President Luis Guillermo Solís and a Costa Rican delegation are in China in what Casa Presidencial said is an effort to consolidate relations for the next decade.
The $430 million expansion of Ruta 31 from Río Frio to Moín and an effort to jump start plans for a new $1.5 billion petroleum refinery are among topics that will be discussed.
Costa Rica is seeking Chinese money for these major projects. The highway job is a loan that would not be felt in the national budget for six years. The refinery is a joint project that includes a loan.
In negotiating these deals, Costa Rica is involved with a country that rejects much of what Ticos hold dear. Solís will be meeting with the Chinese president. As Freedom House points out:
“When Xi Jinping took the reins as Communist Party chief and president, he promoted the goals of the “China Dream.” However, after two years of his rule, his dream has turned out to be a nightmare for many Chinese. Xi and his cohort have stepped up repressive campaigns against perceived threats to the party’s rule, including activists who criticize the persecution of religious minorities. In one recent example, Ilham Tohti, China’s most prominent advocate for the rights of Uighurs, was sentenced to life in prison for supposedly inciting separatism.”
China continues to tighten its grip on Hong Kong, the Internet, education, the media and dissidents. Costa Rica has remained silent on Chinese violations of human rights. Part of the reason is that Costa Rica’s trade with China has jumped from less than $100 million in 2001 to the current $2 billion.
Casa Presidencial said that the Costa Rican delegation would be discussing special economic zones, free trade zones that would dot the country and generate employment.
In the short term China looks like a favorite uncle that is lavishing gifts on Costa Rica. Here the administration changes every four years. China is known to be looking much further into the 21st century.
Although Costa Rica purports to be a defender of human rights, there have been no words from the foreign ministry over any rights violations by China. International sources say that in the short-run this is what China seeks, like that will either defend its repressions or at least ignore them.
China also is seeking to expand its interests in all of Central America as it continues to isolate Taiwan and pursue other diplomatic agendas.
During his visit, Solís is expected to accept an honorary doctorate at Renmin University of China, which is beginning a Latin America studies program.
With Solís will be Manuel González, the foreign minister; Alexander Mora, minister of Comercio Exterior; Celso Gamboa, minister of Seguridad Pública; Olga Marta Sánchez, minister of Planificación, and Carlos Segnini, minister of Obras Públicas y Transportes.
So during the Costa Rican visit it might be China that is consolidating its relations for the next decade.