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Viewing cable 09SANJOSE107, WHA/CEN DEPUTY DIRECTOR'S VISIT TO COST RICA:

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09SANJOSE107 2009-02-21 00:12 2011-03-08 16:04 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy San Jose
Appears in these articles:
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-07/Investigacion/NotasDestacadas/Investigacion2704388.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-07/Investigacion/NotaPrincipal/Investigacion2704402.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-07/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2704436.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-07/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2705536.aspx
VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #0107/01 0520027
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 210027Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0508
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA PRIORITY 4429
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 1147
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO PRIORITY 5028
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA PRIORITY 0054
C O N F I D E N T I A L SAN JOSE 000107 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR WHA/CEN, WHA/CCA, WHA/PPC, WHA/AND, WHA/EPSC, AND 
INL/LP 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/20/2019 
TAGS: CS EFTA KSUM PGOV PINR PREL SNAR
SUBJECT: WHA/CEN DEPUTY DIRECTOR'S VISIT TO COST RICA: 
REGIONAL ISSUES 
 
REF: A. A) SAN JOSE 0018 AND PREVIOUS 
     B. B) SAN JOSE 0098 
 
Classified By: Pol/Econ Counselor David E. Henifin per reason 1.4 (d) 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY: A senior MFA official candidly discussed a 
wide range of regional issues with WHA/CEN Deputy Director 
David Wolfe during the latter's February 9-11 visit to Costa 
Rica.  Wolfe's interlocutor contrasted Costa Rica's frosty 
Nicaraguan relations with a warming trend with Panama, and 
signaled that Costa Rica did not want to be "the last 
country" in Cental America to establish full relations with 
Cuba (under the assumption that El Salvador would do so 
quickly after an FMLN election victory next month).  The MFA 
official also noted that the full regional summit and 
ministerial schedule in April (Pathways, SoA) and May (EU-Rio 
Group) complicated GOCR attendance plans.  (The Casa 
Presidencial later announced that President Arias will attend 
the Summit of the Americas.)  Overall, Wolfe heard the same 
concerns and arguments Post has heard in recent months, but 
direct and unfiltered.  (Separately, FM Stagno echoed a 
number of these views in a meeting with the Ambassador and 
DCM on February 19.) Additional Merida and CAFTA-related 
issues are reported in Ref B.  Wolfe did not clear this cable 
in advance.  END SUMMARY. 
 
2.  (U) On February 11, Wolfe met with new Director of 
Foreign Policy (P-equivalent) Alejandro Solano, who was 
joined by Carlos Cordero, in charge of counternarcotics, 
counter-terrrorisn and Merida issues for the Ministry.  Wolfe 
was accompanied by Pol/Econ Counselor and Poloff. 
 
3. (SBU) MERIDA: The GOCR welcomed Merida assistance, Solano 
stressed, but believed that Central America was on the short 
end. Concentrating CN efforts on Mexico in the north and 
Colombia in the south would further "squeeze" drug 
traffickers into Costa Rica and its neighboring countries, 
concentrating the problem there.  The "small" share of the 
Merida pie for Central America needed to be expanded, in the 
GOCR's view.  Solano understood that Washington might be 
reviewing overall Merida funding levels now.  If so, Central 
America (and Costa Rica) should receive a larger share. 
Stagno made the same argument to the Ambassador and DCM on 
February 19, and both suggested that a coordinated Cental 
American regional for additional Merida funding might yield 
more success than ad hoc bilateral efforts. 
 
4. (C) NICARAGUA AND PANAMA:  Solano reviewed GOCR concerns 
about Nicaragua, especially as the global economic crisis 
deepened.  The Costa Rican embassy and consulates issued over 
300,000 visas in Nicaragua in 2008, in a good year.  How much 
more immigration -- legal and illegal -- could Costa Rica 
expect to see in a bad year?  Solano described Costa Rica as 
a "receptor" nation which did not want to close the door to 
immigrants on the one hand, but could not afford to be 
overwhelmed by a new flood from the north, on the other. 
Nicaragua should take "co-responsibility" for regulating 
migration to Costa Rica.  In addition, as international 
assistance was suspended or dried up because of President 
Ortega's increasingly undemocratic behavior, Solano noted 
GOCR worries that Venezuelan assistance might take up more of 
the slack.  He added that Costa Rican consuls had been 
"direct witnesses" to the election fraud and ensuing violence 
during the municipal elections. 
 
5. (C) Mentioning the long-running Rio San Juan dispute 
(which is to be decided by the ICJ in March) and the 
nearly-dysfunctional Costa Rican-Nicaraguan bi-national 
commission (which is unlikely to meet again until 2010), 
Solano said that "99.9 percent" of his government's regional 
foreign policy problems were caused by Nicaragua.  In 
contrast, he pointed to a distinct warming trend with Panama, 
a country and people with whom Costa Rica shared many 
"affinities."  The border with Panama, although essentially 
open in many areas, was the "safest" of Costa Rica's national 
boundaries, he maintained, featuring extensive cooperation on 
security and immigration issues. 
 
6. (C) On a potentially related border issue, Stagno told the 
Ambassador and DCM that there had been eight fishing boat 
seizures by Nicaraguan authorities off Costa Rica's northern 
Pacific coast since November 2008; four of these in January 
alone.  Although he acknowledged that Costa Rican fishermen 
may have drifted into Nicaraguan waters, Stagno speculated 
that the increase in seizures may be a move by the GON to 
 
continue to stir up trouble along the border, in advance (and 
regardless) of the ICJ ruling. 
 
7. (C) CUBA: The GOCR had seen little real change (and did 
not expect much) under Raul Castro, Solano explained, and 
expected Fidel's influence, and those of hard-liners such as 
FM Perez-Roque, to continue.  He added that Costa Rica tried 
to work with Cuba on select issues in multilateral fora, 
including in the UN Human Rights Council, but this was often 
difficult.  Solano said the GOCR "shared USG doubts" about 
the Council, but still hoped its operations could be 
improved.  Hinting at a future change in policy (Ref A), he 
acknowledged that Costa Rica did not want to be "the last 
country" in Central America to establish full relations with 
Cuba.  This is based on the MFA's judgment that if FMLN won 
the March-April elections in El Salvador, the GOES would and 
establish ties to Cuba shortly thereafter. 
 
8. (C) Stagno also reprised this argument to the Ambassador 
and DCM on February 19, and questioned them intently for any 
authoritative indication of a change (i.e., a softening) of 
USG policy vis-a-vis Cuba.  Stagno added that Cuba at least 
behaved predictably in multilateral fora, and sometimes more 
so than Costa Rica's Central American neighbors.  Although 
skeptical of significant collaboration with Havana, Stagno 
explained that Costa Rica had worked with Cuba on select 
multilateral issues in the past, and hoped to continue to do 
so in the Rio Group.  "Better to have Cuba in, than out," he 
stressed. 
 
9. (C) VENEZUELA (PETROCARIBE): Solano confirmed that Costa 
Rica still intended to join Petrocaribe during the 
organization's next ministerial, although the urgency had 
diminished with the drop in oil prices. Given the cyclical 
nature of petroleum price fluctuations, however, it is better 
in the GOCR's view to lock in the low-interest Petrocaribe 
arrangement now, than to have to scramble for it later, 
according to Solano.  (He and key legislators who also met 
with Wolfe confirmed that the National Assembly would have to 
approve the Petrocaribe deal.  This could further slow 
accession.) 
 
10.  (SBU) SUMMITS AND MINISTERIALS: On Pathways, Costa Rica 
"shares the USG's vision" of "expanding the frontiers of 
trade," Solano told Wolfe.  CAFTA is just one of the tools to 
do this.  The Arias administration retained its deep interest 
in Asia-Pacific relations, he added, hoping to join APEC. 
The crowded international meeting calendar in April-May 
complicated GOCR attendance plans, but Solano said that Trade 
Minister Ruiz would likely attend the Pathways Ministerial; 
FM Stagno's plans had not been confirmed.  Solano thought 
that President Arias probably would attend the Summit of the 
Americas (and this was confirmed by an official announcement 
on February 16). 
 
11.  (SBU) With the Ambassador and DCM on February 19, FM 
Stagno noted President Arias' planned attendance at the SoA, 
and wryly asked how the White House would handle "32 requests 
for bilaterals" with POTUS.  Stagno also evinced surprise 
that the new US Administration was continuing the Pathways 
process.  The Ambassador and DCM stressed the continued USG 
commitment to Pathways, and encouraged Stagno and Ruiz to 
attend. 
 
12. (C) OTHER HEADLINES: Solano also made the following brief 
observations to Deputy Director Wolfe: 
 
-- The UNSC: Important enough to Costa Rican foreign policy 
objectives, even beyond the Arias administration, that the 
GOCR was considering running again for a non-permanent seat 
in 2012; 
 
-- Colombia:  Costa Rica enjoyed outstanding relations with 
Colombia, but President Uribe would generate a serious 
"credibility" problem for his country if he pressed to remain 
in office another term.  Latin America needed not only 
positive examples of democratic governance, but also of 
democratic transition; 
 
-- El Salvador:  The GOCR was less concerned about "centrist" 
FMLN presidential candidate Mauricio Funes than about his 
party, which might push him far to the left, once in office. 
This could upset the current political "equilibrium" in 
Central America; 
 
-- Honduras:  The Zelaya administration may have started off 
with the right intentions, but had now become unpredictable 
political "jello"; and 
 
-- Central America Overall:  The GOCR's main worries (in rank 
order) were thus Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and 
Guatemala (because of the deteriorating security situation 
there).  Panama, "a complete partner," remains the bright 
spot in the region, and Belize is Costa Rica's best ally in 
SICA. 
 
10.  (C) COMMENT: Solano's tour d'horizon gave Wolfe an 
unvarnished review of some of the concerns and arguments we 
have heard in recent months. Solano was obviously reflecting 
his Minister's views, since Stagno covered so much of the 
same ground eight days later with the Ambassador.  The "more 
Merida" refrain has been echoed consistently from President 
Arias on down; we continue to believe, however, that Costa 
Rica is in line to receive about as much assistance as it can 
absorb effectively.  The continuing warming with Panama may 
provide additional opportunities for CN and other law 
enforcement-related cooperation.  Neither Costa Ricans nor 
Panamanians consider themselves fully part of Central 
America, and that self-styled sense of "uniqueness" may 
actually draw the two countries closer together on some 
issues.  For the record, however, we have to differ with 
Solano on border cooperation.  The border with Panama may be 
friendlier, but the only "hard" border crossing in the region 
is at Penas Blancas, with Nicaragua, where law enforcement 
units cooperate fairly well together, even if the two 
governments do not. 
CIANCHETTE