US embassy cable - 06SANJOSE1059

PRESIDENT ARIAS TO CODEL BURTON: "FOREIGN AID IS DEAD IN WASHINGTON"

Identifier: 06SANJOSE1059
Wikileaks: View 06SANJOSE1059 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy San Jose
Created: 2006-05-16 17:49:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: PGOV PREL CS VZ
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
VZCZCXYZ0011
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #1059/01 1361749
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 161749Z MAY 06
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5071
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 0959
UNCLAS SAN JOSE 001059 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
SENSITIVE 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN JASON MACK 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, CS, VZ 
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT ARIAS TO CODEL BURTON: "FOREIGN AID IS 
DEAD IN WASHINGTON" 
 
 
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SUMMARY 
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1. (SBU) During a May 6 dinner with CODEL Burton, then 
President-elect Oscar Arias lamented Costa Rica's inability 
to qualify for most U.S. foreign aid, and concluded that 
"foreign aid is dead in Washington."  Arias stated several 
times that the U.S. and other Western governments need to 
change their policy priorities, focusing on aid and 
development instead of military expansion and protectionist 
trade policies.  Reiterating one of his most frequently used 
arguments, Arias stated that Costa Rica is being punished for 
its success.  Several members of the delegation repeatedly 
expressed their desire to give Costa Rica priority in the 
region, and asked Arias for a detailed "wish list" of 
necessary assistance programs.  In response, however, Arias 
lamented that with U.S. foreign aid becoming increasingly 
difficult to qualify for, "Trade is all the U.S. can offer," 
and that is not enough.  End Summary. 
 
------------------------ 
PLEA FOR U.S. ASSISTANCE 
------------------------ 
 
2. (U) On May 6, then President-elect Oscar Arias hosted six 
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives for dinner in 
his home.  Among the U.S. delegation were Rep. Dan Burton 
(R-IN), Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), 
Rep. Dianne Watson (D-CA), Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX) and 
Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU).  Many of Arias's new cabinet 
appointees also attended the dinner, including First Vice 
President Laura Chinchilla, Minister of the Presidency 
Rodrigo Arias, Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno, Minister of 
Foreign Trade Marco Vinicio Ruiz, and Finance Minister 
Guillermo Zuniga, as well as Costa Rica's Ambassador to 
Washington, Tomas Duenas. 
 
3. (SBU) While the Members of Congress thanked Arias for 
devoting an entire evening to them during his inauguration 
weekend, Arias expressed his pleasure that, for once, U.S. 
legislators wished to engage him on Costa Rica, rather than 
Nicaragua or Venezuela.  Arias appealed for greater U.S. 
assistance.  Costa Rica, as the most democratically stable of 
the Central American countries, and with a per capita income 
of almost USD5,000, has been "graduated" off of USAID's 
program, and is ineligible for other U.S. aid programs, 
including the Millennium Challenge Account.  While Arias 
recognized that Costa Rica is successful relative to its 
neighbors, he argued that it is still a developing nation, 
with daunting challenges in infrastructure, crime prevention, 
education, health care and immigration. 
 
4. (SBU) Arias spoke at length about what he sees as a lack 
of U.S. assistance to deserving countries, claiming that the 
USG was spending USD 500 billion on arms and military, but 
only USD 16 billion on aid.  He then turned to farm 
subsidies, arguing that between the U.S., Europe and Japan, 
some USD 250 billion is spent annually to protect 
approximately 11 million farmers, while the world's three 
billion poor continue to suffer.  He argued that the billions 
of dollars spent this way would be much better spent on 
helping the developing world. 
 
5. (U) Arias asked about the number of Peace Corps volunteers 
in Costa Rica and a description of the programs they are 
working on.  Ambassador Langdale answered that there are 
currently 83 Peace Corps volunteers in Costa Rica generally 
involved in rural development, children at risk and 
micro-loan projects.  Arias stated that if the USG really 
wished to help it would send "200 teachers to teach English, 
physics and math." 
 
----------- 
HUGO CHAVEZ 
----------- 
 
6. (SBU) Arias stated that democracy has not "delivered the 
goods" to Latin America, which has resulted in the region's 
recent tilt toward the left.  He argued that U.S. interest in 
Latin America depends on the current global geopolitics and 
that engagement waxes and wanes.  In years past aid to Latin 
America was abundant so long as the governments receiving aid 
were anti-Communist.  Today there is minimal assistance. 
With the current rise of populism and the increasing 
influence of Hugo Chavez, Arias argued that Costa Rica, with 
its established democratic and public institutions, could 
serve as a bulwark of democracy in Latin America and that it 
 
was in the U.S. interest to ensure that the country remains 
an example of a successful democracy that benefits its people. 
 
---------- 
ARTICLE 98 
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7. (SBU) Despite his deliberate and unusually slow 
conversational style, Arias mostly dominated the Costa Rican 
side of the meeting, ceding the floor only when an adviser or 
minister was able to supply information specific to the topic 
at hand.  In one such instance, Arias demurred to his First 
Vice President, Laura Chinchilla, on the topic of the 
International Criminal Court (ICC).  In response to one 
Member's question about the possibility of the Arias 
administration executing an Article 98 non-surrender 
agreement with the U.S., Chinchilla stated that Costa Rica 
has been such a strong supporter of the ICC from its 
inception that for the GOCR to make side agreements that 
undermine the authority of the court would appear 
hypocritical.  However, Chinchilla allowed as how, since 
there are no U.S. troops present in Costa Rica, the argument 
could be made that the chance of future surrender of U.S. 
personnel to the ICC is so remote as to render such an 
agreement merely symbolic.  She expressed her hope that 
President Bush would grant Costa Rica an exemption from 
Article 98 restrictions.  Ambassador Langdale commented that 
no such waiver has ever been given by the President to any 
country. 
 
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COMMENT 
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8. (SBU) President Arias appeared doubtful that his efforts 
to secure aid from the U.S. would bear fruit.  At times, in 
fact, he seemed to dismiss the invitation of several Members 
to submit a "wish-list" of assistance programs.  Embassy has 
told him repeatedly that large increases in direct aid are 
not in the cards.  Arias is under a tremendous amount of 
pressure because he does not have the resources to make good 
on his campaign promises.  Arias is and always has been 
fiercely democratic and pro-free trade, but he also wants 
immediate help from the USG to help Costa Rica move toward 
developed country status.  The USG invested hundreds of 
millions of dollars of aid in Costa Rica in the 1980's, which 
created the most stable and prosperous country in the region. 
 Arias's agenda for Costa Rica is designed to put the country 
back on course to a more prosperous future. 
LANGDALE 

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