Representing his brother President Oscar Arias, Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias traveled to Panama City, to participate in a ceremony to mark the beginning of a project to expand Panama’s famous canal.
The Monday celebration was hosted by Panamanian President Martín Torrijos, according to a statement from Casa Presidencial.
Guests included former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who handed over control of the canal to Panama on Sept. 7, 1977, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Salvadoran President Elías Antonio Saca, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and José Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the Organization of American States.
The $5.2 billion expansion project is slated to conclude in 2014, the year the canal will celebrate 100 years in operation.
The project will double the canal’s capacity, allowing 600 million tons of cargo to pass through it per year, the statement said.
“My presence in Panama representing President Arias shows the importance Costa Rica gives to its neighboring country … a country that’s a brother and friend and is celebrating a historic event,” the minister said in the statement. “I admire Panama because it is making decisions, because it is thinking big, because it is opening itself to the world.”
Arias was accompanied by Vice-Minister of the Presidency José Torres, Protocol director Gabriela Jiménez and Foreign Relations director Ana María Herrera. They were received in Panama by national authorities and Costa Rican Ambassador to Panama Ekhart Peters.