The United States has agreed to exchange $12.6 million of Costa Rica’s $93.1 million debt for projects to protect the environment, according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry.
The U.S. Treasury Department has deemed Costa Rica eligible for the Tropical Forest Conservation Act, a law that allows countries with significant amounts of tropical forest to exchange their debt to the U.S. government for efforts to protect forests.
The Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) and Finance Ministry now have the task of defining how this money will be spent, the statement said.
Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno said he is “doubly pleased” with the U.S. decision, “in the first place, because Costa Rica is once again being a part of international cooperation, and also because the U.S. decision confirms the leadership of the country in conservation and the protection of nature, especially forests,” the statement said.
The $12.6 million is a “significant amount” that can go toward programs including President Oscar Arias’ Peace with Nature, which promotes the efficient use of energy and the creation of alternative energy, the statement said.
Some environmentalists, however, have voiced concern over Arias’ environmental policy, saying it doesn’t go far enough (see separate story).
President Arias asked U.S. President George W. Bush to consider forgiving Costa Rica’s debt during a visit to the White House in December (TT, Dec. 8, 2006).