we did, given what’s going on today. One day, I was with the Movimiento Nacional de Juventud, the National Youth Movement who were camping in Santa Rosa for weeks helping me do things. I remember one night that we were sleeping in the historic house when a car came. The road to Abreu’s property went through the historic building, right in front of the steps of the historic building. The car was coming, then there were screams, yells and then shots. That was Pedro, quite drunk. I don’t know if I grabbed Joaquín Alvarado, someone from the Youth Movement, or one ranger or two and said, “Let’s go follow this son of a bitch.” Excuse the word. I went to his house, one kilometer away. He came out, was foaming at his mouth, he was dirty to us and I was dirty to him. Later, another day, I made a decision that this guy is not going to drive anymore to this house. So I got a bulldozer and got on it, and built a road as far as I could from the historical building, but a road to his property. I was not denying him the right he had over the decades, I guess. He didn’t accept my decision. One day, I was working in the trail there when someone came and said that Pedro Abreu is there with President of Congress Daniel Oduber. “OK”, I knew both and so I came up. Pedro was again foaming at his mouth, dirty guy. He was screaming, telling Daniel to tell me that he was going to continue to drive through the historic building. I don’t know what I said, but I said, “Daniel, let’s go and let me show you what we are doing here.” I took him to the nature trail, where he began to say, “I was here during the revolution in '55. This is the cave where the bats are. We hid in the cave. Oh, this is a nice trail. Oh, you are painting the house, very nice.” I said, “Well, this house is beginning to be visited by tourism. Pedro cannot drive and drop through here, that’s why I built the other road.” “I get it.” We went back and Daniel told Pedro, “Pedro, you drive where Alvaro made the road. Period.” So Daniel became very helpful, with the wells, with the shower, and with Pedro Abreu. I had taken Pedro Abreu to court because of the stealing of the land. This was prior to May 1970, because as an advice from the Attorney General’s friends. It was called an Interdicto de Posesión in Spanish, whatever it means, is we accuse you of stealing government land. When Pepe Figueres became elected president for the third time in February 1970, guess what the first act was. Visit Santa Rosa. I said, “Wow. The president is coming to Santa Rosa.” I remember pushing the goddam car where he was sitting up the mud where the hill was dirty. It was raining already the president’s jeep got stuck there and we had to push, with this man inside, the president of the country. A very brief visit and he went on to have lunch with Pedro. There was a political message there. I got it. I thought, “Oh Lord, this was more engineered by Pedro, than don Pepe’s desire to see a national park. I don’t remember whether the issue was spoken about it, but it was clear that don Pepe was with Pedro, and not with the park. Fine. We just go to the courts. The courts ruled in favor of the park and Pedro was forced, with or without don Pepe as president, with or without Daniel as president of Congress, to move the fence back, and he moved it back. He kept cutting the fences to let the cows move into the park until I got permission from a judge to kill the cattle inside the park. So, everybody had meat, the school, the hospital, the old people asylum. I was just a (laughter) very generous butcher, as park administrator (more laughter). People were very happy in Liberia, Santa Cruz etc. Until he mended the fence and stopped putting cattle in the park. Including Daniel’s cattle if needed be, anybody’s cattle were shot there. So, one more piece of fuel to the burning [conflict] between Daniel and me, cattle, the bill in Congress to eliminate Santa Rosa, etc.

I don’t know his personal background very much. I know the Odubers came to Costa Rica shortly before he was born. We really have to get into that part of his personal side. The second last name Quirós, yes, was a well established Costa Rican family, but Daniel himself, was part of don Pepe’s revolution, one of the founders of the new republic, probably very young, in [his] 20s or before when he became a historic personality, actually a public personality, when he began to occupy positions in government. He wasn’t like Don Pepe, whose father and grandfather we know were born in San Ramon. No. Daniel was kind of a new character, out of the blue, and remained actually to his end, like a special character. Enlightened in some ways, obscure in other ways. You don’t see Daniel with his wife, children, father or uncles. No, no. Daniel was Daniel, with an immense power on his own. He was a brilliant speaker, he was a brilliant thinker and visionary. He was (sigh) the most able politician I have ever seen. He held power. He held it with his tongue and his mind, and his ways of working. I learned a lot later when I worked with him together how he worked. Cross checking, cross checking. Here there, here there, and definitely never backing up. He kept tremendously good relationship with Congress, as opposed to fighting. Of course he had been congressman before, a very shrewd politician, a maverick, maybe, in politics. He was a god when he was a president, and a powerful enemy to have. I remember that in 1973 that particular fight against him in Congress was won by us. I could probably dwell on the details later. Mario and I decided to side with the smokers and drunks, and go to the Retail Chamber to tell them “Hey, you know you are getting a tax on cigarettes and guaro? Here is the bill.” They organized and fought the tax against smoking and drinking, but by doing so they defeated the bill that was going to kill us by taking Santa Rosa away. Anyway, shame or no shame, I don’t know. I am glad we did it, because we would have lost the baby at the beginning, practically eliminated the park system service. In the hands of Tourism, I am quite sure that there will be full of hotels by now, and may be just a few parks. They are not for conservation. They are for tourism. Daniel, though, saw the light of ecotourism, and then he became a brilliant spokesman of ecotourism in the country but especially abroad, with people who came and visited him. He really saw it. He said the future of Costa Rica was ecotourism, not in the industries, not monocultures, nothing but just ecotourism. I will speak more about that. He was quite sincere about that. Some of the speeches for him, several speeches I wrote, but when he was interviewed by [Tom] Lovejoy of Washington, it just came out of his brain. They were mouthwatering when they left, they said “What a visionary, what a president.” So, good for him.

In 1970, the year after we won the legal suit against Pedro Leon Abreu, we killed Daniel’s cattle and Pedro’s cattle and anyone’s cattle inside the park, Mario and I thought we had gained a powerful enemy. Daniel actually never spoke publicly or privately against us. He just lost the bill in congress and we thought he hated us because of that and because we had killed many cows of his. This was being congressman, all these bad deals that he did, cattle and _____while he was in Congress. Then I went to Ann Arbor to study 1973, in the summer or fall courses. I don’t remember. Then elections were held in February 1974. I got a call on election day from Mario Boza saying, “We are doomed. Daniel is the president.” I said, “Oh Lord, this is really the end.” Although I liked Daniel and he was my friend, I was convinced, wrongly so, that he was our enemy. So Mario never visited him. I don’t now if Daniel had anything [to do] with Mario’s crisis with the new administration, I am quite sure that it wasn’t the president, but the minister of Agriculture was, don Hernán Garrón. When Garrón became the minister of Agriculture in May 1974, by August, Mario was ordered by the minister to move from the Parks Department to the Pest Control Department, to kill biodiversity. That’s how Mario took it. Of course, anybody can take it and spray and kill pests, so to speak. So Mario didn’t accept that and resigned in August, six months or less into Oduber’s presidency. For reasons unknown to me also, the deputy minister of Agriculture, since I was an employee there, pretty much as Mario’s second hand, I mean right hand, I was just coming back from Ann Arbor, September ‘74, Mario just resigned, they said “Why don’t you take over the Park Service?” You know, they considered me from the same party, it all looks good to them. It was a good alternative, to get rid of that guy, who was not only a pest, but from the other party. Mario and I, since the beginning, decided to be on different parties just in case, which has worked very good, up until the last few years when we we’ve fought the government, instead of being with them. So, they praised my father, they praised me, he praised the fact that I lived in the same neighborhood as his deputy etc. So I became the director of the Park Service in September 1974, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t fear Daniel. So I never made myself so public as I should have, and requested an audience with the president. No, no, no. Daniel was our enemy so you better be quiet. That’s a mistake obviously because if you are paid by the government to do something you might as well try to use the government to do that. Until I run into him one day in Turrialba at CATIE. I opened the door to get out the building and he was coming up the steps. He used to call me Alvarito, he said, “Ah, Alvarito, where are you working?” “In the Park Service, sir.” “Well, come and see me” and the parade went by. I went to the car and said, “Oh Lord, that’s the end of it.” So I called his office very nervously. “Oh, ya, ya. Daniel wants to see you.” The secretary gave me an appointment rather quickly. I came shaking like a wet chicken, I guess, into the presidential house. The president came in. Of course, once Daniel was present is in front of you, he was my friend, although I was shaking, because he was also the president. Unfortunately, I thought. He said, “What can I do for the Parks, now that I am the president?” “Oh, I thought you were going to fire me (laughter). We fought you, the bill...” “No, no, no, I am the president. What can I do for you?” “So think hard, think hard”, I thought. I wasn’t ready for that question from the president. Jesus Christ. It’ s not fair. I don’t know if I answered anything at that moment or if I told him “let me think” and went out and back (more laughter), shaking but in this case of aftershock, like when you hit another car with your car. I don’t know, it just came to my mind that the challenge was too big. I had the chance to ask for pennies, or to ask for particular things, when I said “President, I would answer better in the context of a commission that I will ask you to create, a national park commission to advise me, and then you.” He immediately barked back, “No, no, no, not a national parks commission, a natural resources commission. OK. We’ll do that. I want in it the Minister of Planning, Oscar Arias, Fernando Zumbado his deputy, characters that are pretty famous today, Pedro Léon, and he left me room to suggest names. I think that was the one I suggested. Pedro, and one guy who has been the president of the Central Bank for many years, Eduardo..., I will remember his last name later. Don Manfred Guanacaste who became the vice-president of the country, I mean all these characters became big shots later, ministers, congressmen, presidents, heads of the Central Bank, etc. So I left the Park Service in the hands of somebody, at least formally, and moved to Planning, Ministry of Planning, to coordinate this Commission of Natural Resources. It was a presidential commission. I tried to work quickly with that commission. We actually went through the process of recommending the creation of an autonomous institution, called Instituto de Recursos Naturales, Natural Resources Institute, an autonomous institution. Of course, our recommendations came too late, when the president was about to leave the government. Carazo came in and destroyed everything he had done. That was the end of that. The one thing in parenthesis that came through the last couple of years that I was there, was a letter from an Italian recommending the president to save the Osa Peninsula. That led the President to ask me and opened the door for Corcovado again. Again because I tried before, but in this case clearly opened window by President Oduber.

In spite of the fact that he was a powerful person and a very powerful president, he was the most humble person _________. He was tall, got a big body. He always wore the same, sorry to use the word, the same shitty jacket all the time, never took it off. I almost told him to buy a suit (laughter). He was very, very informal. When he met anybody, he would treat them not with “usted”, but “vos” or “tu”, mainly “vos”, in very informal way of running the government and dismissing protocol, all the time. One anecdote I will tell you, but I have to say it’s very important. One day, he was driving into Santa Rosa. This was all he being the president, and I had killed his cows etc. etc. We were lucky, or unlucky, because this ranger of the park who was very humble, but a true believer of stopping hunters in the park, happened to stop the president’s car. He didn’t know who the hell it was in that car, he just saw guns in it and said, “Sir, you are under arrest. Let’s go to the administration building.” He brought the president to me, under arrest. Well, the whole mistake was forgiven. Later, this ranger got a letter from Daniel congratulating him for having stopped him. So that was Daniel in general terms. Because of the creation, and more than creation, the consolidation of Corcovado, he received the Albert Schweitzer Award of a group from Washington, and then he got the Green World Award from the New York Botanical Garden. That was the first precedent of presidents, at least in Costa Rica, to get recognized internationally for the conservation work, which opened the door to all the presidents since wanted to do better than Daniel, at least in getting prizes. Some of them tried and didn’t get anything. Some of them got green devil awards (laughter) and some of them have been recognized. The World Wild Life Fund immediately appointed him to the Board of Directors of WWF International. Those were amazing times because he always invited Oscar Arias and me to come along with him, to New York and to Washington to give speeches; I had to write speeches in English obviously. He gave, sorry to say, brilliant speeches because I wrote them (laughter). No, I am more humble than that, because they were good speeches. They were right in line with what the world expected out of Costa Rica or any president around the world. I was provided that honor and the opportunity and he read it, with brilliant, perfect English. He studied in Canada and the US. I don’t remember what his titles were; it was either law or economics. He married doña Marjorie, a Canadian lady, so he was a perfect English speaker. Oscar always used to make fun of me. He was jealous of me too, not to be said today, because he is the president again. But, I remember I used to go with my regular way of dressing, as it is today, very simple, to visit the president any time I wanted to, period. I had been given that freedom. At some point, during the Corcovado process, he gave orders to his secretary to send me wherever he was. So, when he wasn’t in the office and was in Liberia, I just call the Air Section, they would fly me to see the president. Whatever I needed, he was available. And I had stationery and envelopes, everything that should be sacred to the presidential office, I had it (laughter). I had it. There is a big pile in the National Records of presidential letters, etc. that my secretary Anabelle, who is another character to be spoken about, made sure that the records of the president were put in the Archives as well as what she could in the park services. Government usually burn all that stuff. So Oscar would come into the president’s office, when I was in my tennis shoes and jeans, sitting on the rug, next to the president’s desk, with a stack of letters for him to sign, and another stack of signed letters. He was speaking, or talking with somebody on the radio, on the phone. I would be passing the letters up to him. He would be signing them without even seeing what the letters said. I put it on this pile of paper, grabbed another one. Oscar would come in and say, “How do you dare to dress like that and be sitting next to the president.” I used to be very non-diplomatic and said, “That’s none of your business, Oscar.” I had also had an experience with Oscar, mainly beside the joking and criticizing me about how I dress. I also have reasons not to like him because, sorry to say, he was not very efficient as minister of planning back then. The president ordered him to get 400,000 colones, at eight colones per dollar, it wasn’t that much money, and he couldn’t. He just couldn’t. I remember that one day he said to me,” Alvaro, the president is bugging me about the money.” I knew the president was bugging him. I was bugging him indirectly. He said, “Why don’t you and I get a loan for that?” I said, “Are you crazy? I am not Alvaro Sanchez. You are the millionaire, you can get a loan, not me.” So, he was not in the likings of me; he was jealous of me. Oscar and I always kept our distances in general terms. I guess two big egos, it’s hard to touch each other’s feet, when you have big bellies, egos, in front of you. I am including my own ego in this. I had reasons, and I always said that Oscar has very, very, very big ego and I think he still does. Anyway, the day we met at the airport to go Washington, I was wearing the best I had. The pants were with squares. They were blue with squares and a little jacket. Oscar came and said, “Is that the way you dress to go to Washington?” He made me feel very bad. I said “Oh, shut up.”

We went to Washington. It was a very interesting experience to be received by the Secret Service or whoever. In Miami, we were escorted. They took our passports away. I never had it so easy going into the US, just went from one plane, to one specific car, to another plane, then limousine in Washington to our hotel in front of the White House. This old hotel, I think it is still used for visiting diplomats. With Daniel, the president, I felt like a minister. I was an informal minister, I guess. Watching Daniel put his shoes outside the door for somebody to clean them up. I wasn’t going to do that. Ugly shoes by the way. I remember the wife of the director of the Kennedy Center was Christine Stevenson, who was the president of the Animal Welfare Institute who gave Daniel the Albert Schweitzer Award. They said “Do you want to go to the Kennedy Center for some thing?” Daniel said “I don’t want to go”, but Oscar and I went. Anyway, that was interesting part of it, meeting this couple, Christine and her husband, a very nice person, who took me to their house in Georgetown and I kept visiting afterwards until he passed away. I don’t know if Christine is still alive. Then they took us to see the museums in Washington. We visited two particular museums. We went to the Air and Space Museum where the astronaut who landed on the moon escorted us throughout the museum. That was wonderful. I don’t remember his name but I think he became a senator later. Then we were taken to which museum I don’t remember, but it was to see the King Tutankhamun Collection. The museum was opened especially just for the president of Costa Rica. It was a Sunday I guess. So we had a private tour of the Tutankhamun Emperor or Pharaoh. Then came the ceremony at the Senate. Hubert Humphrey was the one who decorated the president. In parentheses, the dean of the diplomatic corps in Washington DC was señor Sacasa, who was for 40 years the ambassador for Anastasio Somoza, the dictator of Nicaragua. The dean of the diplomatic corps in Washington is the oldest ambassador, had to be Sacasa, had to be dictatorship of Somoza. Interesting people to have met, the Humphrey and Sacasa part just as an anecdote. The president gave his speech and we were dined and wined. I don’t know, I guess we talked to everybody that came, World Wildlife Fund and everybody that were present in town. So that was an interesting one. The other one was in New York. I was in Venezuela, I was back in the hotel in Caracas, going to the national park where the Angel Falls are, Canaima I think it is. The flight was given to me by the Venezuelan Park Service when I got this call from the ambassador of Costa Rica in Caracas, whose name happened to be Pedro Abreu. He said “Daniel Oduber says you should go back to San Jose, because he wants you to go to New York with him.” Oh, shoot. I was mad because I wanted to see Angel Falls, but then I told Pedro “OK. You find me a flight as soon as you can, because I cannot find room for today.” Pedro was helpful in flying me back to Costa Rica because of orders of the president. When I called his secretary she said, “He is going. You better...” “But I don’t have a visa to get out of the country, or tickets.” “No, no. You call the colonel so and so who runs the airport, just tell him.” I was escorted through the airport, into the airplane without anything, on we go with President Oduber to New York, stayed at the Waldorf Astoria. I don’t remember much about that trip. Daniel was always a loner. He wasn’t out partying. Goes to the meeting and goes to his room, what he did there, I don’t know. I remember the trip to the Botanical Garden, very nice, very well dined and wined, given this award. So those two trips with Daniel were quite an experience for me, little old me from Mercedes Norte de Heredia.

So, Daniel had both, humbleness and power. True dedication to whatever he believed in. Then after we created Corcovado, he was given all these awards because of Corcovado, adding to all that we had done. Then, he kept pushing me to, right at the end the last month of the administration, when he was a lame duck, the lamest duck that you can imagine, with Rodrigo Carazo coming in with force, to bring him the decree to establish the whole Cordillera of Guanacaste as a national park. He never forgave me afterwards. “See, you failed me.” I said, “Daniel, you were not a president then” (laughter). “You were already on your way out, and the forces to be were too strong for anything to be signed at that moment.” Although I did get him to sign Carara Biological Reserve and Hitoy-Cirere Biological Reserve in the last five to eight days of his administration. He didn’t know what he was signing. I remember calling La Negra, his secretary, “Where is Daniel? I need to have him sign these things in a hurry.” She said, “Oh, he is flying from Liberia to the airport. He is going out of the country but if you hurry, you can catch him.” I remember going full speed, violating the law, going to the airport then told the colonel, “Let me in. I need to see the president on the tarmac.” I was rushed through there. In came the little plane. The engines of the jet were already on. The engines of the little plane was still on. The wind was blowing. The president came out on the steps of his little plane. I was there right at the bottom of the steps. “Daniel, sign these decrees before I go, sign these decrees.” He said, “But what is it?” I could hardly hear him. He could hardly hear me. I said “Oh, the creation of national parks and biological reserve. “Are you going to get me into problem with these, or get me in jail?” “No sir, just sign it. You’ll be famous.” So in the wind, he signed these things and left in the jet. Hah, my goodness, barely made it, leaving the hair on the fence. So that’s how these two areas were signed by him too. That type of access, that type of fearlessness and power. That was my friend and hero Daniel Oduber.