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Cablegate: Costa Rica's Foreign Affairs "Accomplishments" in 2009

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #0991/01 3522133
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 182133Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0145
INFO WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SAN JOSE 000991

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
DEPT FOR WHA/CEN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV KDEM CS
SUBJECT: Costa Rica's Foreign Affairs "Accomplishments" in 2009

REF: 09 SAN JOSE 799; 09 SAN JOSE 619; 09 SAN JOSE 622
09 SAN JOSE 651

1. (U) Summary: The Costa Rican Ministry of Foreign Affairs
presented its major accomplishments for the year to the public on
December 15. Arias' foreign policy has focused on creating new
political partnerships in Asia and the Middle East as well as
strengthening relations with Latin American partners. While
highlighting President Arias' role in mediating the Honduran
crisis, the GOCR pointed out that that situation impeded further
accomplishments with its Central American partners. Costa Rica
will finish its term on the United Nations Security Council at the
end of December 2009 without having made much progress on its
declared priorities of disarmament and UN reform. End Summary.

Border Disputes and Honduras

2. (U) The GOCR saw its work internationally in 2009 as focused on
five areas: sovereignty, regional politics, new diplomatic
partnerships, multilateral politics and citizen services. The
Ministry highlighted the progress made on the long-standing dispute
with Nicaragua over management of their shared border along the San
Juan River. The July 2009 ruling by the International Court of
Justice was viewed as a victory by the GOCR (Ref B), though some
issues still remain to be worked out (Ref A). Additionally, in
2009 the GOCR lodged an application to extend its continental shelf
in order to increase the area of its exclusive maritime economic
zone.

3. (U) The President and the MFA dedicated significant time and
attention to the situation in Honduras. Costa Rica was the first
stop for Manuel Zelaya after being deposed, and Arias took the lead
role in mediation efforts between the two sides. Arias proposed
the San Jose Accord (Ref C) in early July, met with the
presidential candidates before the polls in November, and pushed
other Latin American countries to recognize the legitimacy of the
elections after they took place.

New Partnerships

4. (U) A good deal of Arias' foreign policy has focused on creating
new political partnerships outside the region, while strengthening
relations with countries the GOCR sees as partners in Latin
America. In 2009 Costa Rica opened relations with nineteen
countries and continued to strengthen ties with China and India,
where it plans to open a new Embassy in early 2010. With a stated
focus on building ties with Arab and Muslim countries, Arias also
made the first visit by a Costa Rican president to the Middle East.
He visited Turkey, Israel and "Palestine", where he pressed for a
demilitarized state. Closer to home, Costa Rica has signed
"association agreements" with Chile, Mexico and Panama over the
past year.

Multilateral Impact and Citizen Services

5. (SBU) The GOCR's impact in multilateral fora has been much more
muted. Costa Rica will finish its term on the United Nations
Security Council at the end of December 2009 without having made
much progress on its declared priorities of disarmament and UN
reform (Ref D). Furthermore, the end of the GOCR's rotating
presidency of the Central American Integration System (SICA) will
also pass without the achievement of any real accomplishments.
While other factors certainly were at play, namely the crisis in
Honduras, the GOCR must be disappointed at its missed opportunity
to assume a greater leadership position within the region.

6. (U) Over the past year the MFA, working in conjunction with the
Department of Immigration, has also modernized Costa Rica's
passport and visa services, transitioning to automated entry and
exit stamps (replacing manual stamps by immigration officials).
This has eliminated a good amount of corruption within the
entry/exit process and resulted in a cost savings for the ministry.


Comment: Costa Rica's Potential to Lead

7. (SBU) Costa Rica has been very active on the international stage
throughout the Arias administration, from its prominent seat on the
UNSC to Arias' role in the Honduran crisis. Yet despite having
arguably the most democratically stable country in the region,
Costa Rica has generally failed to assume a greater leadership role
within Central America. Due to a host of factors, including both a
jealousy of Costa Rica's success and a perception of Costa Rican
arrogance, Central America continues to see Costa Rica as an
outlier, rather than an example to follow.
BRENNAN

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