San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica reinforces security measures ahead of Obama arrival

Costa Rican Public Security Minister Mario Zamora on Wednesday said that all security measures have been reinforced in San José, including at airports, hotels and the country’s borders, to protect U.S President Barack Obama, who will meet with the presidents of Central America nations next week.

“There are groups that are trying to take advantage of these events to stage street protests, but we have taken them into consideration within all safety plans,” Zamora said. “Security of all presidents, not only President Obama, is a great challenge for the country,” he added.

The minister did not specify the number of officers involved in the operation, but he said that “every presidential delegation has its own security officials with which “we already established appropriate coordination, incorporating safety criteria, according to the threats of risk of each delegation.”

Costa Rica, which has no armed forces, has some 14,000 police officers.

To facilitate surveillance tasks, authorities will block access to various roads, which could affect transit in San José.

Officials said that all public employees working in San José will be given a day off on May 3, the day Obama arrives for his two-day visit.

Obama’s agenda includes a bilateral meeting with Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla prior to a summit with leaders of the Central American Integration System, which Costa Rica currently presides.

Specific details about Obama’s agenda and the locations where the presidents will meet have not yet been disclosed, a common security protocol for the planning of all presidential visits, a U.S. Embassy official said earlier in April. Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo said earlier this week that Obama will not attend public events as other U.S. presidents have in the past here in Costa Rica.

On Tuesday, Chinchilla said she would ask Obama to extend talks beyond the issue of drug trafficking to include cooperation programs, particularly those aimed at developing more clean energy and fostering investment.

In fact, not much is expected to change in regards to the U.S. strategy to fight drug trafficking in the region, and next week’s talks are expected to focus on fostering economic development and closer trade ties in the region, U.S. officials say.

Tico Times editor David Boddiger contributed to this report.

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