Henriette Jacobsen, TheCostaRicaNews.com.
After Costa Rica’s recognition of the People’s Republic of China in 2007, the country now has a new sensitivity to China and human rights issues. Closer economic ties have made China ‘Santa Claus’, say U.S. diplomats according to cables released by WikiLeaks.
When Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Costa Rica in November 2008, he arrived like Santa Claus with balls, bicycles and a free trade agreement, a WikiLeaks-distributed cable says.
Hu got a rock-star-like reception and in return he signed 11 pre-drafted cooperative accords. Among other things Hu promised $10 million in additional funds for the new soccer stadium which will open next month, $80 million in bank lines of credit, a sports equipment donation for underprivileged youth (10,000 balls and 1,000 mountain bikes) and to create a ‘Confusian Institute’ to teach Mandarin at the national university.
Costa Rica was the first Central American country to recognize the People’s Republic of China after almost 50 years with strong diplomatic relations to Taiwan, and Hu became the first Chinese President to pay a Central American country an official visit.
When asked by a reporter whether he had raised the question about human rights while on one-on-one with Hu, former President and Nobel-Peace-Prize-Winner Oscar Arias said that he didn’t talk about human rights, but took advantage of the opportunity to talk about things that are important and urgent to Costa Rica.
New policy with China
Bruno Stagno Ugarte, Minister of Foreign Relations of Costa Rica, later explained to U.S. diplomats that there were other fora like the United Nations and moments where Costa Rica and China discuss “with much patience and much more time, topics such as human rights.” The MFA’s Deputy Director of Foreign Policy Alejandro Solano said that China had wanted to put Tibet on the agenda during Hu’s visit, but the Costa Rican government had declined because Arias still had a close relationship with Dalai Lama.
In another WikiLeaks-cable a U.S. official says that Costa Rica twice asked about China’s position on a Burma-related demarche in the U.N. in 2008 though Costa Rica has long maintained that its recognition of China would not influence its focus on human rights.
A cable from February 2008 says “For now trade with China has apparently trumped all other issues on the Costa Rican-Chinese agenda, a departure for the little country with the big love of human rights.”