Nation focuses on afternoon arrival of Barack Obama

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Foreign ministry will greet Barack Obama with large Costa Rican colors and a small U.S. flag

Costa Rican officials are mounting an aggressive security program to guard U.S. President Barack Obama and to a lesser degree seven other heads of state today.

Obama is supposed to arrive today at Juan Santamaría airport about noon from México on Air Force One. The presidential limo will carry him along the General Cañas autopista and the Circunvalación to Casa Amarilla, the foreign ministry on Avenida 7 opposite Parque España. The refreshment table already was set and waiting Thursday afternoon. A large banner with the Costa Rican colors had been hung just east of the main entry. A small U.S. flag was in evidence, too

This is where Obama will meet with president Laura Chinchilla. There was a concentration of police there Thursday, and metal barricades were stacked on the sidewalk. Obama and Ms. Chinchilla are expected to walk from Casa Amarilla to the Centro Nacional de Cultura a half block away about 4 p.m. for a press conference. Later there is a dinner of all the heads of state in the Teatro Nacional.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Metal barricades are stacked up ready for use.

The conference is expected to be dominated by the Washington media who traveled with the president. That usually is the case. And the issues raised may not be about Latin America.

Costa Rican officials and U.S. Embassy personnel are encouraging persons here to avoid the downtown and watch the Obama arrival on television.

The staff at the embassy has set up a special feed for the arrival at the foreign ministry.
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Access to the park and the area around the foreign ministry will be restricted. Police already obtained lists of residents and those who work in the area.

The Instituto Nacional de Seguros gave its workers in the metro area a holiday. The headquarters is adjacent to the foreign ministry.

As in México Thursday, Obama is expected to concentrate on economic issues. That is expected to be the major topic here. Of course, a possible change in anti-drug strategy also is a possibility.

The environmental group Oilwatch issued a statement that said Obama had a hidden agenda to promote the concession of Mallon Oil Co. of Denver. The firm has been fighting for 10 years to exercise its rights under an exploratory drilling concession. Typically heads of state would not get involved in such issues.

A few posters telling Obama to go home appeared in the park Thursday, but police managed to tear down some.

The same group of youngsters who were involved in a disturbance at the legislature Wednesday are now free from detention. Anti-American leftists have said they would march at 3:30 p.m. down Avenida Secunda. That street is well within the restricted zone, so another confrontation is likely.

One reason for Obama’s visit with the Central American heads of state is to generate support for the proposed immigration bill that his administration is promoting. All the Central American nations have significant numbers of illegal immigrants in the United States.

Saturday morning Obama will be meeting with the heads of state at the Antiguo Aduana on Calle 23. Most have countries that are members of the Sistema de Integración Centroamericana. Obama is due to depart the airport at noon.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Special guests will mingle with Obama at the refreshment table.

Costa Rica will have more than a thousand Fuerza Pública officers and members of other organizations in the field today. Highways will be blocked when Obama will be using them.  That includes the General Cañas from the airport to San José The national emergency commission declared a low-level alert for the Obama visit. The alert covers the cantons of San José, Alajuela, Belén, Escazú, Montes de Oca, Curridabat and Goicoechea.


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