Costa Rica’s relationship with Nicaragua is complicated, says Solís

June 14, 2014
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President Luis Guillermo Solís ended his whirlwind foreign tour of the United States Friday after meeting with U.S. senators, representatives from the Organization of American States, members of the news media and potential investors. The president released a statement Friday saying that the Costa Rican delegation considered the trip a success.

Solís appeared to make a victory lap from Palo Alto to New York to Washington, D.C., buoyed by news that Intel would open a new quality control testing facility in Costa Rica. The news stoked hopes of continued investment in Costa Rica from the microchip maker, which is likely the small country’s most important foreign investor.

But the president touched on other items during his first trip to the U.S. after taking office on May 8, including some constitutional amendments he would like to see, and Tico-Nicaragua relations.

In an interview with Fernando del Rincón of CNN en Español’s “Conclusiones” Thursday, the president said he would like to see an amendment that recognizes Costa Rica as a “pluricultural” and multilingual country. Solís, who traces his ancestry to Jamaica through a black grandmother, said that Costa Rica has long minimized its afro-descendent and indigenous peoples.

The leader also said that he wanted to see amendments that guarantee access to potable drinking water and broadband Internet access. Solís did not specify a timeline for these reforms.

One item that was not on his legislative wish list was legalization of illicit drugs. Solís reiterated that he does not support legalizing marijuana as Uruguay has or Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina suggested in years past.

“Costa Rica, unlike Guatemala, cannot yet discuss the subject of drug legalization. We believe that this is something that does not agree with our country in a moment when we are openly combating drug trafficking,” the president said, in a similar response to the one he gave The Tico Times earlier in Washington, D.C.

Recommended: Solís outlines plans for Costa Rica in first Washington appearance as president

Solís, however, said he did not oppose more debate on the subject.

“I do not contemplate a model [of drug legalization] like Uruguay,” the president told CNN.

In an interview with Voice of America on Friday, Solís said he supported expanding relationships with China but added that his government was in a process of reevaluating contracts with the economic giant that were approved under the Chinchilla administration. Solís said some agreements were approved without sufficient transparency, including improvements to Route 32 between Limón and San José.

Solís told VOA that he rejected the crackdown on Venezuelan opposition parties. The president came under fire as a candidate for what some saw as a weak response to the violence.

“The problems of democracy can only be solved with more democracy as Thomas Jefferson said,” Solís said. “Affirmation of human rights regimes should be maintained and deepened throughout the hemisphere.”

Besides meeting with the media and investors, Solís traveled to the U.S. Capitol Thursday for a meeting with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, including Republican Senator Marco Rubio from Florida:

CNN’s del Rincón seemed to reference Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega when he asked Solís if he wanted to grant himself expanded powers, including abolishing term limits. Ortega’s political party passed a constitutional reform ending term limits in 2013 that allowed the former guerrilla to run for office for a third term.

“Power is ephemeral,” Solís said. “A mature democracy, like Costa Rica’s, … has sufficient human capital to look for this change [in power] after this term. I’m a president who recognizes the limits of power as a desirable frontier for institutions.”

“Costa Rica and Nicaragua are countries that have no cause for divorce,” Solís told del Rincón, despite several border disputes pending between the Central American neighbors in the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

“We have a complicated relationship but we always need to administer it with wisdom and for the benefit of our peoples,” the president said.

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