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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06SANJOSE1059 2006-05-16 17:49:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy San Jose
Cable title:  

PRESIDENT ARIAS TO CODEL BURTON: "FOREIGN AID IS

Tags:   PGOV PREL CS VZ 
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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"


-------
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


--------------------------





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.



--------------------------


COMMENT


--------------------------





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