San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Central America not counting on more aid following Obama visit

Central American leaders are happy to host U.S. President Barack Obama in Costa Rica in early May, but they’re not holding their breath for more financial aid from his government, Costa Rican Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo told the daily La Nación on Sunday.

“Times have changed. I don’t expect we’ll see a sudden influx of financial aid from the United States in this region,” he said, noting that the U.S. is focused on controlling its own public spending back home.

Obama’s May 3-4 visit, when he will meet with seven Central American and Caribbean heads of state, will focus instead on strengthening political ties in Latin America, Castillo said.

“The first [Obama] administration was marked by a distance and certain indifference towards Latin America with a few countries being an exception,” Castillo told La Nación.

“I think now he is expressing more of an interest in regions with small countries, but where the U.S. has security and immigration interests,” he added.

Obama’s visit could help shore up better cooperation on those issues by initiating channels of better political dialogue.

Most members of the Central American Integration System have confirmed they’ll attend the summit, including Guatemala’s Otto Pérez Molina, Panama’s Ricardo Martinelli, El Salvador’s Mauricio Funes and Costa Rica’s Laura Chinchilla, who will host the event.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said he would attend, following an embarrassing exchange last week when Ortega claimed Costa Rica didn’t invite him. The Costa Rican Foreign Ministry quickly produced a copy of a formal invite sent to the Nicaraguan Embassy in San José, contradicting Ortega’s claims.

Honduran President Porfirio Lobo is expected to attend but has not yet formally accepted the invitation. Belize’s Dean Barrow also has not said if he’ll attend.

Obama first will travel to Mexico on May 2, where he’ll meet with his Mexican counterpart, Enrique Peña Nieto.

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