San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

President Arias to Visit Uruguay Summit, Chile

President Oscar Arias headed to Uruguay yesterday for the 16th Latin American-Iberian Summit of Heads of State and Government, to be held today and tomorrow. On Monday, he’s scheduled to head to Chile for a meeting with President Michelle Bachelet, along with legislative and municipal leaders, and a trade conference at the Latin American Economic Commission (CEPAL).

Costa Rican Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno, Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias, Ambassador to Uruguay Marco Vinicio Vargas, and Foreign Ministry Cooperation Director Circe Villanueva will accompany Arias, according to a statement from Casa Presidencial.

Immigration will be one of the top priorities for leaders at the annual summit.

The group is expected to approve the “Montevideo Accord on Immigration and Development,” the statement said.

Arias will also seek to drum up support for the proposals he is backing within the United Nations – an arms trade treaty, which this week took a step forward in the General Assembly (see separate story), and his Costa Rica Consensus to reward developing countries that reduce their military spending – as well as for Costa Rica’s bid for a seat on the U.N. Security Council in 2008-2009. Bilateral meetings are scheduled between Arias and Uruguayan President Tabaré Vásquez, Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero, Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General José Miguel Insulza and Inter-American Development Bank president Luis Alberto Moreno, among others.

On Nov. 6-8 in Chile, whose array of free-trade agreements with various regions and countries has drawn praise from Arias on various occasions as Costa Rica considers its own agreement with the United States, Arias will meet with Bachelet, municipal leaders in Santiago, and congressional authorities, the statement said.

His speech on trade Nov. 6 at CEPAL will be broadcast at at 2 p.m. Costa Rican time.

The President’s travel plans aren’t sitting well with some: the opposition Citizen Action Party (PAC) released a statement Tuesday criticizing Arias for traveling so much during his first six months in office.

“Oscar Arias has spent 36 days outside of Costa Rica… He can’t meet his campaign promise of governing the country,” PAC legislator Francisco Molina said in the statement, which alleged that Arias has been traveling for his own benefit and not just for state purposes.

“The presence of the President in presidential summits or meetings with other leaders is reasonable, but Mr. Oscar should restrain his fondness for traveling. These absences make the population question his true interest,” he added.

Arias’ travels have included a two-week tour of Europe, a Central American Integration System meeting in Panama, the inauguration of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, and, last month, two trips to the United States, where he attended a business conference in Miami and a gathering of fellow Nobel Peace Prize winners in Colorado, and addressed the U.N. General Assembly in New York.


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