San José, Costa Rica
American gets asylum: An American woman who is wanted in the U.S. for parental kidnapping was given refugee status in Costa Rica last week. Chere Lyn Tomayko moved to Costa Rica in 1997 with her daughter Alexandria Cyprian, then 7, in defiance of a Texas court order that gave Alexandria’s father, Robert Cyprian, joint custody. Tomayko claims Cyprian was abusive. She had been in a Costa Rican prison pending an extradition hearing since last year, but this week, a judge ordered her freed after the Costa Rican government accepted her asylum claim. Costa Rican President Oscar Arias said he saw the case as a human-rights issue and called Tomayko’s release “wonderful news.”
A boost for the president: Ecuador’s Constituent Assembly has approved a new constitution that gives the country’s leftist president wide new powers. If the document is adopted in a national referendum next month, President Rafael Correa could run for two more four-year terms, and he would take direct control of economic and monetary policy, which currently is run by the Central Bank. Correa says the new charter is needed to wrest power from Ecuador’s widely discredited traditional political parties and more equitably distribute wealth. His detractors say it would concentrate excessive power in his hands and amount to a virtual coronation of the self-avowed Christian socialist. The U.S.-trained economist took office in January 2007.
Pinochet daughter to run: The 64-year-old daughter of the late dictator Augusto Pinochet has decided to go into politics. Lucia Pinochet Hiriart this week registered to run for a city council seat representing Santiago’s ritziest neighborhood, where much of the nation’s conservative elite lives. She was jailed for two days last year on allegations that she helped her father hide some of the millions he embezzled during his 1973–1990 rule, but she was cleared of all charges. Thousands of Chileans, mostly leftists, were tortured under the Pinochet regime; about 3,000 were killed.