San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Bolivarian Revolution

Costa Rica recalls its ambassador to Venezuela after pro-Maduro statements

When representing the Switzerland of Central America in the midst of a major diplomatic battle between powers to the north and south of you, it may be best to keep your mouth shut.

Costa Rica’s Foreign Minister Manuel González announced Wednesday afternoon that he was dismissing the country’s ambassador to Venezuela, Federico Picado Gómez. Picado found himself in hot water this week after voicing support for the Venezuelan government in an interview published in the daily La Nación.

González said Picado violated protocol by not asking permission from the Foreign Ministry to do the interview. Still, the minister said in a statement that Picado “is an excellent professional and political analyst with wide knowledge of international affairs and recognized personal virtues.”

Picado’s trouble began Sunday when La Nación published his emailed responses to questions from one of its reporters. Picado wrote that he observed a free press in Venezuela, and he blamed the country’s high inflation and shortage of basic goods on plunging petroleum prices and political maneuvers by “big business” looking to destabilize the Venezuelan government.

The diplomat also said he thought Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was right to ask for, and receive, extraordinary powers to bypass the country’s legislature in order to respond to U.S. President Barack Obama’s declaration of a “national emergency” to deal with the “threat” of Venezuela.

In the wake of the interview, reporters questioned Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís about the appropriateness of Picado’s statements. They also questioned Solis’ appointment of Ambassador Picado, who studied in the former Soviet Union and has previously written admiringly of the vast socialist makeover initiated in Venezuela by former President Hugo Chávez.

Solís mostly defended his ambassador during his weekly press conference on Tuesday.

“One doesn’t have to be neutral to be an ambassador,” Solís told reporters. He said ambassadors should be chosen based on their diplomatic talents, not their political ideology.

Still, Solís sought to separate Picado’s opinions from the country’s official position on South America’s most troubled country.

“In the case of Venezuela, the only spokesman authorized to give statements about the issue is the foreign minister,” Solís said. “We’re centralizing all statements there precisely because the current situation is so delicate.”

On Monday, the Foreign Ministry reaffirmed Minister González’s position regarding Venezuela, which he voiced last week at a meeting of the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C.

“The situation in Venezuela requires us to stay alert to the evolution of events and to clearly signal the importance, in a full democracy, of exercising the democratic balance of power and generating appropriate conditions so that the opposition can carry out its actions within the framework of legality and respect.”

Tensions have escalated between the U.S. and Venezuela over the past month, forcing nations friendly with both countries, like Costa Rica, to walk a fine diplomatic line.

In late February, Venezuelan President Maduro announced mandatory visas for all U.S. citizens as a way to “control” U.S. interference. Soon afterward, Maduro ordered the U.S. Embassy to reduce its staff from 100 to 17 officials.

The following week, on March 9, Obama ordered the freezing of U.S. properties and bank accounts of seven Venezuelan officials — most of them accused of participating in the 2014 crackdown on opposition protests in which more than 40 people died.

In the wake of the new sanctions announced by the U.S., some Latin American countries backed Venezuela and indicated that the U.S. is inappropriately interfering in the country’s affairs. But Costa Rica has thus far remained more neutral.

The order recalling Ambassador Picado is effective April 1. Picado arrived at his post in January.

Contact Jill Replogle at jillrep@ticotimes.net

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Donald Waltz

Comrade Ben, be careful whom you choose to threaten as sometimes things bite back more than you ever expected them too and doesn’t turn out nice for good ole Comrades

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Isabella Rocha

I’m Tica and Picado is representing Costa Rica in the international arena and he should follow PROTOCOL. Costa Rica is friends with everyone and should not take sides, or their representatives give their personal opinions. I’m surprised if he studied in Russia he was named ambassador. Red flag to me. Actually Raul Q., the proper term is Democratic Republic (a true one), like we don’t have Electoral College or a Supreme Court to decide who’s gonna be president for us, like in the U.S.A. in 2000 for example.

Soy Tica y Picado representa a Costa Rica internacionalmente, el debio seguir PROTOCOLO. Costa Rica es amiga de todos y no debemos opinar o apoyar a un lado u otro, o dar una opinion personal. Me sorprende si estudio en Rusia lo nombraron embajador. Una senal ahi para mi. Realmente Raul Q., el termino apropiado es Republica Democartica ( una verdadera), nosotros no tenemos un Colegio Electoral o una Corte Suprema que decida por nosotros quien es el presidente, como en los Estados Unidos en el 2000 por ejemplo.

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Raul Quinones

It’s called “The Republic of Costa Rica”. Nothing more , nothing less.
Since when do You decide “protocol”? He seems to speak for 50 per cent of the people on this thread. He studied in Russia along with other countries. Do you only accept Skull and Bones Boys or the University of Zurich?

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Marvelous Marv

“He speaks for 50 percent of the people on this thread” LOL! LOL! Too much! That is the best justification you can muster? Not a very good poll.

The proper comparison should have been Yale boys to the University of Zurich. I’ll take Yale, thank you.

Isabella, while I agree with your view in the post, the debacle in 2000 was actually caused by an extremely close race on Florida, with some technical irregularities in some ballots. In the end, the final recounts unfortunately showed a Bush victory. The SCOTUS had to rule on the process, but Bush had the votes and he won, regrettably. The Electoral College is just a rubber stamp. It really is obsolete. If you are curious, the founding fathers of the USA were educated, wealthy landowners. Although democratic and freedom loving, they were unsure how their experiment would turn out by giving the vote to all white men, mostly uneducated and scratching out a living. The questioned whether they could be responsible citizens. (It unfortunately took 100 plus years to give the vote to all, male and female of all colors). So they created the Electoral College as a safety valve in case the uneducated masses elected some goofball. With the election of Andrew Jackson, known as the people’s president and the passage of time, the founders fears have so far been proved unfounded. Although some might disagree with the election of GW Bush, the junior.

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Raul Quinones

Curb your tongue knave! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sv0Moe74xw
Fortunately Costa Rice is a “Republic” and not a “Democracy”, so macho men like Marv (below) can get back to playing with their Easter Bunnies while Jesus Christ dies on the cross for their sins. Pura Vida!

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Donald Waltz

Comrade Ben , those damn illegals sure as hell expect the US to speak spainish when they creap across the border breeding like rabbits.

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Ben

Where you live?

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Ben

Don´t worry Don i already know who you are. No need to write any comments.

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Marvelous Marv

The ambassador deserves his termination because his role is to voice the opinion of the Costa Rican government, rather than his own.

Seriously, Ben? Who in the PAC party do you talk to? The two areas the US leans on are money laundering and drug smuggling interdiction. These are certainly is supported by the CR government as a mutual interest. Methinks you would be much happier with China’s control of the CR government,

The mess in Venezuela is the result of ill-advised economic policies of Hugo Chavez and Maduro. The oil price plunge just exposed the futility of price setting and anti-business action. Add in an effort to restrain a free press and political dissent and you get a near totalitarian government with an economy in shambles.

This should be a warning of the outcome such a Leftist formula delivers.

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Ben

TO MARV

Listen close and maybe you should read a book or two about Latin America History. Over the last 75 years the US goverment has used a policy in Latin America is we tell you what to do or else. It was Richard Nixon that said Latin America is Shit Richard Nixon was so wrong. Every country in Latin America has had problems with US goverment telling them how to live and what to do. I know US citizens are upset they can´t rape oil for nothing anymore from Venezuela and that the US goverment lost control of the Panama Canal or the fact they can´t use corupt corportion like Bectel and United fruit company to inslave Latin America. The fact is we in Latin America watch you US citizens because we know at any moment we might have to defend are country against your two faced goverment that will make up lies against the great Latin America people that just want you dum US citizens to go back to your corupt Country that does only harm and never any good. Just because you visit and spend a few dollars does not give you any right to anything in Latin America.

I read this the other day in Panama perfect for all dum US citizens
1. Quit complaining that not everyone speaks English
I don’t know where expats (particularly Americans) got the idea that when you move to a country where English is not the native language, that everyone should speak English on top of their local language. When you move to a foreign country, you should not expect everyone to adapt around you. Many Panamanians do speak English, but expecting everyone to is unreasonable, and should not be used as a reason to disparage a country.

2. Make every effort to speak Spanish

This one is obviously related to number 1, but even for expats who do not expect everyone to speak English, it is still another step to get some of us to speak Spanish. I am not saying everyone has to become fluent. Learning a second language is hard (which is another reason why we shouldn’t expect every Panamanian to naturally be able to do it), but everyone should make an effort to learn at least basic Spanish to communicate when out at restaurants, in cabs, at the store, etc. Using even basic broken Spanish will leave a better impression than speaking loudly in English and pointing at things when trying to communicate. If you are struggling to learn Spanish, you can check out a few of the articles in our Learning Spanish section. 125 Spanish Words Every Expat Should Know may be particularly helpful for basic Spanish to help you get around.

3. Stop calling Panamanians lazy

This one REALLY gets to me. Some expats have gotten it in their heads that Panamanians are a lazy people, but let me break it down for you. First off, the average work week for most jobs in Panama is 6 days. That’s 6 full days, 8 hours a day each week, just to earn their basic monthly salary. On top of that, because of how poorly most of these jobs pay and how expensive it is to live in the city, many workers live outside of the city and do not have a car, so they are forced to take multiple buses to work. This can add 1-2 hours or more each direction to their commute to work. So for many workers, between their work time and commute, it can add up to 70 hours or more each week. And that’s just their first job. It’s pretty common for Panamanians to have a side gig like preparing and selling homemade food, or providing another service that earns a little extra cash, on top of their full time job. Meanwhile there’s a good chance that your expat who is making comments about lazy Panamanians is doing so while drinking cervezas at their pool at 2pm on a Wednesday. So who are the lazy ones again?

4. Don’t insult Panamanians intelligence

This is another one that seems to go along with lazy, but I’ve seen some expats criticize Panamanians as “uneducated”, which is really just code for “stupid.” This is another surefire way to appear condescending. In any country, you are sure to meet people who are not too well educated or are ignorant. This is true in your home country, just as it is in Panama. But I also know many Panamanians who can run mental gymnastics around myself and most of the expats I know. So don’t take one bad experience you may have and use it to make generalizations against an entire nation. Particularly if you are making your comments about other’s intelligence in a poorly spelled and punctuated Facebook post.

5. Understand your wealth privilege

If you are an expat in Panama, chances are you have more money than the average Panamanian. Most likely a lot more money. 85% of working Panamanians earn less than $1000 a month, and 23% earn less than $400. Because of this, take care when making comments about how “broke” you are, or how expensive things are. If you do so, make sure to do so in such a way that doesn’t make you appear out of touch to someone who is trying to make it by on much less than you are.

Also, if you do have more wealth than the average Panamanian, then definitely don’t be a cheapskate. I am not saying overpay for things or allow yourself to get ripped off. I think that’s actually detrimental to Panamanians in the long run. But you should be on the generous side of normal, particularly when it comes to tipping, and should not be pinching pennies at the expense of others.

6. Don’t lose your mind over the service
Look, I get that Panamanian service leaves something to be desired. I think most Panamanians would agree with you on that. But there is a difference between having a complaint or two about the service at restaurants and acting like it’s the end of the world every time it takes a little longer for somebody to take your order. If the worst thing that happens to you is it takes you a while to get your burger and fries, then your life is pretty blessed, and you should put things in perspective. Nobody likes a serial complainer, so try to be tranquilo about as much as possible.

7. Be respectful of Panamanians
I was going to make this one “be respectful of Panamanian women,” but I decided to expand it and make it more general. To talk about that issue briefly, don’t be the “gross gringo” who comes here and acts in a way that is demeaning to Panamanian women and treats them as objects instead of people. But in general, treat everyone as your equal and never think you are above anyone else. This goes for anyone you interact with, whether they are your maid or the President of the Republic. You’d be amazed that if you treat others with kindness and respect what you will get back.
8. Learn Panamanian social customs
This is an easy one to do and will go a long way to making people have a good impression of you. It’s easy for an expat to come off as rude because they don’t know the basics of how it is appropriate to interact with people. For example if you get in an elevator with someone, it is customary to greet them by saying “buenas” when you get in the elevator, and “hasta luego” or “ciao” when either they or you exit the elevator. Doing this as opposed to getting in and staring at the wall will improve your neighbors’ opinion of you. In general, things that would be considered good manners anywhere in the world are viewed even more important here. Say please and thank you. Hold the door open for people. If you see an elderly person or pregnant woman, offer them your seat or allow them to go ahead of you in the line. Say “mucho gusto” when you meet someone for the first time. If someone wishes you “buenas noches,” say “igual” back to them.

9. Respect Panamanian history
Want to know a quick way to piss off a Panamanian? Say something derogatory about Panama or its history. Panamanians are proud of their country, and like to celebrate their accomplishments. My wife always tells me the story of how when Panama won its first Olympic Gold Medal, they took the athlete off the plane when he arrived home and paraded him around on a fire truck throughout the city.

Panama also has had complicated events in its history, particularly events involving America. If you are not familiar with Panamanian history, look up both Martyr’s Day and the US Invasion of Panama. Because of this, there are certain topic that may be sensitive for some Panamanians. Always take extra care to be respectful of this, and never say anything that is derogatory about Panama’s history or its accomplishments.

10. Go easy on the alcohol

I’m not trying to be a buzz-kill here. I’m not saying don’t drink. I’m not saying don’t go out and have a good time. What I am saying is that if getting wasted is going to make you more likely to violate any of the first 9 rules in this article, then consider moderating. “I was drunk” won’t buy you an excuse if you engage in bad behavior.

So there are my 10 tips for being a better gringo. I think if we all take a moment for self reflection, we will realize that we can improve on one of more of these points. Nobody is every going to be perfect, but we should all set a high standard for ourselves and strive to reach it. If we do that, not only will we give off a better impression of ourselves and our country but we will have a more enjoyable experience in Panama as well.

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Marvelous Marv

Ben– You’re obviously drunk. Your rant had nothing to do with my post. Raul, your compadre and you cannot muster a decent response to the fact that Venezuela is a mess and is so because of the foolish and failed policies of those you admire so much. You’re both a pair of delusional and ill tempered jerks.

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chad

Marv, you should get Ben and Raul some ice water for the burns you just gave them!

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Ben

I heard the US goverment told the Costa Rican goverment and said get this Costa Rican ambassador out of Venezuela or the US will cut economic ties to Costa Rica. You see US goverment is really in control of Costa Rica. Many in PAC party in Costa Rica tell me they are upset with US goverment and the control they have over Costa Rican goverment.

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