U.S. Vice President Joe Biden to visit Costa Rica

March 13, 2009

U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden will be visiting Costa Rica later this month, the Casa Presidencial announced Thursday.

Biden, the first member of the Barack Obama administration to visit Latin America, will stop by Costa Rica March 29 and 30, after participating in The Progressive Leaders Forum in Viña del Mar, Chile, on March 27 and 28.

Chile and Costa Rica are the only two Latin American countries currently on Biden´s itinerary, according to news reports.

In a statement released Thursday, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias hailed the visit as a mark of increased engagement with Latin America on the part of the White House.

“The visit of Vice President Biden is a clear sign of renewed interest of the U.S. government with its closest partners and neighbors,” Arias said.

Biden, 66, is a seasoned hand in U.S. foreign policy, having previously served in the Senate, where he was chair of the Foreign Relations Committee. As a senator, Biden voted against the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which Arias had lobbied hard to pass in Costa Rica, citing a lack of labor or environmental standards.

Biden will be accompanied by his wife, Jill, and is the highest-level visitor from the United States since then-President Bill Clinton came to Costa Rica in May 1997.

Arias had sent a letter to Obama following Obama´s inauguration inviting the new U.S. president to visit Costa Rica. The first meeting between the two presidents will likely be at the Fifth Summit of the Americas, hosted by Trinidad and Tobago next month.

“In a few weeks will be the Summit of the Americas, in which I hope to see President Obama,” Arias said. “This visit offers us a valuable prior opportunity for dialogue and agreement with the U.S. government.”

A former presidential candidate before dropping out of the race in January 2008, Biden was named to the Democratic ticket in July, in part to help shore up Obama´s foreign policy credentials. Already, the vice president has been one of Obama´s primary envoys to the world, visiting U.S. allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Belgium this week.

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