Costa Rica president urges next U.S. leader to up Latin American aid

October 24, 2008

President Oscar Arias is hoping whoever wins the Nov. 4 U.S. presidential election will pay greater attention, and provide bigger aid packages, to Latin America.

“As a Latin American, one can only hope that the United States turns its eyes more to Latin America, its neighbor to the south, and not for solidarity, not for generosity, but for simple interest in having more prosperous neighbors,” Arias told reporters yesterday at a ceremony at the Inter-American Human Rights Court in San José.

Regarding the candidates, Arias said that “if we believe what all the polls are saying then Barak Obama is going to win, but it´ll be the Americans that finally choose.”

Arias said he has high hopes the new U.S. administration will increase aid to this region´s poorest communities.

“The government of the United States has to think about increasing its cooperation because its spending has gone principally to Asia and not Latin America,” Arias said.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) this year budgeted approximately $963 million for programs in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to its Web site. In Asia, USAID is managing $2.5 billion in U.S. assistance activities.

But the United States has not shirked its commitment, according to U.S. Ambassador Peter Cianchette.

“If you look at the relationship that we´ve had with Costa Rica – if you go back 50 years – you´ll find that no other country has given the amount of resources, or even close to it, as the United States has,” he told The Tico Times last week.

Arias, a staunch proponent of free trade, said commerce is good, but it´s not enough.

“It´s necessary for the United States to channel resources to the poorest countries – I´m thinking of certain ones in Central America but also Haiti, which is the poorest in the hemisphere and has been lashed by hurricanes,” he said.

“Solidarity with Haiti is lacking in the richest country in the world,” said Arias.

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