San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Arias Chastises Regional Leaders

Outgoing Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, addressing most of his Latin American counterparts on the last day of a conference in Mexico early this week (see separate story, Nica Times, N1), used his waning international spotlight to highlight what he claims is a lack of progress by the nations of Latin America.

At the Latin American and Caribbean Conference (CALC) that brought together area heads of state at Playa del Carmen, Mexico, the two-time president said, on Tuesday, “The truth is our region has advanced little in the last few decades. In some areas, we have gone resolutely backward.”

Without naming countries, Arias condemned governments in the region that “use election results to justify their desire to restrict individual freedoms and persecute their opponents.”

And, without calling names, he reprimanded leaders for what he deems 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,” he said. “It’s 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, “Not Spanish colonialism or a lack of resources or United States hegemony or any other theory of eternal victimization in Latin America” can be held accountable for the region’s shortcomings.

The CALC advanced the first steps in creation of a community of states that excludes both the U.S. and Canada. The next summit will be in Venezuela in 2011. Chile will host the 2012 conference.


For the full text of Arias’ speech (in Spanish), see

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