San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rican president regrets Cuban trade embargo extension

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias has expressed dismay over the United States´ move to extend its nearly 50-year-old trade embargo against Cuba one more year.

“I have not been in agreement with this embargo for some time,” Arias said on Friday, days before he heads to New York City to participate in a climate change forum and nuclear arms debate. 

Just as the region was coming closer to reconciling a nearly half-century standoff with Cuba, U.S. President Barack Obama extended sanctions against the island last week.

While Obama gave indications in April that Washington is moving to bridge relations with Cuba – including allowing Cuban Americans to travel and send remittances to their homeland – he issued a memorandum Sept. 14 stating his intention to pursue the “continuation for one year of the exercise” with respect to Cuba, citing the “the national interest of the United States.” The Trading With the Enemy Act against Cuba, which was originally signed in 1963, was scheduled to expire Sept. 14, 2009.

“It´s not a new position, but it´s not the most appropriate one,” said Arias, who became one of the latest leaders in the region to renew diplomatic ties with Cuba in March. He said isolation has locked Cuba in the past: “It´s always been used as an excuse for Cuba not to realize a change.”

Within the last year, Cuba gradually has become more accepted in the region as the Organization of American States offered the island membership and more countries renewed diplomatic ties (including El Salvador and Costa Rica), leaving the United States as the only country that has yet to normalize relations.

For Arias, “If it´s only for one year, it leaves hope … that they will not extend the embargo. And that would be a good thing.”

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