The Miami Herald
Apr. 03, 2003

Arias upset at reaction to his antiwar speech

  The Palm Beach Post

  PALM BEACH - Their cold reception to his weekend antiwar speech at the Four Seasons left Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias hot about the audience that walked out on him.

  ''I expected to find more tolerance and respect for freedom of speech in the democracy of Jefferson and Lincoln,'' Arias wrote to The Palm Beach Post on Wednesday. ``If people in Palm Beach only want one point of view, they can continue watching American TV networks.''

  As many as 150 guests took issue with Arias' remarks at a fundraising event Saturday. They marched from the room, with some singing an impromptu chorus of God Bless America.

  ''It seems to me that the United States government has overstepped its bounds and squandered whatever goodwill and solidarity it received from the international
  community in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks,'' Arias said in his speech.

  By Monday, the furor had yet to subside. Arias resigned from the board of the Children's World Blood Bank, a group initiated by South Florida Blood Banks. The banks' foundation hosted the ''Evening with World Leaders'' banquet where Arias spoke.

  The blood bank issued a statement Monday saying it was a ''shame'' Arias used the event ``as a forum to speak about politics.''

  On Wednesday, Arias said nobody told him to keep quiet about the war.

  He said he delivered the same antiwar message in Palm Beach as he has at other speaking engagements.

  It was simply the wrong forum for an antiwar speech, said Rex Ford, a Miami immigration judge who walked out during Arias' speech.

  Arias, president of Costa Rica from 1986 to 1990, won the Nobel in 1987 for crafting a Central American peace plan.