San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Arias castigates fellow leaders in last international appearance

Oscar Arias used his last minutes in the international spotlight as Costa Rican president to highlight the lack of progress by the nations of Latin America.

At a meeting between heads of state in Playa del Carmen, Mexico on Tuesday, the second-term president said, “The truth is our region has advanced little in the last few decades. In some areas, we have gone resolutely backward.”

He condemned governments in the region that “use election results to justify their desire to restrict individual freedoms and persecute their opponents.” And he reprimanded his colleagues for their inability “to meet the needs of our people and provide the benefits that democracy is obliged to deliver.”

The Nobel Peace Prize recipient, who has been a tireless advocate for disarmament, shook his finger at the region as a whole for failing to reduce military spending: “It shows a complete inability to set priorities in Latin America; a practice that prevents a true agenda for development.”

And, finally, he warned fellow heads of state not to blame others for Latin America´s problems, saying, “Neither Spanish colonialism or a lack of resources or United State hegemony or any other theory of eternal victimization in Latin America” can explain its shortcomings.

The Latin American and Caribbean Conference (CALC) ended Tuesday and resulted in the preliminary stages of the creation of a community of states that excludes both United States and Canada. The next summits will be held in Venezuela (2011) and Chile (2012).

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