Chinese president enjoys coffee and snacks during Heredia visit

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan, sample Costa Rican coffee at the home of Marco Tulio Zamora and his wife, Ruth Calvo Chacón. That was Monday afternoon in Barrio El Socorro de Santo Domingo de Heredia. Ministerio de Relacioens Exteriores y Culto photo

Acting very much like a politician seeking office, Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a visit Monday to a Costa Rican coffee producer to sample the brew and to eat an empanada.

The session was very much like U.S. presidential candidates who eat hot dogs, blintzes, tacos and corned beef to show that they are of the people.

Of course, Xi does not have to run for popular election, much less in Costa Rica, but he conditioned his visit on a trip to a typical Costa Rican family.

Officials picked Marco Tulio Zamora, 77,  and his wife, Ruth Calvo Chacón. in Barrio El Socorro de Santo Domingo de Heredia, about 12 kilometers from the downtown. The man, who is known for never removing his hat, is one of 52,000 small Costa Rican coffee producers. He has about two hectares or about five acres planted and has been a grower for 30 years.

Also on the menu for Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, were, in addition to empanadas, corn tortillas, a dish from the root crop  arracache, cookies and sweet bread.

The visiting couple spent a bit more than an hour there in the mid-afternoon. Costa Rica hopes to export shiploads of coffee to China.

The Chinese leader made the rounds of officials Monday and tied up traffic for hours. There was a state dinner Monday night, and the delegation leaves for México this morning.

Costa Rican officials were very positive about the visit and talked about a new strategic relationship with China.

Most of all the visit of the Chinese leader was a public relations boost for President Laura Chinchilla who has been facing sagging percentages in public opinion poles. The visit by Xi followed by a month a similar rapid visit by U.S. President Barack Obama.

For its part, China has to feed its population and also seeks to woo away other Central American and Caribbean nations from arch rival Taiwan. Costa Rica broke with Taiwan in 2007 and has been the recipient of many gifts and benefits from China, including the new Estadio Nacional.

Costa Rica hopes to get health approval to export many more agricultural products to China and also seeks to create a special economic zone. Both those topics came up in discussions Monday, officials said.

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