After almost 50 years of severed ties, Costa Rica will reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba, President Oscar Arias announced Wednesday afternoon.
The move, announced via a press release, comes after Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno hinted earlier this week that a rapprochement was possible.
In the announcement, Arias said he had arrived at the decision “carefully” and “responsibly.” Times change, he said, and “Costa Rica needs to change with them.”
“The hour of direct and open dialogue, official and normal relations, has arrived,” Arias said. Formal ties, he added, “permit us to address our agreements and disagreements speaking head-on and with sincerity.”
Costa Rica has not had formal ties with Cuba since then-President Mario Echandi cut off diplomatic relations with an executive decree in September 1961. On Wednesday, Arias signed a new executive decree to reestablish relations.
Prior to Arias’ announcement, Costa Rica was one of only three countries in the Americas without diplomatic ties to Cuba, along with the United States and El Salvador. According to news reports, it is expected that Sunday’s election of left-leaning presidential candidate Mauricio Funes in El Salvador will lead to restored relations with Cuba.
Arias said the two countries will announce “For now,” he said, “as the oldest democracy in Latin America, as the little country of peace, we are extending our hand to the Cuban people, and are sending by sea and air an olive branch to begin again the good work of building friendship.”