The meeting Costa Rican officials attended in Washington,. D.C., Monday was unusual. The schedule said they would meet with Vice President Joe Biden. President Barack Obama showed up, too, even though the meeting was not on his daily schedule.
Statements from the U.S. Embassy here and from Casa Presidencial basically contained a list of donations that Washington already made, is making or will make to Costa Rica.
Leading the list are two C-145 Skytruck turboprop aircrafts made by the same Polish firm that produces the famed Blackhawk helicopters. The U.S. military is phasing out the model and similar ones are headed to the Arizona aircraft cemetery.
The United States also is donating two more patrol boats and some smaller crafts.
The big question is how much of this largesse and the meeting itself has been generated by Nicaragua’s purchase of T-72 Russian tanks, also an obsolete model. Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís has expressed concern about the 50 tanks.
Of course, Solís also wanted to promote the candidacy of Christiana Figueres, the Costa Rican diplomat who is seeking to be secretary general of the United Nations. She was not at the meeting, but her brother was. She was in Africa seeking votes from the governments there.
In addition to Mariano Figueres, the director of the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad Nacional, others at the meeting were Manuel González, the foreign minister, and Sergio Alfaro, the minister of the Presidencia. Also there was Román Macaya, Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United States.
The 1:30 p.m. meeting was behind closed doors although some photos were released.
Perhaps not coincidentally, El Diario Extra published a lengthy interview with S. Fitzgerald Haney, the U.S. ambassador here, in which he pushed for more Costa Rican expenditures on security. He was not at the meeting.
Haney and the White House may be aware of the decreasing security here.
The U.S. government also is concerned by the second wave of migrants who have poured into Costa Rica. Among the donations listed by the U.S. Embassy were tents, beds and other necessary items for 2,400 persons that Haney said were worth $800,000. Also being provided are biometric identification devices to keep track of the identity of the migrants.
Haney pointed out that what the migrants say about their origin is not always correct. In fact, a lot of the migrants who identify themselves as being from Africa come from
earthquake-ravaged Haiti. Alfaro has said the percentage may be as much as 80 percent.
Haney also noted that the Costa Rican southern border was not secure and that in Paso Canoas he wandered from one country to another with ease. He also must know that some police officers are actively involved in helping migrants get across the border.
Obama plans to warehouse here some 200 young people from El Salvador, and that may have been another talk topic. No money has been mentioned, but the United States certainly will pay the costs.
Clearly, though, the main concern for the United States is that Costa Rica keep up the pressure on drug smuggling. Other donations were renovation costs for a King Air aircraft and a hangar and operations center in Ciudad Neily, both for the Servicio Nacional de Vigilancia, the new station in Golfito for the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas and equipment for the Policía de Fronteras.
There even were three amored cars for the security ministry listed, as were what appears to be three virtual shooting ranges.
The U.S. Embassy reported that a major concern was the infiltration of the population by organized crime. The embassy characterized the two countries as partners in the fight against transnational crime.
The post-meetingg statements also mentioned training for those involved in helping victims of sexual assault, training for a program of juvenile justice, help in obtaining accreditation for the country’s crime lab and more money for the Fundación Rahab to help trafficking victims in the northern zone.
There also were six-figure donations listed for programs to keep kids in school, for teaching English and to discourage participation in gangs.