Costa Rica’s Chinchilla seeks Peru’s support in joining Pacific Alliance

May 14, 2013

Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla on Monday met with Peru’s Ollanta Humala at the Government Palace in Lima.

The 45-minute meeting covered talks on trade, security and investment, but Chinchilla also took the opportunity to discuss Costa Rica’s entry in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).

“Peru is one of the three fastest growing economies in Latin America and it will be key in obtaining an invitation to Costa Rica for joining the Pacific Alliance Group, during their next meeting in Colombia,” Chinchilla said.

Costa Rica will request to be accepted into the Pacific Alliance on May 22, when Chinchilla is set to sign a free trade agreement with Colombia during the TPP summit in Cali.

Chinchilla also said the recent ratification of a free trade agreement between Costa Rica and Peru “allows the country to take advantage of the economic dynamism of the South American country.”

Humala expressed interest in learning from Costa Rica’s successful experiences in eco-tourism and public safety, and Chinchilla extended an invitation to participate in one of the next presidential summits of the Central American Integration System.

Controversy over trip

Chinchilla’s announced trip sparked controversy over the weekend and into Tuesday, when the daily La Nación reported that Chinchilla and her entourage traveled to Peru in a private jet owned by Canadian firm THX Energy, an oil and natural gas company.

Chinchilla said her trip was of a private nature, as she initially planned to attend the wedding of Vice President Luis Liberman’s son on Saturday. She said she then decided to use the trip to briefly meet with President Humala on Monday.

According to Costa Rica’s Law Against Illicit Enrichment and Corruption, the flight – with an estimated cost of some $60,000 – should haven been reported to the Legislative Assembly. But Communications Minister Francisco Chacón downplayed the controversy, saying that it was “a collaboration of a private-sector company with the president.”

Costa Rica does not have a government airplane designated for presidential travel. Planes must be chartered for official trips.

Chacón added that “there is no conflict of interest, because the Canadian firm’s only [commercial interest] in Costa Rica is a failed agricultural project for the production of palm oil,” La Nación reported.  “Chinchilla’s administration is not currently promoting gas exploration in the country,” he added.

THX Energy also supplied Chinchilla with a private jet when she attended the funeral of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez on March 8, in Caracas.

So far, it is unclear whether any public funds were used to pay for the trip, but opposition lawmakers promised to investigate.

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