With thousands of migrants at the border, Presidents Solis and Castro discuss trade and tourism.

Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis arrived this week to Havana where he was expected to discuss the current crisis occurring on Costa Rica’s northern border with Cuba’s President Raul Castro.

Prior to his departure, Solis addressed the Cuban migrants currently sheltered in Guanacaste and affirmed that no one would be sent back against their will while Costa Rica investigates its options. So far Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize have all refused to accept the now more than 5,000 individuals ultimately seeking better lives in the United States.

While there is still no word on when the gates will open, Solis’s visit was not entirely unproductive.

Diversified Trades and Investments

In 2014, Costa Rica was already exporting over 200 different products to Cuba, totalling a grand sum of around $38 million USD. As the General Manager of Costa Rica’s Foreign Trade Institution (PROCOMER) explains, Cuba’s recent economic changes present the nation as a “new and emerging market” with the potential for even further tico involvement.

Thus, on December 14, 2015, the Government of Costa Rica announced the signing of a cooperation agreement between PROCOMER and Cuba’s Center for the Promotion of Foreign Trade and Investment (PROCUBA). The memorandum aims to expedite bidirectional access to the countries’ markets for goods and services. The possibility of “strategic alliances” and “development investment” were also discussed.

This agreement will supposedly open the door for more than just fiscal trades. According to this week’s press release, the new collaboration between Cuba and Costa Rica is intended to “create the appropriate mechanisms for the regular exchange of information and views on priorities, policies, instruments and related mechanisms” so as to “encourage the development and diversification of trade and investment between them.”

Increased Tourism

One such development is already underway as talks during Solis’ visit brought forth a plan to promote Cuban-Costa Rican tourism. Costa Rican Minister of Tourism Mauricio Ventura states:

[quote_center]“The tourism industry is a productive sector that contributes positively to socioeconomic development.”[/quote_center]

He goes on to explain that it is in nation’s best interest to “strengthen [Costa Rica’s] competitiveness as a tourism destination and promote the exchange of culture, society and friendship between the two countries.”

Of particular interest to this plan is the proposal to offer dual-destination packages with regards to airfare. Such an initiative would hope to draw tourists who make international connections in Cuba to visit Costa Rica on their way.

The Big Picture

These discussions come at no surprise after the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) announced its aggressive strategy to make the country an even stronger competitor in the world tourism market. The ICT has its eyes set on a goal.

Nevertheless, Cubans, Costa Ricans and foreigners alike are all left to wonder how productive was Solis’s visit with regards to the pending issue on the border.

Will the “Rich Coast” be able to nurture struggling Cuba back from the despair caused by the fall of previous allies and the U.S.’s troubling policies? While it’s true that the tourism partnership does look promising for both ends, surely Cuba will not see dramatic changes for some time — and given the island’s history, there’s of course a level of uncertainty as to whether the hypothetical national income would even reach the people who are currently most impoverished. The hope of improvement may decrease the current rate of exodus… but what about those who have already left? Where do they have to go? Where is their hope?

Based on the presence of members from both PROCOMER and the ICT, it seems clear that both of the aforementioned agreements were well planned out ahead of time. There is no evidence that either bears any direct relationship with migrant crisis.

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