San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica, Panama could remove passport requirement for traveling between the countries

Travel between Costa Rica and Panama could be sped up thanks to a proposal that would eliminate the need for a passport when traveling between the two countries. The waiver would apply only to Costa Rican and Panamanian citizens.

Instead, all that would be needed is a cédula, or identification card, to travel into the neighboring country.

The idea was first raised by Panama’s President Ricardo Martinelli earlier this year in a meeting with Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla at an annual business fair in Panama City.

Foreign Minister René Castro told the daily La Nación that the new passport rule could go into effct by the middle of 2012, but both governments still needed to conduct a study, with attention to security implications.

Castro also said that Panamanian officials wanted to use systems such as card readers with databases to be able to quickly identify citizens. Panama also wants to share air or sea surveillance, the foreign minister told La Nacíon.

The two sides also talked about a shared base at the border where officials would detect crimes, and at the same time allow citizens a quick way to pass through the border. Castro said that undocumented people would not benefit from the faster process.

Costa Rica’s ambassador to Panama, Melvin Sáenz, told La Nación that given the current state of affairs in Central America, with insecurity in the north and the political situation in Nicaragua, he thought it was important for Costa Rica and Panama to strengthen their alliance.

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